Well, we’re a week into the MH-370 story, and every day (almost every hour) the whole affair seems to become more like a plot for a bad technothriller novel. Now, there is conjecture that the aircraft was indeed under hostile control, could have made it far as the Kazakstan region, and may have been landed.
So, where do you land, and presumably hide, a Boeing 777 in the ‘stans? Obviously, you can’t show up at a civilian airport in a widebody airliner that the entire world is looking for, and hope to go unnoticed. Just not going to happen. So what are the alternatives?
Presumably, if you’re going to the trouble of stealing a 777, and don’t immediately fly it into a choice target or dive it into the ocean at transonic speed, spouting slogans on 121.5 while your compatriots take credit on social media, you have some further use for the aircraft. So, you’re going to need a facility that can handle a Triple-7 landing and taking off, and at least some basic aviation support infrastructure – fuel, fluids, some basic repair capability. You might be able to get a 777 into a more austere location, but getting it out again would be another matter. A long enough runway, and taxiways BUT, this place also has to be out of the way, and essentially vacated. Some place where an armed group could take over, and not raise a lot of eyebrows.
Answer: an abandoned military base. I would tend to think that these are getting an imaging once-over, at the least, by various “national technical means”. So, if it’s somewhere on land, whoever has it probably wouldn’t have a great deal of time to “use it or lose it”. Putting netting over it (a big enough task in and of itself) wouldn’t do the trick, and I’m betting that not many old airbases would have a hangar big enough for a 777. And if they would, that in itself would raise some eyebrows.
The end goal? Yes, the 777 has a pretty impressive payload. But if you had a terrorist nuke, there would be easier ways of getting a delivery vehicle that wouldn’t be as prominent. No, I tend to think if MH370 is intact and in terrorist hands somewhere, they’re not necessarily fixated on any particular target to drive it into. The real terror would be for MH370 to appear out of the ether as it were, crossing someone’s ADIZ. Transponders on and all. No attempt at camouflage. When the interceptors show up, no communications on GUARD. Force it to be shot down. And STILL don’t claim any credit. Don’t give the intelligence agencies any easy target. This would cause a great deal of havoc, even beyond 9/11. “Someone is out there, grabbing airliners, hiding them for relatively extended periods, and then setting them loose”. Paranoia would be at a a fever pitch, and the financial effect on airlines, and even the economy as a whole, could be extreme.
FWIW, I strongly believe the aircraft is sitting in pieces on the ocean floor or some Asian steppe. But the longer this goes on, the more the mystery, and possibility of more nefarious endings, seems to grow.