Continuing our new series of stories from our Young People’s Voices project – funded by Victorious Festival and supported by the University of Portsmouth – student at Havant and South Downs College, Alana Green writes about her experience of being trapped at Gatwick Airport during an incident involving a drone.
It was a normal day in the suburbs, except the Gamblin-Greens were leaving the damp and grimy climate of the British Isles to find sun, sea and paradise. A 5 a.m. rise for the family. That familiar feeling of excitement and anticipation of a two week break over the Christmas holidays made the rather boring journey to Gatwick Airport fairly pleasant.
I am never surprised by ‘grey Gatwick’; the thick, grey dullness that greets me is a dichotomy of what is to come. Dreary England to Shangri-La! The block buildings never seem inviting, but I remember that behind the walls of the buildings are the hopeful, excited passengers going – seconds apart – to hundreds of different destinations, escaping the British Brexit melee for a couple of weeks of fun.
When I’m walking through the huge double doors at the entrance of Gatwick, I feel as though I’m walking through the Golden Gates to Heaven.
I was baffled at the sight of people crammed into a mile-long queue, packed like sardines, completely oblivious to the airborne fiasco happening within Gatwick’s airspace. We joined the back of the queue, still blissfully unaware of what was happening. Surprisingly, the wait wasn’t long before we reached the check-in desk, giving us a sign of hope that it was just a particularly busy airport day to go on holiday.
We’d heard rumours in the queue of flying robots disrupting the planes, but who would believe such nonsense? But the chaos ensued, not even the check-in crew knew if the flights were taking off or runways were shut. But we sat in hope with the euphoria still running in our veins as the sunny light of Spain seemed not far away.
But later we realised something was seriously wrong. Hundreds of people were all squeezed into the South Terminal. There were no seats left for anyone to sit on. Bodies were slouched on the floor as boredom, tiredness and disappointment brought them to their knees. There was nowhere to go. Not even home. The invasion of the flying robots had arrived. We were trapped.
For those of you who do not know what a drone is, technologically speaking, it is an unmanned aerial vehicle navigated manually with a remote control, or operated software that works with a GPS system. This aircraft is probably the most advanced human invention in the field of robotics and is continuously being developed and improved. Today, in a fast moving digital world, these little flying pests have become a danger to our society. There are not many things that can disrupt one of the busiest airports in the world for so long, but these mechanical pesky things can. These flying robots trapped me in an airport for over 30 hours. My only friend was the plug socket at itsu.
Gradually the airport began to empty. People were shuttled off to different airports as far as Cardiff! The airport looked like a scene from a horror movie; emptiness, disheveled, flagging figures, barely resembling a human form, harbouring a sense of foreboding of what would happen next.
To the twat who ruined my holiday, I’m after you.
The Gatwick Drone Incident closed the Sussex airport for 33 hours and 10 minutes between the 19th and 21st December 2018. 140,000 passengers like Alana were caught up in the chaos, and 1000 flights were cancelled or delayed. The incident cost more than £50million and police have still not charged anyone in connection with the attack. However, speculation that someone within the airport itself is now being investigated.
The Young People’s Voices project aims to provide young people with a platform to share their opinions, report on topics that affect them and advance standards of literacy. We worked with students from St Edmunds School and Havant and South Downs College to investigate and write their own stories, in a variety of styles and mediums – from creative memoir and opinion pieces to their own investigations. All their work will be published on S&C throughout July, and all participants have the chance to enter their work into a competition to read their story on the Spoken Word Stage at the 2019 Victorious Festival. You will find all the Young People’s Voices stories here as we publish them.
This project is supported by the University of Portsmouth, with thanks to the teams in Creative and Cultural Industries (CCI). It was delivered by University of Portsmouth MSc and PhD researchers Maddie Wallace and Lauren Jones.