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U-2 Caused Widespread Shutdown of US Flights Out of LAX

timothy posted about 3 months ago | from the that-bono-is-such-a-ham dept.

Transportation 128

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Reuters reports that last week's computer glitch at a California air traffic control center that led officials to halt takeoffs at Los Angeles International Airport was caused by a U-2 spy plane still in use by the US military, passing through air space monitored by the Los Angeles Air Route Traffic Control Center that appears to have overloaded ERAM, a computer system at the center. According to NBC News, computers at the center began operations to prevent the U-2 from colliding with other aircraft, even though the U-2 was flying at an altitude of 60,000 feet and other airplanes passing through the region's air space were miles below. FAA technical specialists resolved the specific issue that triggered the problem on Wednesday, and the FAA has put in place mitigation measures as engineers complete development of software changes," said the agency in a statement. "The FAA will fully analyze the event to resolve any underlying issues that contributed to the incident and prevent a reoccurrence." The U.S. Air Force is still flying U-2s, but plans to retire them within the next few years. The U-2 was slated for retirement in 2006 in favor of the unmanned Global Hawk Block 30 system, before the Air Force pulled an about-face two years ago and declared the Global Hawk too expensive and insufficient for the needs of combatant commanders."

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Gary Powers her (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46912289)

Or am I?

Re:Gary Powers her (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46912645)

Fucking Bono is more damn trouble than he is worth. The attention whore, is there nothing he wont do to keep the band newsworthy?

This is a problem now? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46912295)

The U-2 has been flying for over 50 years. It is not like this sort of scenario (high flying spy plane entering airport airspace) is a new concept. How could something this simple have been overlooked, especially since the U-2 has been flying for so long?

Re:This is a problem now? (5, Interesting)

rossdee (243626) | about 3 months ago | (#46912337)

I remember hearing an anecdote about the SR71 Blackbird
A Blackbird is entering commercial airspace over CA
Pilot requests Flight level 70 (thousand Feet)
Controller laughs. If you can reach it you're welcome to it.
Blackbird pilot replies "descending from flight level 100"

Of couirse it may be an urban legend. But the SR71 could go that high

Re: This is a problem now? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46912439)

Um... Flight levels go in 100s of feet, so flight level 70 equals 7000 feet. 300+ flight levels are quite common these days for commercial aircraft.
The story could still be true, but it would have been flight levels 1000 and 700

Helo dude (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46912811)

Flight level 600 and above is Class E and is still controlled airspace, despite no requirement to get FAA clearance to operate there.

Class G is uncontrolled airspace.

Re:This is a problem now? (1, Informative)

ericloewe (2129490) | about 3 months ago | (#46912447)

Yeah, you got it wrong.

7000ft is FL070

FL100, 10 000ft is stupidly low. So low it requires no pressurization.

The joke goes something like:

Small prop plane wants to boast, requests tower confirm its altitude, which is given as something like FL070.
Hearing this, a smartass fighter pilot (some versions add a more subdued jet pilot between these two) asks for his flight level, which is given as something like FL400.
Finally, a third (fourth) pilot asks for clearance to FL600. Controller laughs and says "You're cleared for Flight Level Six-Zero-Zero, if you can reach it. Pilot replies with "Roger, now descending from Flight Level Eight-Zero-Zero."

No (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46912491)

7000ft is 7000 ft. Flight levels don't start until 18,000 ft - FL 180 on up until you are passed alpha airspce FL 600.

Re:This is a problem now? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46912495)

Also in th US, the lowest used flight level is 180, i.e. 18,000 feet. Flight levels and altitudes also differ in that flight levels are expressed in terms of pressure altitudes (i.e. the altimeter is set at 29.92") where as altitude assignments below FL 180 use local altimeter settings. These rules are different in other countries.

Re:This is a problem now? (3, Informative)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 3 months ago | (#46912501)

I'd heard it was a ground speed check:

I heard a Cessna ask for a readout of its ground speed. "90 knots" Center replied. Moments later a Twin Beech inquired the same. "120 knots," Center answered.

We weren't the only ones proud of our ground speed that day...almost instantly an F-18 smugly transmitted, "Uh, Center, Dusty 52 requests ground speed readout."

