Passengers flying in and out of London Gatwick will face at least another 24 hours of disruption after several drone sightings forced Britain’s second busiest airport to shut its runway, causing delays to thousands of Christmas travellers.
Authorities at Gatwick halted flights at 2200 GMT on Wednesday after two drones were spotted flying near its airfield. Over 20 police units were searching for the drone operators on Thursday, when the airport had expected to handle around 115,000 passengers.
1/2 Thurs 09.15: All flights to and from Gatwick are suspended due to ongoing drone activity activity around the airport. Unfortunately, there are significant delays and cancellations to all flights today.— Gatwick Airport LGW (@Gatwick_Airport) 20 December 2018
Gatwick’s Chief Operating Officer Chris Woodroofe could not say when flights would resume and warned that the knock on effects from the airport closure would last for more than 24 hours. Police and airport reports talk of sightings of more than one drone. Woodroofe described one of the drones as a heavy industrial drone.
Passengers flying in and out of London Gatwick will face at least another 24 hours of disruption
“It’s definitely not a standard, off-the-shelf type drone,” he said on BBC radio. “Given what has happened I definitely believe it is a deliberate act, yes.” The airport and Gatwick’s biggest airline easyJet told passengers to check before travelling to the airport.
“We also have the helicopter up in the air but the police advice is that it would be dangerous to seek to shoot the drone down because of what may happen to the stray bullets,” Woodroofe said. Under British law it is illegal to fly drones within 1 km (0.62 mile) of an airport boundary. The offence is punishable by up to five years in prison.
Gatwick said at least 20,000 passengers had already been affected with hundreds of thousands of journeys likely to be disrupted in the coming days.
Gatwick, which lies 50 km (30 miles) south of London and competes with Europe’s busiest airport, Heathrow, west of London, had previously said Sunday would be its busiest day of the festive period.