A drone sighting caused the airport to close for two days in 2018, but despite a lengthy police investigation, no culprit was ever found. So what exactly did people see in the Sussex sky?
Soon after 9pm on Wednesday 19 December 2018, an airport security officer who had just finished his shift at Gatwick airport was standing at a bus stop on site, waiting to go home, when he saw something strange. He immediately called the Gatwick control centre and reported what he had seen: two drones. One was hovering above a vehicle inside the airport complex, and the other was flying alongside the nearby perimeter fence. The message was relayed to senior management. Unauthorised drone activity is considered a danger to aircraft and passengers because of the risk of collision. Within minutes, Gatwick’s only runway had been closed and all flights were suspended.
Over the next half hour, 20 police and airport security vehicles drove around the airport, lights flashing and sirens blaring, with the intention of scaring whoever was operating the drones. It didn’t work. By 9.30pm, six more sightings had been logged by the Gatwick control centre, five of them from police officers. Inside the airport, thousands of passengers waited to set off on their Christmas holidays. In the sky above, planes circled, waiting to land. Some were at the end of long journeys, and more than a dozen aircraft were soon dangerously low on fuel.
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