Flights at Gatwick Airport are diverted and delayed after 'drone'
Flights at Gatwick Airport are diverted and delayed after suspected drone was spotted near runway
- At Gatwick flights were grounded and planes circled after up to three sightings
Gatwick was closed for more than an hour after reports of a drone flying over the airport – sparking safety fears.
Flights were grounded and planes circled after up to three sightings.
Take offs and landings were halted for just under an hour with 12 planes diverted to other airports.
The airlift was closed from 1.44pm to 2.35pm on Sunday.
British Airways said one of its flights was affected, with it landing at Stansted before refuelling and returning to Gatwick.
Flights were grounded and planes circled after up to three sightings of the suspected drones
Operations at London Gatwick were suspended temporarily while investigations took place
A Gatwick spokesperson said: ‘Passenger safety is the airport’s absolute priority and – following established procedures – operations at London Gatwick were suspended temporarily while investigations into the sighting of a suspected drone close to the airfield took place.
‘These investigations have now completed and the airfield reopened.
‘Five inbound aircraft were diverted to other airports during the investigation, however we expect these will return to London Gatwick shortly.’
It comes just a week after it emerged that an easyJet plane flying at more than 300mph missed a suspected drone by as little as 16ft over the Sussex countryside.
The incredibly close call happened at a height of 5,000ft just three minutes after the Airbus A320 had taken off from Gatwick on a flight to Basel, Switzerland.
Drones are normally limited to flying at up to 400ft, meaning one at 5,000ft would be at more than 12 times the maximum legal altitude
Drone activity at Gatwick saw around 1,000 flights cancelled or diverted between December 19 to 21 in 2018.
A report by the UK Airprox Board, the official body for assessing near misses, revealed that the pilots initially thought the object was a bird before concluding it was a drone being flown illegally.
The pilots immediately informed air traffic controllers who put out a warning to other planes departing from Gatwick.
It is believed that the drone may have been flown by a rogue operator wanting to get dramatic video footage of an airliner flying past.
There could have been catastrophic consequences if the device had gone into one of the jet’s engines or smashed the cockpit screen.
Drones are normally limited to flying at up to 400ft, meaning that the suspected drone was potentially at more than 12 times the maximum legal altitude.
Investigators were unable to confirm that the object was a drone due to a lack of evidence other than the account of the two pilots.
If a drone operator had been identified, they could have been convicted of endangering an aircraft and jailed for up to five years.
The incident happened at 3.21pm on February 24 while the jet was climbing to its cruising height in an area just north of Uckfield, East Sussex.
This is not the first time Gatwick has been targeted by suspected drones.
Activity at Gatwick saw around 1,000 flights cancelled or diverted between December 19 to 21 in 2018.
No culprit was found, and there was criticism over the amount of time it took for the runway at the West Sussex airport to reopen.
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