Tuesday 22 January 2019

Passengers' safety 'comes first', say pilots after Heathrow temporary 'drone' shutdown

  • Flights were suspended for just over an hour this evening
  • Spokesperson said flights were stopped 'as a precaution'
  • Incident came just weeks after chaos at Gatwick Airport after drone sighting
  • Passengers's safety 'comes first' - pilots' association says
File photo dated 11/10/16 of Heathrow Airport. Photo: Hannah McKay/PA Wire
File photo dated 11/10/16 of Heathrow Airport. Photo: Hannah McKay/PA Wire

Denise Calnan and Amy Molloy

Passengers' safety "comes first", the British Airline Pilots' Association has said after Heathrow Airport temporarily suspended departing flights this evening due to a drone sighting.

Flights were stopped for approximately one hour, sparking a number of delays at the busy airport.

Police officers were among witnesses who saw a drone at Heathrow Airport and the military has been brought in to provide assistance, Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy said.

The first sighting was shortly after 5.30pm this evening. Flights resumed shortly after 6.30pm.

In response to the temporary shutdown, which saw flights grounded for just over an hour, BAPA General Secretary, Brian Strutton, said it is time for the UK government to act "swiftly and decisively".

"This second drone incident in less than a month has shown how important it is that airports invest in drone protection technology immediately," Mr Strutton said.

"The Government should ensure that every airport does so in the interests of public safety and should accelerate and strengthen its other drone legislation planned for later this year. It’s time to act swiftly and decisively.

"An aircraft or helicopter collision with a drone has the potential to be catastrophic and so it’s right that Heathrow shut until it was sure flights could take off and land safely again.

"While it may be frustrating for the passengers who are delayed, it’s their safety that must come first."

Passengers at Heathrow Airport reacted with disbelief on social media during the closure earlier this evening.

"Sitting on a plane at #Heathrow. Plane not going anywhere due to #drones. Like WTAF?!," one wrote.

Another wrote; "Grounded at #Heathrow whilst waiting to fly home to Manchester, first officer says flights suspended whilst police investigate possible #drone activity."

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