Pilot pours cold water on MH370 fire hypothesis

The Beijing-bound MH370 has now been missing for 12 days after it disappeared with 239 onboard due to what authorities believe to be 'deliberate action'. — Reuters pic
The Beijing-bound MH370 has now been missing for 12 days after it disappeared with 239 onboard due to what authorities believe to be 'deliberate action'. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, March 20 — A pilot’s premise that Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 went missing due to a fire onboard was again shot down by another aviator, who said the “plausible” did not gel with available fact and aviation practice.

Writing to news website Business Insider to challenge the hypothesis put forward by pilot Chris Goodfellow that the Beijing-bound plane was lost to a fire, the commercial pilot said reactions of those flying the plane was not consistent conflagration on the plane.

While pilots are trained to descend quickly in the case of fire, the pilots of MH370 did not do so, he pointed out.

“In the case of MH370, a turn was made, but no descent was initiated at that time, nor was any communication with ATC made,” said the pilot who flew the Boeing 777 as well as 757 and 767 aircraft.

“Additionally, the aircraft has been reported to have climbed to FL450 (45,000ft), and descended to FL250 later in the flight. If the flight crew had been incapacitated, this could not have occurred.”

He added that Boeing 777 was equipped with sensors in the wheel wells that would have warned pilots of a fire, even if smoke was not detected early on.

“Additionally, the cockpit is equipped with full-face [oxygen] masks that provide a safe breathing atmosphere to every pilot.”

The pilot added that there was no plausible reason that no attempt was made to contact ground controllers unless the person “in control of the cockpit did not wish to communicate”.

A fire of the extent that might possibly incapacitate the crew would have quickly consumed the Boeing 777, he said, whereas MH370 went on to fly for another six hours.

Using the example of Swissair Flight 111, a McDonnell Douglas MD11 that crashed near Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1998, he pointed out that the crew lost control of the plane 14 minutes after a fire was discovered and the plane crashed soon after.

“This is yet another clue that points away from an inflight physical, mechanical or other type of emergency,” he added.

Goodfellow had previously said events on MH370 was indicative of a crew battling with a sudden electrical fire.

He said such a fire would explain why some of the plane’s electronics, such as the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) and transponders, were disabled.

The aviator also said the altered trajectory indicated that the pilots on MH370 were heading for Langkawi International Airport in the Straits of Malacca, possibly to avoid flying over the Titiwangsa Mountains in the event the plane was forced to descend.

But he also suggested that the plane’s disappearance indicated that the pilots could have been overcome by smoke, and that the plane then flew on to its doom.

Yesterday, a former US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator also discounted the theory that was gaining traction among some aviation circles, saying that pilots would have sufficient warning to avoid the proposed scenario.

“Typically, with an electrical fire, you’ll have smoke before you have fire. You can do some troubleshooting. And if the systems are still up and running, you can get off a mayday call and pilots can put on an oxygen mask,” he added, according to the NBC report.

The Beijing-bound MH370 has now been missing for 12 days after it disappeared with 239 onboard due to what authorities believe to be “deliberate action”.

Earlier this morning, Australian maritime officials confirmed sighting several debris on satellite images which they said forms “the best lead” in the hunt for the missing aircraft.

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