A U-2 spy plane, one of the key weapons of the Cold War, is apparently responsible for a computer failure in Los Angeles that disrupted air traffic control operations in California and across the nation, NBC news reports.
Sources quoted by NBC indicated that the U-2’s flight path “passed through the airspace monitored by the L.A. Air Route Traffic Control Center in Palmdale,” which handles air traffic at regional airports. Though the U-2 was flying at 60,000 feet, computers treated it as if it were flying in commercial airspace thousands of feet below. The effort to manage its path overloaded the “En Route Automation Modernization” computer system.
The result, after the failure of backup computer systems, was a nationwide ground stop that disrupted travel for thousands of passengers. At the time, local reports speculated that Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) had been affected by high regional winds. The FAA told NBC News that it is investigating the incident.
The U-2 program is still operational, though the planes are set to be retired soon as a result of defense spending cuts.