U-2 spy plane shuts down air traffic control, flights grounded

A U-2 spy plane triggered a computer glitch in the air traffic control system for the entire southwestern portion of the United States, sending air traffic controllers back to the stone age of modern aviation. Air Traffic controllers were forced to use slips of paper and good old-fashioned telephone calls to find information about planes in the air during the blackout.

It seems a design feature in the U-2 caused a glitch int he air traffic control system, sending the system into meltdown. As the airplane coasted through the region, the Lockheed Martin system cycled between active and inactive. The error, it seems, had to do with the plane doing exactly what it was designed to do.

Lockheed, who made the $2.4 billion air traffic control system, believe inability to gauge altitude information about the aircraft sparked the system's temper tantrum. It also didn't have information on a flight plan, further sending it into a tizzy.

No injuries were reported, but the glitch did ground hundreds of flights and placed others still in the air in a form of danger. The FAA says the system had to "de-conflict the aircraft with lower-altitude flights", which essentially means a rogue U-2 crashed the overflow. The plane's high altitude and complex flight plan were simply too much for the system to handle.

The U-2 was flying at about 60,000 feet, far above what the normal airliner would level out at. With such a high altitude and screwy flight plan, the air traffic control system couldn't handle the load. The current system is meant for planes to send a certain amount of data, usually a very small amount. This time, the U-2 jammed everything up.

Source: Reuters