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Not one but TWO drones behind last years Christmas closure at Gatwick

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A police investigation into illegal drone incursions at Gatwick Airport has concluded that at least two drones were behind the attack.

The incident, during the peak Christmas period, led to the airport being closed for 30 hours, disrupting 1,000 flights and more than 140,000 passengers.

The criminal investigation by Sussex Police, with support from national expertise, has identified, researched and ruled out 96 people ‘of interest’.

Assistant Chief Constable Dave Miller, Head of Operations Command, said: “This was a serious and deliberate criminal act designed to endanger airport operations and the safety of the travelling public.

“A drone strike can cause significant damage to an aircraft in flight and it is important to emphasise that public safety was always at the forefront of our response. No aircraft was damaged or passenger injured.

“This was an unprecedented set of circumstances for all agencies involved at a time when the police and the Government were at the early stages of assessing domestic counter drone technology.

“Equipment was quickly installed using both military and private assets to bring it to a conclusion and allow the airport to reopen. Measures now available have strengthened our capability to respond to and investigate a similar incident in the future.”

Gatwick Policing Command works with the airport and airlines to protect public safety and prevent and detect criminal activity. Overall responsibility for airspace safety rests with the airport authority and relevant Government agencies.

The police investigation has centred on 129 separate sightings of drone activity, 109 of these from credible witnesses used to working in a complex airport environment including a pilot, airport workers and airport police.

Through corroborated witness statements, it is established that at least two drones were in operation during this period and the offender, or multiple offenders, had detailed knowledge of the airport.

Witness statements show activity happened in ‘groupings’ across the three days on 12 separate occasions, varying in length from between seven and 45 minutes. On six of these occasions, witnesses clearly saw two drones operating simultaneously.

The incident was not deemed terror-related and there is no evidence to suggest it was either state-sponsored, campaign or interest-group led. No further arrests have been made.

ACC Miller said: “With support from national experts, we have carried out an exhaustive criminal investigation but, without new information coming to light, there are no further realistic lines of enquiry at this time.”

The significant police response required resources from seven UK police forces as well as national expertise in policing, government and the private sector.

The policing operation and subsequent investigation has cost £790,000 and is not expected to increase further, with the bulk of the cost relating to the operational police response. Mutual aid, taken with additional officer shifts, ensured frontline policing services in Sussex remained unaffected.

Sussex Police continues to share learning from the incident across policing and other relevant agencies both across the UK and internationally.

The response of Sussex Police to the drones incident will be a key focus of the Police & Crime Commissioner’s next Performance & Accountability Meeting (PAM) on Friday 18 October at 12 noon.

Gatwick

‘Devastating news’ reaction as airport ground handler Swissport, which serves Gatwick, cuts over 4,500 jobs

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Over 4,500 jobs are to be lost at airport ground handling firm Swissport.

Staff were told that 4,556 jobs are to be cut, more than half of its 8,500 UK workforce.

The company which supplies and manages baggage handlers and check-in workers at airports across the UK including Gatwick told staff via their chief executive that they had never seen anything like COVID-19 before and whilst they had survived problems in the past, this time it was different.

Unions Unite and GMB have instantly called on government to announce bespoke financial package to save the beleaguered aviation industry.

Unite and the GMB the two union’s representing Swissport workers, described the company’s decision to cut at least 4,556 jobs as ‘devastating news’.

Swissport is the country’s largest ground handler; handling flights coming into nearly every regional airport across the UK. It provides ground handling services to many major airlines, including ticketing and baggage handling. 

In light of the announcement, the unions have renewed calls for a bespoke financial package from the UK government to support the aviation industry and save thousands of jobs as the economy continues to reopen.  

Oliver Richardson, Unite national officer, said: 

We can’t wait any longer, the UK Government needs to urgently intervene with a bespoke financial package and an extension of the 80 per cent furlough scheme for the aviation industry. 

“Speed is of the essence if the government is to save thousands of aviation jobs and livelihoods. It’s not too late.”

Nadine Houghton GMB National Officer said:

“This is devastating news. At least 4,000 workers – and possibly many more – will lose jobs which are essential to regional economies. 

“With Swissport now considering job cuts on this scale we have deep concerns about the viability of many of our regional airports and the benefits for regional connectivity that they bring.”

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