Theories – unsubstantiated by cogent proof – abound. Netflix last week came out with a three-part series which had three theories.
by Ruwantissa Abeyratne
“The loss of MH370 points us to an immediate need. A large commercial airliner going missing without a trace for so long is unprecedented in modern aviation. It must not happen again”. ~ Tony Tyler, Director General, International Air Transport Association (2014)
Just after midnight on 8 March 2014 A Boeing 777 Malaysian Airlines aircraft operating Flight MH 370 took off from Kuala Lumpur on its way to Beijing. 227 passengers and 12 crew were on board. A short time later, the aircraft was lost on radar between the air traffic control areas of Kuala Lumpur and Ho Chi Minh City. Neither the aircraft nor the passengers or anything related thereto has been found so far except for a part of a wing and a few other pieces seemingly coming from the aircraft which were found off the coast of the French Reunion islands, Madagascar, and Mozambique, spawning theories that the plane could have veered off to somewhere in the Indian Ocean – a fact claimed to have been supported by data driven evidence.
|The shadow of a Royal New Zealand Air Force P3 Orion is cast on low-level clouds while the aircraft searches for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the southern Indian Ocean on March 31, 2014.(Rob Griffith / AP)|
All that is known is that at around 1.01 a.m. the aircraft had reached an altitude of 10,700 meters. The source of data transmission in the aircraft – The Aircraft Communication Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) – on the performance of the aircraft had send its last transmission at 1.07 am and blipped off at around 1:19 A.M. and at 1.21 the last communication from the crew had been recorded whereupon the plane’s communication between the aircraft and air traffic control ceased. This was when the transponder that communicated with the air-traffic control had got switched off just prior to Flight MH 370 entering Vietnamese airspace over the South China Sea.
Theories – unsubstantiated by cogent proof – abound. Netflix last week came out with a three-part series which had three theories. One was that it was the pilot who veered off into the Indian Ocean from the designated flight path and crashed the plane in the sea after it ran out of fuel. The second theory was that someone or some people hijacked the aircraft and flew it perhaps to Kazakhstan. The third theory was that the plane was carrying dangerous cargo (which had been loaded in Kuala Lumpur under armed escort) bound for China which was effectively precluded from getting there, perhaps by someone carrying out an armed attack on the plane in mid air.
The three theories came “supported” by some incredible facts. With regard to the first theory, the pilot in command – a seemingly respectable and respected family man who had tons of experience as a pilot with no history of professional irregularity, could have knocked off the electronics, thus making the aircraft invisible to radar; de pressurised the cabin; and put all persons on board to sleep (while he had put on a long lasting oxygen mask and despatched the First Officer out of the flight deck and locked the door), just to trash the aircraft in the Indian Ocean when the fuel tanks emptied. This drastic theory was based on the fact that the pilot had applied a similar deviating route (of going way South into the Indian Ocean) on his home simulator for fun. Thankfully, all concerned ruled out the pilot theory, when the other two theories saw light.
The second theory was that there could have been a Russian connection, as three Russians were on board. One was in first class where here was a “trap door” on the floor, unlocked, which led down to the computer centre of the aircraft. One of these three, it was surmised, could have surreptitiously gone down and disabled all electronic functions of the aircraft, disabled the flight crew and taken the aircraft to say, Kazakhstan.
The third theory – interception – was that someone thought the huge consignment of dangerous and sensitive cargo should not have been allowed to get into the hands of the Chinese, therefore two large aircraft (with huge dishes of some sort fixed on them that could disrupt electronics on any object below them) flew over MH 370 and somehow and possibly “blew up” the aircraft when the captain of MH 370 refused the commands from above to land in some place like the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean. Or the aircraft may have landed somewhere in the Indonesian Islands and that is why there is no debris flying around.
Reparation for Loss
Watching this series, I felt intensely sorry for the families left behind who were interviewed. All of the above do not help the grieving father and husband who had lost his wife and two children; a wife whose husband left for Beijing for a job; and a young wife whose husband was a member of the cabin crew on the flight. They never returned.
