Flights resume at Heathrow following drone sighting

Heathrow Airport had suspended all departures following a drone sighting. (Getty Images)
Updated 08 January 2019

Flights resume at Heathrow following drone sighting

  • Drone had earlier been sighted at Heathrow Airport
  • Departures were suspended, while planes continued to land

LONDON: London’s Heathrow Airport, Europe’s busiest hub, suspended all departing flights for around an hour Tuesday following a drone sighting, just three weeks after a similar incident at Gatwick caused havoc.
A spokeswoman told AFP at 1835 GMT that flights at the airport, which handles 213,668 passengers a day, had resumed following the interruption.
The Metropolitan Police said they were called at around 1705 GMT and alerted to “reports of a sighting of a drone in the vicinity of Heathrow airport.”
A statement on the airport’s Twitter account earlier said: “We are responding to a drone sighting at Heathrow and are working closely with the Met Police to prevent any threat to operational safety.
“As a precautionary measure, we have stopped departures while we investigate. We apologize to passengers for any inconvenience this may cause,” it said.
Arriving planes, however, continued to land at Heathrow.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said “the military are preparing to deploy the equipment used at Gatwick at Heathrow quickly should it prove necessary.”
Some 81 airlines serving 204 destinations operate out of Heathrow, located west of London.
Between December 19 and 21 drone sightings at Gatwick, Britain’s second biggest hub, caused travel misery for tens of thousands of people after flights were suspended.
That disruption came at a particularly busy time in the run-up to Christmas. It raised questions about the security of airports as well as the competence of police in charge after a couple were arrested and released without charge.
The British army had to be deployed to the airport on December 20 after it grounded all flights.
Gatwick has since said it has invested in anti-drone technology, while Heathrow said that it would do so.
In response to the chaos at Gatwick, Grayling on Monday told parliament that drone exclusion zones around British airports were being extended and operators would have to register.
Police will also be allowed to fine users up to £100 ($128) for failing to comply when instructed to land a drone, or not showing registration to operate a drone.
Grayling said the disruption at Gatwick between December 19 and 21 was “deliberate, irresponsible and calculated, as well as illegal.”
The exclusion zone around airports is currently one kilometer (half a mile) and this will be extended to five kilometers.
From November 30 this year, operators of drones weighing between 250g and 20kg will also have to register and take an online pilot competency test.


UK pledges £20m aid for Beirut blast recovery

The blast in Beirut hit a grain silo in the port, exasperating Lebanon's already rising food insecurity. (File/Reuters)
Updated 09 August 2020

UK pledges £20m aid for Beirut blast recovery

  • World leaders have joined a virtual summit to coordinate an effective humanitarian response to the Beirut blast.
  • French President promises aid will not go to "corrupt hands"

LONDON: The UK has pledged an additional £20 million ($26.09 million) in humanitarian aid to Lebanon in response to last week’s massive explosion in Beirut.

International Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said the money would go to the UN’s World Food Programme to help Lebanon’s most vulnerable.

The figure was promised at a virtual summit held Sunday that was convened by French President Emmanuel Macron. World leaders met virtually to formulate a global response to the devastating explosion and ensuing humanitarian and economic crisis.

Trevelyan said: “The devastation we have seen in Lebanon this week has left people without homes, medical care and wondering how long it will be until the country’s food supplies run out. Today the world is coming together to stand by the Lebanese people, and as one of the biggest donors to this crisis so far, the UK is pledging more urgent support to help all those affected by this terrible disaster.”

The UK has already provided £5 million in assistance and paid for specialist medics to respond to health needs on the ground. It will also send a Royal Navy vessel to assist the recovery.

Other European countries have also promised to send humanitarian aid. Germany has pledged 10 million euros ($11.78 million) and the European Union has promised 30 million euros.

Despite the sizable donations, the price tag for rebuilding Beirut is likely to cost billions of dollars.

There is also widespread distrust among the Lebanese population about the government’s ability to effectively coordinate the blast response and to manage the huge influx of cash.

Macron, addressing this concern on his recent trip to Beirut, said: “I guarantee you, this (reconstruction) aid will not go to corrupt hands.”