Saturday, May 03, 2014
Spy Plane Fries Air Traffic Control Computers, Shuts Down LAX
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, Calif. The L.A. Center handles landings and departures at the region’s major airports, including Los Angeles International (LAX), San Diego and Las Vegas.
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.
99% BAD HARDWARE WEEK: Not convinced. What about Global Hawk from Northrop Grumman ?
In April of 2014, the ERAM system at the Los Angeles (ZLA) ARTCC failed causing a ground-stop that propagated  throughout the western United States and lasting as long as 2.5 hours.
Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for ERAM, which will cost the F.A.A. more than $2.1 billion. The Government Accountability Office said in September 2012 that poor contract oversight had contributed to delays and cost overruns in the program. Deployment got off to a slow start when the system was first installed in Salt Lake City, because of software problems, but air traffic experts said it had been running better recently.