Flight MH370: Between the Lines…………

malaysiaflightTheories abound as to the whereabouts of the Malaysia plane, Flight MH 370 which went missing early on Saturday with 239 people on board. The last transmission from the aircraft was at 01:07 ,which indicated that everything was normal. The information seeping through the public domain though scanty, don’t seem to add up. Let us make a jungle dash at what has been spewed for public consumption so far. Here is a service with a near unblemished safety record. The type of airplane is known for high performance levels and the aircraft had been fully serviced, with the last maintenance conducted on 23 February 2014; which makes the disappearance of the Boeing 777-200ER aircraft unprecedented.

Following the disappearance of the aircraft, there have been so many “sightings” of debris, tail fin, fire ball, etc,that you could be forgiven to think that it was one of those “conspiracy” theories about Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO). An extensive search of the seas around Malaysia – involving 14 countries, 43 ships and 58 aircraft has come to zilch. One cannot begin to understand the feelings of their loved ones.

But has not stopped the big guys issuing claims and counter claims about what may happened.  US investigators suspect the missing Malaysian airliner was in the air for four hours after its last confirmed contact, and may have been diverted to an unknown location, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. It said US aviation investigators and national security officials are basing their theory on data automatically downloaded and sent to the ground from the Boeing 777's Rolls-Royce engines, which suggested the plane flew for a total of five hours.

 Although this theory had been vehemently denied by the Malaysian authorities in the past, Prime Minister Najib Razak has finally admitted the obvious; that “The communications systems of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 were deliberately disabled”. That was like telling the congregation that the Pope is catholic; for how could such a major systems failure have occurred without any clue to the aviation fraternity?

The new evidence, based on satellite and radar tracking of the plane, is "consistent with the deliberate action of someone. But why could the pilot(s) not have sent a distress signal? The plane is supposed to be loaded with sophisticated communication systems like ACARS; a service that allows computers aboard the plane to "talk" to computers on the ground, relaying in-flight information about the health of its systems. Was there a gun to his head? Was he confronted by someone/people with explosives strapped to their body or did they have grenades in their hands, with the pin dislodged? Where are the passengers. Are they kept as bargaining chips. The passengers are supposed to have mobiles phones with them. Why are these not sending signals when it is possible to track their exact location by satellite means?These might be some of the questions that may gnaw the grey matter of those in the know.

Another area of concern is the passenger list. Along with the Chinese passengers, there were 38 Malaysians and citizens of Iran, the US, Canada, Indonesia, Australia, India, France, New Zealand, Ukraine, Russia, Taiwan and the Netherlands on board. To add to the jigsaw, the Malaysian authorities have confirmed that the two passengers bought their tickets at the same time using travel documents that had been stolen in Thailand, one belonging to an Italian man and the other to an Austrian. Many analysts have found the coincidence too coincidental for comfort. In the absence of any hard evidence, the missing plane remains a mystery. Authorities are pussyfooting around the theory of a “hijack” incident; perhaps for fear of begging the twin questions of “whom” and “why” would a person or persons hijack a plane and take it out of circulation? There may be many reasons, but keeping such a big plane as a private collection is not one of them.

Notwithstanding the technological embarrassment that this incident has caused for the space age; and coming at a time when Russia and the rest of you know who, seem keen to rekindle the fires of the cold war, it goes without saying that this incident might be the watershed for the great thinkers to think again. But what looks intriguing is the issue of the stolen passports; whereby two passengers bought their tickets at the same time, for the same destination, and being on the same flight, using travel documents that had been stolen. Stolen passports are not a new thing to the aviation or immigration circles; and in some cases have had fatal consequences. Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing, travelled to the US on a stolen passport, while Milorad Ulemek, who assassinated the Serbian president and prime minister in 2003, used a missing passport to cross 27 borders before he was caught.

We know that a plane is missing together with two passengers on stolen passports. This is no attempt to send shivers down any spines, but if the “conspiracy theories” are anything to go by, what do they intend to do with the plane? If the plane is secured in some hideaway, is it a question of ransom or is someone testing their technological superiority? Worse still, is the plane a potential weapon of some sort? I shudder to think of the potential scenarios………….

What is in it for Sierra Leone and Sierra Leoneans? A story was recently reported about a “Michael Sesay”, a “Sierra Leonean” that was caught trying to smuggle cocaine hidden in soap bars into Nigeria. Stories are now reportedly emerging that “Michael Sesay” is in fact not a Sierra Leonean. If this is true, how and where did he get his passport from? He may not be the first to masquerade with a Sierra Leonean passport under false pretences. Should the Flight MH370 incident be another gentle reminder to our immigration service? The lesson from Flight MH370 is: If you learn to shoot without missing, others would learn to fly without perching.

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Critique Echo Newspaper is a major source of news and objective analyses about governance, democracy and human-right. Edited and published in Kenema city, eastern Sierra Leone, the outlet is generally referred to as a level plying ground for the youths, women and children.

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