Spy Plane Delays LAX Air Traffic as Controllers Get Confused

Image: Spy Plane Delays LAX Air Traffic as Controllers Get Confused A U.S. Air Force U-2 spy plane.

Monday, 05 May 2014 10:05 AM

By Michael Mullins

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A spy plane caused delays at LAX and at several other California and Southwestern United States airports last Wednesday, after a computer glitch apparently misled area air traffic controllers, according to media reports.

Citing unnamed sources, NBC News reported that a U-2 spy plane passed through air space monitored by the Los Angeles Air Route Traffic Control Center during the system overload last Wednesday.

The Cold War era U-2 spy plane, nicknamed the "Dragon Lady," was reportedly flying at 60,000 feet, miles above other planes in the area. The distance between the spy plane and the commercial flights below was apparently not realized by the air traffic controllers, who were reportedly attempting to keep the commercial flights out of its path to prevent a mid-air collision.

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The spy plane is reportedly known to fly out from NASA’s Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center, which is situated within Edwards Air Force Base, located approximately 30 miles north of Los Angeles.

In addition to LAX, among the airports forced to keep their planes grounded due to the computer glitch were: Las Vegas' McCarran International Airport, Santa Ana, California's John Wayne Airport, and Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, California, Reuters reported.

In a statement to NBC News, the US Federal Aviation Agency said that it was "investigating a flight-plan processing issue" at the L.A. Air Route Traffic Control Center. The FAA however did not provide any further details as to a reason for the glitch and would not confirm the reports that the U-2 spy plane was in any way connected to the glitch.

"FAA technical specialists resolved the specific issue that triggered the problem on Wednesday, and the FAA has put in place mitigation measures as engineers complete development of software changes," the agency said in a statement. "The FAA will fully analyze the event to resolve any underlying issues that contributed to the incident and prevent a reoccurrence."

Developed in the 1950s by defense contractor Lockheed Martin, the high altitude reconnaissance plane has flown missions over the former Soviet Union, China, and Cuba over the years and remains in use today, according to LockheedMartin.com.

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