I’m not sure I could have devised a plot for a book that would have been more interesting than the events of MH 370 over the last few weeks.
An airliner that can weigh over 650,000 pounds at takeoff, is about 200 feet long and 200 feet wide, with 239 souls aboard – vanishes – without a trace – and now, even with the latest data from the Immarsat satellite which supposedly localizes the aircraft’s final trajectory, traces of the aircraft still cannot be found. As of this writing, another satellite has seemlingly found “many pieces of debris” in the ocean somewhat near the possible end point of the flight, but whether or not that debris is from the aircraft is yet to be determined.
So as an aviation expert, if I were going to write a plot for a novel where a terrorist group takes possession of a large airliner for some nefarious plot, how could I create a web of deception to hide my true intentions?
First, I’d ensure that the airliner took off on its intended course to start the flight off in a normal fashion – make everyone think this was just another routine flight. Then, after establishing a normal flight path, I’d turn off my transponder and change course to a different destination knowing full well that while normal civilian radar couldn’t track me, military radar could. Knowing I’d have passengers and other crew members to deal with at my final destination, I might even climb above my certified cruise altitude to create the impression that the aircraft was in distress or unpiloted and then depressurize the cabin to incapacitate/kill everyone on board. Keep in mind that I have a control panel in the cockpit to keep oxygen masks in the cabin from deploying so the cabin could very slowly depressurize without anyone realizing it – particularly in the middle of the night while everyone is sleeping anyway. I’ve got my own oxygen system in the cockpit so I can keep the cabin depressurized long enough to kill everyone. Then, after establishing the jet on a course where the military was tracking me, I’d stay on that course until I disappeared from radar coverage. And then land the aircraft somewhere else – after many hours of flying time.
As an additional ruse, I might even establish another course vector, allow my satellite system to continue pinging for awhile, and then deactivate it completely and head to my real final destination. If I was really clever, ahead of time I would have bought one of the many airliners that are sitting in boneyards all over the world, disassembled it or blown it apart, and then hired a freighter captain that didn’t ask too many questions, and have him take the cargo some remote waters in the Indian Ocean and dump it to fool any satellites or search forces into thinking they had found “debris.” Maybe a week or so later, I start distributing bodies in various locations in the Indian Ocean, just to complete the scenario. By the time they’re recovered, they’ll be in such terrible condition that no one will be able to tell the real cause of death.
Now that I’ve convinced everyone in the world that the airliner is lost, I have time to repaint it, modify it if required and prepare it for a strike against my enemy. Perhaps I’ll fill the aircraft with high-explosives or radioactive material and crash it into a major metropolitan area. Maybe I’ll modify it with an aerosol dispensing devise to disperse chemical or biological weapons as I fly in and out of a few different airports. Getting the aircraft on target is simple. I merely take the place of another flight that has been delayed or cancelled either through direct action or through chance. Or maybe I hack the air traffic control system of the country I’m attacking and put a flight plan into the system that makes my aircraft look legitimate so it can get to its target without being intercepted.
The point is that now that I’m in possession of a 650,000 pound flying weapons platform that looks like a normal airliner, I have a host of options to chose from and time is on my side because the more days that pass, the more likely the public and news media, will forget this ever happened. Leaving the world ripe for attack.
Fantastic? Perhaps. Impossible? Not at all.
From a personal perspective, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of the jet that flew MH370.