Friday, February 13, 2015

Conspiracy Theories: Flight 370

Who shot JFK?  What happened to Amelia Earhart?  Do we really know the truth about Area 51 in Roswell, New Mexico?

When it comes to conspiracy theories, there are two kinds of people:  People who accept them at face value, and people who like to poke holes in them.  I belong to group No. 2.

The Malaysian Jet

The official flight path, maybe.  Or maybe not.
Next month should see a bumper crop of new conspiracy theories to mark the first anniversary of the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370.

This was a serious event, not one for jest, but the mystery is so profound that it has provoked all manner of speculation as to where the airplane and its passengers, almost certainly dead, are today.

Most of the people who try to solve this mystery no doubt mean well, but many of their ideas are, unfortunately, pretty nutty.

Here's a theory I read recently:  Hijackers diverted the flight for the purpose of selling the airplane. The airplane might be worth as much as $40 million, which is a lot of money, but I see some problems:

       -- What do you do with the passengers?  Are you willing to kill 239 people for $40 million?

       -- Who is going to want to buy a used passenger plane with no maintenance records?

       -- Is Boeing going to be willing to sell spare parts for an airplane whose VIN number
          matches that of a hijacked jet?

       -- Even if your target market is a bunch of terrorists, are you going to trust them to send
           you a wire transfer of the money?  Wouldn't they just kill you and grab the keys?

See?  This thought may be interesting, but it leads nowhere.

A Recent Theory

The latest theory was floated at the end of 2014 by the former executive of a small French airline.  He thinks the American military blew up the plane and never admitted it.  

Here's his story, as reported in Britain's Independent newspaper:  The plane "may have been remotely hijacked by hackers."  A fire aboard the plane forced its crew to turn off all communication devices.  The fire consumed all the oxygen on the plane, killing everyone aboard but not damaging the shell of the craft or its remotely controlled navigation to Diego Garcia, an island with an American military facility.

The French guy suspects that the Americans detected a large non-communicating craft approaching the island and shot the plane down.

Here are my problems with this story:

      -- How did the hijackers get remote access to the innards of a huge airliner?

      -- How did a fire start on the plane, destroying the communications systems and killing the people but not affecting the navigation controls or the plane's structural elements?

      -- Why wouldn't the Americans admit shooting down a presumed hostile craft?  Remember, in the late 1980s, the American Navy mis-identified an Iranian passenger plane as an enemy fighter jet and shot it down.  The incident embarrassed the U.S., but it was not shushed up.  It was reported on the front pages of newspapers worldwide the next morning.

The French theorist said witnesses in the Maldives -- 650 miles away -- told him they saw a huge plane colored like the Malaysian jet flying at low altitude toward Diego Garcia.  There were reports, he said, that a fire extinguisher, possibly from the jet, washed ashore, but, like the witnesses, it was never found.

He also said he received an ominous warning from a British intelligence officer against "taking 'risks'" by looking into the fate of MH370.

Diego Garcia

Diego Garcia, remote and mysterious, figures in many conspiracy theories that involve Americans.

The island is home to 1,700 Navy forces who operate a deep-water port and two long jet runways and presumably do some intelligence gathering as well.

Below is a map that shows the relative locations of Kuala Lumpur, where Flight 370 originated, and Diego Garcia.

Another Americans-Did-It Theory

 Last year, a blogger who affected to know a lot about spies, military procedures and Diego Garcia speculated that the CIA, Boeing and the American military redirected the flight -- also remotely -- to the island and covered it with a giant airplane tent.  Their purpose: to recover top-secret information that had been purloined and was being conveyed to Beijing, the flight's intended destination.

Poking holes in this story is like shooting fish in a barrel.

      -- What happened to the people on the jet?  Did the passengers arrive alive and return to their homes on the QT?  Did the Americans kill all those aboard the diverted plane?  Americans, even loyal service members, will not keep secrets like these.

      -- Why didn't the Americans ask Malaysian Airlines to remove the spies/documents/technology from the plane before it took off?  If we diverted every plane carrying China-bound national secrets, wouldn't this have happened many, many times before?

      -- And what's the deal with remote-controlled jets?  I got an RC helicopter as a holiday gift a few years back, and I couldn't even get the thing to fly across the driveway.

End Note

It's fun to poke holes in silly ideas, but the mystery remains.  And, when you have a big question, it's probably more likely to be solved if you have more people working on it, not fewer.  Even if some of the answers are less plausible than others.

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