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Report: U-2 spy plane caused widespread shutdown of U.S. flights

LOS ANGELES -- A U-2 spy plane caused a computer glitch at a California air traffic control center that led officials to halt takeoffs on Wednesday at several airports in the Southwestern United States and ground planes bound for the region from other parts of the country, NBC reported today.

The computer problem at a Federal Aviation Administration center slowed the journeys of tens of thousands of arriving and departing passengers at Los Angeles International Airport, one of the busiest in the country.

Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, California, John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, California, and McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas were among other facilities affected by the order to keep planes grounded.

So were flights in other parts of the country that were bound for the wide swath of airspace in the Southwestern United States managed by the FAA's Los Angeles Air Route Traffic Control Center.

The FAA has released few details on the nature of the problem that caused its officials to halt flights.

The Pentagon could not immediately be reached for comment.

NBC, citing unnamed sources, reported a U-2, a Cold War-era spy plane still in use by the U.S. military, passed through air space monitored by the Los Angeles Air Route Traffic Control Center and appears to have overloaded a computer system at the center.

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 (18,300 metres) and other airplanes passing through the region's air space were miles below, NBC reported.

Sources told NBC News the U-2 plane had a U.S. Defense Department flight plan. “It was a ‘Dragon Lady,’” one source told NBC, using the nickname for the plane.

FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford would not comment on whether the computer problem at the agency's center on Wednesday was caused by a U-2 flight.

“We aren't confirming anything beyond what we already said about it being a software issue that we corrected,” Lunsford said in an email to Reuters.

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