Gatwick runway reopened after drone episode

Gatwick has reopened its runway despite the operator of the drone yet to be apprehended

Gatwick's runway closed just after 9pm GMT on Wednesday when two drones were spotted flying over the perimeter fence and into the airfield
Gatwick's runway closed just after 9pm GMT on Wednesday when two drones were spotted flying over the perimeter fence and into the airfield

Gatwick's runway has reopened after drones caused the airport to shut down for more than a day.

The airport said the runway was "currently available" and a limited number of aircraft were scheduled for departure and arrival.

Easyjet said one of its flights had landed but expected departures and arrivals to be restricted at first.

Thousands of passengers remain stranded at the airport as police continue their search for the operator of the drones.

Flights were brought to a standstill after devices were seen over the airfield on Wednesday.

Gatwick's runway has reopened after drones caused the airport to shut down for more than a day.

The airport said the runway was "currently available" and a limited number of aircraft were scheduled for departure and arrival.

Easyjet said one of its flights had landed but expected departures and arrivals to be restricted at first.

Thousands of passengers remain stranded at the airport as police continue their search for the operator of the drones.

Flights were brought to a standstill after devices were seen over the airfield on Wednesday.

Budget airline Ryanair said it was switching all of its Gatwick flights to operate in and out of Stansted airport on Friday.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said the government was doing "everything we can to make arrangements with other airports".

Among the measures was the lifting of night-flight restrictions so that "more planes can get into and out of the country", he said.

What's happened so far?

  • Gatwick's runway closed just after 9pm GMT on Wednesday when two drones were spotted flying over the perimeter fence and into the airfield
  • It briefly reopened at 3:01am GMT on Thursday but was closed again about 45 minutes later due to further sightings
  • Outbound flights were grounded, while incoming planes were redirected to other airports
  • About 10,000 passengers were affected overnight on Wednesday
  • On Thursday, police said the drone flight was "a deliberate act to disrupt the airport" but there was no evidence to suggest it was terror-related
  • More than 20 police units from two forces joined the search for the perpetrator, who could face up to five years in jail
  • The military, with "a range of unique capabilities", was deployed to assist the police operation
  • By Thursday night, 120,000 people had had flights cancelled and police said there had been more than 50 sightings of a drone since the runway was first closed
  • On Friday morning, Easyjet reported one of its flights had landed, and the airport confirmed the runway was open
  • Gatwick said there would be a limited number of flights in and out of the airport on Friday

Sussex Police has been after the drone operator since the airport shutdown began.

Despite dozens of sightings, the main device, which detectives believe to have been "adapted and developed" to cause deliberate disruption, has not been found.

Chief superintendent Jason Tingley said police were re-evaluating plans for armed officers to shoot the drone down after other methods failed.

The measure was initially dismissed over the risk posed by "stray bullets", but became a "tactical option" again after other methods failed, the detective said.

Officers were also following lines of inquiry into "particular groups" and a "number of persons of interest".

"We will do what we can to take that drone out of the sky," he said.

Superintendent Justin Burtenshaw, head of armed policing for Sussex and Surrey, said finding the drone's operator was "a difficult and challenging" prospect.

"Each time we believe we get close to the operator, the drone disappears; when we look to reopen the airfield, the drone reappears," he said.

As a result of an appeal for information, Sussex Police said it had been inundated with calls, but urged people to contact with information "focussed on the identity or location of the drone operator".

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