Friday 21 December 2018

London's Gatwick airport shut by drones

London: Gatwick airport closed to aircraft on Thursday following multiple sightings of illegal drones, disrupting flights for as many as 115,000 people on one of the busiest travel days of the year.
Lines of passengers circled Gatwick's two terminals and hundreds hunkered down on departure-hall floors, with the airport saying on Thursday night, local time, that it could give no indication of when it might reopen.  "We believe this to be a deliberate act to disrupt the airport," Superintendent Justin Burtenshaw, the police commander for Gatwick, said in a statement. "However, there are absolutely no indications to suggest this is terror-related."
Reports of two objects above the airfield prompted authorities to halt flights late on Wednesday, with more than 50 incoming planes diverted to other hubs across Britain and some in mainland Europe. The airport reopened after six hours, only to shut again 45 minutes later amid further sightings. Operations remained grounded into the peak morning departure period, with no time set for their resumption, though a spokeswoman said daylight should help staff determine whether there is still a risk. 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.
"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."
Under British law it is illegal to fly drones within one kilometre of an airport boundary. The offence is punishable by up to five years in prison.
Gatwick is the world's busiest single-runway hub, the biggest base for discount carrier EasyJet Plc and the focus for long-haul leisure flights at British Airways.
Police and airport-security teams were continuing to scour the area after the last sighting of a drone at 8.45am, with a helicopter deployed to aid in the search for the perpetrators.
Gatwick said on its Twitter feed that services had been idled due to "drone activity" and that customers should check with their airline before heading to the airport.
"We're sorry for the inconvenience today, but the safety of our passengers and staff is our No.1 priority," it added.
Diverted or cancelled flights overnight affected about 6000 people at carriers including Cathay Pacific Airways and Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA, while 2000 more were unable to depart on 18 scrapped services. The extended closure means hundreds of daytime operations may be lost in what would be one of the worst-ever disruptions to schedules by illegal drone incursions.
Even when the airport reopens, further upheaval is likely, with EasyJet saying in a statement that the overnight shutdown has left aircraft and crew rostered to fly from Gatwick stranded at other locations.

Story sourced from here

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