Why was a U2 flying through there is an interesting question. Testing to see if it was possible to take down the system? Well, now they, and the world, knows how easy it is.

A relic from the Cold War appears to have triggered a software glitch at a major air traffic control center in California Wednesday that led to delays and cancellations of hundreds of flights across the country, sources familiar with the incident told NBC News.

On Wednesday at about 2 p.m., according to sources, a U-2 spy plane, the same type of aircraft that flew high-altitude spy missions over Russia 50 years ago, passed through the airspace monitored by the L.A. Air Route Traffic Control Center in Palmdale, Ca. […] The computers at the L.A. Center are programmed to keep commercial airliners and other aircraft from colliding with each other. The U-2 was flying at 60,000 feet, but the computers were attempting to keep it from colliding with planes that were actually miles beneath it.

Though the exact technical causes are not known, the spy plane’s altitude and route apparently overloaded a computer system called ERAM, which generates display data for air-traffic controllers. Back-up computer systems also failed.

In other aviation news, it looks like MH370’s voice recordings were edited.

At least two different audio sources recorded the tapes, the experts concluded, and one of those recordings may have been a digital recorder held up to a speaker. The recordings were published for the first time on Thursday, and analysts who listened to the recordings told NBC that they noticed at least four clear breaks in the audio that indicated edits.



  1. If, then, else... says:

    Maybe the tracking computer read 60,000 feet, figured no way, and “corrected” the reading to 6,000 feet.

    Oops!

  2. ECA says:

    fOR THIS TO HAPPEN, MEANS that they werent using RADAR dishes to see the plane..
    They were only intercepting GPS/Computer data from the plane..
    the Exchange of data, confused it..

    Dont you LOVE Windows.

    • 007 says:

      Do you realize how ridiculous that sounds?

      Hell yes radar isn’t used. In fact, radar is NOT used with the vast majority of U.S. commercial air traffic!

      But how do they not run into each other, you ask? Most commercial planes rely on PASSIVE GPS info that is obtained from at least 3 different orbiting satellites. EACH PLANE then transmits (via digital radio) their own position to air traffic control and any other planes in the area. It’s all rather automatic where virtually no one but the air traffic controller is looking at any “data.” (The more computers and less humans involved the better, seems to be the thinking.)

      And yes, it’s not 100-percent safe! Though that’s probably a story no one in the press is going to look at until there’s another spectacular crash somewhere — or another flight goes missing.

      If there are glitches or potential problems then and only then does anyone look at any radar info. Though most of the more congested areas like LAX do use radar in conjunction with plane transponder info. (Probably to give us the illusion that safety is their primary concern.)

      So it would seem that some stupid U2 pilot (either under orders or through equipment malfunction or ignorance) flying between the commercial air traffic and the orbiting GPS satellites may have inadvertently turned on some sort of GPS radio jammer or something.

      Let’s also not forget that the military initially and COVERTLY built the GPS system and probably still operates under the assumption that it’s entirely theirs and ONLY theirs to use. So who knows what shenanigans might have been going on with that U2 spy plan. We only have second hand knowledge of the absolute idiocy and boobs who are running our “intelligence” departments (of the HELLO! Government) once a whistle blower in the spy business breaks his/her silence and starts blowing.

      • ECA says:

        So,
        If I had a PLANE or not, I could Spoof a GPS signal to the Airport and tell it anything I wished…
        COOL
        I LOVE IT..

        And I think the person was sending the OLD GPS military data signal, rather then the one USEd in the USA over the states..

        • Tim says:

          Ha! I’ve been meaning to do that with a cell phone for years… I don’t have one now, so…

          Spoof the GPS so that it shows you a mile away or a mile up from where you actually are. They mandate the stuff be in our phones… Let’s break some models of pedestrian activity by making them all fib…

  3. bobbo, the junior Sky King and avid balloonist says:

    Well, years ago flights over LAX at 60K+ feet were done all the time. SR-71, U2. “Knowing nothing” its fun to say that sounds like a few years ago the FAA tracking systems probably got an update that removed the above 60K parameters. So…now an a/c at that altitude causes a glitch?

    Maybe. I’d think updating and maintenance of the GPS satelite system is done all from the ground.

    Kinda inconsistent that a controller glitch would only affect several hundred flights rather than 1000s and how would a glitch over LA affect flights all over the USA?

    …..but if it “got fixed” …they do know what went wrong and just aren’t telling us. And that figures.

