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TMCNet:  U-2 spy plane caused computer issue led to US air traffic disruption [Big News Network (United Arab Emirates)]

[May 07, 2014]

U-2 spy plane caused computer issue led to US air traffic disruption [Big News Network (United Arab Emirates)]

(Big News Network (United Arab Emirates) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) LOS ANGELES - A major air traffic disruption in Los Angeles last week has been blamed on a computer glitch, caused by the system's failure to process the flight plan of a high-flying U-2 spy plane.


The Federal Aviation Administration said Monday that computer software at a Palmdale air traffic control facility "experienced problems while processing a flight plan filed for a U-2", a cold war-era reconnaissance aircraft.

The spy plane usually operates at very high altitudes around 60,000 feet under "visual flight rules".

But an FAA computer -- which anticipates the flight path and looks for possible conflicts such as other aircraft or restricted airspace -- interpreted the flight as a low-altitude operation and began processing it for a course below 10,000 feet.

The number of adjustments that would need to be made to routes of other planes throughout the area overwhelmed the software, the FAA said. The computer was apparently confused by the many flight changes the U-2 had plotted.

"The extensive number of routings that would have been required to de-conflict the aircraft with lower-altitude flights used a large amount of available memory and interrupted the computer's other flight-processing functions," the FAA said in a statement.

A backup system however helped safely guide flights already in the air, but hundreds of planes scheduled to fly to Southern California were grounded.

The FAA said it has added computer memory to prevent a recurrence and a more permanent computer patch will be installed soon.

The agency "has enabled facilities that use the computer system to significantly increase the amount of flight-processing memory available. The FAA is confident these steps will prevent a reoccurrence of this specific problem and other potential similar issues going forward", FAA spokesperson said in the statement.

The computer shutdown last week led to dozens of delayed, diverted and canceled flights. The system failure could have caused a possible mishap.

It had the most impact in the Los Angeles area, where flights were grounded. The side effects lasted almost half a day.

According to CNN, the US Air Force has 32 U-2 aircraft, which are capable of flying at altitudes up to 90,000 feet.

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