Friday, March 14, 2014





(Friday March 14, 2014 Eagan, Minnesota) While it has been almost seven days since the Malaysia Air Lines Flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Beijing, China “went missing” the search efforts seems more daunting than it was six days ago. Points and counterpoints, suppositions, innuendos and recriminations from military and civilian officials in countries throughout this region are being more hotly argued. With scant evidence of any kind to go on and, what evidence the Malaysian and Chinese governments may or may not have in their possession, they have not released for others to analyze.  But there has been enough leaked by various functionaries but even these highly placed confidential sources are reporting inchoate, often contrary information. 

There has been a subtle shift in both the officials in  the Malay and Chinese governments as they have conceded that possibly the plane was “sabotaged”, “hijacked”, “stolen” (?), or some other nefarious feat has rendered the Boeing 777-200 all but vanished from the planet.  Perhaps there is something lost in translations between the different countries and ethnicities.  For example, employing the term “sabotaged” implies that the aircraft was in some way tampered with or otherwise programed to fail once underway.  Given the latest radar data made available, Flight MH370 veered very sharply west at approximately the same time the flight data recorder ceased sending telemetry to the ground.  Such an abrupt, sudden maneuver appears to be indicative of some “human” control, of a distinct intention to alter the plane’s course.  By the time the plane’s transponder stopped making “pings” with ground radar and tracking stations the Flight was allegedly determined to have passed over the northern tip of Malaysia and over the Malacca Straits.

For the sake of discussion let’s say the plane was hijacked, “stolen” if you like, now the possibilities have gotten everyone’s attention.  Not just anybody can fly a 777 with sufficient competence to execute some of the maneuvers that are being reported to have occurred.  Embedded within the telemetry, transponder and other sensory output devices on the aircraft and in her engines, is the indication that the plane flew an additional four, and perhaps up to five hours more after it went missing from ground tracking.  There is also evidence of steep and rapid alterations in altitude and course corrections that strongly suggest an experienced pilot was at the helm.

So now we have someone in control operationally, of the jumbo jet.  Was it their intention to land it somewhere and save it for later use in a terror attack?  Will is suddenly reappear on ground radar stations next week, next month or next year only to have it crashed as a gigantic airborne “dirty bomb”, or fully laden with more readily accessible conventional explosives?  You see where this is going.  It could at this very minute be hidden at some large facility in a remote portion of the already remote islands and atolls that dot the seas and oceans in that part of the world, being repainted and retooled for a suicide mission.  Once again the counter terrorism conundrum rears its evil head.  Intelligence, military and law enforcement agencies around the world have profound reasons to be concerned. 

As was written here yesterday (  if in fact this turns out to be the real scenario it would have required the participation of many people and the cooperation of authorities who could be bought or bribed or have their families held hostage until the mission is completed unless they do what the terrorists ordered of them.  A 777 requires an enormous runway construct on which to land and take off.  It would likely need to be refueled or, at, least topped off, depending on the target the terrorists have in their designs.  These facts would almost certainly suggest that this episode is a “state sponsored” terrorist act.  It is hard to imagine a feat of this scale, scope and technical sophistication succeeding without people with a certain “skill set”, without very specific knowledge and   aviation and technical experience.


Within a few miles of each other in non-nondescript, largely windowless buildings along the roads of a sprawling industrial park with some of the streets named after famous pilots and astronauts  is the home of the most highly regarded airline pilot schools in the country.  Some of these schools offer flight simulator time for active commercial airline pilots as well.  It seems odd that there is this concentration of these highly technical schools and facilities just a few miles from the Interstates that loop around the Twin Cities.  But these elite colleges have been here for decades.  In many ways these colleges had to actively seek and attract students in the years between the end of the Viet Nam War and the “First” Gulf War.  Traditionally commercial pilots had received their training while in the military.  As our conventional military was downsized during those years the result was a shortage of young men and women being trained to be commercial aviators and those pilots the military did train left for higher wages to reap the rewards of commercial aviator’s salaries once their military obligations were over.

