COUNTY NEWS: Passenger recalls moment flight was diverted due to drone

A passenger whose flight was forced to divert to Bournemouth after a drone was spotted flying near Gatwick Airport has spoken of the ordeal.

Monday, 3rd July 2017, 12:10 pm
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 5:12 am
Patricia Slatter's flight had to be diverted to Bournemouth after a drone was spotted near London Gatwick. Picture: Niamh Slatter

Runway operations at Gatwick Airport were suspended on Sunday evening between 6.10pm and 6.19pm and again from 6.36pm to 6.41pm after a drone was spotted nearby, resulting in a number of diversions.

Patricia Slatter, from Felbridge, East Grinstead, was on board a British Airways flight from Valencia with her daughter Niamh before it was force to divert.

She said: “On approach to Gatwick we were told that we would be circling while reports of a drone at 1,000 feet were investigated.

“We were due to land ten minutes early at about 6.30pm.

“After ten to 15 minutes, the captain said that he’d been given the all clear to land.

“We had passed over the M23 and could see the long term car parks when the plane started to climb again quite steeply.

“When we levelled out the captain explained that the aircraft immediately ahead of us had reported seeing the drone again so he had been told to abort the landing.”

Patricia’s flight had to be diverted to Bournemouth due to the considerable congestion at Gatwick Airport.

She added: “That took about 25 minutes and we were on the tarmac there (Bournemouth) for over an hour.

“We couldn’t disembark since immigration had closed for the day.

“It was quite hot so the doors were opened to allow some air into the cabin.

“The crew were great. They kept us informed throughout and provided soft drinks. The captain (Andy Hoffman) came through the cabin to talk to the passengers.

“There was a large group of Spanish school children on board. At about 8.30pm we were told that we could take off for Gatwick and we landed there about 9.10pm.”

Patricia said an EasyJet flight was also diverted to Bournemouth whilst others had been diverted to Southend and Standsted.

She added: “It would be good to find out what happened about the drone. If it was flying at 1,000ft it wasn’t a toy.”

Sussex Police is currently investigating the incident.