By Dan Whitcomb
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Pentagon spokesman said on Monday that a U-2 spy plane flew over Southern California on a day last week when an air traffic control center in the area suffered a major software glitch, but he could not say whether the two events were related.
The Federal Aviation Administration has said it was investigating a "flight plan processing issue" that led several airports in the region to halt takeoffs and forced airlines to delay or cancel dozens of flights last Wednesday.
NBC News has reported that computers at the L.A. Air Route Traffic Control Center in Palmdale, California, were overloaded when they tried to track the U-2, a Cold War-era spy plane still in use by the U.S. military.
"I can tell you that there was a U-2 operating in the area in accordance with all FAA regulations. It filed a flight plan. It was conducting a training operation," Army Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said on Monday.
"The U-2 filed all the proper flight plan paperwork and was conducting its operation in accordance with those filings," he said, adding it was not unusual for the plane to be conducting operations in that area.
Warren said the Pentagon's acknowledgment that the flight was in the area should not be considered confirmation that the U-2's presence was a factor in the flight delays at Los Angeles International Airport.
He said the incident had not prompted the military to change the way it conducted such operations.
An FAA spokesman declined to comment on the Pentagon statement, but the agency has said that it would "fully analyze the event" to prevent a recurrence.
The computer problem 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 center.
(Additional reporting by David Alexander in Washington, D.C.; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Ken Wills)