A leading instructor at one of these aviation colleges, who also serves as a consultant to some private airlines, spoke today under the conditions that neither his employers name nor his full name be used.  Once agreed, this gentleman, Walter, as he preferred to be addressed, shed some light on the as yet unknown fate of Flight MH370.  “First, I will tell you, the only way I am able to envision an aircraft of that size and weight and capabilities speed-wise crashing into the ocean without a trace are that the pilot, or someone, intentionally literally “nose-dived” it into the sea.  You know, by about this past Tuesday, I was already speculating that the plane had been commandeered by some country or group acting either with the consent of a government or on their own.  If this is the case, this is a very serious concern.”

Walter cut his aviator’s teeth in the heat of the Viet Nam War.  He flew 52 combat missions over Viet Nam between 1967 and 1968.  He was given his own Air Squadron and eventually returned to the cockpits of the large transport aircraft of the day.  He retired as a Colonel from the Air Force, spent another 12 years flying commercial jetliners from the DC-3 to the 747 and has been in his current position for just over a decade.  Walter continued, “It is the duty of all pilots to aviate, navigate and communicate. The responsibilities of a commercial pilot with upwards of 220 passengers aboard or, even one, are enormous and that is why continued training in simulators where we can throw all sorts of unforeseen problems at them to be solved is vital.  If somehow these pilots were compromised, directly or indirectly, well, it is difficult to say given how few facts we have to go on.”


It has been alarming to witness our Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and other components of our National Security, Homeland Security and State Department to backslide into the muck and mire of complacency, ineptitude and narrow-mindedness that had them paralyzed prior to September 11, 2001. The sad state of affairs, as revealed by the 9/11 Committee and numerous scholarly and journalistic accounts, show a lack of any form of intelligence “sharing” between the CIA and FBI and also a pervasive environment of risk aversion that essentially rendered national security efforts as virtually useless.  One just needs to recall 9-11-01 and the story as reported in newspapers and on TV in the days immediately following the catastrophe.  It was a mere 24 hours before closed circuit video clips showed two of the hijackers boarding a plane in Portland, Maine. Officials in every agency involved bemoaned after the fact that, they had no way of knowing beforehand yet, within days, the identities of all the alleged hijackers were plastered across the front page of the New York Times. Oh yes, there were all sorts of dots not connected, all variations of information not shared, and “chatter” that would not be deciphered until well after September 2001.  The CIA and FBI not only blew their tasks regarding the 19 Arab terrorists who committed those and they have also been way behind the curve of virtually every important intelligence issue ever since.  They did not see the ”Arab Spring” arising just as they did not know Russian president Vladimir Putin was going to invade Georgia in 2008.  They were blind to the nature of the enemy in Afghanistan and Iraq just as they were in Benghazi.  With all these past recent years debating the National Security Agency’s (NSA) ability to collect and store “metadata” from American citizens, our Intelligence community once again finds they are involved in playing the dangerous game of “catch up”.

We are prepared to amend or retract all or portions of that last paragraph if the mystery of Flight MH370 ends by due course; that it is proven not to be a terrorist act, an incidence of hijacking or “piracy”.  If and when this plane is found and, it can be determined within a high degree of certainty, that there was no nefarious activity behind its demise, than we will not judge so harshly.  Let’s all hope that there was a mechanical or structural failure.  If it proves to be otherwise we will all be left questioning just how far we and other countries have come, regarding security issues.  We learned some crushingly horrendous truths post 9-11-01 and it would be criminally negligent if this mystery ends with that 777 crashing into some building in some city somewhere.  The mystery deepens with each passing day.