There was a slight pause then the response, "525 knots on the ground, Dusty." Another silent pause. As I was thinking to myself how ripe a situation this was, I heard a familiar click of a radio transmission coming from my back-seater. It was at that precise moment I realized Walt and I had become a real crew for we were both thinking in unison.

"Center, Aspen 20, you got a ground speed readout for us?" There was a longer than normal pause... "Aspen, I show 1,742 knots." No further inquiries were heard on that frequency.

Re:This is a problem now? (3, Informative)

Whiternoise (1408981) | about 3 months ago | (#46912895)

This was a quote from Brian Shul, author of Sled Driver. http://gizmodo.com/5511236/the... [gizmodo.com]

Re:This is a problem now? (1)

greenfruitsalad (2008354) | about 3 months ago | (#46913531)

thank you for the link, those stories are rather fascinating.

Re:This is a problem now? (1)

ericloewe (2129490) | about 3 months ago | (#46913317)

I've seen both versions. They're good jokes, but I'm not sure they really happened.

Re:This is a problem now? (1)

ericloewe (2129490) | about 3 months ago | (#46913353)

Come to think of it, I think I've heard the altitude version regarding both the SR-71 and Concorde...

Re:This is a problem now? (3, Interesting)

nuonguy (264254) | about 3 months ago | (#46912627)

You might be talking about this copypasta:

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 read-out? 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.

From here [expressjetpilots.com] and here [imgur.com] .

Re:This is a problem now? (3, Insightful)

flyneye (84093) | about 3 months ago | (#46912741)

Post by post, the fish gets bigger and changes species.
The only liars bigger than fishermen are Hot Rodders and Pilots ; )

Re:This is a problem now? (4, Informative)

Whiternoise (1408981) | about 3 months ago | (#46912935)

The 'true' version can be found in Sled Driver which is phenomenally hard to get hold of in dead tree form:

Our training flights took us over much of the western half of the United States. A typical sortie out of Beale included a rendezvous with a tanker over Nevada, accelerating to Mach 3 across Wyoming and leveling above 75,000 feet over Montana. We'd turn right approaching South Dakota, roll out in Colorado, and zip south to New Mexico. There we'd begin another right turn that would carry us through Arizona and straight to southern California, then out over the ocean and finally up to the Seattle area where we'd prepare to descend back to Marysville, California. This was a nice tour in two and a half hours.

To more fully understand the concept of Mach 3, imagine the speed of a bullet coming from a high powered hunting rifle. It is travelling at 3100 feet per second as it leaves the muzzle. The Sled would cruise easily at 3200 feet per second, with power to spare. There was a lot we couldn't do in the airplane, but we were the fastest guys on the block and frequently mentioned this fact to fellow aviators. I'll always remember a certain radio exchange that occurred one day as Walt and I were screaming across southern California 13 miles high. We were monitoring various radio transmissions from other aircraft as we entered Los Angeles Center's airspace. Though they didn't really control us, they did monitor our movement across their scope. I heard a Cessna ask for a readout of its groundspeed. "90 knots," Center replied. Moments later a Twin Beech required the same. "120 knots," Center answered. We weren't the only one proud of our speed that day as almost instantly an F-18 smugly transmitted, "Ah, Center, Dusty 52 requests groundspeed readout." There was a slight pause. "525 knots on the ground, Dusty." Another silent pause. As I was thinking to myself how ripe a situation this was, I heard the familiar click of a radio transmission coming from my back-seater. It was at that precise moment I realized Walt and I had become a real crew, for we were both thinking in unison. "Center, Aspen 20, you got a ground speed readout for us?" There was a longer than normal pause. "Aspen, I show one thousand seven hundred and forty-two knots." No further inquiries were heard on that frequency.

Found at the beginning of the chapter "Deep Blue". Walt refers to Maj Walter Watson [scafricanamerican.com] . There seems to be a variety of versions floating around, presumably Shul changes the speed each time he tells the story.

Re:This is a problem now? (1)

sillybilly (668960) | about 3 months ago | (#46914349)

When I was a kid I used to dream of flying that fast, or be an astronaut and float in zero gravity, cuz it'd be cool. Now that I've grown up I no longer desire to do either, even if they paid me to, I mean I'd do it as a job, as a responsibility, but I would even pay not to have to do it if I didn't have to do it.

