MH370: Cashing in on aviation mystery

MH370: Cashing in on aviation mystery
A woman writes a message on a board for family members of passengers onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 at the Malaysian Chinese Association headquarters in Kuala Lumpur on April 6, 2014.

As the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 goes on, some have taken the opportunity to write a book or make a movie on the tragedy.

It will be six months tomorrow since the Beijing-bound MH370 mysteriously disappeared from its radar screen on March 8.

Countries have come together to mount one of the largest search-and-rescue (SAR) operations the world has ever seen but they seem no closer to finding answers as to how a Boeing 777 could vanish without a trace.

As the search goes on, at least six books on MH370 have already hit the bookstores.

Two are foreign while the other four are local. And it looks like all want to cash in on the moment and the mystery. The "depth" and "quality" of these books vary drastically.

Of the local books, the most "comprehensive" seems to be Membongkar di Sebalik Misteri MH370 (Unravelling the Mystery of MH370) written by Mejar (Rtd) Mohammad Qayyum A. Badaruddin.

In the book, he gives information on KLIA, its Air Traffic Control Tower (which is the second highest in the world), details on how the flight data recorder, the cockpit data recorder and the radar system work as well as the assets deployed by countries for the SAR mission, such as the Bluefin-21 and the towed pinger locator.

There is a rather detailed chapter that lists aircraft accidents and disasters worldwide, dating back to 1922. This chapter alone is 80 pages long, making up one-third of the book! Then there is a two-page chapter on aircraft that have gone missing but were later found.

One of the oldest cases he cites is the US Air Force aircraft Globemaster C-124 with 41 passengers and 11 crew members which went missing in 1952. That wreckage was found 40 years later, in 2012, at a glacier near Anchorage, Alaska.

Mej Mohammad Qayyum also touches on 10 US bases in the world including Pine Gap and Diego Garcia, the latter which some have linked with the disappearance of MH370.

He also lists 25 possibilities of what might have happened to the aircraft, including a catastrophic engine failure, hijacking and even alien abduction!

None of these is new (except perhaps for the alien abduction theory) as they have been discussed extensively in the social media which covered practically every angle of the story that gripped the world for weeks.

In two or three chapters, the author becomes a bit "preachy", writing about lessons to be learnt from the incident, among them, that death can come at any time and to hold strong to one's faith.

Mej Mohammad Qayyum also has a special message in the book for MAS. He suggests that a doa (a Muslim prayer) be recited before every flight takes off and that announcements made should start with the word Bismillah (In the name of God) and that the crew should remind people of the Muslim prayer time during the flight.

He also says that meals served to passengers regardless of religion should be halal, meaning there should no alcohol on board.

"The fitting uniform of the stewardess is a temptation (for men) and not appropriate given the small confines of the aircraft," he writes.

Another book that's somewhat unusual is Tragedi MH370: Solat Ghaib, Mafqud dan Pelbagai Hukum (The MH370 Tragedy: Prayer for the Invisible, Missing and Other Laws). The author, Dr Zulfikli Mohamad Al-Bakri, looks at the disappearance of MH370 from a religious perspective.

He highlights the antics of the bomoh group in trying to locate the missing aircraft, and describes this as making the country a laughing stock in the world and giving a bad name to Malaysia and Islam.

(A few days after MH370 went missing, bomoh Ibrahim Mat Zin performed rituals at KLIA using zam zam (holy) water, two coconuts, a "magic" walking stick and carpet to supposedly find the plane.)

As for those on the flight, Zulfikli says that according to Islamic jurisprudence, if a person is missing for a long time and no one knows if he is alive or dead and there is no body recovered, no debris nor scientific evidence, then he should be presumed alive.

And the presumption that he is alive should be for a four-year period, unless the authorities declare they are certain he is dead, he writes.

Zulkifli also suggests that the doa be read before takeoff and after landing, to stop serving alcohol on flights, and for the stewardesses to be given a choice whether to cover up their hair and body according to Islamic principles while on the job.

The other two locally published books are MH370 Diselubungi Misteri, Spekulasi dan Konspirasi (MH370 Shrouded by Mystery, Speculation and Conspiracy) by Abu Mufizul Izzi and MH370 Misteri, Teori, Tragedi (MH370, Mystery, Theory and Tragedy). The latter is a compilation of newspaper articles and photos mostly from Utusan Malaysia and Daily Mail.

One of the two foreign books, titled Good Night Malaysian 370: The Truth Behind the Loss of Flight 370, does not seem to be available in local bookstores just yet. It's written by commercial pilot and air accident inspector Ewan Wilson and a New Zealand reporter Geoff Taylor, who claim to have visited the departure lounge where the MH370 families were gathered and also had interviews with relatives of the MH370 pilot Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah as part of their research for the book.

Their conclusion on the incident is one that has already been discussed before.

In Flight MH370 The Mystery, which is widely available at bookstores here, the author, Nigel Cawthorne, puts out the theory that MH370 might have been accidentally shot down by US and Thai fighter jets during a training exercise but this was covered up.

Cawthorne, who has no aviation expertise, has been criticised for his insensitivity, the graphic imagery he uses to sensationalise what the passengers might have been going through during the flight and capitalising on the mysterious disappearance of the plane. The book was written just two months after the plane disappeared.

Riding on the interest in the missing airline, Indian film director Rupesh Paul, rushed into making The Vanishing Act: The Untold Story of the Missing Malaysian Plane, which is no more than a fictional thriller. The trailer has been released. And it is actually quite distasteful and disres­pectful to the families of the MH370.

Looks like even in times of intense pain, difficulty and uncertainty, there will always be those who want to make a quick buck.

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