you see it on radar, now you don't. Poof! Where did it go? It
isn't easy to lose something as big a Boeing 777 we are told.
Modern airliners have tracking equipment to tell air traffic
controllers where they are, but somehow the systems have gone
"poof" also, faster than a magic genie.
The Malaysians assume leadership in a search,
running around like a bunch of Keystone Cops, bumping into each
other, searching the last known location with ships and planes,
We are educated by CNN about transponders.
Sounds like something from Star Wars, but is simply a piece of
equipment that sends out signals of the plane's location. Well,
maybe it is a bit like Star Wars. But transponders can be turned
off like a radio. All it takes is human intervention.
Oil spills found early in the search turn out to
not be jet fuel. The Malaysians goofed again. Then the
Malaysians revealed that they received a final bleep of radar
that indicates the plane changed course, leading to even more
The Chinese get in on the act with their
satellites. After all, most of the people aboard were Chinese.
They had a vested interest. But their satellites found only
floating junk and they were embarrassed that they even mentioned
The US comes blazing in with spurs on their
boots and a wagon load of experts. They discovered
"pings" had been sent out in spite of the Malaysian
conclusion that nothing was heard after the transponders quit
working. We were educated by TV on what a ping is, as if we have
never seen a submarine movie or played pong in the early days of
Meanwhile everyone seems to have a theory about
what might have happened, everything from pilot suicide to alien
abduction. It seems that all Keystone Cops are not Malaysian.
Experts are interviewed and they give expert
opinions and expert information about explosions, catastrophic
failure, wings falling off, and all sorts of remarkable events
that ordinary people could never imagine.
What normal people imagine is something more along the order of
a hijacking or terrorist takeover. Those we have experienced;
those we know can happen.
Meanwhile, the theory about two stolen passports
being used by terrorists bites the dust. It is only Iranians
trying to immigrate illegally. It happens every day, they tell
us. Why should an airline bother with checking passports against
a data base?
The trail of pings is followed like breadcrumbs
and leads to the Indian Ocean, so the US decides that might be a
good place to look for the plane. Others follow the breadcrumb
trail and speculate that the plane may have landed undetected on
an island not much bigger than the plane. With every press
conference the search area widens until it includes half of
The experts eventually agree with the rest of
us, it was a deliberate act. But our nagging questions continue.
Why are black boxes on airplanes instead of data being beamed to
a satellite? Why can't our intelligence satellites spot a huge
air plane when Google Earth can see our car in the driveway and
Phone Finder can pinpoint a lost iPhone?
We must find this plane and regardless of the
amount it costs, regardless of the amount of time or effort. We
must find out what happened to make sure it never happens again,
to be sure it wasn't a practice run for something bigger, to be
sure the plane will not be used in further sabotage, to give
closure to the incident for relatives of people aboard, and to satisfy human curiosity.
We have found a modern airliner with all the
bells and whistles can disappear right under our expert noses.
And maybe, just maybe, that means 911 will happen again. And
that is the really scary thing.