BURBANK (CBSLA.com) — A Lockheed U-2 spy plane may have been the cause of a 90-minute ground stop on all flights departing from three Southern California airports last week, according to reports.
The Cold War-era spy plane was flying over the Southland at about 60,000 feet when the aircraft apparently jammed the computer system last Wednesday at a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic center, KNX 1070’s Charles Feldman reported.
Los Angeles International Airport, Bob Hope Airport and John Wayne Airport, were all affected, according to officials.
The FAA computers – which work to keep aircraft from colliding in mid-air – were attempting to keep the spy plane out of the path of commercial airliners, Feldman reported.
“We also reported on tweets we were picking up from pilots claiming that this may have been caused by a rogue flight plan that somehow made its way into the computers at the [Los Angeles Air Route Traffic Control Center] out in Palmdale,” said Feldman.
The ground stop resulted in the delay of about 400 flights and left another 60 flights canceled.
An FAA spokesperson confirmed that the U-2 flight was to blame for the computer glitch.
The FAA released a statement on Monday regarding the incident:
“On April 30, 2014, an FAA air traffic system that processes flight plan information experienced problems while processing a flight plan filed for a U-2 aircraft that operates at very high altitudes under visual flight rules. The computer system interpreted the flight as a more typical low altitude operation, and began processing it for a route below 10,000 feet. The extensive number of routings that would have been required to deconflict the aircraft with lower-altitude flights used a large amount of available memory and interrupted the computer’s other flight-processing functions. The FAA resolved the issue within an hour, and then immediately adjusted the system to now require specific altitude information for each flight plan. The FAA also 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.”
Nicknamed “Dragon Lady”, the Lockheed U-2 is a single-engine, ultra-high altitude reconnaissance aircraft flown by both the Central Intelligence Agency and the U.S. Air Force following its first test flight in 1955.