Lower than three weeks after Gatwick was shut down for 33 hours due to “unauthorised drone exercise”, the identical sort of menace grounded departures at Heathrow.

Shortly after 5pm on Tuesday, what’s believed to be a drone was sighted on the northwest of Europe’s busiest airport – near the M25 motorway.

One witness, Martin Roberts, mentioned he noticed very brilliant stationary flashing crimson and inexperienced lights whereas driving previous the airport.

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“I may see the thing very clearly for 4 or 5 minutes,” he instructed the BBC.

The northern runway was getting used for departures, which have been instantly halted.

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A Heathrow airport spokesperson mentioned: “We’re at the moment responding to a drone sighting at Heathrow and are working carefully with the Met Police to forestall any menace to operational security.

“As a precautionary measure, we’ve stopped departures whereas we examine.”

Whereas the 4.35pm Virgin Atlantic departure from Terminal Three to Boston acquired away on time, the identical airline’s flight to Johannesburg solely 10 minutes later was delayed by practically two hours.

As queues of plane constructed up, different planes have been saved at their gates. Arrivals continued, with some inbound flights discovering their appointed gates nonetheless occupied.

leftCreated with Sketch.
rightCreated with Sketch.

1/22 Inside one of many terminal tents in 1946

The yr the airport opened. Snug armchairs and flowers attempt to distract from the circumstances

Graham Bridges assortment

2/22 An aerial view of the airport in 1949

Development of the runway format and Central Space are below approach

3/22 A Pan Am crew checks out the Boeing Stratocruiser N1029V Clipper Golden Eagle in 1954

Through the early 1950s, Pan Am and American Abroad Airways operated Statocruisers into London Airport in direct competitors on the North Atlantic route operated by BOAC

4/22 One of many first official London Airport guidebooks

C.1953, priced 1s

5/22 In 1950 a everlasting concrete terminal constructing was constructed

This changed the tents beforehand used at London Airport North and is seen nonetheless in use for constitution and cargo flights on this 1959 view

through Graham Bridges

6/22 BOAC check-in desk in 1954

Inside the brand new London Airport North terminal constructing, simply earlier than the transfer to the Central Space

Graham Bridges assortment

7/22 Air visitors management tower within the 1960s

Contained in the visible management room

CAA Archives through Pete Bish

8/22 Rear cowl of the 1956 guidebook

Displaying a plan of the airport on the time, with entrance costs to the spectators’ viewing terraces and for airport coach excursions

9/22 Spectators in 1958

How shut are you able to get? As quickly because the Central Space was open, spectators have been afforded unprecedented views of the airliners

10/22 Terminal Three was opened because the Oceanic Terminal on 13 November 1961

It was constructed to deal with flight departures for long-haul routes. Renamed Terminal Three in 1968, it was expanded in 1970 with the addition of an arrivals constructing

11/22 Inside Terminal Three in 1969

Examine-in desks for BOAC and QANTAS airways

12/22 Aircraft recognizing on Heathrow’s viewing terraces within the 1960s

Wrap up heat, take your recognizing logbooks, pen and binoculars and get your mum to pack your sandwiches

13/22 No 1 Passenger Constructing

Additionally known as the Europa Constructing. On this photograph, taken on 22 June 1963, flags of the various airways it serves are flown

Lee Holden

14/22 Baggage-trailer-towing Routemaster buses

When BEA and BOAC merged to kind BA on 1 April 1974, each fleets needed to be repainted within the new livery, however so did all the bottom assist tools

15/22 The doorway to the visitors tunnel in 1974

A Lufthansa Boeing 737 is seen on the runway

16/22 A 40 per cent scale mannequin of Concorde

In September 1990 it was erected on the roundabout on the entrance to the tunnel that passes below the northern runway at Heathrow Airport. It was inbuilt 4 important components, with an 80ft-long central fuselage part, to which the wings and tail fin have been hooked up. The finished mannequin was positioned on the roundabout in September 1990 and was monitored by CCTV and surrounded by an infrared perimeter alarm that was related to the native Heathrow police station to make sure it was not vandalised

17/22 Heathrow Airport’s 50th anniversary

On 2 June 1996, Heathrow marked its anniversary with a flypast of consultant airliner sorts which have served the airport over time. This culminated in a formation flypast by Concorde with Hawks of the RAF Pink Arrows aerobatic workforce

18/22 The roof of Terminal 3’s automotive park

One of many final bastions for airplane spotters and spectators was right here. That is the unfriendly discover that greets anybody who makes an attempt this at the moment

Richard Vandervord

19/22 On 24 October 2003 BA withdrew its Concordes from service

The ultimate scheduled industrial flight was BA002 from JFK operated by G-BOAG. Right here we see three of the Concordes parked collectively outdoors the BA hangar on Eight November 2003 following withdrawal

John Hughes

20/22 The brand new management tower

Costing £50 million to assemble, it provides controllers a wonderful 360-degree panoramic view

NATS {photograph}

21/22 The brand new Terminal 2

The Queen’s Terminal

22/22

Trying due west down Runway 27L

1/22 Inside one of many terminal tents in 1946

The yr the airport opened. Snug armchairs and flowers attempt to distract from the circumstances

Graham Bridges assortment

2/22 An aerial view of the airport in 1949

Development of the runway format and Central Space are below approach

3/22 A Pan Am crew checks out the Boeing Stratocruiser N1029V Clipper Golden Eagle in 1954

Through the early 1950s, Pan Am and American Abroad Airways operated Statocruisers into London Airport in direct competitors on the North Atlantic route operated by BOAC

