Missing Plane – Human Error or Human Failure?

A tweet, on Saturday, by former US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott gave birth to yet another conspiracy theory.  It adds to several other theories that already abound on the Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 that disappeared nine days ago.

Talbott had tweeted: “Malaysian plane mystery: Direction, fuel load & range now lead some to suspect hijackers planned a 9/11-type attack on an Indian city”.

So, is it possible that whoever piloted the plane, or took control of the plane, did so – to attack some Indian city in the 9/11 style attack done by Al-Qaeda?

And then, maybe, on the way it somehow crashed into the sea?

I don’t know that. But what I definitely know is this.

That unless this mystery is solved, or in some way laid to rest, there would be no closure. There would be no end to the theories that will be propounded, deliberated, criticised and publicized in days and weeks to come.

As of yesterday, 43 ships and 58 aircraft from 14 countries were searching for the plane. And, there has been no success so far.

There are many questions that baffle me, as a layman, when it comes to new communications technologies.

These are not the days of Amelia Earhart. This aviator had become the first female to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1932. And then, in 1937, when she attempted to circumnavigate the globe, her plane went missing. And it has still not been found.

But, that was then.  What about now?

These are the days of sophisticated satellite connectivity. So, shouldn’t we be able to find out, with some level of accuracy, where the plane went missing?

These are days of Global Positioning Systems (GPS).  Millions of automobile drivers on earth, around the world, are using this navigation system through satellite interactivity, to reach their destinations every day. They do it, amazingly, with accuracy of less than 5 meters.

As a lay man, I ask, Can there not be two-way communication systems effectively connecting moving objects with satellites, so that at any given time, one can pinpoint locations of objects like aeroplanes?

And should they not be made without any capability at all – for pilots to switch them off? And should planes not be continuously tracked by airline companies, whether the pilots like it or not?

These are the days of geo-stationary satellites, underwater sonar technologies, subterraneous fiber optic cabling, and radio frequency identification (RFID) systems. Then how can a huge Boeing 777-200ER plane just go missing, without even a small distress signal?

This jet, I understand, is laden with massive amounts of technology, including a transponder, UHF and VHF radios, automatic beacons, GPS and computer communications systems, as well as the cell phones of the passengers and crew.

So, how can everything fail, at once? How can it leave us with no clarity on where it could have gone, even to the nearest thousands of kilometres?!

Personally, I have come to look at this entire issue of missing plane from only two perspectives.

Firstly, though we boast of great advances in communication and transportation which made our planet very small, we must accept the reality that our planet is huge. If three-fourths of its surfaceis covered only by water, then we must consider ourselves greatly blessed that aeroplane accidents are still very very rare.

Secondly, though we speak of secure communications and global connectivity, we must accept the reality that available communications technology is not completely secure, and not entirely fool-proof.

Some of my readers may feel that I am using a poor analogy, and some readers may feel I am comparing apples with oranges, but let me firmly state my opinion.

I believe that we must first plug the loop-holes of terrestrial communication on the surface of our own planet first, and make it stronger and safer.

We can then go working on huge outer space projects, setting up extra-terrestrial communication technologies to conquer other planets.

It is time to reset or reorganize our priorities.