Gatwick Airport is up and running — but not before reports of yet another drone sighting briefly disrupted flights and dismayed wary, weary, waiting travelers on Friday.
“Flights have now resumed. Airfield movements were suspended while we investigated this as safety remains our main priority,” airport officials said on Twitter, just an hour after announcing the latest shutdown. “The military measures we have in place at the airport have provided us with reassurance necessary to re-open our airfield.”
Friday’s interruption was significantly shorter than one that began Wednesday night, when reports of unmanned aircraft nearby triggered a day and a half of suspended flights. But when the announcement came down midday Friday, just hours after those flights had resumed, holiday travelers understandably braced for the worst.
At least one frustrated tweeter seemed to speak eloquently for the more than 100,000 people who have had their plans disrupted at the U.K.’s second-busiest airport: “Oh, come on!”
Drones were first spotted in the vicinity on Wednesday night, idling planes on the tarmac as officials sought to ensure the airspace was safe for takeoff. Under U.K. law, it is illegal to fly drones within 1 kilometer (0.62 mile) of an airport, and violators can face up to five years in prison.
But this morning brought a glimmer of hope. The airport announced that its only runway was available for arrivals and departures again. While officials there warned of “knock-on delays and cancellations to flight,” at least the gears had begun to turn again, however briefly.
It’s still unclear who was operating the drones, though Gatwick has enlisted the military’s help to try to get the airfield secured. Sussex Police, which oversees the area, has vowed to track down the person responsible.
“We have significantly increased our police presence to support the operation,” Sussex Assistant Chief Constable Steve Barry said in a statement released earlier Friday.
“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.”
#GatwickDrones | We are doing everything we can to find those responsible for this deliberate and serious act and we have active lines of enquiry. A number of safety measures have been brought in to enable #Gatwick Airport to re-open on Friday https://t.co/XZ7GpP0pSf pic.twitter.com/AeQNZEcK8d
— Sussex Police (@sussex_police) December 21, 2018