Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Maylasian airliner possibility no one in the world wants to think about.

Okay, please buckle your seatbelts and return your trays and seats to their upright position.

There is an old line from a famous Shakespeare play, Hamlet, in which the line "The lady doth protest me thinks too much," is used.

Substitute "lady" with "China" and I think you have a good lead on what happened to Flight MH370--the missing Boeing 777 flight out of Kuala Lampur that has seemingly disappeared from the face of the earth.

A lot of theories have been bandied about, ranging from hijacking by Muslim extremists to crew incompetency to an onboard bomb or explosion to a new Bermuda Triangle. 

However, the one constant in the entire matter has been China's typical schizophrenic attitude towards any catastrophe involving anything that could possibly be connected to the Middle Kingdom or that they might even be inferred to be involved with.

Robber Barons

Communist China has a long history of being that fat, obnoxious bully on the school playground who starts a fight, then sits back and watches the other kids pummel each other. When questioned by the teachers or principal, the bully protests vehemently that he didn't do anything and is being picked on. Sometimes he even offers to try and break up the fight and be seen as the helpful hero.

China's history as a bully is well known. So is their history as thieves.

More pirated copyrights and trademarks and patents end up in Chinese manufacturing facilities than anywhere else in the world. From music to computers to military hardware to nuclear technology (thank you, Clinton administration), the ChiComs have proven to be the world's biggest robber barons.

When accused or caught, they become that obnoxious acne-riddled bully on the playground who goes bellowing and protesting so loudly and incessantly that everyone finally clasps their hands over their ears and says to hell with it. Let the damn thieves keep whatever they stole.

That's the Middle Kingdom of today.

Hi-hacked rather than hijacked

It is exactly zero secret that the Chinese have focused massive efforts into computer hacking and recruiting and training the world's best hackers to steal and redirect as much technology as they can to the rulers in the Politburo.

A simple Google search will net you page after page after page of evidence that would convict the Chinese in any courtroom anywhere in the world other than Bejing.

Of particular interest to the ChiComs these days is drone technology. Fly-by-wire controlled by computer operators from thousands of miles away.

What if the Chinese, who have proven they have the ability to hack into drones and redirect their flight, finally developed the skill to hack into the onboard flight computer of a major airliner?

Hollywood would have some geek with horn-rimmed glasses slurping on an energy drink massaging a joystick and actually flying the airplane. Uh-uh. That's not how it works. You still need a hands-on pilot to manipulate the controls. An airplane operates on three basic axis: Pitch, Roll, Yaw. While Airbus has developed the technology to land an airliner with hands-off input from the left (or right) seat, it is considered technology only to be used in the case of an emergency--although that may have changed in the recent past.

Where the real opportunity for a hacker exists is in breaking into the onboard computer and reconfiguring the GPS waypoints for the autopilot--of which the flights are preprogrammed before the flight even leaves the ground.

To simplify: The pilot gets the airplane off the ground and into a climb attitude, engages the autopilot and it does the rest right up to setting up for the final approach fix at the destination, to which the pilot then hand flies the airplane to the runway.

Economic Terror

The Chinese have been hacking into anything and everything military and aviation-related for the past decade. Imagine the economic terror they could wield if they demonstrate the ability to hack into and redirect global air and sea traffic.

Yes, sea vessel traffic. Oil is transported via tankers from the Middle East, as are commodities the Chinese need like grain and meat from Australia, et al. Today's seagoing vessels utilize the same GPS technology the airliners do.

Why pay for your oil and food when you can redirect the vessel carrying it to a remote area in the ocean where it is met by Chinese commandos, commandeered and the goods transferred to vessels flying the PRC flag? A ship is harder to make disappear than an airliner, but not that much harder--the ocean is a big place and it is deep.

We've been looking for, what, eleven days for a huge Boeing 777 and haven't found so much as a floating barf bag?

China is now professing "outrage" at Malaysia over the incident, claiming a backlash from their citizenry.

Give me a break. Too much citizen backlash in the PRC nets the outraged a 7.62mm bullet and the family gets a bill for the projectile that blew out the brains of their outraged next-of-kin. 

"The lady doth protest me thinks too much." Substitute "dragon" for "lady," and we have Hamlet in Bejing.

It's long been known among cops the world over that those who protest the loudest, longest and most vehemently are usually a good bet to be your most likely suspects.

Questions remain

So why an airliner from Malaysia? 

Why not? What is Malaysia going to do--send their ICBMs and B2s and highly trained commandos to China if it does turn out the ChiComs were behind this? Malaysia is that skinny, undernourished kid on the playground who goes about his own way and doesn't look for trouble. But when the bully sets his sights on him, the kid knows he is defenseless and ends up getting a bloody nose.

Secondly, most of southeast Asia is still primitive compared to Europe and North America. Should one of our flagship airliners or seagoing vessels end up missing, we would employ massive amounts of technology within hours of the event to find our airplane or ship. That didn't happen halfway across the world and in it not happening, should this turn up to be a nefarious event, it gave the guilty party ample time to hide or destroy the evidence.

In short, this would be an almost totally risk-free wet operation to try if the Chinese have indeed developed the technology to infiltrate and readdress information and commands on onboard computers. Only one U.S. citizen was on board, and our present administration has long since proven it could care less about U.S. citizens abroad who come into harm's way.

Zero risk operation

If this, in fact, is what happened, it may never be proven. I have little doubt that every soul on board flight MH370 is now dead and dead men tell no tales. That would only leave someone with a conscience to spill the beans and tell the world what really happened.

And conscience is something that is in short order in the Middle Kingdom.



craig said...

You a are the pilot so I will not address the possibility of GPS Autopilot takeover. I wil say that there are a.lot of runways in the jungles and that PRC is generally a good bet as a wiring partner in the dance. Nonetheless, human takeover is far more likely. Hear hoofbeats, expect horses, not zebras. once in possession, though, it might be easier than anticipated to create a drone bit to what end. in either case, it is easier and cheaper.to buy an aircraft with its attendant technology.

An Ordinary American said...

Oh, make no mistake about it--there was human complicity. The 777 is not a fly-by-wire (I'm pretty sure) like the Airbus. Someone has to man the front office.

But, the hi-hacking I'm talking about is with the autopilot, which WILL steer the airplane--that's what autopilots do, they hold a course.

Hack into the onboard flight computer and re-program the autopilot destinations and waypoints, reconfigure the communications transmissions, etc, and you have a very good test run.

Steer the airplane to where nobody will look for you for at least twenty-four to forty-eight hours, then splash it. By the time some errant seagoing vessel spots a piece of debris, the trade currents will have scattered it out a long ways.

I'm very familiar with SAR from my AF days and the search for MH370 pretty much followed standard procedures--but it did so based upon the original flight plan programmed into the onboard computer for the autopilot to fly. Deviate from that by a course heading of say, 30 to 70 degrees and you just played nine kinds of hell with SAR and recovery efforts.

I'm also not buying the "onboard fire so they pulled the buses (circuit breakers)" theory because I've yet to fly with any pilot from any country who, upon a cabin fire or smoke or other emergency, did not IMMEDIATELY declare the situation via radio so that IF it turned serious, SAR efforts had a last known locale.

That is beat into you early on in training and is brought up in every recurrent situation you can imagine.

I'm not sure we'll ever know the complete truth as to what happened.

But I damn sure have my suspicions.


Old NFO said...

MECONing is another possibility... Just sayin...