GATWICK AIRPORT IS coming to terms with a second day of major disruptions after a pair of drones were spotted around the airport keeping planes grounded, and causing the diversion of aircrafts due to land.
Passengers were forced to sleep on planes overnight as offers of hotel rooms were made and then quickly rescinded, according to the BBC.
Flight from Kiev to #Gatwick was due to land last night at 21.45. We landed in Birmingham airport. Now almost 4am, still on the plane, no food or updates from our crew. Not allowed to disembark. Bodies sleeping on every seat and across the floors. #GatwickAirport pic.twitter.com/nBrPquEGFM— Christopher Lister (@Listy_cl) December 20, 2018
Speaking on The Today Programme, Gatwick Airport's Chief Operating Officer, Chris Woodroofe, said that the drones had appeared again at 7am Thursday, after the runway was reopened again at 3am. "There were 6,000 people flying in from around the world to Gatwick who were diverted to alternative airports as we closed, there were 2,000 people who didn't take off from their origin airport and there are a further 2,000 people here who couldn't fly to their destination because the airport closed," he explained.
As for what can be done in the short term, shooting down the drones was considered, but overruled due to the risk of stray bullets. "The police are looking for the operator and that is the way to disable to drone," Woodruff said.
The law is pretty clear on drone use around airports: it simply isn't allowed. Under UK law, it's illegal to fly a drone within 1km of an airport or airfield boundary, and drone pilots are also forbidden from flying above 400ft. Endangering aircraft safety can see a guilty pilot imprisoned for five years.
There's very good reason for this: the consequences of a drone hitting a plane in flight are seriously bad.
You couldn't really pick a worse time for such disruption, with Christmas always seeing a flurry of airport traffic as people jet off on holiday, or to reunite with family around the world. From Gatwick's perspective, it's especially awkward, as the airport had just put out a press release boasting about how it was "set to welcome record numbers of passengers."
Somehow, this wasn't quite the welcome they were hoping for. µ
Update: Drones continue to be sighted near the runway as of 1245 Thursday. The airport is closed until at least 1600, but only if the threat is removed.
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