Drones Shut Down Gatwick Airport

Gatwick reopened at about 6 a.m. Friday after having been shut down Wednesday night and all day Thursday after authorities said drones repeatedly violated the airport perimeter, threatening the safely of incoming and outgoing planes.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said Friday morning there had been about 40 sightings of “a small number of drones” while the airport was shut down. He told the BBC that the drone disruption at Gatwick was “unprecedented anywhere in the world.”

Grayling said additional “military capabilities” and a range of security measures had been put in place overnight but would not elaborate. He said the airport was considered safe for flights Friday even though the drone operator or operators had not been apprehended.

The Thursday shutdown upended the travel plans of tens of thousands of passengers, since about 110,000 people had been scheduled to pass through Gatwick that day.

After flight operations restarted Friday, the airport struggled to resolve a massive backlog of passengers and canceled, delayed or diverted flights. The number of passengers expected Friday was even higher than the previous day, and about 145 of Friday’s 837 scheduled flights at Gatwick were cancelled to handle the crush.

Then Gatwick takeoffs and landings had to be suspended again as a “precaution” after reports that a drone was spotted about 5:10 p.m., the airport said.

Planes circled over London or sat at Gatwick gates, waiting to find out what would happen Friday night, before getting a new “all-clear” about 70 minutes later.

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