Feeds

Cold War spy aircraft CRASHED Los Angeles' air traffic control

Try filing an accurate flight plan next time, spooks

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

The Federal Aviation Administration has claimed a major glitch that grounded dozens of flights last week was caused by a Cold War-vintage reconnaissance aircraft.

It claimed that a U-2 "Dragon Lady" flew into airspace controlled by the Los Angeles Air Route Traffic Control Center in Palmdale, which uses a system called En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) to make sure aircraft don't collide in mid-air.

However, ERAM incorrectly assessed the altitude of the U-2, which was flying at 60,000 feet, and decided to shut itself down.

After the meltdown on April 30, ten flights were cancelled at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and a total of about 500 flights were delayed.

The FAA has tried to reassure anxious passengers that the glitch was caused by a simple error. It spoke out yesterday after a weekend of frenzied speculation.

In a statement, the FAA suggested “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 sheer complexity involved in steering the U-2 around so many other aircraft at that low altitude caused ERAM to crumble.

"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 continued.

The US Air Force's Air Combat Command told Air Force Times that a U-2 was flying a "routine training mission" from Beale Air Force Base, California.

A further statement from the FAA claimed that technicians had “resolved the specific issue that triggered the problem” but without going into detail.

"There was a U-2 operating in the area in accordance with all FAA regulations. It filed a flight plan. It was conducting a training operation," said Army Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman. He claimed it was not out of the ordinary for a spy plane to be zooming over the affected airport and added:

"The U-2 filed all the proper flight plan paperwork and was conducting its operation in accordance with those filings."

The system shutdown caused a total of 50 flight cancellations and 455 delays. Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, California, John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, California, and McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas were also affected.

The U-2 has been flown by the US, under the authority of various agencies including the USAF and the CIA, since its first test flight in 1955. The aircraft's secret intelligence-gathering operations were explosively blown into the public domain after a CIA-operated U-2 flight over the USSR, piloted by ex-USAF captain Gary Powers, was shot down by the Soviets in 1960 with Powers being captured alive.

The US still operates the U-2 to this day, although rumours gather that the elderly airframes are due to be retired and replaced.

ERAM is a $2.1bn scheme to overhaul the systems which help air traffic controllers manage high altitude flights. It started in 2002 and was supposed to be installed in 20 "en route" facilities by 2010. However, software problems were identified [PDF] and this goal was not met.

These concerns were raised in an audit report produced by the Office of the Inspector General, which warned that the "multibillion dollar ERAM program has experienced software problems that have impacted the system’s ability to safely manage and separate aircraft". ®

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Cops baffled by riddle of CHICKEN who crossed ROAD
'Officers were unable to determine Chicken's intent'
Drunkards warned: If you can't walk in a straight line, don't shop online, you fool!
Put it away boys. Cover them up ladies. Your credit cards, we mean
Yes, but what are your plans if a DRAGON attacks?
Local UK gov outs most ridiculous FoI requests...
Murder accused DIDN'T ask Siri 'how to hide my roommate'
US court hears of cached browser image - not actual request
Why your mum was WRONG about whiffy tattooed people
They're a future source of RENEWABLE ENERGY
Chomp that sausage: Brits just LOVE scoffing a Full Monty
Sales of traditional brekkie foods soar as hungry folk get their mitts greasy
Nuts to your poncey hipster coffees, I want a TESLA ELECTRO-CAFE
Examining the frothy disconnect in indie cafe culture
Ex-Apple man Sam Sung - for it is he - sticks namebadge on eBay
Stump up via tat bazaar, do a good thing for ill kids
Check your Clungene, Irish women warned
Have a quick shufti, you may not be pregnant after all
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.