The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and the subsequent finding that two of the passengers on board had stolen passports has stirred up plenty of speculation that terrorism could be involved.

TWA 800 reconstructionAnd it could. But, without additional information there are also numerous other possibilities.

The criminal community often will use fraudulent documents and stolen credentials for movement, particularly over borders where movements are easier to track. The individuals using the stolen identities could be smugglers (human, drugs, whatever), identity thieves, international art thieves (probably a stretch but whoknows), or any other numerous possibilities. They could even be people who bought those identities on Craigslist or through some other means, and were traveling on them as they could not get their own legitimately.

Or, they could be terrorists who planted a bomb on the plane.

What is important to remember is that right now, we don’t know what happened. I recall in the summer of 1996 when TWA 800 vanished over the skies of Long Island and for nearly 18 months, not only did a nation decide it was terrorism, a special presidential commission (known as the Gore Commission) investigated shortcomings in aviation security based on the belief it was terrorism. If we put the conspiracy theories aside for a moment (not dismissing them just not addressing them right now), the NTSB would eventually decide that the crash of TWA 800 was an accident – a problem with the fuel system in the plane, to simplify the explanation.

The other fact that is important to remember, particularly for American’s who frequently fly internationally, that non-U.S. flagged carriers generally follow ICAO regulations not U.S. security and safety measures, which can be markedly different. What may be possible on one airline may have already been addressed from a safety, security, policy or procedural perspective with another airline or country.

What we know right now is that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is missing and there are lots of people that could use our prayers and good thoughts. Once we know more about what it is, we can move forward with trying to tighten up that gap, security, safety or otherwise.

Adopting an Airport Text for Your Classroom?Get it Now