HEATHROW AIRPORT was plunged into chaos last night as a suspected drone sighting grounded flights weeks after a similar crisis hit Gatwick.
An estimated 9,000 passengers were held up when all outbound services were halted at about 5pm. Flights resumed after 6pm and arrivals were unaffected but knock-on delays caused problems long into the evening. It fuels concerns about the vulnerability of airports to drones, which pose a risk of dangerous collisions with planes.
The Gatwick shutdown just before Christmas lasted 32 hours even though police later admitted they could not be sure the drone that people reported seeing had even existed. Passengers at Heathrow yesterday expressed their frustration on Twitter.
Nadim Baig wrote: ‘My luck, drone sighting and now my flight is at standstill just before departure.’
He later confirmed his flight to Italy took off after an hour’s delay.
Northern Ireland politician Paul Maskey wrote: ‘On plane at Heathrow to travel back to Belfast and just been told that there was a drone spotted. Assessment being done. Could be a long night.’
An hour later, he added: ‘Good news. Just been informed that flights will be allowed to take off.’
Heathrow apologised to passengers for the inconvenience.
ITV Granada reporter Sarah Rogers tweeted a selfie with crew on the flight deck of a BA plane after the all-clear was given.
Some Twitter critics said she shouldn’t have been allowed in but BA said: ‘Customers can request to visit the flight deck while the aircraft is on stand and not moving.’
Both Gatwick and Heathrow said last week they had spent millions of pounds on technology that is supposed to prevent drones flying over the airports.