JUST before Christmas Gatwick Airport had to cancel flights for a total of 36 hours. It was one of the UK’s busiest airports and one of its busiest times, but passenger safety had to come first.
The problem was drones. A drone had been spotted in airspace near the airport. Heathrow had to suspend flights briefly in January for the same reason.
We could all be forgiven for thinking this was a new phenomenon, but it isn’t. Our special investigation published today shows that there have been more than 300 ear-misses between drones and aircraft across the UK before the major disruption seen at the capital’s airports. It makes for chilling reading.
One such near-miss was right over our city, and the potential consequences are unthinkable. This was back in 2015, before legislation was passed that made it illegal for any drone to fly above 400ft - legislation which should mean such a thing could never happen again. But despite that, more than 20 near-misses above this height have been reported.
There is a precedent for drones being deliberately flown near aircraft. Airports, such as Leeds-Bradford, are alert to such dangers and as the Gatwick closures show, they will take no chances with passenger safety.
But the rest of society needs to wake up and take this legislation seriously - drones are not toys.