I think the original story about the computer crash is trying to poke at the antiquated computer systems that have horsepower/performance issues with such simple things as computing airplane tracks, compared to the horsepower available in off the shelf supercomputers involved in weather research.

Re:This is a problem now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46912685)

It is urban legend. Controlled airspace ends at 60,000. No control clearance is required from the commercial ATC system to fly above 60,000.

Second, flight levels are three digits, not two. 70,000, if ATC cared about it, would be FL700.

Re:This is a problem now? (2)

k6mfw (1182893) | about 3 months ago | (#46913747)

Blackbird pilot replies "descending from flight level 100"

Of couirse it may be an urban legend. But the SR71 could go that high

From what I've read and heard, I think highest altitudes of SR71 is in the 90s. Some years ago a former SR71 pilot giving a presentation said the plane can go higher and faster but they were limited by temperature. Engines were powerful enough to go faster than Mach 3.3 but can airframe handle the higher temperature? Nobody wanted to try that out. I forgot his name, he was working for United Airlines at the time, but unlike many other pilots who gloss over technical stuff (there are many non-secret things us techie stuff like to hear these guys can share). He said flying SR71 was very tedious, constantly watching systems when screaming at Mach 3 because going real fast, problems can become overwhelming real fast. Windows become so hot he can really feel the heat if he raise sunvisor on helmet. Sometimes hard to read instrument panel because outside is equivalent to space sunlight is very direct so the shadows are very dark (no light bouncing off atmosphere in lower altitudes) He said after they top off fuel tanks from KC135 and go up to altitude full afterburner, they burn 50,000 lbs of fuel (or some huge amount) in one hour and then have to slow down, drop altitude to get refueled. But already across the country.

Getting back to this U2, I wonder if some glitch in ATC system (new software?) that didn't recognize this altitude. I haven't read the article (who does?) but then U2s including NASA ER2s have been flying above typical airliner traffic for years. This also shows how integrated airspace system has become. It seems if one airport has problems like having to shutdown arrivals and departures because suspicious package, it reverberates to other airports and cause flight delays. It is fascinating in ways of the entire logistics of the ATC system.

Re: This is a problem now? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46913929)

Heard another good one.

Pilot asks for speed check. 200mph.

Navy pilot in area hears this and, being a dickhead asks for speed check. 900mph.

Blackbird hears this so asks. Tower replies 2000mph. Navy pilot shuts up.

Re:This is a problem now? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46915625)

The important thing to realize here is that controlled airspace in the United States tops out at flight level 600, aka 60,000 feet. Above that, air traffic control has no authority over you, and you have no obligation to talk to them. The U2 mentioned above might not have even been talking to any of the civilian ATC. Also, the joke is that the U2 and SR71 guys have to call ATC when descending below the 60,000 foot line, in order to get clearance to enter controlled airspace.

Re: This is a problem now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46912453)

How long would the U-2 really have been in LAX airspace? "Widespread" should have only been maybe 4-6 planes.

Re: This is a problem now? (1)

Martin Blank (154261) | about 3 months ago | (#46913981)

It wasn't in LAX airspace (that caps out at 10,000 feet), but in LA Center's coverage area, which oversees airspace in Southern and Central California and parts of Nevada, Utah, and Arizona that isn't controlled by airports or by approach/departure controllers. The entire system is tied together to handle transitions from one controlling agency (or controller within an agency) to another.

As an aside, LAX's airspace extends various distances from the airport with the most distant point about 25 miles to the east, depending on the altitude. At any given time, there may be dozens of aircraft within its airspace on approach or departure, or transitioning through to other destinations.

Re:This is a problem now? (3, Interesting)

wiredlogic (135348) | about 3 months ago | (#46912699)

This could be a cover story for something they don't want to disclose. Just go back to watching the circus, Citizen.

Re:This is a problem now? (5, Informative)

Ceiynt (993620) | about 3 months ago | (#46912771)

It was a NASA owned U-2. They do atmospheric testing. They basically fly a pattern in the sky over and over. The problem with the flight plan was that the U-2 was assigned VFR-on-Top. What that mean is the plane was flying using VFR(Visual) flight rules on top of clouds. This normally occurs below 18000 feet. As such, I think the VFR-on-Top system was only designed for below 18000 feet. As the U-2 was above 60000 feet, the system was processing it for conflicts at every altitude, causing a buffer overflow. They are working on a patch to fix that problem, and in the meantime have implemented a workaround for us. That's what our memo told us at work. Source: I'm an air traffic controller at Denver En-route ARTCC.

