Gatwick chaos: Airport reopens as military measures ensure flight safety - live
Thousands remain stranded across the globe as London's second airport tries to clear backlog of flights
- First planes landed at airport at 6am on Friday morning, after more than 24 hours of shutdown
- The airport briefly closed again on Friday after another drone sighting, but reopened after an hour
- 700 flights expected to depart during the day
- Drone operators have not been identified but police are confident that security measures in place will prevent return to chaos of last two days
All times local to the UAE (GMT+4)
22:35 Flights reinstated, but drone operator still not found
Gatwick Airport has reopened and will resume flights after military measures were imposed to ensure it is safe to fly, the airport tweeted. However, the culprit is still yet to be caught.
21:25 Flights suspended again
A Gatwick spokesman says flights have been temporarily suspended after reports of a new "suspected drone sighting." Planes are circling above the airport unable to land amid the confusion.
20:20 700 planes to take off on Friday
Gatwick hope to have had more than 700 flights take off on Friday as the airport begins to clear its backlog after three days of chaos.
20:10 Police: “persons of interest” have been identified over Gatwick chaos
The ranking police officer in charge of the Gatwick drone sabotage case has said that there are “persons of interest” in the case.
Assistant chief constable Steve Barry said: “We are really pleased that the airport has re-opened. The number of options now available to help us detect and mitigate the threat from the drone has given us increased confidence in keeping people safe.
“This, and the fact the last confirmed sighting was before 10pm last night, is reassuring for passengers who have been disrupted by this criminal behaviour.
“This has been a particularly challenging situation. We have looked at everything possible that we can deploy to mitigate this threat and we have a range of measures, of differing levels of sophistication, in place which puts us in a much better position. We are being supported by Surrey Police and Metropolitan Police, as well as the military.
“I cannot guarantee that another drone isn’t going to pop up and disrupt the airport. The situation is being kept under review but we are in a much more positive situation than yesterday. The runway is open and we hope to keep it that way.
“We are working very closely with Gatwick Airport Limited and the Civil Aviation Authority and are in close consultation with the government and other agencies in an effort to keep people safe.
“We have significantly increased our police presence to support the operation.
“We are now actively carrying out a criminal investigation and have a number of lines of enquiry. This has been a deliberate act to endanger the airfield and aircraft, a really serious offence that carries significant sentences, and we are doing all we can to find those responsible.”
17:30 “Our departure time suddenly changed from 2.50am to 3.30pm”
Jodie Hall, a PE teacher at the ministry of education, told The National about her experience attempting to fly back to Gatwick:
“I was supposed to fly [on Thursday] to Gatwick and I’d been checking all day Gatwick’s updates. And they kept saying to check with your airline. However, Emirates gave no updates on the flight situation whether we would be diverted or not. I spoke to a lady on the phone from Emirates before I left for the airport and she assured me the flight would go ahead no matter what.
“When I got to the airport nobody at the check-in desk could give me any information. And I was told we would take off however we wouldn’t know where we would be landing until we were up in the air. I expressed [concern] that I had family picking me up in London so I needed to arrange with them where to get me from prior.
“After going into the departure lounge, the flight info had changed to an hour delay then all of a sudden our flight had changed from 2.50am to 3.30pm on Friday.
“There was then a panic and a massive queue at the Emirates desk, nobody knew what was going on and there were about seven different queues and maybe only a handful of staff. An older lady next to me was very distressed as her dog was in transit and she didn’t know what was going to happen.
“After a good hour of waiting in line we were told we could either get a hotel and wait for the 3.30pm flight or get a flight at 4.30am to Stansted and we would have to make our own arrangements if we needed to get back to Gatwick.
“Luckily I chose Stansted and loads of us were taken by bus to the flight. My family members drove four hours to collect me from Stansted. The only thing I’ve really missed is a couple of extra hours with my loved ones luckily. I think if we chose to wait I probably still wouldn’t be home now.”
16:30 Gatwick: runway is “now available and aircraft are arriving and departing”
Gatwick’s runway is “now available and aircraft are arriving and departing,” according to a statement from the airport.
“We are, however, expecting knock-on delays and cancellations to flights,” it said. “If you are due to travel from Gatwick today, we strongly recommend that you check the status of your flight with your airline before departing for the airport.”
Airlines also advised customers to check their flight status before going to Gatwick because numerous cancellations and delays are expected. By midday, 145 of Gatwick’s scheduled 837 Friday flights had been canceled, a sixth of the total.
16:10 Britain has deployed military hardware to Gatwick, says transport secretary
Britain has deployed unidentified military technology to guard Gatwick airport, according to transport secretary Chris Grayling.
“I think passengers are safe,” Mr Grayling said. “The technology is moving fast in this area. There are systems emerging now that can help.”
