Malaysia Airlines scariest scenario getting more thinkable

Thomas Lifson
The most alarming scenario for the fate of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 seems to come right out of a thriller novel: a jumbo jet stolen, landed at a clandestine airfield and being prepared for a terror mission. According to the latest information (and keeping in mind that contradictory information has been provided throughout), the plane remained airborne for hours after its two cockpit-controlled transponder systems were turned off, 15 minutes apart. This would seem to indicate the airplane was intentionally flown somewhere, and perhaps landed at a secret location.

My initial assumption was that this was impossible, given the need for a modern airstrip with instrumentation for a night landing of a heavy airliner. But last night on Fox News, a 777 pilot indicated that he could have landed the plane at an unused airstrip as short as 3500 feet, and that thanks to portable GPS systems, no ground beacons or other instrumentation would be necessary for even a night landing. Taking off would require a longer airstrip, of course. But suddenly, the prospect of an rogue airliner smashing into a skyscraper or loaded with a nuclear weapon and flown to a major city for detonation by a suicide crew becomes more than an idle fantasy.

But of course, there would see, to be little need to hijack an airliner for such a mission. There are hundreds of aging 747s, DC 10s, L-1011s, and other airliners parked in airliner graveyards. I have read accounts of drug smugglers acquiring and using such planes.

The fate of the jumbo jet and the two hundred thirty-nine souls aboard remains a deep mystery. And anti-terrorism authorities around the world have got a lot more worries on their minds.

The most alarming scenario for the fate of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 seems to come right out of a thriller novel: a jumbo jet stolen, landed at a clandestine airfield and being prepared for a terror mission. According to the latest information (and keeping in mind that contradictory information has been provided throughout), the plane remained airborne for hours after its two cockpit-controlled transponder systems were turned off, 15 minutes apart. This would seem to indicate the airplane was intentionally flown somewhere, and perhaps landed at a secret location.

My initial assumption was that this was impossible, given the need for a modern airstrip with instrumentation for a night landing of a heavy airliner. But last night on Fox News, a 777 pilot indicated that he could have landed the plane at an unused airstrip as short as 3500 feet, and that thanks to portable GPS systems, no ground beacons or other instrumentation would be necessary for even a night landing. Taking off would require a longer airstrip, of course. But suddenly, the prospect of an rogue airliner smashing into a skyscraper or loaded with a nuclear weapon and flown to a major city for detonation by a suicide crew becomes more than an idle fantasy.

But of course, there would see, to be little need to hijack an airliner for such a mission. There are hundreds of aging 747s, DC 10s, L-1011s, and other airliners parked in airliner graveyards. I have read accounts of drug smugglers acquiring and using such planes.

The fate of the jumbo jet and the two hundred thirty-nine souls aboard remains a deep mystery. And anti-terrorism authorities around the world have got a lot more worries on their minds.