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Gatwick reopens after drone sightings

Gatwick Airport

Gatwick’s runway has reopened after drone sightings near the airport forced the cancellation of nearly 800 flights yesterday.

While flights are now able to take off and land, passengers due to fly from Gatwick today are advised to check with their airline before travelling to the airport, as many carriers will experience delays as they try to get aircraft back on schedule and at the right airports.

A drone sighting at about 2100 on Wednesday night caused the airport to temporarily shut its runway. It reopened just after 0300, but another drone was spotted and flights were grounded again.

Sussex Police were called in yesterday morning to try to track down the drone operator, with further drone sightings at midday. Police eventually asked the military for assistance, though authorities said there was no reason to believe the drone activity was related to terrorism.

Neither the drone nor its operator has been located and Sussex Police say the last sighting was at 2200 last night.

But Gatwick COO Chris Woodroofe said: “Additional mitigating measures provided by government agencies and military have given me the confidence to reopen the airport.”

Ryanair has announced it will operate all of its flights scheduled to depart and arrive at Gatwick from Stansted airport instead.

Meanwhile, Easyjet, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Tui have all advised passengers to check for further delays or cancellations before travelling to the airport.

Woodroofe told the BBC yesterday it is likely to take ‘several days’ for flight schedules to get back on track after the airport had been closed for more than a day.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling said “lessons need to be learned” from the situation and has asserted that “every possible measure will be put in place to make sure this can’t happen again”, according to the BBC.

If the drone operator is caught, they could face up to five years in jail for flying the device within 1km of an airport – something that was made illegal earlier this year.

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