A Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 carrying 239 passengers and 12 crew members has been missing after it took off from Malaysia for Beijing, China, a week ago. Nothing has been heard about its whereabouts, its destruction or even its safe landing somewhere. No word from any of the passengers or any communication from any of the crew. What a tragedy and a mystery!
The aircraft is considered one of the best and the safest in the world today. It is equipped with state of the art communication system linking with earth stations and satellites. It is almost inconceivable that such an aircraft can disappear without a trace from the face of the Earth in the 21st century. There has reportedly been no collision or engine failure or pilot error. So what happened?
Of course, this is not the first time in the history of aviation that planes have disappeared into thin air never to be heard of again. Let us consider the case of 'Stardust'—a civilian version of a Lancaster bomber registered with British South American Airlines in 1947. It was flying from Buenos Aires to Santiago, Chile, when it disappeared over the Andes mountains before its scheduled landing. 50 years later, in 1997, hikers found wreckage of a plane in a melting glacier. At least that disappearance was explained.
But what about a great maritime mystery in history? 'Mary Celeste' was a ship found abandoned and unmanned in the Atlantic in 1872, but the crew was never seen or heard of. Their fate is still a subject of intense debate and speculation.
One of the well known disappearances of an aircraft was the mysterious loss of the aircraft flown by 39 year old female pilot Amelia Earhart and her navigator on the last leg of a circumnavigation of the globe in 1937. The pair left New Guinea en route to tiny Howard Island. They were never seen or heard of again. No debris of the aircraft was found.
All these incidents make us wonder what the Malaysian authorities can tell the relatives about the possible fate of the passengers. There are of course many theories that have started circulating. There are speculations galore as to what may have happened. Officials and scientists from 50 or more countries are scanning a huge sea and land patch around where the Malaysian airlines was lost touch of.
Those of us who have seen an interesting film called Matrix will tell you that although the film is a fantasy, yet the life we know on Earth is nothing more than a highly complex computer simulation. It has been generated and imposed on our minds by more intelligent machines. This film has opened our minds to the real nature of the world at a subatomic level. At this quantum level, matter exists as both particle and wave. But there are yet no firm conclusions about quantum realities, only theories. In a way, our universe is a set of possibilities and our day-to-day experience is just the most probable. This leads us to the idea of multiple universes (or dimensions, if you may) created by other probabilities like time travel or other mind bending ideas. Reality, to many, is actually far stranger.
There is an excellent study of the strangeness of reality and the idea of multiple universes written by Jenny Randles in a seminal book called Time storms: Amazing evidence are time warps, space shifts and time travels. The writer shows that time travel is not only possible but is taking place regularly around the world. We are not insisting that the Malaysian aircraft has somehow broken the time barrier and moved through to a different time zone and space.
Randles collected many real life anecdotes from all over the world. She says that there is a peculiar energy cloud that can transport people and very often their vehicles into some unknown dimension. The people who are so transported miss time (from minutes to days), and disorientation over great distances, gravity anomalies, etc. Such clouds are known as 'time storms.' It could be the explanation for the paranormal phenomena. We are yet to understand time storm, but Randles thinks that it is already a part of our reality. The Malaysian aircraft incident has made us all sit up and start to think out of the box. There should be a believable reason behind the disappearance of this huge aircraft and its precious load.
Let us enumerate the usual reasons which could lead to disappearance of an aircraft. This would include a catastrophic structural failure of the airframe or the engines. The Malaysian aircraft was made of aluminum, which is susceptible to corrosion over time where there was high humidity. But the safety record of this aircraft is very impressive, and such failure is not likely.
A plane's integrity is sometimes threatened by pressurisation and depressurisation of the cabin during take-off and landing. In the case of this Malaysian aircraft it is highly unlikely to have suffered from any fatigue issues as it was relatively sparingly used. Bad weather is a possible cause of plane disaster. But the Boeing was designed to fly through most severe storms. During this particular flight all indicators show that there were clear skies along its flight path. Pilot disorientation could be a cause of a plane accident. Pilots sometimes take the plane off auto pilot. This could have made it go off-course, which was not corrected till it was too late. This could have led the plane to fly for 4-6 hours from its point of last contact, making it go 3,000 miles away from its course. The question is did this aircraft suffer this fate? Then where is its wreckage?
A bomb placed inside the plane could have disabled or broken the plane. So far, there is no evidence of that. Hijacking is another possibility. But the hijackers would land the aircraft at an airport and express their demands to the world. We are yet to hear of any such demands. Pilot suicide is another possibility. Some aircraft in the past were destroyed by deranged pilots who used the aircraft to commit such an act. Finally, an accidental shooting down of the plane by some country's air force can also be a possibility. It has happened in the past with other airlines. But no evidence is available in the Malaysian case.
Now that we have listed all the possibilities that could have led to the disappearance of the Malaysian aircraft we have nothing to fall back on but just anticipation and speculation. The incident is indeed disturbing for the world. But there is a strong hunch that an answer will soon be available.
The writer is a former Ambassador and a commentator on current affairs.