Drone Threat Shuts Down London Airport

The controllers at Gatwick Airport had a quiet day on Thursday as all operations were suspended. Gatwick Airport/Facebook

As if the holiday travel isn’t chaotic enough, passengers planning to travel in or out of London Gatwick got a rude surprise this week. Two drones were flying near the major airport around 9 pm local time on Wednesday night, according to a report by NPR, causing airport officials to close down operations. Around 3 am, the airport opened back up only to shut down again following additional drone sightings. Gatwick’s COO Chris Woodroofe told BBC News that a drone was seen multiple times and law enforcement was searching for the drone operator. The latest airport update announced that there will be no operations until at least 7 pm local time.

Tens of thousands of people have been affected so far. Airplanes approaching Gatwick were diverted to multiple airport as far away as Paris. Gatwick is the second largest airport in the U.K. and it expected nearly three million passengers through the holidays. Passengers are encouraged to stay home until they get confirmation that their flights will proceed.

While the incident certainly is a nuisance, law enforcement officials do not suspect any terrorist activities, according to NPR. The U.K. bans UAS within 0.6 miles of any airport. If caught, an operator could face an “unlimited fine, up to five years in prison, or both,” according to the British government.

The incident follows only days after a Boeing 737 operated by Aeromexico appears to have collided with a drone during its approach into the Tijuana International Airport.

Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

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