Police have arrested a man and a woman from Crawley, south of Gatwick airport, were in custody on Saturday after rogue drone operators crippled London’s Gatwick Airport for three days by repeatedly flying onto the airfield, sparking a major security response.
Britain’s second-largest airport was back in operation on Saturday after it was forced to close its runway in the run-up to Christmas when drones flew near the site south of London in the most disruptive incursion from unmanned aerial vehicles at any major airport.1,000 flights were cancelled or diverted after drones were spotted inside the perimeter of the UK’s second biggest airport on Wednesday at around 9pm, affecting approximately 140,000 passengers.
Police said they had made two arrests late on Friday, a 47-year-old man and a 54-year-old woman who were from the local area. They remained in custody on Saturday on suspicion of disrupting civil aviation services and their house was searched.
A house near Gatwick Airport has been searched, while a man and a woman are being held over the drone chaos which affected around 140,000 passengers.
The 47-year-old man and 54-year-old woman, from Crawley in West Sussex, were arrested in the town at about 10pm on Friday.
Sussex Police said the pair are being held on suspicion of “disrupting services of civil aviation aerodrome to endanger or likely to endanger safety of operations or persons”.
A house in Crawley – less than five miles away from the airport – was searched on Saturday, Superintendent James Collis’
The airport, which shut its runway for spells on Wednesday and Friday and for all of Thursday, said it aimed to run a full schedule on Saturday.
However, it warned that passengers should expect delays and cancellations as it continues to recover from the biggest disruption since an Icelandic volcanic ash cloud in 2010.
“We continue to urge the public, passengers and the wider community around Gatwick to be vigilant,” Superintendent James Collis said in a statement.
The pre-Christmas travel disruption began late on Wednesday when Gatwick was forced to cancel all flights after spotting small drones near the airfield. Every time the airport sought to reopen the runway on Thursday, the drones returned.
Authorities finally regained control over the airfield after the army deployed unidentified military technology to guard the area, reassuring the airport that it was safe enough to fly.
“Safety is Gatwick’s top priority and we are grateful for passengers’ continued patience as we work to get them to their final destination in time for Christmas,” the airport said.
The drones caused misery for travellers, many sleeping on the airport floor as they searched for alternative routes to holidays and Christmas family gatherings. A Reuters photographer at the airport on Saturday said it was busy before Christmas but operating smoothly.
The biggest airlines operating at Gatwick include easyJet, British Airways, and Norwegian, and have said it is too early to determine the financial impact.
Unmanned aerial vehicles have become a growing menace at airports across the world. In Britain, the number of near misses between private drones and aircraft more than tripled between 2015 and 2017, with 92 incidents recorded last year.