Could have been the folks up at Beale AFB (1)

rotorr00t (2642859) | about 3 months ago | (#46914083)

Beale AFB, north of SAC fly's U2's.

Re:This is a problem now? (1)

davester666 (731373) | about 3 months ago | (#46913941)

Well, they used to mainly fly the U-2 over foreign countries, to spy on them.

Now they are flying the U-2 over the US more and more, to spy on the newly discovered terrorists.

Re:This is a problem now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46915345)

Now they are flying the U-2 over the US more and more, to spy on the newly discovered terrorists.

It was a NASA mission to take atmospheric samples, but I'm sure you can come up with a paranoid fantasy about that too.

We don't know what that TR-1 was carrying. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46915629)

And absent a need to know, we may not know for a very long time.

"Still in use by the US military" (4, Funny)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 3 months ago | (#46912313)

Well, no shit. Who else is going to be flying a U-2? U2?

Still a badass plane, although I sure wouldn't want to have to be the pilot.

Re:"Still in use by the US military" (1)

iggymanz (596061) | about 3 months ago | (#46912359)

how about being one of the two guys that runs along side after landing and slowing, to grab a wing end and put the wheel under it like the ones that fell off during takeoff?

Re: "Still in use by the US military" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46912759)

Been there, done that...former member of Det 2, 9th Wing .

Re:"Still in use by the US military" (1)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about 3 months ago | (#46913555)

Don't they have an app for that?

Re:"Still in use by the US military" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46913655)

They have a "Dude" for that.

Re:"Still in use by the US military" (1)

Martin Blank (154261) | about 3 months ago | (#46914041)

No one does that. When it comes to a stop, it tips gently over to rest on the wingtip, which has a reinforced titanium strip on the bottom. Because of the wingspan, the tip is only a few degrees. Ground crews then go to the stationary aircraft to reinstall the pogos so it can taxi back.

Re:"Still in use by the US military" (1)

iggymanz (596061) | about 3 months ago | (#46915953)

they used to do that

Re:"Still in use by the US military" (2)

porkchop_d_clown (39923) | about 3 months ago | (#46912403)

NASA flies them as research planes: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/ar... [nasa.gov]

Re:"Still in use by the US military" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46912625)

The Lockheed ER-2 was developed for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), to serve as a high altitude scientific research aircraft. The ER-2 designation was first applied to NASA's version of the U-2C model. NASA has since acquired and used the U2-R or TR-1 model, but has retained the ER-2 descriptor.

The newest ER2 (U2-R) was built and delivered in 1989 and represents one of NASA's youngest aircraft. The ER-2 differs from the U.S. Air Force's U-2 in the lack of defensive systems, absence of classified electronics, completely different electrical wiring to support NASA sensors, and, of course, a different paint scheme.

Both NASA ER2s were re-engined with new General Electric F-118-101 engines in the late 90's at the same time the U2 fleet was re-engined, providing much-improved range, endurance, altitude, and reliability.

http://www.nasa.gov/centers/dryden/research/AirSci/ER-2/er2perf.html

Re:"Still in use by the US military" (4, Informative)

Richard_at_work (517087) | about 3 months ago | (#46912473)

In the past the U-2 was flown by the CIA, the Taiwanese and the British Royal Air Force, and as another posted notes its still flown by NASA, so the comment is actually valid.

Re:"Still in use by the US military" (1)

laffer1 (701823) | about 3 months ago | (#46912985)

Wow that gives a whole new meaning to the song Vertigo.

Re:"Still in use by the US military" (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46914741)

Its not *that* fast, but flies very very high. The ugly with flying a U-2 is that there is a 32 mile per hour window between Vs and Vne (Vs is stall speed, Vne is Velocity never exceed: the point at which the wings are ripped off). So you have to go faster than the one, or the plane is falling out of the air, and go slower than the other, or the plane suffers irreparable damage (and still falling out of the air). If someone shoots a missile at you, there is no 'accelerate and get away', you can go a wee bit faster or slower and try some maneuvers, but that's it.

u2 (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46912319)

I thought they toured in buses? Anyway, what was Bono bitching about now?

