I see a few major problems with both the "guided missile" and Uighur hostage situation theories:
If I'm a terrorist planning to use an aircraft as a guided missile, my best option is to hijack it a la 9/11 and use it immediately
. This maximizes the element of surprise and takes advantage of natural confusion about what's going on; by the time the enemy responds, you've already done what you're looking to do.
My next-best option is to source a plane as quietly and discreetly as I can. A worn-out DC-10 from Biman (or an abandoned African 727, for that matter) bought for a few million dollars through a front company would be perfect. Call it whatever you want, a future executive jet, flying hospital, A&P trainer aircraft. As long as your cash is good, no one's going to pay much attention if you fly it off to a third-tier airport in SE
The absolute worst option
would be this scenario: hijack a modern, impeccably-safe airliner full of passengers, sit on it for over a week
, and in the process create one of the biggest stories of the last decade. The search for this aircraft has become probably the largest S&R operation in modern history. Every government in the region (and many well outside it) has been alerted and is looking for you. We now have thousands of internet volunteers combing through satellite footage trying to find 9M-MRO
. If radar operators weren't as curious as they should have been about unidentified primary returns a few weeks ago, you can bet they're paying attention now.
Terrorists maximize their impact by taking advantage of unprepared, complacent targets, not by alerting them to their own vulnerability. If you're trying to create a spectacular mass casualty event, an airplane is a force multiplier - a means to an end, not an end in itself. Hijacking one and then just making it disappear is completely nonsensical.
Uighur Hostage Situation
The Uighur hostage theory makes a bit more sense, but still has some big problems. First, do the flight crew have any known connection to Uighurs? It doesn't seem like it, and if a flight-trained passenger was responsible for this, why not maximize your impact by hijacking a Chinese-flagged aircraft? Malaysia seems like a rather odd target, since it's a country that has done a pretty good job of staying out of the major geopolitical fights recently.
Also, if you're the Chinese government and learn about the hijacking while the plane's still in the air, wouldn't you immediately blare the news to the high heavens? This gives China exactly what it wants most: moral authority to come down even harder on separatists and dissidents. Once you have every news outlet in the world running endless stories about Muslim extremists hijacking a plane full of peaceful calligraphers, you've won the argument whatever the outcome of this particular incident.
China has consistently tried to make its internal problems with the Uighurs part of the "global war on terror", just as the Russians have with the Chechens - and every time a Russian airliner gets bombed or a theater taken captive, Putin makes sure we know who's responsible right away. China would do no less.
Keynes is dead and we are living in his long run.