US spy-plane blamed for Air Traffic Control failure

A file photo of a Lockheed U-2 high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft Credit: Reuters

A top-secret US Air Force spy plane has been blamed for triggering a computer glitch that caused hundreds of flight cancellations and delays across the western United States, the Federal Aviation Authority and Pentagon have said.

The air traffic control system failure happened when a data from a U-2 high-altitude reconnaissance plane confused software that helps track and route aircraft across Southern California.

When the system crashed, a back-up system kicked-in and helped guide flights already in the air, but hundreds of planes across the US headed for California were ordered not to take off until the system at Los Angeles Airport was fully operational again.

Although the exact nature of the glitch is not yet fully known, the spy plane's extreme altitude and unusual route apparently overloaded the air traffic computer systems, NBC News reported.

US Defence Department officials confirmed that an Air Force U-2 spy plane was conducting training operations in the area. It is not unusual for a U-2 to operate in the region, and the necessary flight plan had been submitted for the high-flying plane, Colonel Steve Warren said.