NPF: SCOOBY-DOO MYSTERY

Posted in No Politics Friday on March 14th, 2014 by Ed

Sometimes I start a post and fail to finish it before it ceases to be relevant, so it ends up in the trash. Other times I will write something and realize before completing it that it's not very good. And occasionally I look at an orphaned post fragment and feel fortunate that it was never completed, because everything about it that seemed intelligent at the time now seems quite foolish.

Last weekend I wrote half a post about the media coverage of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight, the main point being that what the media were attempting to sell as some great "mystery" was really just a mundane and predictable, if tragic, set of events. But after another week of following that story, I give up. I yield. This is ridiculous and fascinating. Each new detail that becomes public makes the story more bizarre instead of less.

If we can accept that a relatively new aircraft of a type with a nearly flawless safety record does not simply disintegrate in midair without provocation, then the range of plausible explanations is broad. Aside from the tantalizing details about stolen passports (which are as likely to be used for crimes like drug smuggling or illegal immigration as for terrorism) there is the revelation, apparently plausible, that pilots on this crew allowed passengers into the cockpit. Now there are claims that the plane flew for hours after communications were lost – I was under the impression that it was extremely difficult, although not impossible, for modern planes to have their transponders switched off and its means of external communication silenced.

Most baffling of all, though, is the idea that the plane could have flown around off-course for hours in radio silence without a single passenger using a mobile device to make a call, text, or post regarding the flights. In a much shorter amount of time, passengers on the 9/11 planes made dozens of attempted calls from the air. Even if we buy that the pilots somehow made the plane radio silent, how could the passengers be prevented from communicating?

Every time I think I have this one figured out the story gets more bizarre. My latest guess is that one or both pilots concocted an excuse for the passengers, switched off the transponder, and flew around over the ocean until fuel was exhausted in some kind of laborious act of suicide. In a few hours something else will probably seem like a better explanation. Half-cocked theories welcome in the comments.