Last week I was to NYC, today I’m in Miami, tomorrow I’ll be back in NYC, and next week I could be in Jamaica, only to be in Phoenix shortly after, and you could be in Azerbaijan. This is the way of a world where jet engines have turned this massive planet into a village.
Air travel has come a long way in 100 years with little to no new threats, but drones are a big one, and to give a small idea of how grave a threat they are, one only need look at the absolute mayhem caused by a drone sighting near Gatwick airport. It’s done through a beautiful visualization, and highlights just how serious aviation specialists and authorities take this new threat.
On July 2nd this year, Gatwick Airport in England effectively shut down operations due to a drone sighting within the restricted airport airspace.
The drone was sighted and reported by arriving aircraft, and upon that news the airport suspended arrivals and arriving aircraft are kept in two holding patterns nearby, which quickly begin to fill up, putting fuel strain on some aircraft who are forced to divert to other airfields before Gatwick reopened.
Shortly after, the airport reopens when no drone can be seen, only for it to be spotted again and forcing the airport to halt operations once more. Due to the repeating nature of the problem, another holding area is created and even more aircraft must now divert to other airports, creating more passenger anxiety, and more stress and congestion in the airways and at other airports.
Eventually the airport operations resumed after inspection, but not after what you can see is a major disruption in operations that would have cost the airlines and airports absurd amounts of money, and all in the name of safety. What you should take from this is that safety is paramount to anything else in aviation, and that those who know aircraft well understand the catastrophic potential of a drone strike to an aircraft.
I have belabored this idea on many occasions and not without significant pushback from those who seems to think drones aren’t quite the potential ‘menace’ to aviation that they are. That somehow a little misbehavior from a drone pilot is of little consequence, but hopefully seeing how seriously a sighting is taken will tilt things. Like anything else, done in the right manner they are fine, but as someone involved in aviation, my plea is that you as drone operators grasp the responsibility and take heed.