When Chris Goodfellow took to his Google+ blog to share his thoughts on the fate of Mayalsia Airlines Flight 370, the Boeing 777 that vanished with 239 people aboard almost two weeks ago, he wasn’t looking for fame. Rather, he was getting exasperated by the “expert” opinions he was seeing on TV, the attempts to create terrorist links to the crew, the demonization of their past, the assumptions about their mental health, the nutty theorizing from the last few known bits of data to reach radars and satellites.
Goodfellow, a 66-year-old retired pilot, had a theory of his own. He wrote it up in a 1,000-word post that suggested a fire, not foul play, was the cause behind the plane’s fate.
Goodfellow likely never expected what happened next. The Atlantic’s James Fallows linked to the post. Then Wired picked it up, calling it “A Startlingly Simple Theory,” and ran it whole (with some editing). And the piece went, as they say in media’s pestilential English, viral. United Press International carried an account of the piece Wednesday. The Sydney Morning Herald added it to its “theory tracker.” The Wired piece was up to 3,364 comments this morning. Goodfellow’s post had some 500 comments. He’s been sought after by media around the world.
FlaglerLive learned of his piece from a correspondent in Brunei the same day that JJ Graham, the owner of Palm Coast’s Hollingsworth Gallery, told the editor of it, noting: “Goodfellow is a patron of my gallery.”
Goodfellow, as it turns out, lives in Marineland, and is a frequent presence at Hollingsworth gallery openings.
Reached for an interview Wednesday evening, Goodfellow was cordial and spoke at length, but declined to be interviewed on the record, at least for now. He’s granted just a single brief, one-quote interview, to the Toronto Star, which published the account Wednesday afternoon. Goodfellow did it out of allegiance: he’s Canadian, a graduate of McGill University (and later, Cornell).
“Goodfellow said he posted his thoughts because he was concerned the search wasn’t taking place in the right area,” The Star article states. “He was also concerned the pilots were being vilified as terrorists or suicidal, with no information to support this.” His only directly quoted comment in the article: “I didn’t put it out to get my 15 minutes of fame.”
Goodfellow is letting his blog postings, which he’s updated twice (in his own comment section, where he’s been more than willing to engage other commenters) do the talking.
“For me, the loss of transponders and communications makes perfect sense in a fire,” Goodfellow’s piece in Wired reads. “And there most likely was an electrical fire. 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.
“There are two types of fires. An electrical fire might not be as fast and furious, and there may or may not be incapacitating smoke. However 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. There was a well known accident in Nigeria of a DC8 that had a landing gear fire on 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. (I used to carry one in my flight bag, and I still carry one in my briefcase when I fly.)”
He later adds: “Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah was a hero struggling with an impossible situation trying to get that plane to Langkawi. There is no doubt in my mind. That’s the reason for the turn and direct route. A hijacking would not have made that deliberate left turn with a direct heading for Langkawi. It probably would have weaved around a bit until the hijackers decided where they were taking it.”
As always in comment sections, Goodfellow had his supporters and detractors, the latter attempting to demolish his theory as bits of information were added to the thin data bank on the flight’s fate. One of those bits was the belated revelation by Rolls Royce, the engine manufacturer, that the plane had continued to fly for six hours—a crucial bit of data that Rolls Royce alone knew because of information it receives from its engines in operation, and withheld for days.
“I am pleased this thread has gone somewhat viral and produced many useful additional insights for me into this mystery,” he wrote Tuesday. “I was not going to add anything more myself but new information keeps coming to my attention that only serves to confirm my thinking that we are dealing with a fire/mechanical issue rather than hijack.”
He added—with an aside that reveals his willingness to speak with reporters in some contexts–:”The real new news is the cargo question. If indeed there was a shipment of lithium batteries in the hold this is a definite line of enquiry. I had a long conversation last night with the reporter for the Christian Science Monitor in Kuala, Peter Ford, and I suggested that he dig deep into the cargo manifest but also try and get more information on the state of the tires on the front landing gear – number of cycles, maintenance records, last pressure check etc. and as many of you know the time honored tradition by the pilot and/or first officer pre-flight walkaround. I suggested there may be security video of all movements in and around the aircraft during the time the aircraft was being serviced and that the pilot or first officer may be on video during their walkaround. Did they stop and take a second look at the nose gear? Any clue there? Was the loading of the lithium batteries on video? Was there an mishap on loading that might have led to leakage?”
His final words on the matter (so far, anyway) explain why he has been reluctant to speak openly with the press: “A very wise mentor of mine always cautioned me to keep an open mind and I continue to do so. All of our theories are essentially speculation and the most important thing is not to come to any definitive conclusions without the concrete evidence. This may go down in aviation annals as the longest ghost flight of all time. In an age when we have so much technical capability that we can see a person on a street in Kabul using drones piloted from a bunker down near Tampa Florida it is indeed hard not to want immediate fast answers as to what happened here. We may never know. Thanks to all of you. Keep the thread alive.”
