Ian Flemming and Tom Clancy, both master writers of suspense and political intrigue — and their alter egos James Bond and Jack Ryan respectively — are probably looking down from heaven in awe at the story created in Malaysia to cover up the disappearance of MH370.
Just as the tragedy of 9/11 redefined aviation security worldwide more than a decade ago, the March 8 Hijacking of MH Flight 370, in addition to creating one of the greatest smoke and mirror shows ever, is certain to redefine airline security yet again … whether or not we ever find the missing Boeing 777.
An overwhelming lack of hard evidence hasn’t slowed the 24/7 media machine and most anyone with a radio, TV or computer from trying to figure it all out though. But while the search for the airplane goes on, we can’t forget this is not simply an academic exercise. The fate of more than 230 people is still unknown. Nor can we ignore the planning of some people and the incompetence of others on the ground in Malaysia that made this crime possible.
Imagine for a minute, a number of senior Malaysian officials sitting in a witness box someday attempting to defend their actions over the past week and a half.
Yes, security was ridiculously flawed as proven by the two people who boarded the aircraft with stolen passports. Then there was the first officer playing footloose with his social life by allowing inflight visitors to the cockpit in violation of international law, as well as the realization that this occurred more often than most people ever realized. Let’s not forget the piecing out of facts from the Malaysian military that allowed the search to waste valuable time searching first in the Gulf of Thailand, then the Straits of Malacca and eventually northwest toward the Bay of Bengal, before finally admitting they really had no idea where the airplane had gone. Saving face is not usually a concern in an accident investigation, although it is in this case.
The need to save face makes it a bit easier to understand why the story kept changing, even with so many people’s lives at stake. First there’s the incompetence on the part of the Malaysian government that simply didn’t want anyone else to realize the limits of their defensive and analytical capabilities. With no clear search and rescue leadership either or even a command post, facts emerged in a piecemeal fashion that proved the people in Kuala Lumpur were in over their heads early on, despite their claims to the contrary. And yet everyone kept following the information as if it had actually been confirmed.
Now of course the pilots are under suspicion, as well they should be. But the two pilots didn’t pull this off alone, if indeed they were involved at all. The incompetence of the Malaysian government again actually played a significant role in allowing the people who actually took the airplane to carry out their plans. What a great cover story… and 10 days later we still can’t tell the good guys from the bad.
In addition to finding the airplane and the passengers whose families are left worrying day after day, we still need to figure out the “why” behind the hijacking. The bandits had a reason for sure. Was there something incredibly valuable in the cargo hold, were the passengers what they were after or is the future use of the airplane and those passengers in some other element of mayhem the reason they grabbed it? With these kinds of issues hanging in the balance, is it any surprise that the worldwide security establishment knows much more than it’s sharing right now?
Tom Clancy or Ian Fleming could have probably offered up a few good possibilities to experts by now. But in fiction, the cost of being wrong is slight.
Unless the passengers stormed the cockpit of MH370 like the people did on Flight 93 in 2001, we’ll probably see this stolen airplane again. And none of the reasons we will are good for anyone.
Rob Mark, Publisher