Copyright The Brooding Cynyx 2014 © All Rights Reserved

Thursday, March 13, 2014




(Thursday, March 13, 2014 NYC)  The infamous “Black Boxes” that are actually orange in color are the Holy Grail in the aftermath of a plane crash.  These boxes contain in flight data and flight deck voice communications; two of the most important elements to recover after any type of aviation accident.  They are constructed to be virtually impervious to all the stresses and strains a failing plane may be subjected to as well as water and the ability to survive a fiery crash on land. 

Much is being made of the fact that some involved in the search efforts have said that it appears that the plane’s transponder may have been “shut off”.  What good is a transponder if it can be “shut off”?  One would think that the transponder is as important as the black boxes that are constructed to such rigorous standards.  That the control switches for the transponder are on a panel on the flight deck accessible to anyone familiar with the instrumentation is very difficult to comprehend.  It seems to defeat the entire purpose of having such a device at all.  Transponder “pings” are continuously sent telemetry signals regarding altitude, direction, and airspeed.  On this particular aircraft even the massive Rolls Royce engines sent data about the engines function to their headquarters.

As the search for the missing Malaysia Air Flight MH370 continues with an increasing tone of recriminations between the Airlines and the hundreds of family members of those missing, civilian and military air traffic controllers, various governments from Thailand to China, and independent aviation experts, the recovery operations appear confused.  The scant evidence that is available including the last radar appearance of the flight and “pings” sent to satellites from various components of the sophisticated engines and avionics systems is emerging and actually generating more questions than answers.

There has been reporting in the last 24 hours claiming that the plane flew for an additional four hours after it was last detected.  This has raised a new theory that is as disturbing as proof of this being a terrorist strike.  Some are speculating that the plane might have been hijacked; hijacked in the older definition of the term.  If this is the case and the plane was hijacked and “taken to another place for another use in the future” that means that there are 236 people being held hostage somewhere. It would be a huge coup if a terrorist cell has managed to hijack the Boeing 777 and enormously embarrassing to the security services in Kuala Lumpur and other foreign airports. High ranking officials at the international law enforcement agency, Interpol, have already criticized failures in many airports around the world when it comes to the new security protocols and practices initiated in the wake of September 11, 2001.

There has been growing concern from security professionals in various federal agencies that many overseas airports have relaxed, a few basically ignoring, some of the boarding procedures and that they pose a lack of security ready to be exploited by terrorists.  Complacency is as great a force to be aware of as are the terrorists themselves. They have clearly demonstrated their ability to remain patient and focused; they simply do not count time as we in the West do.  As Steven Coll wrote in his book titled “1000 Years For Revenge” the ancient cultures that have produced many of the most virulent strains of terrorists, mujahedeen, and the practice of terrorism include Egypt, Iran, Syria, Yemen, and Afghanistan.  In ways both societally and economically many of the young educated men in these countries assign blame for the problems in their native land as the result of some form of American “Imperialism”  or “aggression” usually accusing America as simply trying to seize total control over their natural resources, namely oil. There, hostility is fed by radical clerics, while in important ways they seem torn and disconnected from the modern world yet many covet what the West has to offer. The 19 September 11, 2001 hijackers had no reluctance frequenting strip clubs and drinking alcohol yet they somehow managed to live among us with a burning hatred and evil resolve that they were actually able to carry out their suicide missions.


One need to be of a certain age to recall the days when hijacking airplanes was in vogue with terrorist of every stripe.  They would commandeer a jet and make demands of final destination, the release of “political prisoners”, cash or asylum.  The 1970’s can be considered the “hay day” of air plane hijackings the overwhelming majority of which ended in a bloody mess for the hijackers.  They soon realized that no country will bargain with terrorists or make deals such as swapping hostages for prisoners.  (Although we now know that that is precisely what Ronald Reagan did in 1980)  

Then they changed tactics. There were several incidents where terrorists planted explosives on planes and, in probably the worst of all such callous deeds was the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over the small Scottish village of Lockerbie on December 21, 1988 that took the lives of all on board – 243 passengers and 16 crew) as well as 11 people on the ground.  It took years for some reasonable amount of understanding all aspects of that case.  Terrorist agents working under the direction of the Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi planted an explosive device in a piece of luggage that exploded over the sleeping Scottish town.