The Truth says
The fire theory does not make sense to me. If there was a fire, I would imagine it would be noticed relatively quickly and it would be communicated to the air traffic controllers. The computers wouldn’t have been programmed to go a completely different direction. This is what troubles me. I am not saying that the pilots are to blame, but there are many red flags that would lead me to believe that a fire was not the issue.
Someone in The Maldives reported what appeared to be an airline on fire even though it was NEVER investigated. A fire in the avionics compartment that started slowly (just smoked) which knocked out and eventually killed the pilots could have been responsible for this aircraft going missing.
The Maldives is about 4+ hours from Kuala Lumpur in the Indian Ocean. That is a lot of water to look for something the size of a match-stick as far as debris goes. The larger pieces sunk many days ago.
Here’s to hoping they find the aircraft flight data recorders. If it happened once, it can happen again!!
While anything is possible, I highly doubt this theory. First of all, if you experience an in-flight fire, the main priority is for the pilots to get on oxygen, then get on the ground, or in severe cases, in the water as soon as possible. As you turn towards the nearest suitable airport, you would then run through a checklist for the type of fire suspected, be it electrical or environmental. It is true that in an electrical fire you would start to isolate buses, main buses first and ultimately emergency buses if need be. The problem is that there is going to be at least one radio attached to the emergency bus, which would give you plenty of time to say, “Center, Malaysia 370 declaring an emergency, on board fire, proceeding direct to XYZ airport, roll emergency equipment and search and rescue. Considering ditching in ocean.” The actual checklist would allow plenty of time for this, as it would also alert other aircraft in the area to be forewarned of a wayward airplane. To suggest that a fire became so intense so quickly that it precluded an emergency call yet it allowed the aircraft to fly on for seven hours, or any length of time on it’s own is border line preposterous. In the unlikely event the fire quickly consumed the airplane then the wreckage would not be very far from the last radio call. Again, I don’t know exactly what information the author had at the time of postulating this theory, but at the present time the available knowledge suggests this theory is is equally meritorious with the one suggesting an alien spacecraft was involved.
Steve Wolfe says
Great insight from someone who knows better than most what the possibilities are.
A smoldering tire fire would take a while to be noticed since it is tucked away in its bay. Smoke would probably be the first issue with which to deal and that can be overcoming even with a relatively small flame. What Mr. Goodfellow proposes is certainly a viable reason and coming from a pilot I would tend to believe he had a pretty good idea of what could have gone on in the cockpit. I like the fact that he isn’t closed minded about his theory and suggests that there could be quite an array of issues that need to be researched to find out what actually happened. Thanks for your contribution Mr. Goodfellow.
THE VOICE OF REASON says
I still say it was the Twiloites.
Nice theory to make the families feel better but seems flawed. They were transitioning to Vietnamese airspace. They were closer to phu quoc which has a 2.1km runway and handles 747s. That was the closest airport which could have been reached without a full turn around. If there was an emergency with limited controls , they would have headed there and would have had a better glide chance if it came to that. Sorry to say…it looks like one or both of the pilots had alterier motives.
It could have been a number of things really. It is just bizarre how this plane seems to have completely disappeared and not one single tiny piece of debris was found. We just do not know yet, and it may be that one of the govts. over there are not willing to release some info. because they don’t want to be embarrassed for dropping the ball, but if that is the case, then I hope some real journalists will find out and release the info. to the public so that the families have some idea of what is going on.
That plane is in Pakistan being loaded with explosives and probably chemicals too, they lied to us for 8 years about Bin Laden being there, they allowed the Taliban to set up camps all along their borders to launch missiles at our troops in Afghanistan, and the Pakistani government is pissed at Obama for sending drones into their country to take out them terrorist camps, we and our allies need to keep satellites trained on every air field and landing strip in that country 24/7 , or the next time you see that plane it will be exploding into our new Freedom Tower ,
our days after flight MH370 goes missing, a patent is approved. 4 of the 5 Patent holders are Chinese employees of Freescale Semiconductor of Austin TX. The fifth is the company itself. Each patent is divided into 20% increments to the 5 holders –
Peidong Wang, Suzhou, China, (20%)
Zhijun Chen, Suzhou, China, (20%)
Zhihong Cheng, Suzhou, China, (20%)
Li Ying, Suzhou, China, (20%)
Freescale Semiconductor (20%)
If a patent holder dies, the remaining holders equally share the dividends of the deceased so long as it’s not disputed in a will. If 4 of the 5 Patent holders die, then the remaining Patent holder gets 100% of the wealth of the patent. That remaining Patent holder is Freescale Semiconductor. Who owns Freescale Semiconductor? Answer – Jacob Rothschild! NOW HOW ABOUT THAT! He owns it through Blackstone who themselves own Freescale. Here’s your motive for the missing Beijing plane – all 4 Chinese Patent members were passengers on the missing plane.