Skip to comments.Spy Plane Fries Air Traffic Control Computers, Shuts Down LAX
Posted on 05/03/2014 1:15:20 PM PDT by george76
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 regions 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 planes altitude and route apparently overloaded a computer system called ERAM, which generates display data for air-traffic controllers. Back-up computer systems also failed.
As a result, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had to stop accepting flights into airspace managed by the L.A. Center, issuing a nationwide ground stop that lasted for about an hour and affected thousands of passengers.
There were also delays at the airports in Burbank, Long Beach, Ontario and Orange County and at other airports across the Southwestern U.S.
(Excerpt) Read more at nbcnews.com ...
oops, ny bad
“Fry” isn’t the correct word.
60,000 - 32,768 = 27,232
If one part of the system is so old that it can only handle 16-bit math and uses one sign bit, then it is limited to numbers between +32767 and -32768.
A reading of 60,000 would have overflowed its bits and registered as something in the range of 27,000 which is around where a typical jet might fly.
I wonder if this might be the cause.
I call BS.
Well at least it won’t affect the game tonight. No one has to fly in.
Could be! Similar to the Y2K problem.
That's what we were taught to do at culinary school.
I agree. More than likely, if anything, EMI from the old Hughes RADAR Systems Group (now Raytheon) or Hughes Space and Comm (now Boeing Space Systems) facilities across the street. I used to open up the domes to test my microwave systems after 2AM to avoid EMI from the FAA RADAR across the street at LAX.
If it was a standard Mode C reply to the ATC radar, it looks like they designed it to go to 126,700 ft. in 100 ft. increments.
Now if they had a problem with the D2 bit in the reply, that would happen at 62,800 ft.
...culinary school is just so incredibly comprehensive...
“I graduated from Yale”
“Well, probably not the one you are thinking of,
I went to locksmith school.”
My cousin flunked out of dairy science.
He was an utter failure.
I didn't notice any problem. In fact, not only did my microwave oven continue to function but my watch also successfully changed the date to 1/1/2000 without blowing up my wrist.......
Even my stupid alarm clock went off without a hitch........bummer!
I think it is more likely to be a programing problem. FAA is well known for bad programing.
The U2 was redesigned with almost 30’ more wingspan to fly even higher. They will be here for a long time.
Could be! Similar to the Y2K problem.
Absolutely nothing happened for Y2K. I was so disappointed. I was in a ARTCC basement on overtime and nothing happened.
I milked my share of Bovines but don’t you mean “udder”? :-)
The Iranians, Chicoms and Ruskies will be glad to know about this.
There were some trains in Switzerland or somewhere that failed to start up normally one year later. I still got Y2K beans and rice. That is what the major failure is.
Right. The title is pure sensationalism.
I didn't buy TP again until last year. The price change floored me. I made out on buying in bulk back then.
Same for .22LR. I still have multiple thousands of rounds bought for about $0.60/box.
I'm not going to complain. ;)
“Fry isnt the correct word.”
Yes. I was expecting to hear it left its jamming gear on.
Given the policy of gradual inflation and sometimes inflation that is not so gradual, stockpiling things you’d actually use that don’t degrade over time isn’t nearly the cause for mockery that it has tended to be. If you’ve got the funds to spare and the space to do it, it probably “paid” better than putting the money in a savings account over the same period.
I still buy in bulk when I find a good deal. I'm not going to turn down 15% savings.
On the other hand, perhaps the FAA could have managed to not buy a bunch of tubes for their computers, and have upgraded by now...
Sorry, folks, this one doesn’t flunk the aggie test.
First of all, at a cruising altitude of 60K (or higher), I’m surprised the U-2 would even be in the ATC system. The odds of another airplane colliding with a U-2 are approximately zero, since most jetliners have a service ceiling of no more than 45K. In fact, I find it surprising the U-2 would have its transponder on; if you’re the only aircraft at that FL, no reason to squawk, and no reason to switch it back on until you’re descending back into Beale, or whatever the final destination was.
Secondly, U-2s transit through SoCal airspace all the time, so the handling of this type of track shouldn’t confuse the ATC system (again, assuming the Dragon Lady is being tracked at 60K.
I’m wondering if the U-2 explanation is actually a cover for a test flight of the purported spy plane that was recently sighted over Texas. It would also certainly be a high-altitude platform; there are plenty of aviation firms in the Palmdale area (where the incident occurred) and Edwards AFB isn’t far away.
This U2 craft: it reads as if the craft itself caused power and sophisticated equipment problems. Isn’t that what the government keep saying about UFOs?
