I hope that everyone is enjoying a peaceful Christmas. As I write on the 20th of December, tens of thousands of air passengers are trying to fly out of and into Gatwick Airport, and are having a terrible start to the Christmas holidays due to the dangerous and criminal actions of drones being flown within the airport grounds. This is without question a truly despicable act and I hope that the perpetrator(s) have the book thrown at them with the maximum sentences applied. It will also be very stressful for staff at what is one of the busiest times of the year at the airport.
The seriousness of this incident cannot be understated. As well as the serious risk to aircraft safety that occurred and all the tens of thousands of people having their Christmas plans badly disrupted, a prolonged closure of the UK’s second busiest airport is very economically damaging. While the maximum sentence for flying drones at airports is five years in prison, given that this incident appears to a sustained attempt to disrupt Gatwick, I do wonder whether other charges such as those relating to industrial sabotage can be applied, to further increase the penalties.
The increasing risk to airports and aircraft from drones has previously been raised in Parliament by our MP Henry Smith and he is right to call for more robust action to deal with this growing threat. I do expect that following the most serious airport incident with drones that we’ve had to date, the government will review how such incidents are both deterred and dealt with.
Last week I wrote in this column about the success of Gatwick Airport and its importance to our economy, both locally and nationally. Our long-term buoyant local employment market is because of Gatwick and ultimately the success of Crawley as a town mirrors Gatwick.
It is a shame that at Christmas, the criminal actions of maybe as few as just one person, has dominated our airwaves. This is certainly not how the vast majority of us behave towards others at Christmas, when peace and goodwill is paramount.
Councillor Duncan Crow, Leader of Crawley Borough Council Conservative Group
26th December 2018