Technically, as both Malaysia and China have ratified the Montreal Convention of 1999, the dependants are entitled to compensation for death or injury of the passengers on board (not the crew as they were under an employment contract with the airline). But there is a snag. The passengers are not proven to be dead or injured. This compensation would come from the insurers of the airline. As for Malaysia, as the aircraft bore the nationality of the State, some accountability would have to accrue. The BBC reported in 2014 that “the families of passengers on the missing Malaysian passenger plane have begun to receive initial compensation payments of $50,000 (£30,000). So far six Malaysian families and one Chinese family have received the money, and insurers are assessing the claims of 40 more Chinese families. Relatives of all 239 missing passengers can claim up to $175,000 each”. How this was computed was not revealed, although in the context of Malaysian Airlines, the Montreal Convention is clear – that once death or injury is established, there will be a preliminary sum of 100, 000 Special Drawing Rights (around 132,720 US $) which is paid with no questions asked. The plaintiffs can claim more than this amount but beyond the 100,000 SDRs the carrier can circumvent a claim for a higher amount if the carrier proves that: (a) such damage was not due to the negligence or other wrongful act or omission of the carrier or its servants or agents; or (b) such damage was solely due to the negligence or other wrongful act or omission of a third party.
There is also a provision – Article 28 – which admits of advance payments or upfront payments if required by national law, where the carrier should make advance payments without delay to a natural person or persons who are entitled to claim compensation in order to meet the immediate economic needs of such persons. Such advance payments do not presuppose a recognition of liability and may be offset against any amounts subsequently paid as damages by the carrier.
This absolute mystery at this time of sophisticated technology available through the application of satellite tracking cries out the question “why can’t we have a system of global tracking of any aircraft wherever they are”? Admittedly, on the face of it this is a simple enough question. However, for there to be global tracking of airborne aircraft (or aircraft under the sea or anywhere in the world for that matter) there would have to be some sort of reporting apparatus installed in an aircraft. Of course, one size might not fit all types of aircraft and such a system might take years to perfect.
Whatever the cause might have been for us to believe “beyond reasonable doubt” that there are no survivors; or whether the aircraft disappeared as a result of human intervention or technical malfunction, it is not for us to question our faith in whatever religious doctrine we believe in. As someone crudely put it: “shit happens”.
Ultimately it boils down to the grief-stricken relatives who are still waiting for an answer from the authorities. There is no point in blaming divine intervention. We bring these things upon ourselves. Rabbi Kushner has some wise words to say in his book When Bad Things Happen to Good People: “The painful things that happen to us are not punishments for our misbehavior, nor are they in any way part of some grand design on God’s part. Because the tragedy is not God’s will, we need not feel hurt or betrayed by God when tragedy strikes. We can turn to Him for help in overcoming it, precisely because we can tell ourselves that God is as outraged by it as we are”. Rabbi Yitzchok Kirzner, in one of his articles alludes to the possibility that : “not everything that takes place in the world has a purpose or comes from God. Efforts to reconcile the existence of evil and suffering in the world with God’s justice are a waste of time because they proceed from the false premise that everything that takes place in the world comes from God and has a purpose”.
I believe it is definitely not appropriate to ascribe the disappearance of the aircraft to an inadequacy of divine intervention. As the Dalai Lama once said: “According to the Latin root of the word “religion” would mean “to bind again”. Now how does the concept of binding or tying up come to be applied as the common term for all our various teachings? The common enemy of all moral precepts laid down by the great teachers of mankind is selfishness of mind. For it is just this which causes ignorance, anger and passion which are at the root of all the troubles of the world”.
Perhaps it all boils down to randomness, which seems to leave me with no alternative but to accept Rabbi Kushner’s wise words: “If you have been brave enough to love, and sometimes you won and sometimes you lost; if you have cared enough to try, and sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t; if you have been bold enough to dream and found yourself with some dreams that came true and a lot of broken pieces of dreams that didn’t, that fell to earth and shattered, then you can look back from the mountaintop you now find yourself standing on, like Moses contemplating the tablets that would guide human behavior for a millennia, resting in the Ark alongside the broken fragments of an earlier dream. And you, like Moses, can realize how full your life has been and how richly you are blessed. ”
This is how I see the passengers of Flight MH 370 to whom these thoughts are lovingly dedicated. I am still hoping they will come back to us.