Fear in flight: A personal account of a “terrorism dry run”

Malaysia Airline

CHARLOTTENC, March 19, 2014 – With the on-going feeding frenzy over the missing Malaysian jetliner, FOX News analyst KT McFarland made an interesting observation Wednesday when she said, “let’s flip the topic from what we do or don’t know about the missing plane to what does the event and our response to it reveal about us?”

It is a valid perspective that few, if any, have focused upon. McFarland later added, “We have seen in the past that terrorists are nimble. They see our response to events, learn from it and incorporate it into their own planning. For the sake of argument, let’s assume this was a terrorist dry run, or maybe a hijacking gone wrong, or a suicide mission by someone aboard the plane, or even a terrorist plot in midstream with more to come.”

READ ALSO: Obama’s NSA speech proves government can’t prevent terrorism in a free society

KT McFarland is dead-on accurate in her analysis. In our ADD society where microwave ovens do not heat food fast enough, the West always underestimates the infinite patience of global terrorism. Weeks from now when all the hullaballoo over Malaysia flight MH370 has been forgotten by the media, terrorists will be incorporating what they have learned from this incident into new methods of chaos.

In the end, it doesn’t matter whether the jetliner disappearance is the result of a catastrophic event, pilot suicide, a hijacking or any other possible scenario. What does matter are the weaknesses the enemy has gleaned from the mass confusion that has resulted.

That is not to say that answers, whatever they may be, are not important. They are. But the flow of information is just as significant to those who would do us harm as it for us to learn why and how it happened.

While living in Saudi Arabia in 2003, I was en route from Amsterdam back to my temporary desert home. The KLM flight I was flying on made a brief stop in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates before completing the final leg of the journey to Bahrain.

READ ALSO: Malaysian airliner highlights global security and media weaknesses

Just before the doors closed for departure, four male passengers boarded the plane. Though they were dressed in Western-style clothing, their dark complexions and beards were a strong indication that they were of Arabic descent.

Despite their tardy boarding, the four men were in no hurry to take their seats and buckle in so the plane could taxi to the runway. They were loud and boisterous and their seats scattered throughout the cabin. It was entirely possible that they were last-minute stand-by passengers, but it was also conceivable that their seat assignments had been purposely selected to be randomly dispersed rather than together.

While taking their seats, one man placed his carry-on luggage in front of the emergency exit door. Another stood up, turned toward the rear of the plane and snapped pictures with his cell phone of his friend in the back. For several minutes there was constant disruption and turmoil despite flight attendant pleas to take their seats for departure.

After an attendant cleared the carry-on luggage from the exit space and stowed it, the four men eventually took their seats and the plane was able to take off.

Though the flight was only about an hour in length, the four men were constantly getting out of their seats, rummaging through overhead bins and their under-seat carry on bags to pull out various electronic devices such as CD players, headphones and laptops Throughout the flight they were continuously visiting one companion or another. The disturbances were steady, bold, loud and obnoxious for other passengers and flight personnel through the duration of the flight.

The plane could not have landed in Bahrain soon enough. At the time, I was convinced that I had personally witnessed a terrorist training mission to determine just how much disruption could be achieved during a one hour flight. The fear I experienced in that short journey was the most frightening hour I have ever spent on an airplane.

READ ALSO: Defense of NSA spy programs: Comply or terrorists will win

Perhaps it was completely innocent. Quite possibly it was just four young men having a good time before returning home. But given the times in which we live, the region of the world where the flight was taking place and the numerous distractions created by those four individuals, there is still no doubt in my mind that I witnessed a terrorist dry run..

As KT McFarland put it, “while we may never know what happened to the Malaysian plane, we have given anyone who is watching a primer on how to exploit our weaknesses.  This is not the last time an airliner will go missing.”

I for one agree wholeheartedly with McFarland. When the Malaysian 370 story is over, complacency will not be an option.

Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe. Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com).  

Read more of What in the World and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News

Follow Bob on Twitter @MrPeabod


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  • Haley

    very intriguing…

  • Bren Pool Vignaroli

    Excellent writeup and one I can certainly get behind!

  • Li Tyler

    Very scary!

  • Judge

    What if it really was just an accident and they went off route to find the nearest landing strip?

    • commonsense4sure

      You in La La land or what… and by the way I’ve
      got some swamp land in Florida for sale …

  • Susan

    Actually, the disappearance of the jet is of great importance, because it is now known that it was intentional. Many experts say it didn’t crash. So, where is it? My guess is Pakistan or Iran to be loaded up in the future for a destination to who knows where? My guess on that one…..Israel. Our world totally changed after 9/11. We were told that we must now expect the unexpected. So much time has passed that we’ve become complacent yet again. Complacency is a dangerous thing nowadays. Terrorists are very patient people. They can wait years. We haven’t heard the last from this particular jetliner.

    • SMJ

      But OBL is dead and his followers are on the run. Nah, we are safe and sound. It’s 3 am, do you know where our leaders are?

  • OSW

    But don’t “profile”! Someone’s feelings may be hurt!

    • Spicy Ray Swinehart-Patrick

      Yep, don’t want to be hurting feelings do we, someone might feel sad.

  • Carla Ann Parks

    And what will we do when Israel is dust… Say we should have done more.

  • Ex-Twidget

    I own a handy little ‘SPOT’ gps locator device which, when turned on, bleeps it’s GPS location to a satellite every 10 minutes. That info is then relayed to a mapping website. Anyone who has the URL of that website can follow my 10-minute ‘breadcrumbs’ along the map, whether I’m driving or flying or using a recreational vehicle or whatever. The battery-operated device – just a little larger than a cellphone – costs less than $200 to purchase, and the yearly subscription is also in that same range.

    Point being, that with the millions of dollars worth of electronics installed on each airliner, why don’t they spend chump-change and install the equivalent of ‘SPOT’ on each airliner, with its own isolated battery-backed power supply that cannot be reached or turned off from anywhere inside the plane? This device is so small, it could be easily and quickly retro-fitted into the tip of the vertical stabilizer (or one in each wingtip, for redundancy) with no other modification to the airplane except to route a small power cord to it’s location.

    It’s not rocket science, and it certainly would eliminate future mysteries regarding “where is that damn airplane RIGHT NOW?”

    • Don

      They possibly may have that technology, and in my Opinion and its just my opinion, they may have a clue where the plane is but don’t want the technology out to as how or why they knew..

  • Jolie Joseph Rahn

    The problem is….given a long enough time, we will get complacent again. It’s a given for the majority. For the rest of us…we sleep with one eye open at all times.

  • Brian Murphy

    thanks for sharing your concerns; seems very suspicious to me

  • Grinningbear

    Why do we seem to be so confused by Asymmetrical warfare ? Why do we allow ourselves to be placed in indefensible positions? Why do we still believe that it is someone else’s duty to protect us? … Now just imagine what would have happened if you had challenged this behavior…. Draw your own conclusions as to why we are being conditioned… just say’n

  • IngeC

    The ‘PC’ will kill us all! Common sense no longer applies.