There are six theories under investigation regarding the fate of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight, reports NBC News, and most will sound familiar at this point: hijacking or pilot suicide, for instance. But there are far more than six theories being floated around, and Business Insider picks up a particularly fascinating one that Henry Blodget dubs the "most plausible" theory yet. It comes compliments of former pilot Chris Goodfellow, who makes the case that the pilot was a "hero" who was responding, properly, to a fire on board. Goodfellow lays out the timeline on Google+.
- He suggests that not long after takeoff and shortly after the "good night" sign-off, the pilots detected a fire onboard, with smoke starting to fill the cockpit.
- The source? Possibly a tire in the front landing gear, which could have blown "on takeoff and started slowly burning. Yes this happens with underinflated tires. Remember heavy plane, hot night, sea level, long run takeoff."
- The captain then followed his training, and changed course to the nearest feasible airport, in this case, Pulau Langkawi, and entered the new destination into the flight computer. He then took a sharp turn toward the west. Writes Goodfellow, "We old pilots were always drilled to always know the closest airport of safe harbor while in cruise. Always in our head. Always."
- Their priority would not have been to communicate, but to deal with the fire. And their first response would be to turn off electrical "busses" in a bid to isolate it. That would have disabled systems like the transponder and ACARs. (He cites the 1998 crash of a Swissair DC-10 off Nova Scotia that reacted as such to a fire and saw its transponders shut off as a result—trouble started an hour after takeoff.)
- Goodfellow's theory then takes a turn for the dark: "A tire fire once going would produce horrific incapacitating smoke," that ultimately caused the pilots to either lose consciousness or die. The plane continued on autopilot until the fuel ran out, or until the fire destroyed the cockpit's controls and the plane crashed.