    • Tim says:

      No. Unt huhh. They train children for all of their formative years to crawl into the cannon, exhale, get shot to Irridium’s latest malfunction, and spend the next eight seconds of their lives fixing it before they succumb and their guts snow out all over 1000 square kilometers of upper atmosphere.

      At least, the jobs numbers are up for the ‘childrens’ age group; for those that can withstand 30 g’s…

      • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evaangelical anti-theist says:

        Well, being honest about it, that makes as much sense as what I posted.

    • Smaki says:

      Bobbo, couple of things here.

      1) the issue had to do with the type of flight plan that was filed for the U2. Rather than use normal waypoints, it was a training point that used radial points and distances. The entire list of points on the plan overwhelmed the flight planning system (most likely a buffer overflow).

      2) as for the glitch delaying flights all over the place, it comes from the hub/spoke affect. When you shut down a specific airway, or airspace (like LA Center) there are lots of ripple effects across the nation. for example, Flight 1 from JFK to LAX can’t take off, which also clears the gate and ramp area for flight 2, and so on and so forth. Given that the main systems that were managing the airspace in LA are down, and they don’t know how to fix it yet, the FAA chose to ground stop flights around the nation. It helped alleviate some of the congestion, but caused delays around the nation.

      3) it is my understanding that they ended up flushing the U2’s filed flight plan from the systems, which then allowed the system to again help automate handling of the flights over LA Center. (treating the U2 as a unfiled special mission)

      It is not always straightforward, but this one seems fairly easy.

      • bobbo, sad that our species developed a Big Brain that is still run by emotions says:

        Thanks. I have some knowledge of airplanes and virtually none about flight centers or their computers.

        What I do know is that high traffic used to transit LAX without incident, and now there is a glitch.

        ….does remind me of the Old Polish joke about no more ice tea in the summer time because the old woman who had the recipe died.

  4. noname says:

    What is it about programers, more gambler then engineer … always making bogus intellectually lazy assumptions, “no one will ever need terabytes of memory”.

    Haven’t these programmers been trained in exception handling?

  5. Eideard says:

    Most recently – September 2013 – The Flight Deck Automation Working Group concluded that modern flight path management systems create new challenges that can lead to errors.

    Uh, yup.

  6. Peppeddu says:

    With absolutely zero, zip, nada pieces of debris the only sure thing is that MH370 hasn’t crashed there, or probably it hasn’t crashed at all.

  7. Greg Allen says:

    >> Testing to see if it was possible to take down the system?

    I weary of how fast people jump to conspiracy theories.

    This event seems like a simple screw-up.

    But, I hope the FAA uses this accident as a warning and takes action to make the system more rebust.

    It seems like our air-traffic system is always about two decades behind where they should be.

  8. My Prosource says:

    Here are available anyone? Who can tell me, what was the major reason behind this big bang. As my point of view, it can be done by a smart programmer.

  9. Glenn E. says:

    Most, if not all of these military jet planes have some kind of Electronic Counter Measures device. That makes radar stations think the plane is somewhere, other than where it really is. Either a different bearing, and/or different altitude. I was out of the service, well before GPS came along. So I don’t know if they updated ECM to counter that too. But they had the radar misdirection down cold. So if the ATC system had any part of it relying on Radar. Then the aircraft’s ECM could have been telling it, the plane was crisscrossing commercial air lanes. And confusing the ATC computers, that multiple collisions were occurring.

    Clearly the use of aircraft ECM, is only for war zones, in isolated areas, not anywhere near commercial aircraft traffic control systems. Which is probably becoming fewer, and farther between. Suffice it to say, you can only have air warfare over under developed countries. That have no such commercial air traffic. Such as deserts. Where radar tracking disruptions, by military aircraft, doesn’t play havoc with civilian system. Which are rarely, if at all, fortified against failure, when this happens.

    Last I heard, the U-2 wasn’t even a secret, nor used by the military to spy with. So why would it be able to jam or fool GPS? All it would really have to do, is give no GPS at all. If it didn’t want to be tracked. That’s why I’m pretty sure it was affecting local radar, not GPS.

    The bigger question being, why was it even doing that?! The ECM should have been removed from the few U-2 planes left flying. Is our govt testing new how to spy on the country, from the air? And it doesn’t want its domestic spycrafts’ position known? What’s the NRO up to, spying on America now?