Thursday, September 04, 2014

Aviation Update

Regarding the eleven Libyan aircraft that supposedly disappeared from Tripoli's main airport, is this real?   Should people worry?   Maybe, maybe not.

Here's some scuttlebutt from a pilot forum..
Basically, all A/C that have been trapped in Tripoli when fighting started mid-July are either destroyed (that's sure for an AAW A330) or at least damaged. As the airport has been a war zone for more than six weeks with no access to civilians, it is very hard to get a status on those A/C. It is reasonable to presume that they are at least damaged (A/C structure is not very bullet-tolerant or RPG-tolerant) and unable to be used in any operation (including "9/11 style"). It is estimated that AAW and LAA have each less than half of their fleet still fit to fly.
In other words, the aircraft at the airport, such as the one in the picture above, aren't going anywhere any time soon.  One of the commenters linked to a Google document that listed an inventory, showing that most of the planes based in Libya are either destroyed by the fighting or flown out to Malta or Paris. But not all of them are accounted for.  "Plane spotters", those guys/gals who like to watch planes and tend to track 'tail numbers', have been talking about this for a month now, mostly saying "not to worry".

This ties in with what Snopes says about the issue:
However, there have been no statements from the State Department, the Department of Defense, Homeland Security, or any other authority warning of stolen airliners. The national threat level has not been raised. Algerian and Moroccan military and air defense, already on high alert due to the unrest just across their borders with Libya, would undoubtedly have noticed multiple flights of unidentified passenger aircraft.
Maybe they would, maybe they wouldn't.   If the aircraft flew south through Libya into Mali without a transponder turned on, for instance, few would notice. MH370 flew through radar coverage as a primary target (no data tag) and the operators missed it.  The Snopes article was also bizarrely weak on facts to support a 'probably false' conclusion.  It's interesting too that several of the discussion threads on the missing airplanes have been pulled from their site.  

Snopes largely based their 'probably false' judgment on the fact the US Government hasn't raised any red flags yet.  But would they?   Especially if governments knew that jihadists had possession of eleven commercial aircraft?   Seems that could be panic-inducing.  A more reasonable assumption is that western intelligence would be quietly trying to find the aircraft to seize them back, or worse case, blow them up on the ground.

Another problem with the Snopes piece is it claims these news stories were based on rumors out of North Africa that somehow got passed along and were taken as facts by western newspapers.  But in reading the various reports they all cite "intelligence agencies" or a "US official":
A U.S. official familiar with the reports told the Beacon: "There are a number of commercial airliners in Libya that are missing. We found out on September 11 what can happen with hijacked planes."
Snopes did not include that dynamic in their report, ie, that western intelligence was actually getting their info from the newspapers, who were reporting as gospel rumors out of Africa.  Let's hope western intelligence isn't relying on outfits like USA Today or World Net Daily in getting their info, because if so they need to change their moniker to drop the word "intelligence".

At the same time, the respected Janes Defense doesn't think much of this threat, which may say something.  There is a lot of hype going on with ISIS, Libya, and the coming anniversary of 9/11.   It's not outside the realm of possible for the mainstream news orgs to consider a story like this "too good to check", at least until later. 

Bottom line, more information is needed before any 'probably false' or 'head for the hills' judgments can be made.   If "western intelligence" is truly concerned perhaps everyone else should be as well--but so far we only have some heightened military awareness from Libya's neighbors (standard considering the capital and main airport have fallen) and some leaks.  Assuming this to be a credible threat assumes a lot, but eleven airliners is far too close to the number projected in Project Bojinka to outright dismiss any plots.  As we saw with 9/11, they never give up on their plots. 

1 comment:

Debbie said...