Was Malaysia Airlines Capt.trying to save Flight 370?

Was Malaysia Airlines Capt.trying to save Flight 370?

On Tuesday morning, Wired magazine published a piece by experienced pilot, Chris Goodfellow. In this piece, Goodfellow explains in detail why he believes the plane had a smoldering fire in the cockpit, why the transponders were taken out, and why the plane was flown erratically. For him, all of these actions point to a fire.

It was a very hot night when Flight 370 took off. Goodfellow explained that when conditions are hot enough, and the runway long enough, the front tires may sometime catch fire from the heat. When the plane’s landing gear is retracted into the plane, the smoldering tire takes the smoke and fumes directly into the cockpit. It can also cause an electrical fire. He writes:

“…there is the possibility, given the timeline, that there was an overheat on one of the front landing gear tires, it blew on takeoff and started slowly burning…Yes, this happens with underinflated tires. Remember: Heavy plane, hot night, sea level, long-run takeoff…Once going, a tire fire would produce horrific, incapacitating smoke. Yes, pilots have access to oxygen masks, but this is a no-no with fire. Most have access to a smoke hood with a filter, but this will last only a few minutes depending on the smoke level.”

It makes sense, then, that Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah would turn the plane around and head for the nearest, easiest airport to make an emergency landing. This happens to be the 13,000 foot airstrip at Palau Langkawi, and not back to Kuala Lumpur. The path the plane took would have taken it directly to the Langkawi airstrip, located in the Malacca Strait, the original area where authorities believed the plane went down. While the airport in Kuala Lumpur requires getting beyond 8,000 foot ridges, Langkawi's airstrip is easily accessible and bordered by the sea.

But what about the transponders and the erratic flying method? Goodfellow explains that also. He writes:

“In the case of a fire, the first response is to pull the main busses and restore circuits one by one until you have isolated the bad one. If they pulled the busses, the plane would go silent. 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.”

So, the pilots likely pulled the plugs on the transponders and all other instruments in an attempt to figure out which one was causing the problems. Makes sense.

Goodfellow is hesitant to rely completely on the radars that indicate extreme altitude fluctuations. However, he does believe that flying the plane to 45,000 feet could have been a desperate effort to kill the fire by denying it oxygen. Remember, the higher the altitude, the less oxygen, and fire depends on oxygen to stay alive, which is why Shah and his co-pilot could not use their oxygen masks. A sudden dive could point to either an attempt to extinguish the flames or a temporary engine stall, which Captain Shah was able to recover from.

While authorities have looked at possible reasons why the two pilots might have hijacked the plane or even committed suicide while taken more than 200 people with them, Goodfellow calls Captain Shah a hero for his efforts to get the plane to Palau Langkawi. Like the author of this piece, I have seen few perspectives from an experienced pilot’s point of view.

Despite an oil rig’s worker claim that he saw a plane go down in flames in the South China Sea, Goodfellow’s theory is the best bet for finding the plane. Although it was a warm, clear night, what the oil rig worker saw could literally have been anything.

So, why did the plane continue sending pings, indicating that it was still in the air? It's possible that the plane was set on autopilot, and that Shah and co-pilot Hamid were overcome by the fumes and lost consciousness before they were able to land the plane. If this is the case, then it could indicate that the fire was not extinguished and continued to burn.

Taking the plane to 45,000 feet while the plane was in distress could have caused passengers and crew alike to lose consciousness, which would explain why no family members received any phone calls or text messages. The flight tower is said to be unmanned between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., which would also explain why the radar failed to pick it up.

It seems like a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances occurred on board the plane, and like most people, I believe everyone is likely dead in the bottom of the ocean. The problem is, no one knows exactly where to look.

Instead of media outlets and the authorities looking for a reason to vilify and demonize Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah and his co-pilot, Fariq Abdul Hamid, we should be hailing them as heroes for attempting to do the impossible: saving the plane and keeping its passengers alive.


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