What has become of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370? Twenty-six countries are taking part in the search, which has already covered most of two oceans and everything between. As the hours turn into days and days into weeks since the airplane and its 239 passengers and crew disappeared on March 8, more and more theories abound.
I was listening to an Atlanta talk radio station a couple of days ago, and they were discussing the disappearance. One caller gave his opinion on what happened. He said one of two things happened. The first was that terrorists hijacked the airplane and have flown it to a Middle East country where it and its passengers lay hidden. He speculated that the terrorists will either announce that they have the passengers and try to extort ransom from the 14 countries that had passengers on board, or they have already killed all the passengers and are turning the aircraft into a giant flying bomb that they will use on a selected target. That was his first theory.
His second theory? The plane and its passengers have been abducted by aliens.
I think his first theory about terrorists involved is fairly reasonable. Aviation experts are now saying they believe the plane could have been hijacked, given that changes were made to send the plane off course and to turn off its communication equipment. But what happened after that is just circumspect, because there has been no hint of the plane in the water or on the ground.
His second theory about aliens kidnapping the plane sound a little farfetched? Maybe not as much as you might think.
Over the last 700 years of recorded history, there have been thousands of ships that have vanished at sea, and since the Wright brothers first took off from Kitty Hawk, NC, in 1903 in the first powered airplane, dozens of planes have seemingly disappeared in mid-air. The most famous area of disappearance has been the Bermuda Triangle, which runs from the tip of Florida to Bermuda and Puerto Rico, and it is still claiming victims. Between 1945 and 2008, there have been 145 planes and 533 people that have gone missing in the triangle. The last event was on December 15, 2008 when a twin-engine Britten-Norman Islander took off from Santiago for New York with 12 persons on board. After about 35 minutes from take off, the aircraft fell off the radar. A massive search operation was launched but the aircraft was never seen again.
Numerous ships have disappeared there, too, with the biggest mystery being the USS Cyclops. A giant fuel carrier that supplied the U. S. Navy during World War I, the Cyclops and its crew of 309 disappeared without a trace in 1918. The last known disappearance of a ship was in 2003 when a newly married couple went fishing in their brand new 16-foot boat. They and their boat were never seen again.
But planes and ships have disappeared in other areas as well, such as along the east coast, in the Great Lakes, in Alaska, and around the world. On Dec. 30, 1812, The Patriot sailed from Charleston, SC, bound for New York City. Theodosia Burr Alston, the First Lady of South Carolina and daughter of former U. S. Vice President Aaron Burr, was among the passengers. The Patriot was never seen again.
In 1937, America’s ‘Lady Lindy,’ Amelia Earhart, took off from a small island north of Australia with her navigator Fred Noonan in a Lockhead Electra, during part of their around-the-world journey. Their destination was Howland Island, and even though a support boat heard radio transmissions from them, they were never seen again.
On June 23, 1950, NorthWest Orient Flight 2501 took off from New York City, headed to Minneapolis with 58 passengers and crew aboard. They vanished somewhere over Lake Michigan. Only some unidentified human remains were found by searchers.
Plausible theories have been made for some of these disappearances, things from magnetic anomalies on the seabed floor messing up compasses to sea quakes to giant waterspouts to simple human or mechanical error. But nothing can be proven. So why not alien abduction? Right now it is as good a theory as anything else.
Larry Stanford may be reached at 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @LarryStanford7.