Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Did Missing 777 Land?

What is clear to the Bear is that the triple-7 that went missing was under the control of a pilot who deliberately changed destinations, and skillfully evaded detection. The pilot did not shout "Allahu Akbar!" and crash the plane into the ocean. (The reference is not gratuitous. The Bear's first thought was EgyptAir 990, where that's exactly what happened.)

So this pilot -- whoever he was -- had something in mind. If it was flying the airplane into a building, he obviously didn't succeed, even though he clearly had the technical know-how to make it happen. Assuming that was not his plan, what else might it have been?

In the good old days prior to 9-11, a hijack meant a trip to Cuba. Could whoever was in control have planned a clandestine visit to someplace else? If that were the case, he would presumably know how much fuel he would need, etc. (And a 777 is a thirsty beast at the 5000 feet they are saying it was flying at. That's only a thousand feet higher than the Bear used to putter around in his little Cessna.) Barring a shoot-down, what is unlikely about this plot succeeding?

So why haven't we heard anything? Because the destination isn't telling? And why would that be? Because it did shoot the airborne menace down? Or because it did not find the visit unwelcome?

I know. Many question marks.

They know how much fuel was on board. They also know the fuel burn for every altitude. Take the last known location -- somewhere over the Indian ocean according to radar -- and draw a ring representing range with remaining fuel. Next stick a pin in every runway long enough to accommodate a 777 inside that ring. Make it a red pin for suspicious countries. Start taking pictures from space.

That's all been done already, surely.

The Bear has little doubt this was an old-school hijacking, possibly by the pilot. He would not rule out a landing until wreckage is shown. Motive? That is one of the things a thorough investigation should eventually reveal. So far, however, Malaysia has done little to inspire confidence. Egypt faked their own investigation into the EgyptAir pilot crash to let Islam, their carrier and tourism off the hook. (Although to be fair, it's not clear that was an act of pure jihad or had elements of plain old suicide.) This whole thing reeks to high heaven.

In any event, it is the greatest aviation mystery in history. Greater than Amelia Earhart, because there was so much more to go wrong with her stunt back in those days. 777s just don't disappear into thin air.

Until now.

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