Drones close London Gatwick airport

Lauren Eldershaw
By Lauren Eldershaw December 20, 2018 12:31

Drones close London Gatwick airport

Gatwick Airport has been closed from 9pm on December 19 after the airport received reports of two drones flying over its airfield, prompting its immediate closure until 3am. The airport then had to be closed again from 3:45am, as further sightings of drones were reported. The airporty remains closed today (20 October).

Passengers have been told not to travel to the airport, with all incoming and outgoing flights currently suspended.

All flights landing at Gatwick this morning have been diverted to other airports, including some in France and the Netherlands. Flights scheduled to take off from Gatwick have been grounded until further notice.

The airport confirmed in a statement: “Gatwick Airport’s runway remains closed and all flights are currently suspended following reports of drones flying over Gatwick’s airfield last night and this morning. There is significant disruption at Gatwick today as a result of what appears to be a deliberate attempt to disrupt flights.

“We are extremely disappointed that passengers are being affected by this especially at such an important time of year. We are prioritising the welfare of those at the airport by deploying staff into our terminals to look after people as best we can.

“We are working with our airlines to get information to passengers and our airlines are working to provide affected passengers with hotel accommodation or transport passengers landing at other airports to Gatwick by other means.

“We apologise to any affected passengers for this inconvenience but the safety of our passengers and all staff is our number one priority.”

UK police say that the incident is not terror related but it does appear to be deliberate.

The incident has sparked calls for more robust and harmonised EU-wide safety regulations concerning drones.

The ERA has said that necessary steps needed to prevent the flying of unregulated drones near airports and aircraft. “The lack of regulation with regards to the ownership and use of drones has been of great concern to ERA for a long period of time and it is now time for tougher laws and enforcement to be put in place.”

Montserrat Barriga, ERA Director General, says: “The use of airport geo-fencing systems which track the trajectory of a drone will go some way to combating this menace, but it is now a priority to toughen laws and create larger no-fly zones around airports. Equally, considering more drones are likely to be given as gifts this Christmas, it is clear more education must also be given to ensure the public know how to fly in a safe and sensible manner. In the meantime, it is imperative that all governments take the necessary steps to expedite the regulation process of drone operations, both commercial and recreational.”

Commenting on the closure of the airport, Chief Executive of the Airport Operators Association, Karen Dee said: “As this incident shows, drones can cause major disruption to passengers, who were looking forward to well-deserved Christmas breaks, as well as major financial damage to the UK economy. That is why flying a drone near an airfield or endangering aircraft with a drone is a criminal offence with penalties of up to five years in jail.”

Lauren Eldershaw
By Lauren Eldershaw December 20, 2018 12:31