“Clearly, there are military systems that can help, but we’re going to have to work together with all the airports to make sure that we’ve got systems that give them comfort that planes can fly,” he said.
The transport secretary also attempted to calm fears about who was behind the attack.
“There’s no evidence that it is terror-related in the conventional sense,” Mr Grayling said. “But it’s clearly a kind of disruptive activity that we’ve not seen before. This kind of incident is unprecedented anywhere in the world.”
15:20 Should Gatwick have been better prepared, and other questions answered
The disruption at Gatwick has provoked many questions, which The National answers:
Should Gatwick have been better prepared?
They had been warned: In July 2017, a drone caused the closure of the runway at Gatwick for only 14 minutes, causing five flights to be diverted. The action resulted in a significant impact on airport operations – but nothing on the scale of this time around. A government consultation is considering plans to strengthen air defences, but it has focused on reckless drone pilots or mistakes – rather than a deliberate attempt to cause chaos at a major international airport.
14:50 Airport will close again if drones reappear, claims pilots’ union
Balpa, the British trade union for pilots, has issued a statement in which they claim that “detection and tracking equipment has now been installed around the perimeter of Gatwick and the expectation is that if and when the drones reappear, they will be detected and the airport will close again.”
Brian Strutton, Balpa general secretary, said:
“It is up to the relevant authorities to decide whether it is safe to re-open Gatwick given that the rogue drone is still around and may be expected to fly again.
“Balpa is not aware that any special advice has been given to pilots operating into or out of Gatwick and so we have this morning ensured that all our UK pilots have Balpa’s advice on what to do if they see a drone while flying.
“Balpa remains extremely concerned at the risk of a drone collision. It is possible that the rogue drones may go undetected around the perimeter or could obstruct the flight paths outside the immediate detection zone.
“Given this continuing threat we have this morning issued our advice to pilots about steps to be taken if a drone is sighted.”
14:20 Campaign group calls Gatwick closure “an early Christmas present”
Not everyone has been upset by the closure of Gatwick. A local campaign against noise pollution caused by the airport has called it "an early Christmas present" for thousands of people living on and around the flight path.
Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions (CAGNE) condemned the "irresponsible" actions of whoever was piloting the drones, but said:
"For tens of thousands of residents of Sussex, Surrey and Kent they enjoyed some respite from the aircraft motorways above their homes that usual, in part, blight their lives day and night, and due to an out of date law, are powerless to take legal action to stop the flights from impacting their wellbeing and house value.
"Although CAGNE, an umbrella community group, does not condone the irresponsible behaviour of flying drones near an airport potentially endangering lives, it was an early Christmas present for those that suffer aircraft noise."
14:00 Gatwick was closed by incident in 2017
The incident at Gatwick isn't the first time that the airport has been afflicted by drone incursions. As Mina Aldroubi wrote in July 2017, the London airport had its sole runway closed after a drone flew close to it, prompting the UAE to consider ways to overcome this threat.
UAE looks to combat drone incursions after Gatwick incident
Shooting down drones and using technology to halt them in mid-air are among measures being considered to protect civilian passenger jets.
The UAE and other governments are looking at enhanced ways to combat the threat after a series of near-misses at home and abroad, senior aviation officials said.
The move comes amid continued disruption to the aviation industry, such as on Sunday when a drone flew close to London Gatwick, leading to the shutdown of a runway.
13:40 Gatwick chaos dominates British newspapers
The chaos at Gatwick is understandably dominating the front pages of British newspapers:
13:30 Update on Emirates flights from Gatwick
Emirates has released the following statement relating to flights to and from Gatwick airport:
We are expecting delays on Emirates flights to/from London Gatwick on 21 December 2018. Customers are requested to check their flight status for updated departure times.
Update on diverted flights:
Emirates flight EK16 on 20 December 2018 will operate from Birmingham (BHX) on 21 December 2018 as EK8016.
Emirates flight EK12 on 20 December 2018 will operate from London Heathrow (LHR) on 21 December 2018 as EK8012.
Emirates flight EK10 on 20 December 2018 will operate from Manchester (MAN) on 21 December 2018 as EK8010.
12:50 London's skies begin to fill up
ght Radar of the skies above London showed that flights are beginning to return to normal.
12:30 Gatwick flights restart but airport faces third day of travel chaos
Good morning from London, where the indident at Gatwick airport, the British capital's second largest, is dragging on into its third day. Overnight the authorities felt confident enough to reopen the airport, and the first plane, a China Eastern Airlines flight from Shanghai, landed just before 6am local time. Throughout the day they will be ramping up the service, and aim to have more than 700 flights depart as they attempt to clear the backlog of thousands of visitors stranded in the UK or residents who are heading off for Christmas. Stay with us for updates throughout the day.
Updated: December 21, 2018 10:45 PM