Duh (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about 3 months ago | (#46912347)

Bono needs a LAXative.

Re:u2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46912363)

Bono and the US military: both puffed up has-beens who'll be mostly dead in 50 years.

Re: u2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46912385)

The summary even states that they were slated for retirement in 2006. WTF!

Re:u2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46912681)

The big blob on the radar screen was his ego.

Someone tell the programmers (1)

cellocgw (617879) | about 3 months ago | (#46912365)

First tell them that airspace is 3D :-), then make sure they stop putting a hard clamp of the type

Airplane_altitude

(Yes, I'm joking. I hope.)

Re:Someone tell the programmers (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 3 months ago | (#46912375)

Apparently, Los Angeles Air Route Traffic Control Center has an exclusive contract with Khan Software Solutions, Inc. to deliver their software.

Re:Someone tell the programmers (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46912865)

Hey bigmouth: You're being called out http://slashdot.org/comments.p... [slashdot.org]

Re:Someone tell the programmers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46915259)

Hey bigmouth: You're being called out (why're you running "forrest"?) http://slashdot.org/comments.p... [slashdot.org]

Re:Someone tell the programmers (1)

cellocgw (617879) | about 3 months ago | (#46912377)

Well, that'll teach me not to preview, Let's try that again

Airplane_altitude := min(reported_alt , 35 kft)

(note to self: do not use R-language syntax at /. )

Re:Someone tell the programmers (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 3 months ago | (#46912537)

(note to self: do not use R-language syntax at /. )

R!? This is a PG-13 zone, pal!

Re:Someone tell the programmers (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46914947)

Hey bigmouth: You're being called out http://slashdot.org/comments.p... [slashdot.org]

Re:Someone tell the programmers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46912483)

Someone tell the project managers that they can do simulation testing of the software before deploying it.

Re:Someone tell the programmers (1)

radarskiy (2874255) | about 3 months ago | (#46915495)

How often is an altitude of 60,000 feet not an error in reporting equipment (either altimiter or transponder)?

Typical Sensationalist Bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46912389)

So, how, exactly, did "A U-2 spy plane caused a computer glitch..."?

It's likely that the software isn't capable of properly handing the situation, so it's just another bug in the software. Probably the system wasn't adequately tested.

Re: Typical Sensationalist Bullshit (0)

rickb928 (945187) | about 3 months ago | (#46914861)

Worst headline ever. Painfully so.

Sounds Frightfully Familiar..... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46912421)

on September 11th, 2001, Papa Jew's delivered two pizzas to the World Trade Center. They were two large plains.

Height overflow error? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46912435)

Perhaps they used signed 16 bit integers for height rather than unsigned 16 bit?

Overflow error sure, but not signed versus unsigne (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46914491)

The issue is probably not unsigned versus signed, since if that were the case, the software would have experienced problems for any plane flying at above 32768 ft, which maybe happens for typical commercial flights over that airport. The software could use unsigned 16 bit integers, but if the U-2 was actually flying at higher than 65536 ft, then that could cause an overflow error.

U2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46912455)

I always knew Bono was an asshole.

I thought commercial civilian airspace was off lim (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46912487)

Unless we were facing a direct war on US soil?

Must have been running on Windows... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46912517)

Nothing else makes any sense.

Re:Must have been running on Windows... (1)

sumdumass (711423) | about 3 months ago | (#46912647)

Its not like it hasn't happened.before.. A windows update took down several airports before.

Paranoia (1)

Froggels (1724218) | about 3 months ago | (#46912541)

In and of itself this incident is not all that remarkable, but it is an interesting indicator of just how paranoid our government has become.

How is this a new bug? (1)

Coditor (2849497) | about 3 months ago | (#46912567)

U2's have been flying for 50 years. I smell rotten fish. How does collision avoidance software not understand altitude?

Re:How is this a new bug? (1)

sumdumass (711423) | about 3 months ago | (#46912657)

Perhaps the software development for the current version was outsourced to another country and their developers didn't think anything would fly that high?

