Gatwick Airport Reopens After 24-Hour Shutdown Due To Drone Threat

An aircraft comes in to land as the runway is reopened at Gatwick Airport
Jack Taylor / Getty Images

London’s Gatwick Airport finally reopened after more than 24 hours of chaos and canceled flights, all due to drones that were spotted flying within the area.

Thousands of people were left stranded at the U.K.’s second-biggest airport, which is trying to resume operations now that the drone threat has been cleared out. According to the BBC, 765 flights were scheduled for arrival and departure today, and the airport is expected to fully return to normal by the end of Saturday.

Police are still trying to find the drone operator, but Gatwick Airport’s Chief Operating Officer Chris Woodroofe said that authorities believed it was probably the job of an “environmental activist.” Woodroofe said extra “mitigating measures” from both the British government and the military had left him confident that it was safe to reopen the airport.

“We are now operating at almost normal runway conditions and the challenge for the airlines, as the result of this disruption, is that their planes are not all in the right place,” the COO said.

“So what we’ll be doing today is recovering their operations so by tomorrow we are back to standard operation and continue to recover the situation for our passengers,” he added.

The whole ordeal started on Wednesday night, and planes were forced to remain on land as they faced the risk of being damaged if hit by a drone. Authorities have so far failed to find out who the responsible party is and had even considered shooting one of the devices down.

However, assistant chief constable of the Sussex Police Steve Barry told the BBC that they were in a “much better position today,” and that the last drone had been spotted at 10 p.m. GMT on Thursday. Barry added that police were doing everything in their power to look into the “very malicious and criminal behavior” and had considered the possibility that the drone pilot’s motives were environmentally-driven.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling also echoed the idea that they didn’t believe the action was the work of a terrorist, as there was no evidence to sustain that theory. Although he did admit the scale of this type of event was “unprecedented” not only in the U.K. but “anywhere in the world,” and that “lessons need to be learned.”

“Every possible measure will be put in place to make sure this can’t happen again,” Grayling said, adding that none of the solutions were as simple as firing “weapons haphazardly around an airport.”