Fiction: something feigned, invented, or imagined; a made-up story.
Status: MISSING is a work of fiction. However, parts of the story are true or based on truth.
On March 8, 2014, Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 227 passengers and 12 crew members aboard, did go missing over the Indian Ocean,1 and I, by no means, intend any disrespect toward their memory.
Following the initial reports that the MH370 had gone missing, people around the world held their breath as officials tracked the planes flight path using satellite signals sent from the twin jet engines to their manufacturer, a standard feature to track flight hours and address maintenance issues. Thousands of man-hours and hundreds of millions of dollars were devoted to the search. After many months of extensive searching revealed no sign of the aircraft, the hunt was abandoned and the plane and everyone aboard was considered lost at sea. To this date, only a few pieces believed to be from the plane’s fuselage have washed ashore on islands in the western Indian Ocean.
The manner of MH370’s disappearance spawned any number of conspiracy theories. Everything from alien abduction to hijacking to pilot suicide was considered. Status: MISSING is based on my own theory, which I shared with anyone who would listen, that the plane had been hijacked by someone on the ground using drone technology. In a final report issued in July of 2018 regarding the incident, Malaysian officials stated, “No matter what we do, we cannot exclude the possibility of a third person or third party or unlawful interference.” Head investigator, Kok Soo Chon, told reporters, We are not of the opinion that it could have been an event committed by the pilot.”
In another interview, Tun Dr Mahathir, former prime minister of Malaysia has suggested the plane might have been hacked and controlled remotely. “The technology is there. You know how good people are now with operating planes without pilots. Even fighter planes are to be without pilots,” he said.2
In my story, Agent Sloan blames herself for a failed attempt to recover Top-Secret drone technology she, and the American intelligence community, believe has been adapted to hijack airliners while in flight. Truth: Military (armed) and intelligence gathering drones, UAV’s (unmanned aerial vehicles), are remotely flown by trained pilots, sometimes from thousands of miles away. Truth: The CIA did lose an RQ-170 Sentinel drone in Iran, near the Afghanistan border in December of 2011.3 Iran issued differing accounts, first saying the drone was shot down then later saying the Iranian military hacked into the aircraft’s control system. U.S. officials claim there was a malfunction that led to the stealth plane straying across the border where it eventually crashed. Reportedly, no attempts were made to physically recover or destroy the technology. Agent Sloan’s failed mission is purely straight out of my imagination.
Connecting the dots between a lost drone and cyber-hijacking was less of a stretch than I initially imagined. Fly by Wire4 technology is the standard for commercial aircraft these days. Computers and electronic switches have replaced manual flight controls, reducing weight, conserving fuel, and improving safety—unless a writer with a vivid imagination decides to create a scenario where a plane is remotely hijacked. Can it be done?5 The answer is—maybe.6 Tests have been done that seem to suggest it is possible and government officials are aware of the danger.7
Have I played fast and loose with the facts? Perhaps, but remember, this is a work of fiction. I’m allowed to make things up. In the mid-1800’s, Jules Verne imagined an electrically powered submarine and a ‘projectile’ that carried people to the moon and back. More recently, The Jetson’s7 television cartoon featured a robotic maid, a robotic vacuum cleaner, a flat screen television, and a tanning lamp, to name just a few. Do you recall the laptop computer in 2011: A Space Odyssey? And the list goes on.8
To sum it up, one pilot I spoke to said this, “If it hasn’t been done already, someone is working on it.”