Where on earth is flight MH370?
Throughout the autumn, there was a regular hullabaloo on the global scene about who was keeping track of whom and how. It seemed, or so the media and Edward Snowden would have it, that no one was safe from the eagle eyes and ears of the NSA and other intelligence bureaus. No one was immune – from Merkel to mere mortals. We were all potential victims of online spyware and other stealthy bugging solutions – such as hummingbird drones and various gizmos and gadgets – that may or may not be monitoring our every move.
So where on earth are the missing Boeing 777 and the 239 people onboard? At the time of writing this blog, the plane has been on the MIA list for 10 days. No wreckage or recovery sightings. No black (actually orange) box. No sign of life or death. No ‘where is my iPhone’ app picking up the location of a missing loved one. Nada. Just dodgy data currently indicating a change of course, blacked out communications capacity and possible low altitude for what is relatively a very long period of time.
Had anyone asked back in September How can we make a commercial aircraft and its passengers vanish into thin air?, the obvious answer would have been smoke and mirrors or call David Copperfield. Yet here we are. Mystery unsolved. And while the rest of us scratch our heads in puzzled alarm, grief stricken relatives wait in limbo.
But what does this actually mean? Well, regardless of whether wreckage will eventually be found in an ocean, it means umpteen governments still buy in to the notion that it is perfectly possibly to disappear off the global map – whether by disaster or by design.
How perfectly marvellous to think that there are still places in the world beyond the reach of official eyes and intelligence experts. Places that offer the opportunity to simply step away and drop off the face of the earth. Any intelligence bureau would no doubt love the credit of finding the missing Boeing 777, and one can only assume that they too have been using their every means to analyse information and offer theories to the search crews. So they are clearly not all seeing and hearing. Or someone is playing a very clever and dirty double game.
Now let me be very clear here: I feel nothing but acute sadness for the plight of this flight. Unless there was a sudden huge explosion, those ill-fated people will have been terrified to a level I cannot imagine. Their families will be pouncing on every news bulletin, praying for a miracle and roller coasting between hope and despair. I think I can imagine that. And if, against all odds, the passengers and crew were indeed hijacked and are being held captive at a secret location, we can reasonably assume they are utterly desperate to be found and reunited with their loved ones. So, go intelligence geeks!
But wait. There’s the other side of this international coin. After 9/11 in 2001, airport security was tightened to the nth degree. We’ve all been there. Thrown away drinks we’ve just purchased, had wine and perfume confiscated and then held our breath as we packed glass bottles in suitcases to avoid further confiscations. We’ve been made to strip down to our stocking feet, remove post-chemo wigs, suffered body x-ray machines and submitted to being patted down. We’ve given our fingerprints and answered questions. All in the name of security. We’ve grumbled and cursed, yet ultimately agreed that we’d rather be safe than too dead to be sorry.
And yet here we are. With a missing commercial flight. Over the course of the past 10 days, we have learned that two passengers boarded with stolen passports and that the pilot is a ‘fanatical’ political supporter. Other early theories included a devastating explosion being caused by a shoe bomb. The theories are endless.
So what of security now?
How can we be certain, next time we board a flight, that the pilot is sound of mind and all the passengers are who they have claimed to be? How can we be certain that the security guy or gal didn’t miss a shoe bomb? Or the plane is not faulty?
The bottom line is that we can’t. We never could.
But my faith in airport and airline security is now rocked.
And until the fate of Flight MH370 is established, I, for one, shall feel I’m flying on a wing… and a prayer.