London’s Gatwick Airport will face at least another 24 hours of disruption after several “deliberate” airspace violations by drones forced the travel hub to shut down on safety fears, stranding thousands of holiday travelers. Lauren Anthony reports.
Travel mayhem hit a major British airport on Thursday (December 20) as authorities say drones flew over its airfield in a deliberate effort to disrupt flights.
The British government is calling the incident a “reckless attempt” to cripple Gatwick, outside London and the military has had to deploy unspecified equipment to the travel hub.
SUPERINTENDENT IN OPS COMMANDER FOR SURREY AND SUSSEX POLICE, JULIET PARKER,
“Clearly, the most important thing here is the safety of the public and that’s really where we’re at and this is why we’re in this situation
Many planes grounded for more than 17 hours — some airlines have been forced to cancel all flights coming in and out.
The incident has caused chaos for passengers flying during the holiday season with some 115,000 people set to pass through.
Police said there was no indication that the incident was related to terrorism as they hunted – without success – for the operators of the drones that first appeared late Wednesday (December 19).
CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER AT GATWICK AIRPORT, CHRIS WOODROOFE,
“At 9 o’clock last night (2100 GMT) a drone was seen by two different members of staff and since then the drone has appeared and disappeared all through the night. We reopened at 3am (0300 GMT) for 45 minutes but then the drone reappeared again
Gatwick has said flights would remain grounded until further notice but apologized on Twitter – saying safety was its foremost priority.
The UK – like many countries – has stringent laws against flying drones near airports without a permit, for safety reasons.
Meanwhile, there was a scare at another European airport the same day – this time in Germany.
Police showed up at Stuttgart Airport in force after local media reports claimed Islamist suspects were seen spying on the facility.
Police wouldn’t confirm the veracity of these claims.