At least 5 flights were diverted, a runway closed at Gatwick on Sunday evening after a pilot reported a drone [UAV] flying too close to the airport, which is contrary to CAA regulations and Air Navigation Orders could land the owner with a criminal record, jail term and a £2,500 fine.
Passengers faced delays of some 3 hours as five flights were sent elsewhere, and they faced delays to their journeys. In addition departing aircraft were also delayed as the runway was closed. The closures were from 18:10hrs to 18:19hrs and then again at 18:36hrs to 18:41hrs.
Sussex Police have opened a major enquiry as the incidents are being termed as ' UAV near miss' incidents..
The Twitter board carried several tweets from passengers including Holly Johnson, formerly the front man of British band Frankie Goes To Hollywood.
He wrote: "A Drone on the flightpath into Gatwick : our @British-Airways flight diverted to Bournemouth. On the Tarmac waiting ... for an update." The flight later returned to Gatwick.
A Gatwick Airport spokesman said: "Due to unconfirmed reports of a drone observation in the vicinity of the airfield, runway operations at Gatwick were suspended between 18:10hrs and 18:19hrs, and again from 18:36hrs to 18:41hrs, resulting in a number of go-arounds and diverts.
"Operations have resumed and the police continue to investigate."
The spokesperson confirmed the reports were made by pilots.
The easyJet planes diverted included a flight from Naples to Gatwick that was sent to Stansted, a flight from Bodrum to Gatwick diverted to London Southend, a plane from Milan Linate to Gatwick that instead was sent to Bournemouth, and the Inverness to Gatwick route diverted to Stansted.
Speaking on radio a passenger told the BBC he was on the easyJet flight from Naples, Italy, the plane "did four or five circles" before the captain announced they would land at Stansted instead.
JULIAN BRAY +44(0)1733 345581, Journalist & Broadcaster, Aviation Security & Airline Operations Analyst/expert, www.freelancedirectory.org?name=Julian.Bray.aviation.comment, Travel / Maritime & Cruise Industry, NUJ, EQUITY, LIVE ISDN LINK, Broadcast ISDN COOBE ++44 (0)1733 345020 e&oe Old faithful NOKIA: 07944 217476 www.aviationcomment.com,