I’ve been buying nonperishable staples whenever they’re on sale since 2007. Things I’d use anyway, eventually. Not nuts about it, pantry’s always full. That’s about the extent of it. If I had to survive off of what I’ve put back I’d make it a few months at most, and would be sick of rice and beans by then, lol. But, it’s peace of mind and a fallback if needed. It’s not money poorly spent, it’s a net gain.
My old boss and I were burning lots of midnight oil in Vegas around that time and used to listen to Art Bell for kicks. He was in Pahrump then.
The boss wanted sooooo badly to go up to Bell’s compound y2K night with a 5000 PA system, screaming “THE LIGHTS ARE STILL ON ART!!!” at precisely 12:01:01 AM, Jan 21, 2000...
Always regretted not doing that.
GAH! Jan FIRST!
Art may not have gotten the joke on the 21st ;)
Not so fast. I had a Panasonic camcorder, the kind you put on your shoulder to use, that was made in the '80's. After December 31, 1999 it went back to, IIRC, June 1, 1982. Still have it and it still works.
I wonder if this might be the cause.
absolutely not ,, 8 bit is FINE , 16 bit is fine , 64 bit is fine ,,, you can count to infinity with any of them ... this is (if the story is correct) an application issue , not a problem with the computer the program runs on.
**As a result, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had to stop accepting flights into airspace managed by the L.A. Center, issuing a nationwide ground stop that lasted for about an hour and affected thousands of passengers.
There were also delays at the airports in Burbank, Long Beach, Ontario and Orange County and at other airports across the Southwestern U.S.**
A trial run by someone?? — next time they hit the northeast, then the south and central, then the northwest all at the same time??
Scary thought, but I wonder if it might be possible?
Since it involves secret planes flying high over LAX, it’s worth sharing this wonderful story (this Freeper has met the author):
There were a lot of things we couldn’t do in an SR-71, but we were the fastest guys on the block and loved reminding our fellow aviators of this fact. People often asked us if, because of this fact, it was fun to fly the jet. Fun would not be the first word I would use to describe flying this plane. Intense, maybe. Even cerebral. But there was one day in our Sled experience when we would have to say that it was pure fun to be the fastest guys out there, at least for a moment.
It occurred when Walt and I were flying our final training sortie. We needed 100 hours in the jet to complete our training and attain Mission Ready status. Somewhere over Colorado we had passed the century mark. We had made the turn in Arizona and the jet was performing flawlessly. My gauges were wired in the front seat and we were starting to feel pretty good about ourselves, not only because we would soon be flying real missions but because we had gained a great deal of confidence in the plane in the past ten months. Ripping across the barren deserts 80,000 feet below us, I could already see the coast of California from the Arizona border. I was, finally, after many humbling months of simulators and study, ahead of the jet.
I was beginning to feel a bit sorry for Walter in the back seat. There he was, with no really good view of the incredible sights before us, tasked with monitoring four different radios. This was good practice for him for when we began flying real missions, when a priority transmission from headquarters could be vital. It had been difficult, too, for me to relinquish control of the radios, as during my entire flying career I had controlled my own transmissions. But it was part of the division of duties in this plane and I had adjusted to it. I still insisted on talking on the radio while we were on the ground, however. Walt was so good at many things, but he couldn’t match my expertise at sounding smooth on the radios, a skill that had been honed sharply with years in fighter squadrons where the slightest radio miscue was grounds for beheading. He understood that and allowed me that luxury.
Just to get a sense of what Walt had to contend with, I pulled the radio toggle switches and monitored the frequencies along with him. The predominant radio chatter was from Los Angeles Center, far below us, controlling daily traffic in their sector. While they had us on their scope (albeit briefly), we were in uncontrolled airspace and normally would not talk to them unless we needed to descend into their airspace.
We listened as the shaky voice of a lone Cessna pilot asked Center for a readout of his ground speed. Center replied: “November Charlie 175, I’m showing you at ninety knots on the ground.”
Now the thing to understand about Center controllers, was that whether they were talking to a rookie pilot in a Cessna, or to Air Force One, they always spoke in the exact same, calm, deep, professional, tone that made one feel important. I referred to it as the “ Houston Center voice.” I have always felt that after years of seeing documentaries on this country’s space program and listening to the calm and distinct voice of the Houston controllers, that all other controllers since then wanted to sound like that, and that they basically did. And it didn’t matter what sector of the country we would be flying in, it always seemed like the same guy was talking. Over the years that tone of voice had become somewhat of a comforting sound to pilots everywhere. Conversely, over the years, pilots always wanted to ensure that, when transmitting, they sounded like Chuck Yeager, or at least like John Wayne. Better to die than sound bad on the radios.