Re:How is this a new bug? (1)

mpe (36238) | about 3 months ago | (#46912841)

U2's have been flying for 50 years. I smell rotten fish. How does collision avoidance software not understand altitude?

If the U2 had an operating transponder the LAX SSR would know it's altitude. If it didn't it would only show up on primary radar, possibly not very well given it's altitude, speed and low RCS.
Maybe some sort of rounding error gave a bogus much lower altitude. I though LAX were ment to have sorted out all issue with possible conflicts between military and civil traffic after Hughes Airwest 706.

Re:How is this a new bug? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46912849)

Most likely because the software was written to either hide an aircraft with a specific transponder code routing other aircraft around it, or display it as some other kind of aircraft. In any case, the problem was a software bug due to the aircraft either being too high, which I don't believe, or something else.

You have to remember however that there are very high altitude Mach20+ flights that go through their airspace sometimes, so this shouldn't be unheard of. In the old days the USGS could be used to track those flights by following the ground shock of the sonic boom, which shows as a low level earthquake.

It's just really hard to hide things when the software doesn't work right however.

The U2 didn't cause anything. (1)

NemoinSpace (1118137) | about 3 months ago | (#46912603)

This is just another example of STUPID that can easily be fixed by adding a few more lines of shit code and a couple million dollar layers of incompetent beureaucracy. I feel bad for the NSA on this one.

WTF Bono (1)

RiscIt (95258) | about 3 months ago | (#46912609)

Can't you go anywhere without causing a scene?

Stupid software (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46912665)

Class A airspace ends at 60,000 feet. The U2 was flying just above 60,000 feet to avoid being in controlled airspace. The computers interpretation of the altitude simply ROLLS at 60,000, so an airplane beaconing 61,000 feet Mode S/C appears to the computers to be flying at 1,000 feet.

Fucking stupid.

Please Update Summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46912789)

Judging from the responses in this thread, there is apparently a band with the same name as the airplane, and people are getting confused.

Could a Slashdot editor please update the summary to add that TFA is talking about the airplane and not the band?

kthxbai

Problem solved: upgrade to Quake engine (5, Funny)

TheRealHocusLocus (2319802) | about 3 months ago | (#46912803)

Air traffic controllers at LA center were forced to turn off clipping on Wednesday (cheat code 'idclip' [wikia.com] ) when a high-flying U2 spy plane crossed the control area, sending inclined vertices soaring to 60,000 feet. "This really screwed up the level map," one unnamed controller said, "here we had commercial pilots navigating the prescribed holding tunnels, galloping up and down stairs, jumping to activate the rising platform that takes them into th final approach ramp. So you're a pilot and you have your chainsaw at the ready and all of a sudden you're up against this 60,000 foot wall. We didn't even know what it was then. And it's moving! Even with a thousand cacodemons under your belt, you're not ready for this."

"The 'fake 3D Doom 2 engine [wikia.com] ' has served American aviation well over the years. It runs on the piston and vacuum tube difference engines still used by the FAA. There are limitations but the math is fast. It's why modern airports tend to sprawl over large areas, though we've had to install higher fences with opaque textures around the runways to hide ground objects on adjacent runways and nearby buildings. When you're ready to touch down the lag can be incredible."

The decision to turn off clipping was necessary but it came with a price. Few pilots had ever experienced no-clip mode, and while a few admitted to a sudden sense of exhilaration as they were liberated from the cruel physics of aviation -- most were anxious, even terrified. When asked why, one reacted with astonishment, almost anger. "Well shit, we're pilots. Avoiding things is just what we do. It's a trained response to avoid things. And it did not help at all when a few assholes broke formation and started to buzz through other airplanes. Every one of us was thinking, they're going to turn clipping on sooner or later, I hope it happens after this jerk gets off my ass."

Others who requested not to be identified had other stories. "We began in formation then matched vector, then merged completely. I mean really merged. The passengers were really startled those from other planes floated into view and entered the cabin. Then someone started laughing, probably in sheer terror, but soon everyone was laughing and it was great fun. Isn't it funny how when something scary doesn't kill you immediately, you want to laugh? Isn't it?" After a moment he laughed suddenly.

