The man who caused chaos at Heathrow Airport just days after drone sightings grounded more than 1,000 flights at Gatwick has been fined £2,000.
George Rusu, 38, a member of a model flying club was branded ‘reckless’ by a judge after admitting flying the £160 Tundra model aircraft 500 metres from the perimeter fence of Britain’s busiest airport.
Police spotted the plane, which has a wingspan of around one metre, soaring close to the airport’s Leonardo Hotel on the afternoon of December 24.
Uxbridge Magistrates Court heard that security was heightened after Gatwick fully reopened on December 21 following three days of chaos affecting some 140,000 passengers.
Officers followed the purple and white aircraft and spotted plant operator Rusu, who is from Romania, looking at the sky and holding a remote control in a nearby park.
The married father-of-one admitted the radio-controlled plane was his and told police it only had a range of 150 yards.
He said he flew model aircraft in two different parks as a ‘hobby’ and admitted he was aware of the drone disruption at Gatwick days earlier.
Rusu, wearing jeans, a blue shirt and blue coat, appeared in the dock on Tuesday to plead guilty to an offence of flying a small unmanned aircraft without permission within the one kilometre wide restriction zone of Heathrow Airport.
Deputy District Judge Robert Roscoe fined him £2,000, told him to pay a £200 victim surcharge and £85 costs, and ordered his model plane should be destroyed.
He said: ‘To my mind, the word reckless seems to be appropriate.
‘It was stupid of you, to say the very least. You didn’t engage with your brain to think about the consequences of what you were doing.’
The judge added: ‘You committed this offence in the vicinity of Heathrow Airport.
‘At the neighbouring Gatwick Airport, tens of thousands of people, their friends and their families, airlines, support staff at the airlines, and very many people had their holidays ruined by something not connected with you – by a drone somebody else flew.
‘There was a huge cost both emotionally and financially to all those people at Gatwick.’
The court heard Rusu was a member of the Little Harlington Model Flying Club, in Hayes, Middlesex and flew his aircraft two or three times a month for the past two years.
His lawyer Aneeta Borwick said her client is a family man, who is ‘embarrassed’ by the incident.
She said Rusu, who lives in Blunts Avenue, Hillingdon – next to the park – had flown his plane so close to the airport by ‘accident’ during a sensitive situation in the wake of the Gatwick drone alert.
She added: ‘He had no intention to do anything of that nature and cause any type of disruption or harm to anybody.’