Kiwi pilot dismisses missing plane fire theory

AARON LEAMAN
Last updated 05:00 21/03/2014

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An experienced Hamilton pilot has challenged suggestions the crew on board missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 were overwhelmed by an aircraft emergency - saying evidence pointed to a hijacking or pilot suicide.

Hamilton commercial pilot and city councillor Ewan Wilson's comments came as the search for possible wreckage of the plane started off the coast of Perth, Australia, last night.

Theories on what may have happened to the aircraft took another turn this week when a senior Canadian pilot, Chris Goodfellow, argued the crew on board flight MH370 may have been overwhelmed by fire.

The flight carrying two New Zealanders vanished on March 8 while flying over the South China Sea.

Goodfellow said indications that the loaded Boeing 777 took a left turn suggested the pilot was heading for an airport at Pulau Langkawi.

"He was confronted by some major event on board that made him make an immediate turn to the closest, safest airport," Goodfellow said.

The loss of transponders and communications on board the flight made "perfect sense" in a fire.

"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."

But Wilson said he was not convinced by Goodfellow's scenario, adding he would be "astonished" if the crew was overwhelmed by an aircraft emergency.

Wilson, who is studying toward an air accident investigation qualification, said available evidence suggested "clear, deliberate steps" were taken to shut down the aircraft's normal functions.

"If the argument is there was an overwhelming electrical failure and the pilot had to pull the main fuse it would have shut down the ACARS (data monitoring system) and transponders at the same time," he said.

"Instead ACARS was shut down first and some 14 minutes late the transponders were shut down. The reality is if there was an overwhelming fire, how does he [Goodfellow] explain the fact the aircraft continued to operate for up to another eight hours?"

Wilson believed the missing aircraft was instead the victim of a hijacking or pilot suicide.

"I'm convinced one of the crew or somebody who is incredibly well trained on the 777 played an active role," he said. "The debate is was the pilot operating on their own or was one of the pilots operating with a group of other individuals."

Wilson, who has been flying for 28 years, has been in Australia completing a course examining the role of human factors in transport accidents.

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- Waikato Times

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