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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

Amazing opportunity as Gatwick looks for a new charity partner

London Gatwick yesterday (3rd Oct ’19) announced that it is seeking a new charity partner, with the successful applicant set to secure a unique opportunity to increase its profile and fund raising possibilities.

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The partnership will last for two years and registered local charities are encouraged to apply before the deadline of 15th November 2019.

The airport will choose the charity that can best improve the lives of local people through the partnership, with applicants also assessed on what the charity wants to achieve from the new relationship, what the money raised will go towards and why it will be a good ‘fit’ with Gatwick and its employees.

In addition to an increase in profile and contributions, Gatwick will encourage the airport’s 3000 staff and its partners to volunteer their time and expertise to the chosen charity and help support fund raising events and projects.

Gatwick has three charity partners at any one time, which it works with to raise funds over the longer term – two local and one airport-based charity. Gatwick’s current ongoing charities are Gatwick TravelCare and Air Ambulance Kent Surrey Sussex, with Gatwick’s work with St Catherine’s Hospice coming to an end in April 2020 after a double term of four years.

Gatwick TravelCare has been working alongside Gatwick’s terminal teams to assist passengers since 1986.  Air Ambulance Kent Surrey Sussex makes emergency crews available to respond to emergency situations across the region every day of the year.

For community groups that do not have charity status or for those that do not feel a charity partnership would be appropriate, the airport also provides Gatwick Foundation Fund grants Applications for grants in the Kent, Surrey and Sussex can be made via the Gatwick website.

Melanie Wrightson, Community Engagement Manager, Gatwick Airport said:

“We are excited about our new partnership and can not wait to see who applies next! If you think your charity could improve the lives of local people in partnership with us, then please apply!

“Our aim for this new partnership is to replicate the success we have had with our previous charity partners.”

Allan McHenry, Assistant Director of Service delivery, Air Ambulance Kent Surrey Sussex said:

“The sponsorship from Gatwick is incredibly important to us. A lot of the people going off on holiday travel through Gatwick and it gives them the opportunity to find out more about our charity and helps us raise our profile”.

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