At a little after 9 pm on the 19th December 2018, following the sightings of “drones” near Gatwick Airport in Sussex, at the start of one of the busiest times of the year, the airport shut down and essentially came to a standstill for over twenty-four hours. Although there was going to be obvious jumps from some to suggest UFO activity, the amount of information coming from the airport themselves, as well as the eventual arrest of “two suspects” two days later would suggest the incident to be a prank. Or perhaps a disgruntled employee. Or even someone with “extreme environmental” views.
However, as the airport began to get back to normal and clear its substantial backlog of Christmas holidaymakers, the story of the “drones” began to seem less and less authentic. For a start, several witnesses at the airport themselves would state that whatever the strange lights were, they were not drones. Furthermore, the pair arrested were a husband and wife. A pair later released “without charge” following their apparent co-operation. Further still, a statement would come from the police that the drones “might not have been drones” at all. In short, in the space of a weekend, the story has gone from an apparent case of extreme irresponsibility to one of extreme suspicion.
Before we delve into the details of the incident at Gatwick a little further, check out the video below. It is one of the many news clips from the night and following day in question. Was this just some bizarre prank? Or might whatever caused such a drastic measure, as understandable a decision as it was, be the result of something more far-reaching than a remote-controlled drone?
“Drones” On The Runway!
As thousands of passengers congregated in the departure lounges and check-in desks of Gatwick Airport on the evening of 19th December, many eager to begin their long-planned Christmas vacation, with thousands more careering down the nation’s motorways and A-roads with the same thing in mind, came the announcement of further, more long-term delays to their flights. And what’s more, there was no news when the delayed flights would finally get off the ground.  According to the reports coming out of the airport, and from media platforms around the world, drones were present and buzzing around the runways.
Incoming planes would receive alternative airport landing destinations in Luton, Heathrow, and Stansted, with some landing as far as Birmingham and Manchester. People due to arrive at the airport would receive advice to remain at home. Or in a nearby hotel. Basically, anywhere but the airport. Of course, for some, that wasn’t an option. Or, they were already in transit and unaware of the bizarre events unfolding above Gatwick.
Following an apparent quietening of these mysterious and, for the airport, costly drones, the decision came to begin boarding passengers and resume take-offs once again. However, almost unbelievably, within 45 minutes of activity commencing to resume flights from the runways, did the drones return. This once more would force airport security to shut down the runways. For thousands of people already at the airport, instead of setting off to their respective destinations, they were bedding down for the night in the freezing December cold of London. And what’s more, there was no timetable as to when they might finally board their planes and be on their way.
A “Deliberate Act Of Disruption”
By 9 am the following morning on the 20th December, with the busiest weekend of the year almost upon them, planes had been grounded for a total of twelve hours. Most would remain so for the remainder of the day. With another apparent drone sighting in broad daylight around noon on the Thursday.
Just to put some figures of the knock-on affect of the incident, 10,000 passengers were affected on the Wednesday evening when the drones first arrived. With 110,000 passengers scheduled to arrive at the airport on the Thursday. Furthermore, over 700 flights were affected by the time they resumed later Thursday evening.
Interestingly, in relation to whether passengers could expect any form of financial compensation, the Civil Aviation Authority would state that the incident was one of “extraordinary circumstances” They most certainly were. And the more the incident remained in the spotlight, the circumstances began to appear more and more extraordinary.
There was a significant armed police response team on standby on the runways, for example. However, they would state that options of “shooting down” the drone didn’t go beyond conversation. They would claim there was a risk of “stray bullets” should they attempt to shoot at the invading craft.
By the time the incident was seemingly “over” it was the biggest disruption to a UK airport since the Icelandic Volcano Ash incident in April 2010 which saw a number of flights grounded as a safety measure. While that was perfectly understandable to most, this almost immediately saw people question just what was actually taking place above the skies of Gatwick.
Suspicious Arrests, And An Even More Suspicious Release!
On the evening of the 21st December, (the Friday), a married couple were arrested and questioned  regarding the incident.
Paul Gait and his wife, Elaine Kirk, were in police custody for close to thirty-six hours. They were questioned but ultimately suddenly released without charge. Many were critical of the police’s apparent sloppy nature of investigation. Not least the releasing of the names of the pair to the media. Some of which published pictures of the couple. They would go on to state in a press conference several days after their “release” that they felt “violated” by the actions and conduct of the police in charge of the investigation. It would appear the crux of the police’s case revolved around a drone that Gait had since sold months earlier.
Some, though, would look at the incident and see the unfortunate pair as a convenient if temporary scapegoat. Indeed, whether any further arrests will come or not only time will tell. However, several statements issued in the days following that “there may never have been a drone at all”  would scream, to some, some type of “hushing up” of the actual details and of just what was flying around the runway that night at Gatwick. By definition the objects were unidentified. And considered enough of a threat to bring the entire airport for a total of 36 hours.
Perhaps what is further interesting is that Sussex police’s statement of “no available footage” of the drones. This is leaving them to rely on witness statement accounts. Given the number of cameras at such a security conscious place as an airport, not to mention the number of mobile phones immediately at the ready, “no available footage” is maybe a little hard to fully believe.
An Advanced Drone? A UFO? Or A Prelude To Another “Rights” Grab?
Even those not in UFO communities were questioning how strange the apparent claims of drones shutting down an entire airport actually are. For a start, these drones, while some having extremely long ranges, generally speaking, have limits of several miles. And furthermore, they have limited “air times” before a recharge is required. Unless, of course, there were very specific alterations and upgrades. Ones that require extensive knowledge in the field, to say the least. Remember, within forty-five minutes of activity looking to launch flights, at 3 am, no less, the drones arrived back.
So, what else might be responsible for these bizarre sightings? Might it be a UFO incident, unfolding in full view of the British and world’s media? And then simply glossed over and sold to the public as a “drone incident”?
Or, might the incident have an ulterior motive? One more far-reaching and aimed around reducing rights of flying drones? Nobody would argue that drone activity over airports is an action that should wake up the powers that be to ensure such aerial vehicles are not able to penetrate this protected airspace. However, what if these potential new laws, as they invariably do, take more than what is required? What if this drone “that might have been a drone at all” opens a road to limit what people see? Through the eyes of a drone or not, when, and where? All in the name, as per usual, of security and the greater good. A purposely wide-ranging and ambiguous reason that allows for such opportunistic actions.
|Gatwick Airport: Drones ground flights, BBC, December 20th, 2018 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-sussex-46623754
|Gatwick drone: Boss of man arrested and released says ‘this will destroy him’, Bradley Jolly, The Mirror, December 23rd, 2018 https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/gatwick-drone-boss-man-arrested-13771951
|Gatwick drone police say ‘there may never have been a drone at all’, Tom Davidson, The Mirror, December 23rd, 2018 https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/gatwick-drone-police-say-there-13772183
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