How the Gatwick drone chaos unfolded

Gatwick airport has faced more than 24 hours of chaos. Credit: PA

Flights have resumed at Gatwick Airport after a shutdown caused chaos for passengers.

Flights were suspended on Wednesday night, with the shut down continuing throughout Thursday despite a brief reopening in the early hours.

Some 120,000 passengers who were due to fly into, or out of Gatwick during that time were left unable to travel, while many inbound flights were diverted to alternative airports as far away as Amsterdam and Paris.

Here is how the chaos unfolded

  • The disruption began at about 9pm on Wednesday December 19 when the airport reported that flights had been suspended. At the time, Gatwick said reports had been received of two drones flying close to the airfield.

  • The runway was briefly reopened in the early hours of Thursday before further drone sightings forced it to close again.

  • Gatwick later said drones had been seen flying over the airport’s perimeter fence and close to the runway.

  • The airport’s chief operating officer, Chris Woodroofe, said 120,000 passengers’ flights had been disrupted by the incident.

  • Many inbound flights were diverted to other airports, including as far away as Amsterdam and Paris.

  • On Thursday morning, police said the flying of drones in the area was “a deliberate act to disrupt the airport”, but added that there was no evidence to suggest it was terror-related.

The runway at Gatwick Airport was first closed on Wednesday night Credit: PA
  • Officers were working on the assumption the drone had been modified, and were looking through CCTV to identify the make and model.

  • More than 20 police units from two forces were searching for the perpetrator.

  • Detective Chief Superintendent Jason Tingley, of Sussex Police, said the force was following up a “number of persons of interest” in their investigations.

Detective Chief Superintendent Jason Tingley said Sussex Police were following up a ‘number of persons on interest'. Credit: PA
  • Shooting down the drone was being considered as a “tactical option” after other strategies failed.

  • On Thursday night, police said there had been more than 50 sightings of the drone in the 24 hours from when the runway was first closed.

  • Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said night-flight restrictions would be lifted at other airports so that “more planes can get into and out of the country”.

  • At just after 6.30am on Friday, Gatwick Airport said the runway had reopened for a “limited number” of flights, with the first plane departing at 6.33am on its way to Lapland.