If, in fact it turns out that Flight MH370 has been hijacked in the conventional sense of the word, it could usher in a new generation of terrorists employing more sophisticated hijacking tactics including circumventing airport security, forging documents and well planned and financed support operations.  Hijacking planes with passengers becomes an international incident of epic proportions as Embassies and Consulates representing the interests of the hostages from their countries rapidly becomes a confusing snarl of protocol, diplomacy, and national interest for all involved.

One also needs to realize that if Flight MH370 was hijacked surely the hijackers were working in concert with others on the ground; one cannot simply just land a 777 anywhere.  It requires a long tarmac the kind only seen at civilian and military air ports.

Speaking with a high ranking analyst with broad experience in the Intelligence community earlier today, she commented on the fact that due to the many hot spots around the world, “It is not too far a stretch to consider that the missing Malaysian air plane was indeed hijacked.  And, we should not be too narrow minded and automatically suspect terrorists from the Arab or Muslim community.  Russia’s president has amassed a large number of troops, artillery and attack aircraft on the western border of Ukraine.  Crimea is becoming more destabilized every day with ethnic Russians ready to fight to regain the protection and, at least in their minds, privileges of once again being part of Russia.”

For the time being the mystery of this Flight and all aboard remains vexing.  All we can do for those passengers and crew is offer wishes and prayers and for all involved with the recovery send them prayers of resolve.  Theirs is a difficult task given the immense dimensions of the search area.  Until the wreckage of the plane is discovered or the details of a hijacking revealed we wait: just another reminder of the times in which we live.  Security and vigilance are what we have at our disposal daily and we are all this together.  Who knows when, where or how terrorists will strike us next.  As virtually every person working in the Intelligence field be they CIA, DOD, NSC or NYPD it is not a matter of “if” they will try to attack us again, it is only a matter of “when”.

Copyright The Brooding Cynyx 2014 © All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, March 11, 2014








(Tuesday March 11, 2014 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)  The search efforts continue today over a vast expanse of oceans and dense jungles from this capital city northeast towards Viet Nam over the South China Sea and has expanded to the north westward over the Adaman Sea.  The combined search area covers approximately 226,000 square miles. Aircraft and naval ships from a number of countries in the region as well as from the United States have deployed resources to the massive search which has expanded significantly since the plane carrying 276 passengers and crews went missing sometime last Saturday night local time. The transponder signal was lost after and the exact location that radar last made contact with the Boeing 777 remains in dispute.  That no debris or other evidence of the massive jet own by Malaysia Airlines has been located is confounding officials conducting the search as well as aviation experts and aeronautical engineers. 

Of all the possible explanations and theories being debated about what happened to Flight MH370 one that seems most difficult to comprehend is that the big plane somehow “disintegrated” in midair.  Yes, the square miles being searched by air and sea are enormous; the vast expanse of the sea can swallow up all manner of boats, ships and planes of every kind.  However, for a jet liner like the Boing 777 to disintegrate without a trace in some ways defies logic.  The plane itself contained structural elements that would float; the seats and luggage of the passengers would also be visible for some time before they too were swallowed down into a sea that tells no tales.  There have been two oil slicks reported off the coast of Malaysian closer to Viet Nam’s air space that have been accessed to not be consistent with the slicks the 777 would have left. 

