Adult Americans travelling abroad tend to recognise other Americans. There is just something about us that stands out and separates us from Canadians to the north and our European cousins across the Atlantic. Americans are comfortable in their own skin. We may be arrogant, flamboyant, display signs of cockiness or even sheer stupidity, but warts and all we accept ourselves. We wear our personalities like an adornment. We easily make eye contact and smile a lot. We are prone to engaging total strangers in impromptu small talk. That is the nature of our native freedom. The one adult American in the boarding area for Malaysia Airlines flight 370 carefully scanned the seats. “Yes,” he thought, “I am the only American businessman on this flight.” In a sense, it was a relief. He was travel weary and ready to settle in for the next leg of his flight. Hunched over their laptops were twenty passengers who are corporate assets of Freescale Semiconductor, based out of Austin, Texas.
The twelve Malaysian and eight Chinese passengers are in an elite class. They can move in and out of incubation research labs with ease. What is not quite so easy is to obtain the necessary clearance levels needed to cross over into such an intellectual corporate environment. Engineers with highly coveted skills, these individuals work with a galaxy of information that very few can comprehend. The product development line under the aegis of a research and development supernova has produced over sixty patent families. Patent piracy is the candy store for ethically-challenged internationalists. In the aftermath of the disappearance of MH370, there is need for a debriefing process on corporate travel. It seems ill-fated that a talent pool of twenty engineers booked the same flight. Mechanical engineer Paul Weeks stood clear of the burgeoning crowd of travellers waiting to board the aircraft. His reason for travel was simple enough. He was on his way to his first shift at a fly-in, fly-out job in Mongolia, but a premonition continued to prey upon his psyche. Prior to leaving home he had made it a point to have a few casual family photos taken. He had given his wedding ring and watch to his wife. If something happened to him, his ring was to go to the firstborn son, Lincoln, and the watch to Jack, his 11-month-old newborn. As he watched the flow of passengers, he continuously moved the thumb and forefinger of his right hand across his left ring finger. It gave him a sense of comfort to know that his family had remained behind. Perth, Australia was a pleasant memory. Mongolia was a leap into the unknown. Two adventure-seeking Australian couples were also awaiting the flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Robert Lawton and his wife Catherine were accompanied by another Aussie couple, Rodney and Mary Burrows. This trip was to be “the next step in their life”. They stepped off into the unknown.....
Let me gamble with my private thoughts in a public manner: each passenger has their own life story. One or more passengers also have a legend. We need to identify these individuals. Critical time has been lost already. Most likely, we still lack a forensic footprint of digital data. This event has been as carefully executed as 9/11. There is a high probability the majority of the passengers aboard MH 370 are deceased. That many passengers cannot be cordoned, guarded and fed. They are now the silenced witnesses to a terrifying event. Was oxygen cut off to the main cabin of Flight 370? No matter. They died in violent manner. And what is the status of the aircraft? My greatest fear...? The aircraft is being retro-fitted for a terror attack against a military target and our troops in Afghanistan come to mind. There is message-silence regarding this hijacking. No video has been delivered to al-Jazeera. There are no demands for a ransom. The primary goal was the acquisition of a 777 to be retro-fitted as an agent of plausible deniability, in the aftermath of an attack. The level of planning for this hijacking suggests intelligence apparatus backing. Critical aggregation of data was necessary. Sophisticated resources were accessed. My gamble presumes a core network of operatives capable of acquisition, retro-fit and future launch of a commercial aircraft. This group of individuals most likely spent months following the security protocols of various airlines. They picked an airport that allowed travellers with stolen passports through a security net. The mysterious Iranian, a ‘Mr Ali’, is a seasoned broker for stolen travel documents. The man has kahunas. That is for sure. He also lives within a subterranean criminal network. His interface with this flight may have nothing to do with the current predicament, but his ability to move passengers through airport security without a hitch does have something to do with this current mess. Malaysia has a hole in their security net. I issue no apology for speaking the truth.
Did the hijack team pick a flight on an airline with a lothario junior pilot who is known to have used his meagre rank to direct an air steward to bring blond, light-skinned (and probably not emotionally mature) teenage girls into the cockpit? Smoking, selfies and hilarity ensued. I cannot make this stuff up. But back to the cadre of engineers. I worry that the flight was chosen because of the large contingent of engineers aboard. Are they really dead? Or was this flight chosen because of a need for an impeccable talent pool? Are these employees now in a place of forced servitude to unknown masters? Is their advice and expertise needed regarding some of the finer aspects of masking the flight path of a missile? Will that missile prove to be MH370? It is rare that I write such a speculative column. But the dire nature of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines MH370 with 227 passengers and 12 crew members on board is the tale of an intelligence nightmare: “All right, good night,” indeed.
The writer is a freelance journalist and author of the novel Arsenal. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org