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Published on Thursday, December 20, 2018

Chaos as all flights grounded at Gatwick after further reports of drones near runway



All flights in and out of Gatwick Airport remain suspended this morning after several sightings of drones over the airfield, a couple late last night and others in the early hours of this morning.






Sussex police are investigating the incidents and Gatwick has issued a statement saying that it has no re-opening time. It is advising passengers due to travel today to check with their airlines before heading to the airport.

Flights due to land at Gatwick have been diverted to other airports, including Heathrow, Luton and Manchester, but some have also landed in Paris and Amsterdam. As many as 10,000 passengers were affected last night, with 6,000 on diverted flights, 2,000 stuck at Gatwick and 2,000 unable to leave their departure airports.

A statement on the Gatwick website said flights were first suspended at around 9pm last night until just after 3am this morning after reports of two drones flying over the airfield.






Further sightings of drones in the area meant that the runway had to be closed again from 3.45am. "We are still investigating these alongside Sussex Police," it said. "Unfortunately, this has led to a number of flights being diverted to other airports and all flight arrivals and departures are currently suspended from Gatwick."


Gatwick chief operating officer Chris Woodroofe described the incident as 'an irresponsible act'. He said two of his staff first spotted the drone at around 9pm last night and that it had re-appeared several times since then. "The runway can't reopen until the drone is brought down," he said.


It is understood police believe the drone is being flown deliberately close to the flight path, rather than having accidentally drifted into Gatwick's air space.

It is illegal to fly a drone within 1km of an airport or airfield boundary. Aircraft reported 92 near-misses with drones last year.


The incidents have disrupted travel plans for thousands of passengers travelling in and out of Gatwick at one of the busiest times of year.~Crowds of passengers are stuck inside Gatwick waiting for updates, while others have reported being stuck on grounded planes for several hours.

Gatwick said airlines were working to provide affected passengers with hotel accommodation or provide alternative travel options.

A spokesman apologised for any inconvenience and said staff were working alongside Sussex Police to investigate the drone sightings.


British Airways said last night that a 'very small number of flights' had been diverted, but more have been affected this morning.

Gatwick said it is expecting a record number of passengers to use the airport this Christmas, up 7.7% to 2.9 million, with the busiest day on Sunday.


BALPA head of flight safety, Dr Rob Hunter, said: "The public needs to understand that drones are not just toys and could have catastrophic consequences if they collide with an aircraft. We know a lot of drones will be under people's Christmas trees and we implore them to ensure they're aware of the rules and fly their drones in a safe and sensible manner.


"These drone sightings at Gatwick are further evidence that tougher laws and enforcement are required to keep drones clear of manned flights. That's why we need the registration and education process in force sooner rather than later, so people flouting the law can be caught and prosecuted. At the same time, BALPA is also calling for the Government to consider toughening the law to create a larger no-fly zone around airports.

"We need to ensure people flying drones take responsibility for their actions and do so responsibly with the knowledge that if they endanger an aircraft they could face jail."

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  • Time to Drone Proof Aircraft

    Having read articles on the risks of drones to large passenger planes it seems sensible to create safety measures to prevent their 'ingestion' rather than have chaos any time someone breaks the rules. Solve issue at both ends of course. Drones have existed for a while now.

    By Steven Gargaro, Thursday, December 20, 2018

  • Should be Banned

    Drones should be banned from general sale worldwide and sold only to registered organisations with a distinct requirement and each device registered accordingly.

    By LINDA PARKES, Thursday, December 20, 2018

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