4/22 One of many first official London Airport guidebooks

C.1953, priced 1s

5/22 In 1950 a everlasting concrete terminal constructing was constructed

This changed the tents beforehand used at London Airport North and is seen nonetheless in use for constitution and cargo flights on this 1959 view

through Graham Bridges

6/22 BOAC check-in desk in 1954

Inside the brand new London Airport North terminal constructing, simply earlier than the transfer to the Central Space

Graham Bridges assortment

7/22 Air visitors management tower within the 1960s

Contained in the visible management room

CAA Archives through Pete Bish

8/22 Rear cowl of the 1956 guidebook

Displaying a plan of the airport on the time, with entrance costs to the spectators’ viewing terraces and for airport coach excursions

9/22 Spectators in 1958

How shut are you able to get? As quickly because the Central Space was open, spectators have been afforded unprecedented views of the airliners

10/22 Terminal Three was opened because the Oceanic Terminal on 13 November 1961

It was constructed to deal with flight departures for long-haul routes. Renamed Terminal Three in 1968, it was expanded in 1970 with the addition of an arrivals constructing

11/22 Inside Terminal Three in 1969

Examine-in desks for BOAC and QANTAS airways

12/22 Aircraft recognizing on Heathrow’s viewing terraces within the 1960s

Wrap up heat, take your recognizing logbooks, pen and binoculars and get your mum to pack your sandwiches

13/22 No 1 Passenger Constructing

Additionally known as the Europa Constructing. On this photograph, taken on 22 June 1963, flags of the various airways it serves are flown

Lee Holden

14/22 Baggage-trailer-towing Routemaster buses

When BEA and BOAC merged to kind BA on 1 April 1974, each fleets needed to be repainted within the new livery, however so did all the bottom assist tools

15/22 The doorway to the visitors tunnel in 1974

A Lufthansa Boeing 737 is seen on the runway

16/22 A 40 per cent scale mannequin of Concorde

In September 1990 it was erected on the roundabout on the entrance to the tunnel that passes below the northern runway at Heathrow Airport. It was inbuilt 4 important components, with an 80ft-long central fuselage part, to which the wings and tail fin have been hooked up. The finished mannequin was positioned on the roundabout in September 1990 and was monitored by CCTV and surrounded by an infrared perimeter alarm that was related to the native Heathrow police station to make sure it was not vandalised

17/22 Heathrow Airport’s 50th anniversary

On 2 June 1996, Heathrow marked its anniversary with a flypast of consultant airliner sorts which have served the airport over time. This culminated in a formation flypast by Concorde with Hawks of the RAF Pink Arrows aerobatic workforce

18/22 The roof of Terminal 3’s automotive park

One of many final bastions for airplane spotters and spectators was right here. That is the unfriendly discover that greets anybody who makes an attempt this at the moment

Richard Vandervord

19/22 On 24 October 2003 BA withdrew its Concordes from service

The ultimate scheduled industrial flight was BA002 from JFK operated by G-BOAG. Right here we see three of the Concordes parked collectively outdoors the BA hangar on Eight November 2003 following withdrawal

John Hughes

20/22 The brand new management tower

Costing £50 million to assemble, it provides controllers a wonderful 360-degree panoramic view

NATS {photograph}

21/22 The brand new Terminal 2

The Queen’s Terminal

22/22

Trying due west down Runway 27L

Commander Stuart Cundy of the Metropolitan Police mentioned: “Cops have been amongst those that noticed the drone and a full felony investigation has been launched.

“We’re finishing up in depth searches across the Heathrow space to determine any individuals who could also be chargeable for the operation of the drone.

“I wish to be clear that the unlawful operation of drones at an airfield is extraordinarily harmful. Underneath the Aviation Safety Act it’s an offence to hazard the security of an plane – anybody discovered responsible of this offence may face a life sentence.

“We’re deploying vital sources – each when it comes to officers and tools – to observe the airspace round Heathrow and to rapidly detect and disrupt any unlawful drone exercise, a few of that are because of studying from the incidents at Gatwick.

“Following at the moment’s sighting, navy help has been applied to assist us. Nevertheless, we won’t be discussing in any additional element the vary of techniques accessible to us as this could solely serve to probably undermine their effectiveness.”

He mentioned if folks noticed anybody appearing suspiciously, together with working a drone or mannequin plane within the space round Heathrow or different airports, they need to dial 999.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence confirmed: “We’re deploying specialist tools to Heathrow airport on the request of the Metropolitan Police.”

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Gatwick airport closed down as a consequence of drone exercise on the night of 19 December. Round 1,000 flights utilizing the world’s busiest runway have been grounded, wrecking the Christmas journey plans of 150,000 folks. 

The Sussex airport reopened on the morning of 21 December after navy personnel and detection tools have been put in on the roof.

The newest sightings got here 4 days after each Heathrow and Gatwick reported they have been investing thousands and thousands of kilos in tools to forestall future flight disruption.

The transport secretary, Chris Graying, mentioned: “We’re involved with Heathrow airport regarding the drone sighting.

“I’ve already spoken to each the house secretary and defence secretary and the navy are making ready to deploy the tools used at Gatwick at Heathrow rapidly ought to it show crucial.”

The Division of Transport is planning to introduce new police powers and security guidelines to sort out the misuse of drones.

However the British Airline Pilots’ Affiliation (Balpa), which has been campaigning for stricter legal guidelines on drones for a number of years, known as for “swift and decisive motion”.

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Balpa’s normal secretary, Brian Strutton, mentioned: “This second drone incident in lower than a month has proven how vital it’s that airports put money into drone safety expertise instantly.

“The federal government ought to make sure that each airport does so within the pursuits of public security, and may speed up and strengthen its different drone laws deliberate for later this yr.”

On account of the delays to departure, many arrivals later within the night from European airports have been working round one hour not on time.