In Search of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370

Posted on 18 March 2014


Interrupting the news of the crisis in the Ukraine, global warming rearing its ugly head in the guise of the coldest North American winter in recent memory, the Chris Christie George Washington Bridge scandal, President Obama’s plummeting approval ratings, Jimmy Fallon taking the reins of the Tonight Show, and March Madness comes news of a mystery whose solution may require the talents of a Nero Wolfe or a Sherlock Holmes.  I speak, of course, of the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, an occurrence that has the world captivated in discussions of how and why a jumbo jetliner would vanish without a trace.


What actually happened to the airliner and its crew of 12 and 227 passengers?  The answer presently is that no one really knows.  Of course, if you watch, as do I, any of the cable news channels, there is no end to supposition and speculation as pilots – current and former, members of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and even airline passengers are trotted out by the media to present their “expert” opinions.  The theories run the gamut from terrorism to pilot error to aircraft failure to any other possible cause including alien abduction.


As in the disappearances of Amelia Earhart on her approach to Howland Island in the Pacific Ocean in 1937 and the five torpedo bombers designated as Flight 19 that vanished over the area of the Bermuda Triangle in 1945, we may never learn what became of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370.  Once communication ceased, the aircraft may have flown for up to seven hours, and the area in which the plane may have crashed or left this dimension is three times the size of the Continental United States.


As one of the many of millions of people following this story, I have my own thoughts.  The disappearance of this plane reminds me of a movie produced in 1939 entitled Lost Horizon.  The story focuses on an English soldier and diplomat, Robert Conway portrayed by Ronald Coleman, who was sent to China to rescue English citizens from the threat of Chinese warlords.  The plane carrying Conway is hijacked, unbeknownst to its passengers, by a mysterious Mongol pilot who makes one stop to refuel at a Tibetan village and then takes off and heads for the wild frontier of the Himalayan mountains.  The plane eventually runs out of fuel and crashes in the mountains amidst a wild snowstorm.  Everyone survived the crash with the exception of the pilot, and just when everything appeared hopeless for the survivors, a group of Tibetan natives led by a mysterious man named “Chang” arrives.  He informs the survivors that he is from a nearby lamasery and provides them with suitable clothing to make the treacherous and arduous journey back to the safety of the lamasery.


Reaching the entrance to the Valley of the Blue Moon, the survivors experience a remarkable change in weather as they enter the almost tropical climate enveloping the lamasery that is called Shangri-La.  Comparable to Heaven on Earth, Shangri-La was founded by a French missionary named Father Perrault who is proclaimed as the High Lama.  During Conway’s short stay, the High Lama tells him that he was brought there to be the Lama’s successor and carry on the mission of Shangri-La.  Conway’s younger brother, however, insists that they must return to civilization.  Reluctantly, Conway gives in to his brother and they leave the Valley.


During the ordeal Conway’s brother commits suicide, leaving Conway to battle his way to civilization. Upon reaching a small village and almost exhausted he collapses and is picked up by the natives who return him to health.  Conway continues on and eventually meets up with a search party sent to find him, although the ordeal has caused him to lose his memory of Shangri-La.  On the voyage back to England, he remembers everything; he tells his story and then jumps ship.  The searchers track him back to the Himalayas, but are unable to follow him any further.  Conway manages to return to Shangri-La and the emissaries sent to retrieve him return home to tell the strange tale.


Although this tale is a work of fiction, often truth is stranger and infinitely more baffling.  And so, here is my hope.  Perhaps, rather than resting at the bottom of the Indian Ocean, the passengers of that ill-fated aircraft, by some strange and miraculous intervention, have reached their Shangri-La and the prospects of the long and beautiful life of which we all dream.

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