Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: 'Electrical fire caused plane to crash into the sea'

Pilot Christopher Goodfellow also claims aircraft was not hijacked

Kashmira Gander
Saturday 22 March 2014 00:51
Royal Australian Air Force Loadmasters, Sergeant Adam Roberts (L) and Flight Sergeant John Mancey (R), preparing to launch a Self Locating Data Marker Buoy from a C-130J Hercules aircraft in the southern Indian Ocean as part of the Australian Defence Forc
Royal Australian Air Force Loadmasters, Sergeant Adam Roberts (L) and Flight Sergeant John Mancey (R), preparing to launch a Self Locating Data Marker Buoy from a C-130J Hercules aircraft in the southern Indian Ocean as part of the Australian Defence Forc

As international crews prepare to continue their search operation to find the missing Malaysian Airlines aircraft on Saturday morning, an experienced Canadian pilot believes he may have worked out the fate of flight MH370.

Christopher Goodfollow, who has flown multi-engine aeroplanes for 20 years, wrote in an article published by Wired that he believes the plane was hit by an electrical fire which caused it to crash.

He claims that during this type of fire, the crew would cut the electrics and restore each circuit until the faulty one is identified – leading communications and transponders to cut out.

He added that on the hot night, in a heavy plane, the fire could have been caused by a slightly deflated front landing gear tire setting fire, and burning slowly. He claims the resulting smoke would have filled the plane, and filtered smoke hoods issued to pilots would only be helpful for a few minutes.

Recognising something was wrong, Goodfellow claims the crew would have known where the nearest airport was, which he believes explains why the plane swerved left. Goodfellow believes the plane would have then been directed across the Malay Peninsula and towards the airport located at the Malacca Strait.

“It probably was a serious event and the flight crew was occupied with controlling the plane and trying to fight the fire. Aviate, navigate, and lastly, communicate is the mantra in such situations,” Goodfollow wrote.

“If something happens, you don’t want to be thinking about what are you going to do–you already know what you are going to do,” he added.

“What I think happened is the flight crew was overcome by smoke and the plane continued on the heading, probably on autopilot until it ran out of fuel or the fire destroyed the control surfaces and it crashed.”

Of the search, which has now extended from the Kuala Lumpur Beijing flight path to the coast of Australia, he said: “you will find it along that route–looking elsewhere is pointless.”

He also disregards speculation that the plane was hijacked, and alleges it would have been acceptable for a pilot to ascend to 45,000 feet to quell a fire by sinking to the lowest level of oxygen at which a plane could continue to stay airborne. He adds that reports that it dropped to 25,000 could have been generated by a stall.

“The pilot may even have been diving to extinguish flames,” he claimed.

“A hijacking would not have made that deliberate left turn with a direct heading for Langkawi. It probably would have weaved around a bit until the hijackers decided where they were taking it.”

“But going to 45,000 feet in a hijack scenario doesn’t make any good sense to me.”

He concludes "Two plus two equals four. For me, [the fire] is the simple explanation why it turned and headed in that direction. Smart pilot. He just didn’t have the time."

Goodfollow's theory has been debunked online.

In an an article on Business Insider a retired pilot who flew 777-200ERs said it was unlikely the crew would have shut off the transponders to deal with the fire.

“The checklist I utilized for smoke and fumes in the B-777-200ER does not specifically address the transponder being turned off,” said Michael G Fortune.

Speculation by Goodfollow comes as two Chinese aircraft are expected to join Saturday's search 400 miles off the coast of Australia, while two Japanese aircraft will arrive on Sunday, acting Australian Prime Minister Warren Truss said on Friday.

Experts say it is impossible to predict if the satellite images showing two objects suspected to be debris from the plane, which are the basis for Saturday's search, are from the aircraft. But officials have called this the best lead so far in the search that began almost a fortnight ago after the plane vanished over the Gulf of Thailand on the overnight flight.

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