Perhaps it is just the term itself that is so unsettling – disintegration.  For most of us it implies a cataclysmic event of such force and magnitude that it all but rendered the plane, its parts, the passengers, crew and luggage into small enough particles that have been forever stolen by the prevailing winds.  In recent memory there have only been two other large commercial jet liners that allegedly “disintegrated” and they both transpired on September 11, 2001.  The plane that crashed into an open field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania and the plane that crashed into one segment of the Pentagon both leaving no recoverable evidence of the planes or passengers.  For vehicles of this size to merely disintegrate, no matter the circumstances and details such as on board fuel and airspeed at the time of the crash, seems preposterous. The two equally violent collisions that transpired that same day toppled the mighty Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.  But from the 16 acre site of twisted steel, pulverized concrete and the total contents of 220 acres of office space, several important parts of those planes were recovered. 

Perhaps the wreckage or remnants of Flight MH370 will be discovered in the dense high canopied jungle of one of the countries in the area.  That type of event would leave traces although they may not be immediately identifiable while the focus has been focused on large sectors of the high seas.  It appears the lack of accurate data concerning the last time radar bounced off Flight MH370 and the lack of any distress signals or transponder “pings” may have erroneously directed the searchers in the wrong direction.  That is hard to determine at this time.  Surely with each passing hour without finding a trace significantly diminishes the chances of rescuing possible survivors. 


Even the most cursory glance of the statistics of commercial aviation over the last 35 years clearly illustrate, considering the millions of in-flight hours, that flying is generally speaking the safest mode of commercial transportation.  The numbers of flights into and out of American airports per day and the massive numbers of passengers moved is staggering.  At any given time of the day or night there are approximately 3,620 commercial air planes over the continental United States.  More Americans die in a one month period on our surface roads, highways and byways in one month than have died due to fatal aviation events collectively over the last 6 years.  The comparison as a simple ratio proves this point unequivocally.  The aviation industry learned many of its lessons the hard way.  Flawed design, in flight stresses, structural load were the cause of most of the fatal flights well into the 1960’s.  Throughout the 1970’s with the advent of modern technology in the form of Computer Aided Design (CAD),
Vital advancements in materials sciences such as metallurgy, plastics, insulations, and epoxies dramatically altered the way planes were designed and constructed while more regulated maintenance and service standards were initiated due to increased scrutiny from Federal Aeronautics Administration (FAA) and the fledgling National Transportation Safety Board, a federal agency tasked with investigating accidents in all modes of the transportation industry from trucking to flying.

The forward progress propelled commercial aviation (and, for that matter, Military aviation as well) to newer and safer methods of developing and incorporating the latest advances in sophisticated technology and all the corollary branches of the sciences thereby heralding a new age in commercial flight.  Since the late 1970’s aviation accidents, be they midair collisions, catastrophic failures, human error, natural anomalies and even on the tarmacs around the world have declined to be, not that any loss of life is not awful, statistically negligible.

The flying public has enormous confidence in the flying industry and that too can be statistically tracked; every year the number of commercial passenger flyers increases.  There are those in certain businesses that fly as regularly as others walk, drive or take mass transit to work every day.  It is not uncommon for these frequent flyers to amass anywhere from 5 to 25,000 air born miles annually.  If ever there was an American industry that grew at such an amazing pace as aviation it is hard to find.  From the Wright Brothers initial first flight at Kitty Hawk to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking the dusty plain of Tranquility Bay on the Lunar surface a scant 60 years separated those two historic achievements.  Think about that fact for a moment, if you will.  It almost boggles the mind to consider the tremendous amounts of intelligence, imagination, engineering, and the constant unrestrained march forward that took man from a sandy beach in North Carolina to our most visible and close celestial relative, the Moon.


All of the sophisticated technology at our disposal today does not protect us from, nor immunize us against, mysteries.  Happenstance and circumstance are as prevalent today as they were during the Stone Age.  For all the vast quantities of knowledge we’ve acquired, accumulated, documented and proven since the dawn of civilization that has been expanded upon exponentially in the last 100 years, there remains so much unknown and, quite possibly, unknowable.  Our world, the nature of our being, sentience and workings of our brains retain their secrets as do the cold, dark depths of our oceans.  Oddly, the total vacuum of space is more accessible than the deepest water covered terrains on Earth. There have been periods in the past where we made huge strides in understanding of our physical world and in medical science.  The high technology age we are still in began in earnest perhaps with the Manhattan Project during World War II that produced controllable nuclear fission initially for use as a weapon of mass destruction and afterwards as a source of relatively clean, affordable energy.

