In 2014 ex-pilot Christopher Goodfellow claimed, as cited by the Express, that the sudden change of course by the jet, registered by radars and satellites, towards the southern Indian Ocean was carried out on purpose following a mid-air emergency in a bid to save passengers and crew.
According to Goodfellow, senior Captain Zaharie Shah, who possessed a vast 18,000 hours of flight experience, apparently tried to land at Langkawi International Airport, an archipelago off north-western Malaysia, after a fire broke out in the cockpit.
“The turn [back across Malaysia] is the key here”, Goodfellow wrote in a blog post, before continuing:
“We old pilots were drilled to know what is the closest airport of safe harbour while in cruise”.
“Airports behind us, airports abeam us, and airports ahead of us – they're always in our head, always”, he noted, insisting that Shah was indeed a senior and a perfectly experienced captain. Then he went on to explain why Langkawi could possibly have been an option to attempt a landing.
“When I saw that left turn with a direct heading, I instinctively knew he was heading for that airport. He was taking a direct route to Palau Langkawi, a 13,000-foot airstrip with an approach over water and no obstacles”, the former pilot further elaborated, going to explain to what extent his Malaysia colleague could have been overwhelmed by a fire on board the plane, which could have happened due to the registered “loss of transponders and communications”, which “makes perfect sense” in the event of a fire.
Goodfellow explained, having analysed the timeline of the MH370-connected events, that there was a possibility of a fire on board due to an overheat on one of the front landing gear tires, which could have blown off and started to burn slowly.
“Once going, a tire fire would produce horrific, incapacitating smoke”, he wrote, adding that oxygen masks would by no means help, but worsen the situation in the event of a fire.
Goodfellow went on to assume that the plane could have continued flying on autopilot after the crew died of smoke poisoning until the jet ran out of fuel and crashed.
Regarding the location where the pilot could have been steering the airplane, there seems to be a serious inconsistency with analysis provided by the Malaysian and US governments. The electronic pings registered by the Inmarsat satellite at 8:11am on 8 March 2014 narrowed the possible location of MH370 to one of two spots – one in Central Asia and the other in the Southern Indian Ocean.
Separately, the fire version was also earlier dismissed by analysts, with Greg Feith, a former National Transportation Safety Board crash investigator, revealing that there would have been a mayday call at some point if there had been a fire:
“Typically, with an electrical fire, you'll have smoke before you have fire”, he concluded.
Beijing-bound Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which took off from Kuala Lumpur carrying 239 passengers on board, went missing on 8 March 2014 after it vanished from radars while transferring from Malaysian to Vietnamese airspace. After several years of fruitless attempts to locate the plane's crash site, the Malaysian government ended its search in May 2018.