Collision alarms were not designed for no-clip and many were sounding constantly and could be heard clearly as pilots spoke over the radio channel. To make matters worse, the effect of no-clip was not confined to aircraft or the facilities. One pilot on approach noted "I almost swerved instinctively to avoid a fire truck sailing past, it must have floated off a ramp in the upper garage but there it was right in the approach path. Then this guy -- a businessman clutching a briefcase -- appeared and stopped in midair. He was flapping around like a butterfly, obviously pleased with himself for sailing through the glass of the upper lounge and out into the field. Then he turned slowly and there was this 200 ton aircraft bearing down on him. Like a stupid squirrel he fled directly down the flight path, glancing back. The look on his face as he passed through the cockpit was priceless."

Landing was extremely difficult during this period. "Impossible, actually. In no-clip you're not really landing on anything, just trying to stop descending when you THINK you're on the ground. Fortunately there was no stall physics in play so we took it slow and I had the co-pilot hanging out the window trying to gauge the moment the wheels reached the ground. The plane in front of me was obviously waiting for touchdown, he just sunk into the tarmac and disappeared. I hear he drifted around under the airport for awhile and finally rose into a parking lot. They had to knock down fences to get it towed back to the field."

After a couple of hours all aircraft were grounded and with a few scrapes, rumbles and a broken limb or two, clipping was restored. The FAA is expected to lobby for an upgrade to the Quake engine, and with it address the hotly debated issue of whether to turn off monsters permanently at the nation's airports.

The ubiquitous presence of monsters has its defenders, with some surprising reasons. "It keeps those DHS folk busy, so they don't harass us as much." said one frequent traveler. "Although they do delay flights."

Re:Problem solved: upgrade to Quake engine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46913051)

+1 Priceless

Re:Problem solved: upgrade to Quake engine (2)

Badooleoo (3045733) | about 3 months ago | (#46914747)

You sir made my day.

Oh, that crazy Bono. . . (1)

kimvette (919543) | about 3 months ago | (#46912825)

Oh, not that U2. :)

U-2 Caused Widespread Shutdown of US Flights? (2)

nitehawk214 (222219) | about 3 months ago | (#46912859)

More like "Shitty Flight Control Software Caused Widespread Shutdown of US Flights Out of LAX", and will be patched like any other bug. But that doesn't make for quite an alarmist headline for a linkspam blogwank article like this.

Fuck you, Hugh Pickens, fuck you.

Re:U-2 Caused Widespread Shutdown of US Flights? (2)

Virtucon (127420) | about 3 months ago | (#46913281)

If you were stuck at an airport trying to fly out or if you were flying into one of the airports affected then it was not just a minor software glitch, it was a major pain in the ass. For decades now the FAA has been trying to put into place a new ATC that will help eliminate these kinds of problems as well as higher more controllers but like with anything "gubment" it takes a long time.

Re:U-2 Caused Widespread Shutdown of US Flights? (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | about 3 months ago | (#46915851)

If you were stuck at an airport trying to fly out or if you were flying into one of the airports affected then it was not just a minor software glitch, it was a major pain in the ass.

Actually, incoming flights were fine.

Re:U-2 Caused Widespread Shutdown of US Flights? (1)

ShaunC (203807) | about 3 months ago | (#46916131)

The headline came from the Reuters article.

the band....nothing changes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46912917)

stupid U2

Maybe someone wrote... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46912961)

  unsigned short altitude;

   

50 year old technology (2)

tompaulco (629533) | about 3 months ago | (#46912981)

U2, B-52, SR-71, Saturn V, Concorde. All stuff either still in use due to no suitable replacement, or retired with no suitable replacement. It's amazing how brilliant our scientists and engineers used to be 50 years ago. It seems to me that the 50's and 60's was the pinnacle of human achievement.

Re:50 year old technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46913119)

oh bullshit. The U-2 is in service because it has a fucking 60's era wet film camera that the asshole israelis still insist on for the olive branch mission, to make sure the egyptians aren't going to invade through the Siani. It was replaced a decade ago by global hawk, which is better in about every way except that it offends the air force generals because it doesn't have a "real pilot" and several Lockheed funded senators. Give me a fucking break. B-52? Same problem, except that the global hawk actually snuck out of development, while the bastards keep buying small fleets to keep contractor profits up. Seriously, F-117, B-1 and B-2 all could have replaced the B-52 if we had just fucking bought enough of them, but that, as they say, impacts the bottom line.

