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Dragon Lady spy plane fries computers and closes LAX

May 8, 2014 Aviation, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59One of the world’s highest-flying and most mysterious aircraft, the Lockheed U-2 spy plane, has reportedly ‘fried’ air traffic control computers at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), virtually closing the airport down.

The incident happened last week and the problem, apparently, is that traffic control computers are set to handle planes flying at standard cruising altitude, usually no higher than 40,000 feet. The Lockheed U-2, nicknamed “Dragon Lady”, is a single-engine, ultra-high-altitude reconnaissance spy aircraft built to fly at up to 70,000 feet.

In the skies over Los Angeles, according to NBC reports from the US, computers programmed to keep commercial airliners and other aircraft from colliding with each other ended up trying to stop the U-2 colliding with planes that were actually miles below it. unnamed (9)

The U-2, operated by the CIA in the Cold War and still flown occasionally by the US Air Force  (USAF) was flying at 60,000 feet. Although the precise technical reasons have not been revealed, the spy plane’s altitude and route apparently somehow overloaded ERAM air-traffic data display computers. Back-up computer systems also failed, either because of the U-2’s passage or for other reasons.

As a result, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had to refuse to let flights enter airspace managed by the LA Centre. It issued an immediate stop order throughout the United States that lasted for about an hour and affected thousands of passengers.

According to NBC News, LAX, one America’s busiest airports, cancelled 27 arriving flights, delayed 212 and diverted 27 flights to other airports. Twenty-three departing flights were cancelled, while 216 were delayed.

Sources told NBC News that the plane was a U-2 “Dragon Lady” with a Defence Department flight plan.

The U-2 featured prominently in several major incidents during the Cold War, a time when the aircraft commonly overflew the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, North Vietnam and Cuba. In 1960, CIA pilot Francis Gary Powers was shot down while flying a U-2 over Soviet territory. In 1962, a U-2 piloted by Major Rudolf Anderson was shot down over Cuba by surface-to-air missiles during the Cuban missile crisis.

The U-2 has remained in service since the end of the Cold War and the US Air Force still flies it occasionally.

Written by : Peter Needham

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