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Major disruption Gatwick airport Sunday - remains open

Due to drones flying over Gatwick Airport in the airspace, nothing has gone into or out of Gatwick Airport for 15 hours since about 9pm last night UK time.

At noon UK time today Gatwick is still closed.

All flights to and from are being cancelled or diverted to other London or UK or European airports with some flights being diverted as far as southwest France.

This not only affects Gatwick flights but flights all around the southern UK as those airports are coping with all the additional flights and passengers.

Strong advice is if you are planning on flying into, from, or within the UK before Christmas to carefully check with your airline.
UPDATE - Gatwick reopens - see below
UPDATE - Gatwick CLOSED again - see below
UPDATE - Gatwick OPEN again
Update - Gatwick remains open and arrests

Posted by
25746 posts

Update - as of 11am local time today more drone flights seen by police.

Airport still shut at 13:30 local, all flights cancelled or diverted.

BBC is reporting it as an "attack" but says likely no terrorism. Armed police at Gatwick.

110,000 passengers directly affected, impact will continue for days.

Posted by
1939 posts

Thank you for the "on site" report, Nigel. I saw that on the news this morning and my heart goes out to all those holiday travelers affected by this unexpected shut down. I so appreciate the fact that so many of our posters actually live in the UK, Europe, Australia, NZ and so many other places and can relay important feedback to all of us. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.

Posted by
25746 posts

Update - The earliest Gatwick might reopen is 19:00 tonight local time.

None of what are called "industrial grade drones" has been found.

Posted by
25746 posts

Update - 15:45 local

none of the drones has been found

the UK Army has been called to Gatwick to participate

hoping to reopen by 19:00 or 20:00 local but no certainty - these are two of several advertised times over the last 18 hours none of which has been met

spokespeople say safety first, no reopening until safety assured

Gatwick warning passengers to not travel to the airport before confirming with their airline.

Posted by
25746 posts

Update - 15:55 local

Police confirm making formal request to the Ministry of Defence for military response and military solution to the attack.

Additional sighting of drone recently

Posted by
12205 posts

Our Seattle news is reporting that Gatwick is still closed as of 16:00 UK time.

This is crazy. Let us hope it does not spark copy-cat activity at other airports.

Posted by
4666 posts

Possibly random trolling but I wonder if it's an environmentalist protest. However, if it were, I'd expect a claim of responsibility by now.

Posted by
8244 posts

Philip, that's an interesting thought.

Posted by
4748 posts

This is going to have a knock on impact for several days, as aircraft are now out of position and may impact on other airports.

I can’t believe that they haven’t resolved this issue by now, 20 hours on. It obviously isn’t just some random teenager with a toy drone, it’s commercial sabotage.

Posted by
25746 posts

Update - 19:00 local

Gatwick still closed, unknown when it may reopen.

EasyJet has cancelled all Gatwick flights until tomorrow.

Special dispensation from the government and the civil aviation authority has allowed other airports to suspend night time curfew to allow flights overnight to move planes and passengers from the other airports.

As always, if you are travelling into or out of or within the UK at the moment check with your airline.

Posted by
2788 posts

Easy way for someone to cause serious chaos. I hope they get caught and serve serious prison time.

Posted by
4368 posts

I hope they get caught and serve serious prison time.

5 years maximum. I suspect that if caught and convicted then they are likely to receive the maximum penalty simply for the sheer disruption and to serve as a deterrent. At least I hope so, you never know with our judiciary.

Posted by
25746 posts

It is a shame that the judge won't be able to give consecutive sentences - 5 years for each flight. That would make a difference - but it will never happen....

Posted by
25746 posts

Update - 20:00 UK time

Air controllers have said they do not expect any flight at Gatwick before 06:00 local on Friday 21 Dec.

Army confirm unspecified "specialist equipment" has been deployed.

Posted by
25746 posts

Update - 22:00 local

Now no sign of reopening, nor any prospect of when. There has been another fight of drones within the last hour, and a police press conference it was released that there have been over 50 sightings in the last 24 hours.

Be alert for issues at other countrys' airports. It has just been announced that German airports are taking extra precautions and police are looking for 4 individuals seen acting suspiciously near Stuttgart airport.

Check with your airline.

Posted by
2788 posts

@Nigel, unless the judge is inconvenienced by the flight situation? Putting the perps in stocks near Gatwick for the amount of time flights were disrupted and letting passersby throw rotten eggs at them could work!

Posted by
996 posts

Thanks for the updates, Nigel! I've been trying to follow this story here in the States, but you'll have better information than we do.

I saw a small news blurb earlier that there were also problems with BA's computers at Heathrow today. Makes you wonder if this is all coincidence, but I hope that the British government gets to the bottom of this quickly so that flights can resume as normal. I'm trying to imagine all the chaos is this is creating.

I thought drones were flown by remote control? Wouldn't it be easy enough to locate where they're being controlled? Yes, you can see from my questions that I know nothing about drones.

Anyway, safe travels to everyone flying this pre-Christmas weekend!

Posted by
25746 posts

Friday 08:03 local time Update -

Good news this morning as Gatwick Airport has reopened this morning. I don't know of any arrest but the airport police are confident in their press conference that everything that can be done done has been done and they are content with reopening.

The airport says that many flights will go, but several have been cancelled.

If you are flying before Christmas check with your airline..

Posted by
1063 posts

"I thought drones were flown by remote control? Wouldn't it be easy enough to locate where they're being controlled? Yes, you can see from my questions that I know nothing about drones."

It's been on the news that licenced drone operators have been using their own equipment to pinpoint where the rogue operator(s) are without any results. Even if caught, I doubt the maximum sentence would be given due to the idiot having his teddy bear stolen when he was three, or some such pathetic excuse that defence lawyers seems to come up with.

