Great news for anyone worried that Brexit was making Britain a laughing stock: because now a couple of drones have shut the country’s second busiest airport for almost a day, which means everyone is laughing about that instead.
Gatwick airport has, at the time of writing, been shut for almost a day because drones are being flown over the runway. Is this the aviation version of the classic excuse given for trains being canceled? Is ‘drones over the runway’ the new ‘leaves on the line’?
There are some critics out there suggesting that perhaps airports should be able to deal with this issue a little quicker than a day, especially as the authorities have already said they don’t believe it is terrorist related. If it turns out to be a young boy trying out an early Christmas present related instead then there are going to be some extremely red faces.
Am I the only one confused that air traffic control can track a Boeing 747 flying from Papua New Guinea, but no one can monitor some drones?
So far environmental campaigners have been quick to deny rumors that they are behind the incident, and to be fair to them they probably had no idea how easy it would be to cause chaos and shut down an international airport.
Aviation Minister Liz Sugg has said in response that: “I am in no way complacent about this issue. We have been working incredibly hard on it all morning.” The. Whole. Morning. That will reassure the tens of thousands of passengers who are watching their Christmas being ruined.
Sugg also offered reassurance that: “All relevant parts of government including the Department for Transport, Home Office and the Ministry of Defence, are involved in the response.” It’s not immediately obvious why three major government departments failing to deal with some drones over an airport is supposed to make anyone feel better.
14.15: Our runway is still closed because of drone sightings. Flights are cancelled up to at least 16.00 today, while we constantly review the situation. Please do not set out for the airport for your flight without checking with your airline first. We’re sorry for the disruption
— Gatwick Airport LGW (@Gatwick_Airport) December 20, 2018
For some time now we’ve all been promised a utopian future of pizzas and packages being delivered by flocks of drones to your doorstep or desk. Absolutely no one at any point told us it may mean we have to give up air travel as well. I like a pepperoni with extra cheese, but not as much as I like a budget airline flight to Marbella.
Police have said they still don’t know who is flying the drones over the airport, and they’ve ruled out shooting them down at this point because they’re worried about where stray bullets might go, which has to make you concerned about their level of marksmanship. Twitter has been full of some excellent suggestions about how to deal with the situation.
Do police not have catapults any more? Can they borrow some water cannon from France? In the Netherlands, apparently eagles are trained to take out dangerously flying drones, which just goes to show that you can have all the technology in the world, but going medieval is sometimes the only option. Or just buy a drone.
Probably the most amazing aspect of this whole debacle is that no one has publicly blamed Russia yet. I bet that happens before the runway is reopened.