New drone sighting again briefly shuts down London airport

Incoming flights circle over Gatwick Airport and outgoing planes remain on tarmac for 80 minutes as report of UAV investigated

An EasyJet plane on its final approach before landing at Gatwick airport near London, on December 21, 2018. (John Stillwell/PA via AP)
An EasyJet plane on its final approach before landing at Gatwick airport near London, on December 21, 2018. (John Stillwell/PA via AP)

LONDON (AP) — In a new nightmare for British holiday travel, flights were temporarily suspended again at London’s Gatwick Airport late Friday afternoon after a report that another drone had been sighted, a spokeswoman said.

The shutdown came shortly after reports that a new drone had been spotted around 5:10 p.m. at Britain’s second-busiest airport, which operates 30 miles (45 kilometers) south of London.

Takeoffs and landingswere suspended — for roughly 80 minutes — as a precautionary measure while an investigation was underway, an airport spokeswoman said, adding that there had been “a confirmed sighting of a drone.”

The airport said in a statement Friday evening that “military measures” in place at Britain’s second-busiest airport made it safe to resume flight operations.

Incoming planes circled over Gatwick because they could not land and outgoing planes were kept on the tarmac while the drone report was investigated.

The new drone sighting came after British police and transport officials had said that extra measures had been put in place to prevent drones from intruding on the airport.

Police officers stand near equipment on the rooftop of a building at London Gatwick Airport, south of London, on December 21, 2018. (Ben Stansall/AFP)

The British military reportedly used an Israeli anti-drone system to ground an unmanned aerial vehicle

Though Grayling did not give details on what equipment was being deployed, The Daily Mail reported that the British army used the Israeli-made “Drone Dome” to bring down the UAV after police failed for hours to do so with a commercial anti-drone system.

Six of the systems, which were developed by Israeli defense firm Rafael, were sold to the UK Ministry of Defense in August in an estimated $20 million deal, according to Israel’s Globes financial daily.

Gatwick had only just reopened about 11 hours earlier after having been shut down all day Thursday and part of Wednesday night when authorities said drones repeatedly violated the airport perimeter, threatening the safely of incoming and outgoing planes.

The Thursday shutdown at Gatwick threw tens of thousands of passengers into massive travel chaos, since about 110,000 people had been scheduled to pass through the airport that day, one of the busiest travel days of the year. Gatwick serves more than 43 million passengers a year.

Passengers wait at Gatwick Airport in England on December 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

The hundreds of travelers stuck overnight at Gatwick by Thursday’s closure described freezing conditions as they slept on benches or the airport floor. Many complained they weren’t being kept informed about re-routed flights.

The motive for the drone invasion wasn’t clear but British police said there were no indications it was “terror related.”

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