December 20, 2018
Planes diverted for safety reasons as airport says it will take ‘several days to recover’

Gatwick Airport remains closed after drones were flown overhead in what was described as a deliberate attempt to disrupt flights.
Chris Woodroofe, Gatwick’s chief operating officer, said on Thursday afternoon there had been another drone sighting which meant it was impossible to say when the airport would reopen.
He told BBC News: “There are 110,000 passengers due to fly today, and the vast majority of those will see cancellations and disruption. We have had within the last hour another drone sighting so at this stage we are not open and I cannot tell you what time we will open.
“It was on the airport, seen by the police and corroborated. So having seen that drone that close to the runway it was unsafe to reopen.
“Realistically if we do reopen today, what the airlines will seek to do is deal with the passengers who are on site and to prepare for an operation tomorrow morning, where we repatriate passengers who are in the wrong place. It’s realistically going to take several days to recover.”
Earlier, he said the drones could not be shot down because of the risk posed by stray bullets.
Officers from Surrey and Sussex police forces have been scouring the perimeter to try to catch the operators of two drones, which were first spotted at 9pm on Wednesday night, leading to flights being suspended. Sussex police said there was no indication that the ongoing incident was terror-related.
Theresa May’s official spokesman said that the drone activity at Gatwick was “irresponsible and completely unacceptable”.
He added: “These drones have been flown illegally and the law couldn’t be clearer that those found endangering aircraft could face up to five years in jail.”
Updating the House of Lords on events, the transport minister, Elizabeth Sugg, revealed the scale of the response. “Sussex police are in the lead and have officers on the ground. They are doing everything they can to locate drone and its operators,” she said. “All relevant parts of government including the Department for Transport, Home Office and the Ministry of Defence, are involved in the response.”
The drones disappeared and reappeared over the runway area from 9pm until 3am, when the runway was reopened. But 45 minutes later they reappeared.
Justin Burtenshaw, Gatwick airport’s policing commander who is in charge of trying to catch the operator or operators of the drones, told the BBC catching the operator was a painstaking process because the bigger the drone the further away he or she could be. “Each time we believe we get close to the operator, the drone disappears,” he said. “When we look to reopen the airfield, the drone reappears, so I’m absolutely convinced it is a deliberate act to disrupt Gatwick airport.
Gatwick flights remain suspended as drones reappear over runway
Some people reported being left stuck on aircraft for several hours while they waited to find out what was going on. Gatwick advised anyone flying from the airport, or collecting someone, to check the status of their flight.EasyJet advised its passengers not to travel to the airport if their flights had been cancelled.
Arthur Serbejs, 22, and Domante Balciuniate, 21, factory workers from Hastings, sat on the floor by a prayer room, approaching their 16th hour of waiting for a flight to Barcelona.
“We came about 6pm yesterday, and we’re going to be here until like 7pm,” Serbejs said. “At 9pm yesterday we were on the plane for four hours – they turned the lights off and everything like it was going to take off.”
“But we were still sitting there,” Balciunate added. Serbejs said he had fallen asleep while the plane sat on the airport apron, hoping to wake up in Spain, “and I woke up and we hadn’t moved”.
Eventually they were taken off the flight, and offered a hotel in Brighton, which they declined as they live close by. They were told they would get an email with a ticket for another flight, but none came. “We stood in line for three hours for a 30-second conversation saying: ‘Your flight has already been transferred hours ago’, but we didn’t know about it,” Serbejs said.
“It’s crazy, it’s my worst airport experience.”
“We don’t even expect to go to Barcelona any more,” Balciunate said. “Maybe there’s another drone up there – but we have hope. There’s a prayer room over there, we were thinking about going.”
Mamosta Abdulla said he was on an Iraq-bound flight on Wednesday evening before getting stuck on the tarmac for four hours. He would miss his father’s memorial service, he said.
“We got here at 6pm and should have flown at 9.10pm, but we were stuck four hours on the plane with a crying baby, the child was disabled and everyone was sweating because it was so hot in there,” he said.
Passengers were given a voucher for food, he added, but were left to sleep “in a freezing place on uncomfortable chairs”.
“We are in Iraq with bombs going off nearby and the plane still lands. But here some drones have shut down the airport.”
There was criticism from opposition parties as well as unions representing pilots and engineers that the rules on drones needed to be toughened up and enforced said a lack of effective regulation and enforcement had created “an accident waiting to happen”.
The British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) said the government should consider creating a larger no-fly zone around airports.
Labour said the government has been too slow at address safety concerns about drones and should fast-track laws to protect against their misuse and create a drone exclusion zone around airpots. The Lib Dems also called for more stringent rules.
Sugg said: “We absolutely need to make sure that we introduce new laws to ensure that drones are used safely and responsibly. Earlier this year we brought in a law that makes it illegal to fly within a kilometre of an airport and above 400ft.
“We are also introducing a registration system, which will include a mandatory safety check before you are able to fly your drone.”
She added that research was being carried out into counter drone technology.
An airport spokeswoman said that airlines were working to provide affected passengers with hotel accommodation or transport for those whose flights were diverted.
Luton, Heathrow, Stansted and Manchester were among the airports which accepted diverted flights. They were also sent as far as Amsterdam and Paris.
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