UK: Gatwick runway reopens after drone chaos

Gatwick’s runway has reopened after drones caused the airport to shut down for more than a day.

The airport said 765 flights were scheduled for departure and arrival.

Chief executive officer Chris Woodroofe told the BBC police had not yet found the operator of the drones. Police said it was possible they were an environmental activist.

He said extra “mitigating measures” from the government and military had given him “confidence to reopen”.

Thousands of passengers remain stranded at Gatwick as police continue their search for those responsible for the chaos, which started on Wednesday night.

Officers have so far failed to locate the drones or their pilot and had been considering plans to shoot a device down.

But Steve Barry, assistant chief constable at Sussex Police, said they were in a “much better position today”.

He told BBC Breakfast there were a “number of lines of inquiry” into the “very malicious and criminal behaviour”, including the possibility it could have been the work of an environmental activist.

Mr Barry said a drone had last been seen at 22:00 GMT on Thursday.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said there was no evidence it was terror-related.

But he called it a type of disruption “we’ve not seen before” and “lessons need to be learned”.

He said the situation was “unprecedented, anywhere in the world”.

“Every possible measure will be put in place to make sure this can’t happen again”, he added.

Airport boss Mr Woodroofe would not be drawn on what measures would be taken if a drone was spotted again.

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

Passengers have been urged to check their flight’s status before making their way to the airport

Gatwick said the flights planned for Friday would have about 126,000 passengers on board. About 140 flights have been cancelled.

Mr Woodroofe added: “My intention is to get those passengers to their destinations so that they can enjoy their Christmas.”

Sussex Police has been locked in a game of cat and mouse with the drone operator since the airport shutdown began.

The search for the drone

Armed police were seen at the airfield

Despite dozens of sightings, the main device, which detectives believe to have been “adapted and developed” to cause deliberate disruption, has not been found.

Det Ch Supt Jason Tingley said police were re-evaluating plans for armed officers to shoot the drone down after other methods failed.

The measure was initially dismissed over the risk posed by “stray bullets”.

Supt Justin Burtenshaw, head of armed policing for Sussex and Surrey, said finding the drone’s operator was “a difficult and challenging” prospect.

“Each time we believe we get close to the operator, the drone disappears; when we look to reopen the airfield, the drone reappears,” he said on Thursday.

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