Just moments after the Cessna’s inquiry, a Twin Beech piped up on frequency, in a rather superior tone, asking for his ground speed. “I have you at one hundred and twenty-five knots of ground speed.” Boy, I thought, the Beechcraft really must think he is dazzling his Cessna brethren. Then out of the blue, a navy F-18 pilot out of NAS Lemoore came up on frequency. You knew right away it was a Navy jock because he sounded very cool on the radios. “Center, Dusty 52 ground speed check”. Before Center could reply, I’m thinking to myself, hey, Dusty 52 has a ground speed indicator in that million-dollar cockpit, so why is he asking Center for a readout? Then I got it, ol’ Dusty here is making sure that every bug smasher from Mount Whitney to the Mojave knows what true speed is. He’s the fastest dude in the valley today, and he just wants everyone to know how much fun he is having in his new Hornet. And the reply, always with that same, calm, voice, with more distinct alliteration than emotion: “Dusty 52, Center, we have you at 620 on the ground.”
And I thought to myself, is this a ripe situation, or what? As my hand instinctively reached for the mic button, I had to remind myself that Walt was in control of the radios. Still, I thought, it must be done - in mere seconds we’ll be out of the sector and the opportunity will be lost. That Hornet must die, and die now. I thought about all of our Sim training and how important it was that we developed well as a crew and knew that to jump in on the radios now would destroy the integrity of all that we had worked toward becoming. I was torn.
Somewhere, 13 miles above Arizona, there was a pilot screaming inside his space helmet. Then, I heard it. The click of the mic button from the back seat. That was the very moment that I knew Walter and I had become a crew. Very professionally, and with no emotion, Walter spoke: “Los Angeles Center, Aspen 20, can you give us a ground speed check?” There was no hesitation, and the replay came as if was an everyday request. “Aspen 20, I show you at one thousand eight hundred and forty-two knots, across the ground.”
I think it was the forty-two knots that I liked the best, so accurate and proud was Center to deliver that information without hesitation, and you just knew he was smiling. But the precise point at which I knew that Walt and I were going to be really good friends for a long time was when he keyed the mic once again to say, in his most fighter-pilot-like voice: “Ah, Center, much thanks, we’re showing closer to nineteen hundred on the money.”
For a moment Walter was a god. And we finally heard a little crack in the armor of the Houston Center voice, when L.A.came back with, “Roger that Aspen, Your equipment is probably more accurate than ours. You boys have a good one.”
It all had lasted for just moments, but in that short, memorable sprint across the southwest, the Navy had been flamed, all mortal airplanes on freq were forced to bow before the King of Speed, and more importantly, Walter and I had crossed the threshold of being a crew. A fine day’s work. We never heard another transmission on that frequency all the way to the coast.
For just one day, it truly was fun being the fastest guys out there.
Transcontinental and international commercial flights routinely fly above 30,000’. . .but below 40,000’. I’ve flown over that area in my F-15E at 50,000’. No problem.
U-2/TR-1 aircraft have been flying well above 60,000’ for better than half a century. . . one would think if that was a problem it would have manifested itself by now.
Perhaps the flight data system is maintained by the same people that wrote the software for the Big Zero’s healthcare website.
As a side note, when you are getting ready to drop down into more crowded airspace, it is good to have been talking with them so you coordinated your decent with ATC. . .just so you don't surprise them.
I'm well aware that you can count to infinity with even a single bit, but if the software was written assuming the need for just 16-bits for a particular intermediate result, and that result overflowed the 16-bits then errors will occur.
That typical air traffic flies around 30,000 feet and the U2 was at 60,000 just seemed to be an interesting coincidence to me with regard to binary numbers.
Thanks for telling our enemies.
I love stories like that.
I don't know. I was an air traffic controller for 20 years, and I never heard of anything like this.
I understand your thinking, but it seems to me that airliners routinely go to 35000 feet, so such a problem would have been uncovered a long time ago.
I don't think MARSA would apply. That would be more for such things, as B-52s launching only seconds apart.
“12:01:01 AM, Jan 21, 2000...”
I guess Y2K really DID mess things up.
Momma, don’t take my LAX away!
I think that this story LAX credibility.
I was thinking of that story when I read this, and was going to reply “has the SR71 never flown past there?”
Sounds like a real WOPR to me.