That Theory About a Fire Aboard Flight 370 Is Wrong

Jeff Wise pokes holes in it at Slate
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 19, 2014 4:00 PM CDT
An Indonesian Navy crew member scans the water during a search for the plane.   (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara, File)

(Newser) – A veteran pilot's theory about what happened to Flight 370 dazzled the Internet yesterday, but aviation writer Jeff Wise is poking holes in it today at Slate. If you missed it, pilot Chris Goodfellow speculated at Google Plus that a fire aboard the missing Malaysian jet caused its disappearance. The pilots went off course deliberately to reach the nearest airport—on the island of Langkawi—but the smoke got to them before they could land, and the plane kept flying on its own over the ocean until it crashed. A world desperate for answers soaked it up, but Wise says the theory doesn't hold up when other facts about Flight 370 are considered.


  • "While it’s true that MH370 did turn toward Langkawi and wound up overflying it, whoever was at the controls continued to maneuver after that point as well," writes Wise. One subsequent waypoint picked up a sharp right turn and another a left turn. "Such vigorous navigating would have been impossible for unconscious men."
  • A final electronic ping picked up from the plane put it on one of two paths, one over central Asia as far as Kazakhstan and the other out over the Indian Ocean. "As MH370 flew from its original course toward Langkawi, it was headed toward neither," writes Wise. "Without human intervention—which would go against Goodfellow’s theory—it simply could not have reached the position we know it attained" at 8:11am on March 8, the time of that last ping.
The bottom line is that "Goodfellow's theory falls apart," writes Wise. Click for his full column. Or to read about how files are missing from the senior pilot's flight-simulator system. (Read more Malaysia Airlines stories.)

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