You all know about the Rocket and the 31 minute time difference, so I won’t waste your time recounting the scene here. Instead I’ll just start my ruminations on what that scene implied.
The rocket was fired from the Freighter by Regina and it flew to the Island, only to arrive later than expected. It is assumed that it landed 31 minutes late, based on the difference of the two clocks, but nowhere is there hard evidence that 31 minutes passed between Regina saying that the rocket should have arrived and it’s actual arrival. It is a safe assumption though.
Suffice it to say, an appreciable amount of time passed and the rocket finally arrived late. The presence of a clock as the cargo of the rocket, and Daniel’s first reaction being to compare the two indicates that the difference was expected and that the purpose of the experiment was to measure the actual difference.
Later, when Frank, Sayid, and Desmond are preparing to leave, Daniel warns Frank to “follow the exact same bearing we came in on. No matter what.” The exact bearing. In other words the same angle of approach with respects to the Island.
Why does he warn Frank of this?
Because the Rocket came in at some random bearing and experienced a time difference of 31 minutes. What if it came in on a different bearing? How long would they have had to wait? 31 hours? 31 days? Now consider the helicopter leaving the Island. What if they deviated from the bearing they approached on? What if Frank flies the helicopter away from the Island on some goofy bearing? Will they also experience a time difference, and if so how big of a difference?
Daniel is working with limited information, but he knows that they did not experience a great time difference on their approach so he concludes that if Frank follows the same bearing, then they should be safe.
Does all this talk of bearings sound familiar? It should. Ben told Michel that he should follow a bearing of 325 when he left the Island if he wanted to find rescue. Ben was concerned about the angle of approach with respect to the Island as well. Further evidence that the angle of approach is important.
The interesting question is, did Ben give Micheal a bearing that would result in no time difference or, more interestingly, a great time difference. Into the past perhaps? What better way to get rid of Micheal and keep him from ratting them out than to have him wind up in the past, years before the plane crashed?
Micheal would try to tell people about the plane crash, but no one would believe him because there was no plane crash yet. He and Walt would grow older, perhaps living under an assumed name since there is already a Michael Dawson running around.
Eventually when the plane does crash, People In the Know would put two and two together and realise that Michael came from the Island and that is where the plane must have crashed. Realising that search for the plane might result in the wrong people stumbleing onto the Island, these same People In the Know plant a fake plane in the Sunda Trench and then assemble their crew onto the Freighter. Michael and perhaps Walt are also taken to keep him from renewing his claim to be a survivor of flight 815 now that the plane had actually crashed. If Walt is on the Freighter, and if he and Michael were sent into the past as a result of the bearing given them by Ben, then this would explain his age quite nicely.
Depending on how much Naomi knew about those who hired her, this would also explain the seeming non-sequiter of her question of what to do if she ran into the Survivors of Flight 815 on the Island. Why would she ask this of Abaddon? If the wreckage was found in the Sunda Trench and she believed it was the real wreckage, she would have no reason. Yet she asked. She must know about Michael and his claims. She must know about the goal of the mission, its purpose to reclaim Ben and possibly Desmond as well. She would also have put two and two together and realised that Michael came from the Island and was therefore concerned about running into survivors.
This is all speculation based soley on the meager evidence of that one scene in The Ecconomist , but I felt it held some merit since it had such far reaching consequences, and suggested answers to some seemingly unrelated mysteries.