The Digital Age was born full term when President Bill Clinton predicted in 1992 that technology; networking and even unforeseen applications were providing us entry onto the “Information Superhighway”.  And that it has done beyond even some of the most forward leaning minds in the field back in the 1990’s.  Our world today is defined by devices and capabilities; by such sophisticated technology that it is now everything from our communications and power grid, economy, trade and all the other elements of a globalized world and it is the fiber optic cables that weave this intricate, complex tapestry together.

So we read about a jumbo jet suddenly vanishing from the skies as if into some sort of stratospheric “Bermuda Triangle” and have difficulty understanding the difficulties of locating this missing aircraft.  As the science and craft of aviation developed there were instances that remain mysteries.  The female aviator Emilia Clark’s plane has never been located and an entire squadron of Army Air Corps B-25 planes vanished without a trace after a training mission in 1944.  Yes, by today’s standards the capabilities available in those much earlier days of manned flight seems dangerously, actually recklessly primitive. We have such confidence and reliance on our digital devices, networks, advanced radar, sonar and technological prowess that we give little thought to how it works and what its limitations are.  Oh yes, it all comes with some degree of limitations.

When NASA landed two men on the Moon and safely returned them to the Earth they did so armed only with slide rulers and tables compiled from what was at the day cutting edge machinery, massive house sized computers that could only read the punch cards fed by hand into the machine.  There is more memory by a factor of several thousand megabytes in an iPad of today than the 64 bytes in the Lunar Capsule in July 1969.  Much of the technology developed during the “Space Race” had applications on Earth; from materials and the miniaturization and computing capacity of silicon chips, to strides in a wide array of the sciences, NASA provided a Return on Investment more than the entire SkyLab, Shuttle, and Space Station Earth orbiting vessels have collectively. But here on Earth we have so much more to learn and, although the demise of MH370 might remain a mystery forever, it is a tragic mass fatality event and a harsh cup of cold reality tossed in the face of our high-tech world where knowledge is a Google search away; we communicate with people half a world away via satellite, organ transplants and imaging modalities have revolutionized how the diagnosis and treatment of patients is conducted.  Sometimes it just seems like there is nothing we cannot do; that there is an “App” for everything and anything and if a system “crashes” for a mere hour or two millions of users around the world feel untethered and lost.

We need to remain a respectful sense of humility; we are often humbled by the forces of nature that have been the arbiters of our biosphere, ecosystem and atmosphere for several hundred millions of years; a length of time it is truly difficult to comprehend given our oh so brief time on Earth.

For the time being we are left with a profound mystery.  Mystery not only surrounds the disappearance of the plane and all its contents.  The possible reasons for what precisely brought this plane from out of the sky to God knows where are already generating the usual conspiracy theorists.  Sure, anything is possible.  It could have been some catastrophic systemic failure that occurred in a nanosecond; it could have been a bomb, some sort of terrorist event, it may have been mistakenly shot down by the military of any of the countries in the region.  The pilot or pilots may have deliberately crashed their jet.  Conjecture and supposition is the coin of the realm today as the search continues.

Mystery, sometimes very heart breaking mystery keeps us grounded.  No matter our sophistication and all that we can do, there will always be the next Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy or Andy, a South Pacific tsunami, earthquake, drought or any number of the arrows Mother Nature has in her quiver.  She largely allows us to think we are in control, that we have mastered our environment from the microbial level to the universal laws.  But every now and then she slaps us with some calamity and it is Her, perhaps, who took Flight MH370 and left us to figure out where it is.

(Some of these links have excellent graphics)

Copyright The Brooding Cynyx 2014 © All Rights Reserved