FAA: U-2 spy plane overloaded computer, caused airline flight chaos
Federal aviation officials have increased the amount of computer memory available at a Palmdale air traffic control center after it was unable to process the flight plan of a high-flying U-2 spy plane, prompting a temporary halt to airline flights coming into the region.
The system failed after a Federal Aviation Administration computer at a Palmdale air traffic control center interpreted the flight of the Cold War-era plane as a low-altitude operation and began processing it for a course below 10,000 feet, including it in regular air traffic at that altitude.
The U-2 spy plane usually operates at very high altitudes under visual flight rules.
The large number of aircraft reroutings that would have been required to prevent conflicts heavily taxed the computer’s memory and disrupted the system’s processing of other flights, according to the FAA.
The glitch caused dozens of flight cancellations and hundreds of delays at Los Angeles International and other Southern California airports. At LAX alone, officials reported 27 flight cancellations, 212 delays and 27 diversions in connection with the problem.
FAA officials said they resolved the problem in about an hour and then adjusted the system to require specific altitude information for each flight plan and to increase the amount of computer memory available to process flight plans.
News of the spy plane connection was first reported by NBC News.
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