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Source by Chris Goodfellow
MH370 A different point of view. Pulau Langkawi 13,000 runway.
A lot of speculation about MH370. Terrorism, hijack, meteors. I cannot believe the analysis on CNN - almost disturbing. I tend to look for a more simple explanation of this event.
Loaded 777 departs midnight from Kuala to Beijing. Hot night. Heavy aircraft. About an hour out across the gulf towards Vietnam the plane goes dark meaning the transponder goes off and secondary radar tracking goes off.
Two days later we hear of reports that Malaysian military radar (which is a primary radar meaning the plane is being tracked by reflection rather than by transponder interrogation response) has tracked the plane on a southwesterly course back across the Malay Peninsula into the straits of Malacca.
When I heard this I immediately brought up Google Earth and I searched for airports in proximity to the track towards southwest.
The left turn is the key here. This was a very experienced senior Captain with 18,000 hours. Maybe some of the younger pilots interviewed on CNN didn't pick up on this left turn. We old pilots were always drilled to always know the closest airport of safe harbor while in cruise. Airports behind us, airports abeam us and airports ahead of us. Always in our head. Always. Because if something happens you don't want to be thinking what are you going to do - you already know what you are going to do. Instinctively when I saw that left turn with a direct heading I knew he was heading for an airport. Actually he was taking a direct route to Palau Langkawi a 13,000 foot strip with an approach over water at night with no obstacles. He did not turn back to Kuala Lampur because he knew he had 8,000 foot ridges to cross. He knew the terrain was friendlier towards Langkawi and also a shorter distance.
Take a look on Google Earth at this airport. This pilot did all the right things. He was confronted by some major event onboard that made him make that immediate turn back to the closest safe airport.
For me the loss of transponders and communications makes perfect sense if a fire. There was most likely a fire or electrical fire. In the case of fire the first response if to pull all the main busses and restore circuits one by one until you have isolated the bad one.
If they pulled the busses the plane indeed would go silent. It was probably a serious event and they simply were occupied with controlling the plane and trying to fight the fire. Aviate, Navigate and lastly communicate. There are two types of fires. Electrical might not be as fast and furious and there might or might not be incapacitating smoke. However there is the possibility given the timeline that perhaps there was an overheat on one of the front landing gear tires and it blew on takeoff and started slowly burning. Yes this happens with underinflated tires. Remember heavy plane, hot night, sea level, long run takeoff. There was a well known accident in Nigeria of a DC8 that had a landing gear fire on takeoff. A tire fire once going 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 only last for a few minutes depending on the smoke level. (I used to carry one of my own in a flight bag and I still carry one in my briefcase today when I fly).
What I think happened is that they were overcome by smoke and the plane just continued on the heading probably on George (autopilot) until either fuel exhaustion or fire destroyed the control surfaces and it crashed. I said four days ago you will find it along that route - looking elsewhere was pointless.
This pilot, as I say, was a hero struggling with an impossible situation trying to get that plane to Langkawi. No doubt in my mind. That's the reason for the turn and direct route. A hijack would not have made that deliberate left turn with a direct heading for Langkawi. It would probably have weaved around a bit until the hijackers decided on where they were taking it.
Surprisingly none of the reporters , officials, other pilots interviewed have looked at this from the pilot's viewpoint. If something went wrong where would he go? Thanks to Google earth I spotted Langkawi in about 30 seconds, zoomed in and saw how long the runway was and I just instinctively knew this pilot knew this airport. He had probably flown there many times. I guess we will eventually find out when you help me spread this theory on the net and some reporters finally take a look on Google earth and put 2 and 2 together. Also a look at the age and number of cycles on those nose tires might give us a good clue too.
Fire in an aircraft demands one thing - you get the machine on the ground as soon as possible. There are two well remembered experiences in my memory. The AirCanada DC9 which landed I believe in Columbus Ohio in the eighties. That pilot delayed descent and bypassed several airports. He didn't instinctively know the closest airports. He got it on the ground eventually but lost 30 odd souls. In the 1998 crash of Swissair DC-10 off Nova Scotia was another example of heroic pilots. They were 15 minutes out of Halifax but the fire simply overcame them and they had to ditch in the ocean. Just ran out of time. That fire incidentally started when the aircraft was about an hour out of Kennedy. Guess what the transponders and communications were shut off as they pulled the busses.
Get on Google Earth and type in Pulau Langkawi and then look at it in relation to the radar track heading. 2+2=4 That for me is the simple explanation why it turned and headed in that direction.
