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21 Dec 2018

Again, Suspicious Drone Grounds Gatwick Airport

Flights were suspended again on Friday at London Gatwick Airport due to a fresh suspected drone sighting, in the third day of Christmas getaway misery that has left tens of thousands of passengers stranded.

Drones were first sighted hovering around Britain’s second-busiest air hub on Wednesday, grinding the runway to a standstill and causing chaos for more than 120,000 people.

Flights had resumed earlier on Friday after military resources were brought in — but were halted again following a new suspected sighting at 5:10 pm (1710 GMT).

“We have currently suspended airfield operations as a precaution due to a suspected drone sighting,” a Gatwick spokeswoman said.

Police are still hunting for the drone operator or operators.
At the start of the day, a Gatwick spokesman said that 91 of Friday’s 412 scheduled arrivals had been cancelled, while 64 of 371 scheduled departures had also been scrapped.

Passengers, many trying to get home for Christmas or to start their holidays, were advised to check the status of their flights before travelling to the airport.

Gatwick’s chief operating officer Chris Woodroofe earlier told BBC radio that the airport was only able to reopen its sole runway due to the “additional mitigating measures” provided by government agencies and the military.

The army was called in on Thursday to offer support, with the defence ministry deploying what was described only as specialist equipment.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling told the BBC that “military capabilities were being deployed”.

“There are measures which are there today which should give passengers confidence that they are safe to fly,” he said earlier Friday when the runway was open.

Government officials held an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss the situation.

– Cat and mouse chase –

There have been more than 50 sightings of the device or devices since 9:00 pm (2100 GMT) on Wednesday and shooting down the drone is now an option, said Jason Tingley of Sussex Police

“We will do what we can to take that drone out of the sky and remove that disruption,” he said.

Justin Burtenshaw, head of armed policing for Sussex and Surrey said on Thursday: “Each time we believe we get close to the operator, the drone disappears. When we look to reopen the airfield the drone reappears”.

Sussex Police Assistant Chief Constable Steve Barry said officers were working on the theory there was more than one drone.

The previous last sighting had been at around 10:00 pm (2200 GMT) on Thursday.

(AFP)

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