Re:50 year old technology (0)

bussdriver (620565) | about 3 months ago | (#46913553)

1) Industrial military complex == corruption.

2) Technology progress is not linear. New areas are ripe with low hanging fruit and people trying to get there first to get as much as they can. Later, there is less to get and it is harder to reach; doesn't matter if you have smarter people. Another mistake is judging intelligence by quantity discoveries or even the quality of those discoveries; it's largely situational.

3) We only require enough to defend against 1 major power; that is if you are pro-defense and if you are not, you don't even require that much. Nobody else is dumping anything near what we do into newer tech - we act like we are still at war (that is, a major war non-stop since WW2.) Some officials are honest when they keep the old and ignore the new (which is produced under heavy corruption. see F-22)

4) Our new tech is sold or leaked around the world or other nations simply use what they already have, which is plenty effective. Globally we help the whole industry on all sides by providing a high level of unnecessary competition... making things go out of fashion. Thing is, the other buyers won't pay any price and the US will. Result? Everybody else might be lower grade and smaller but they are extremely cost effective by comparison. Afghanistan has won again, we spent more than Russia or Vietnam and they had almost nothing and spend almost nothing while our implosion is accelerated.

Re:50 year old technology (1)

Hamsterdan (815291) | about 3 months ago | (#46915125)

I've got a soft spot for the Avro CF-105 Arrow (altough there have been replacements) , shame it was cancelled...

Re:50 year old technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46915199)

All stuff designed with a slide rule and damn good engineering. On the other hand, there was a lot more acceptance of risks that go with boldly going where no one has gone before -- no apologies and no excuses. The SR-71 sounds like a scary plane to herd, but it did stuff that nothing has been able to touch. The term decadent sometime comes to mind. I don't think we could do the Manhatten project, or Hoover dam or Apollo any more -- we have sold our soul to be safe.

Software problem not U-2 problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46913103)

The U-2 did not shutdown the flights, a software programing error did.

Inaccurate title: cause was faulty software (1)

schwit1 (797399) | about 3 months ago | (#46913283)

The U2 was the trigger. Any aircraft at that altitude and location would have triggered the problem.

It has NOTHING to do with the U-2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46913467)

And EVERYTHING to do with antiquated systems for air trafic control. No investment in infrastructure because all the money is being spent on coddling a bunch of unionized "workers"....

60K feet or... (1)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | about 3 months ago | (#46913549)

65536 feet? hmmmm

Re:60K feet or... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46914971)

Signed short was my first thought, but then it wouldn't try to redirect flights. I'm thinking they use bit fields, perhaps less than 16 bits for altitude?

Re:60K feet or... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46915325)

Not if they're using integer feet.

If it was 16-bit signed, then you'd get the following for 33,000 feet:
"This is your robotic captain speaking. We have reached our crusing altitude of -32,536 feet. You are now free to move about the cabin."

(And 15-bit unsigned would say 232 feet.)

I can't believe the news today (1)

dmomo (256005) | about 3 months ago | (#46913849)

How long must we sing this song?

Controlled Airspace (1)

ks*nut (985334) | about 3 months ago | (#46914547)

Controlled airspace is just that - by definition you must obtain permission before entering. I remember more than a few years ago hearing the unmistakable sound of a sonic boom. When I called the local airport they new exactly what the aircraft was - an SR-71 on a speed run from LA to Washington D.C. Sure the computer, being just an assemblage of silicon chips, didn't recognize that the U2 was harmless at 60,000 feet (whatever a foot is, you customary unit morons). And oh yeah, bring on the UAVs - what could possibly go wrong?

C, obvs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46914877)

short altitude = 60000;

Exception handling is hard (1)

radarskiy (2874255) | about 3 months ago | (#46915523)

When air traffic control seems an altitude of 60,000 feet. that is almost always an incorrect value. On rare occasions it is a very fancy plane.

If you treat the fancy-plane situation as an incorrect value you create an inconvenience. If you treat the incorrect-value situation an a fancy plane you create a fatality. Which way are you going to bias your exception handling?

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