Smart pilot. Just didn't have the time.
Diego and all who have commented - thank you.
I wrote this post before the information regarding the engines continuing to run for approximately six hours and the fact it seems acars was shut down before the transponder.
The continued speculation of hijack and/or murder suicide and the latest this morning that there was a flight engineer on board that is being investigated does not do much to sway me in favour of foul play until I am presented with evidence of foul play.
My post received a lot of comments on Reddit as well if some of you wish to read those. www.reddit.com MH370.
Now let me deal with Diego's request for my present view in light of new evidence.
We know there was a last voice transmission that from a pilot's point of view (POV) was entirely normal. The good night is customary on a hand -off to a new ATC control. The good night also indicates STRONGLY to me all was OK on the flight deck. Remember there are many ways a pilot can communicate distress - the hijack code or even a transponder code different by one digit from assigned would alert ATC that something was wrong. Every good pilot knows keying an SOS over the mike is always an option even three short clicks would raise an alert.
So I conclude at that point of voice transmission all was perceived as well on the flight deck by the pilots.
But things could have been in the process of going wrong unknown to the pilots -
Evidently the ACARS went inoperative some time before. Disabling the ACARS is not easy as pointed out. This leads me to believe more in an electric or electric fire issue than a manual shutdown. I suggest the pilots were probably not aware it was not transmitting.
The next event is the turn to the SW in what appears direct Langkawi.
As I said in the first post the pilot probably had this in his head already.
Someone said why didn't he go to KBR on north coast of Malaysia which was closer. That's a 6,000 foot runway and to put that plane down on a 6,000 foot strip at night uncertain of your aircraft's entire systems is not an option. I would expect the pilot would consider ditching before a 6,000 runway if still above maximum landing weight which he likely was.
The safest runway in the region to make the approach was certainly Langkawi - no obstacles over water with a long flat approach. In my humble opinion this 18,000 hour pilot knew this instinctively.
Reports of altitude fluctuations. Well given that this was not transponder generated data but primary radar at maybe 200 miles the azimuth readings can be affected by a lot of atmospherics and I would not have high confidence in this being totally reliable. But let's accept for a minute he might have ascended to 45,000 in a last ditch effort to quell a fire by seeking the lowest level of oxygen. It is an acceptable scenario in my opinion. At 45,000 it would be tough to keep this aircraft stable as the flight envelope is very narrow and loss of control in a stall is entirely possible. The aircraft is at the top of its operational ceiling. The reported rapid rates of descent could have been generated by a stall and recovery at 25,000. The pilot may even have been diving the aircraft to extinguish flames. All entirely possible.
But going to 45,000 in a hijack scenario doesn't make any good sense to me.
The question of the time the plane flew on.
On departing Kuala he would have had fuel for Beijing and alternate probably Shanghai and 45 minutes. Say 8 hours. Maybe more. He burned 20-25% in first hour with takeoff, climb to cruise. So when the turn was made towards Langkawi he would have had six hours or more. This correlates nicely with the immarsat data pings being received until fuel exhaustion.
The apparent now known continued flight until TTFE time to fuel exhaustion only actually confirms to me the crew were incapacitated and the flight continued on deep into the south Indian ocean.
There really is no point in speculating further until more evidence surfaces but in the meantime it serves no purpose to malign the pilots who well may have been in an heroic struggle to save this aircraft from a fire or other serious mechanical issue and were overcome.
I hope the investigation team looks at the maintenance records of the front gear tires - cycles, last pressure check and maintenance inspection. Captain or F/O as part of pre-flight looks at tires. Is there any video at the airport to support pre-flight walkaround? Any damage on pushback? A day after I wrote the original post a plane in the U.S. blew a tire in takeoff and the t/o was fortunately aborted with a burning tire.
Hopefully - and I believe now it is a slim hope - the wreckage will be found and the FDR and VDR will be recovered and provide us with insight. Until facts prove otherwise, I would give the Captain the benefit of respect and professional courtesy.
On October 25, 1999, a chartered Learjet 35 was scheduled to fly from Orlando, Florida to Dallas, Texas. Early in the flight the aircraft, which was cruising at altitude on autopilot, quickly lost cabin pressure. All on board were incapacitated due to hypoxia — a lack of oxygen. The aircraft failed to make the westward turn toward Dallas over north Florida. It continued flying over the southern and midwestern United States for almost four hours and 1,500 miles (2,400 km). The plane ran out of fuel and crashed into a field near Aberdeen, South Dakota after an uncontrolled descent.