Gatwick Airport: ‘Drone’ may have been party balloons as planespotter footage emerges
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A suspected drone which halted flights at Gatwick Airports on Sunday (May 14) may have, in fact, been party balloons, according to reports. A total of 12 flights heading to Gatwick were forced to be diverted for nearly an hour after a suspected drone was reported to have been sighted close to the airfield by a pilot.
A planespotter, however, has recently posted film of "at least seven" silver party balloons in the airport’s flight path only minutes before the airfield came to a halt. Lewis Milton travelled from his home in east London for plane spotting on Sunday and captured footage of the balloons on his London Planespotting Youtube channel.
The video shows several silver balloons flying above the runway that appear to be shaped like letters. The caption read: “Whilst we were streaming today we caught what seemed to be a number of silver balloons released very close to the airport (which looked to be by mistake) less than an hour after that Gatwick was closed as there was a hunt for a drone. Was it connected?”
Explaining his sighting, he told a newspaper it was “understandable” that balloons could get confused for a drone. Mr Milton said: “Once you look up into the sky they get lost very quickly, and it was very hard to keep a track of them.
“It didn’t look like they were released on purpose, I can imagine they were used for someone’s birthday and just flew away by accident.” Both Gatwick Airport and Sussex Police have since confirmed that no drone was discovered in the wake of the incident.
A source familiar with the investigation told The Telegraph: “It now appears that the balloons may have been wrongly identified as a drone.” A Sussex Police spokesperson said it had assisted the airport over reported drone sightings, but “no drones were found.”
This was not the first time the airport had been crippled by suspected drone sightings.In December 2018, Gatwick was shut for more than a day after repeated drone sightings caused chaos for travellers just before Christmas.
At the time, police described the drone flying a "deliberate act of disruption", but did not classify it as terrorism. Around 110,000 passengers and 760 flights were affected, but no suspects were ever prosecuted over the alleged drone flights.