Posted by
25746 posts

Update - Friday 17:30 local

Gatwick CLOSED again at 17:30 due to repeated drone sightings at airport

no idea of reopen time

If using other airports or Eurostar expect delays, check before traveling

Posted by
2880 posts

Shocking that this is continuing at Gatwick!

Posted by
126 posts

How terribly frustrating that some schmuck(s) can have this much impact and would want to purposefully disrupt people just trying get where they need to be. Feeling sad for those impacted.

Posted by
12205 posts

The Guardian is now reporting the flights have resumed after a one-hour closure. At least I think that is the current status.

Posted by
25746 posts

That'll teach me to stop for dinner.

Per BBC sighting 17:10 local. Flights resumed less than 90 minutes later. "Military measures" had been put in place which meant it was safe to reopen...

Somebody pass the snacks please. Clearly I can't leave the sofa.
I'm sorry for the victims, poor folks either waiting to go, stuck circling, or trying to get here, or using other now overloaded systems to travel.

Posted by
25746 posts

Good news this morning - two men were arrested overnight in connection with the drone flights.

Good news - the airport remains open.

Bad news - we don't know if somebody else will fly the drones.

Bad news - there is still considerable backlog and not all planes and crew are where they need to be, but mostly a normal schedule today if we are lucky.

It will remain to see how the US partial government shutdown will affect TSA and US flights toe the UK and Europe.

Posted by
1063 posts

Nigel, according to the local radio in "Ampshire" it was a man and a woman that were arrested.

Posted by
2880 posts

I’d appreciate another update when you have time and on the ground reporting information :-). Do they have a motive for why these two (?) people did this? Sorry, as this involves a bit more time for you on the couch with snacks I hope.

Posted by
25746 posts

local residents 47 year old male and 54 year old female being question and remain in custody. No statements as to circumstances or motive will likely be made public for some time.

Posted by
1250 posts

They live in Crawley, which might explain a lot.

Posted by
25746 posts

Well not every town has a squareabout. Beats socks off a roundabout. But not as good as a gyratory or Magic Roundabout.

Crawley is unique. (and close to the airport).

Posted by
4368 posts

If they are responsible, and I'll wait for convictions before baying for blood, but the recently suggested five year imprisonment has been superseded by the current quoted offence of Endangering Safety Of Aerodromes which carries a penalty of life.

A very, very serious repercussion for what, on the basis of limited information, would appear to be nothing more than stupidity with no political purpose.

Endangering safety at aerodromes.

(1)It is an offence for any person by means of any device, substance or weapon intentionally to commit at an aerodrome serving international civil aviation any act of violence which—
(a)causes or is likely to cause death or serious personal injury, and
(b)endangers or is likely to endanger the safe operation of the aerodrome or the safety of persons at the aerodrome.
(2)It is also, subject to subsection (4) below, an offence for any person by means of any device, substance or weapon unlawfully and intentionally—
(a)to destroy or seriously to damage—
(i)property used for the provision of any facilities at an aerodrome serving international civil aviation (including any apparatus or equipment so used), or
(ii)any aircraft which is at such an aerodrome but is not in service, or
(b)to disrupt the services of such an aerodrome,

in such a way as to endanger or be likely to endanger the safe operation of the aerodrome or the safety of persons at the aerodrome.

(5)A person who commits an offence under this section is liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for life.

Posted by
4368 posts

What would stop copycats from doing this at Heathrow? CDG? JFK?

Nothing, unless they're protected by Israeli built anti drone weaponry. The UK spent £20m a few years ago buying six of the machines which are capable of disrupting the signals controlling the drones and 'killing' them. Apparently the UK government didn't go for the optional heat laser which can be used to destroy the drone. These machines are currently being used by the military at Gatwick.

Posted by
4528 posts

What would stop copycats from doing this at Heathrow? CDG? JFK?

There have been hints that Heathrow already deploys a number of counter-measures, but I guess detail is not something to be expected.

Posted by
7477 posts

Does British law allow all the affected passengers to file a class action suit against the idiots and bankrupt them into oblivion?

Posted by
4368 posts

Does British law allow all the affected passengers to file a class action suit against the idiots and bankrupt them into oblivion?

Not with individuals, only organisations and companies.

Posted by
25746 posts

Just a few minutes ago the two individuals who had been held for the drone attacks have been released with no charge.

The Sussex police say that they are no longer suspects.

Posted by
25746 posts

No further drone flights reported.

A damaged drone has been found near the perimeter fence at Gatwick and has been taken away by police for forensic analysis.

Posted by
4368 posts

Not only that but the police are now saying that it's possible that there was no drone at all! Currently there are no confirmed and corroborated sightings, just reports that understandably have to be acted upon.

It would be an embarrassment if it all turns out to be a false alarm!

Posted by
7477 posts

It would be an embarrassment if it all turns out to be a false alarm!

So who reported seeing drones? Civilians on the ground or the pilots flying in/out of the airport?

If a 'damaged drone' was indeed found near the airport perimeter it would seem there was something there.

Posted by
4368 posts

So who reported seeing drones? Civilians on the ground or the pilots flying in/out of the airport?

It's not been made clear.

Posted by
4368 posts

I've seen the video and it's impossible to determine where it's shot, at least the parts that I've seen. I think the police spokesman was being a bit too cautious with his claim that there is no proof that there was a drone. Sure, anyone can claim that footage of a drone flying in the sky with no other identifiable landmarks could be from wherever they want it to be but I am not convinced that this is the case.

I'm also disappointed that the media disclosed the identities of the couple arrested and subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing but my personal experience of the media means that I'm not surprised. It's also a good reminder to make your Facebook profile private if you have one because that's the first place journalists will go sniffing around once they have a name.