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The seventh series of the epic comedy ‘Only Fools and Horses’ kicked off in style on the 30th December, 1990, with an episode entitled The Sky’s the Limit. Del Boy takes possession of what he thinks is an ordinary TV satellite dish from Marlene’s kleptomaniacal brother Bronco. Meanwhile, Gatwick Airport and half of south-east England are at a standstill. It doesn’t become obvious till right at the end that the satellite dish is, in fact, a piece of electronic RADAR equipment stolen by Bronco from the end of the runway. As the dish suddenly springs into life on the balcony of the Trotters’ flat at Nelson Mandela House, the brothers shriek “switch it off!!” as a plane is about to descend right on the roof of Peckham’s most famous tower block.
Twenty eight years ago, the notion that one individual could get close enough to a major airport and be capable of using a single piece of electronic equipment to completely paralyse London’s second airport was the stuff of comedy. Unfortunately, such is the sad totality of so-called societal progression in the intervening period, it has become a sobering reality. Gatwick, the world’s busiest single runway airport, was rendered unusable for 36 hours because some contemptible Sussex simpleton decided to fly a drone over the main flightpath. Still on the loose, this cretin is now a gold star public enemy for just about every law enforcement agent in a 50-mile radius.
What does it say about us as a country, allegedly one of the most advanced on the planet, that we cannot deal with anything that falls outside the parameters of what we call normality? 2mm of snow? Roads grind to a halt. A leaf on the line at Otford? Time to cancel half the trains out of London Victoria? One drone at Gatwick? Let’s ruin the Christmas of millions because we’re so bleedin’ useless, we can’t deal effectively and expeditiously with it.
Our inability to cope with even the slightest emergency must make us an international laughing stock. What would happen if, God forbid, a gang of radical Muzzas, plotting terrorist atrocities in a dingy attic flat somewhere off the Mile End Road, suddenly realised how defenceless we are in the face of minor distractions? What’s to say there aren’t any out there at this moment, drawing solace from our responsive ineptitude? Is that what we are in 2018? Helpless in the face of one drone? If so, I hate to think what would happen if WW3 did eventually materialise.