air crashes

Dec 22, 2016

Are these the 3.5 minutes that sealed MH370’s fate?

Is this not the most plausible and closely argued scenario for the causes of the loss of MH370 yet advanced?

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

Is this the sequence of events that meant MH370 was doomed?
Is this the sequence of events that meant MH370 was doomed?

Imagine, for a moment, the appalling scene that would have happened in the cockpit of MH370 on March 8, 2014, if a fierce brief fire broke out  with little warning in the Malaysia Airlines 777-200ER on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing?

Australian researcher Michael Gilbert has made this the central feature of his hypothesis for the causes of a lethal sequence of events on MH370 for some months and has now published a peer reviewed and assisted version of those moments.

One of many unsettling, but compelling aspects of Michael Gilbert’s scenario for the loss of MH370, is that it dispenses with the media fabrications that poisoned early reporting of the Boeing 777-200ER’s disappearance nearly three years ago.

There was no climb to 45,000 feet to kill the passengers through oxygen starvation, nor a low level hedge hopping flight to avoid radar.

There was, Mr Gilbert argues, no intricately navigated flight right between the boundaries of the air traffic control zones of Malaysia and Vietnam when MH370 went ‘dark’ while over the Gulf of Thailand between both countries.

Instead, he argues, there was a windshield fire in a jet that on the records, was particularly prone to such a fault, which may have been force fed by a leaking supplementary oxygen system in the cockpit, for which there exists substantial if circumstantial indications.

Yet all of this remains a set of  possible events, all or some of which may not have happened.  That said, the signature of some of these events happening seems very evident in the information that informs all serious evidence based attempts to understand what caused the MH370 mystery.

Those early media inventions were shameful, and unfortunately, continued to this day to be relied upon in much of the popular commentary. The public debate was utterly hijacked and distorted by an unprofessional desire to wrap up ‘solutions’ to the greatest aviation mystery of all for popular consumption.

If the latest version of Michael Gilbert’s hypothesis is studied, it also comes with other strong points.  It reads like the intricate, and at times fiercely resisted, investigations that eventually nailed the loss of the first Comet jetliners, the defective cargo door latch that caused the United flight 811 accident near Honolulu in 1989 and the Boeing 737 rudder incidents that the jet maker tried to pin on the dead pilots and extreme weather scenarios in what was a campaign of disinformation.

Michael Gilbert has enlisted and acknowledged the help of some IG members in his latest and most closely argued hypothesis for the causes of a control crisis in the Malaysia Airlines 777 that vanished with 239 people on board.

There are three notable additions to the new version of this hypothesis that make it more accessible to the curious. There is the graphic representation of the three and a half minutes in which hell broke loose in the cockpit and in his words, ‘sealed the fate’ of those onboard.

It is shown at the top of this post, but needs to be read on a full sized display. There is a graphical summary of the importance of the left overhead circuit breaker panel, shown in low resolution below.


And there is a simplified timeline of known and hypothesised events in both UTC and local Malaysia time.

This isn’t a paper for those who have made up their minds, or want it all in bumper sticker sized lumps. These things take time and patience, and an open mind, to be properly considered, criticised, and rejected or accepted.

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34 thoughts on “Are these the 3.5 minutes that sealed MH370’s fate?

  1. drpixie

    Michael’s paper is surely the clearest, least panic-struck, most logical outline of probable events – just fire and damage, crew sensibly loitering until daylight, hypoxia and loss of consciousness, and aircraft flies on by itself (that last bit has happened before, and will again). There’s no need to invoke obscure conspiracies; just things went wrong, people did the right things, but sadly did not quite get home.

    1. Dan Dair

      “things went wrong, people did the right things, but sadly did not quite get home”
      It not like there isn’t ‘previous’ for exactly that scenario;
      JAL B747 that lost it’s vertical stabiliser in a decompression incident.

  2. Guarded Don

    Mick Gilbert’s paper is the result of a considerable amount of effort and is well presented. However, that effort and presentation doesn’t lend any validation to the fundamental tenet that Mick attempts to argue, i.e., that a windshield connector block failed, causing an overheat condition, and subsequent conflagration in the flight compartment. The crew’s response, described in the B777 QRH, should be to remove power from the windshield heaters using the window heat control panel controls. To suggest that the crew would then take a massive leap and isolate the entire Left AC Bus is, at best, tenuous. In fact, isolating Left AC Bus would not remove power from the left windshield heater circuits as they are supplied off the Left AC Transfer Bus.
    It scores 9 on an ‘I believe’ count, it’s reasonable if taken as a work of “non-fiction” but it there is little weight to support the assertions presented and, most critically, offer validation of 34° 12′ S, 94° 30′ E as the flight terminus.

    1. Dan Dair

      As a general point,
      Micks work has an enormous amount of circumstantial-evidence in its favour, little or no inaccuracies by this stage
      and there are no actively better theories which have any more (& most have much, much less) supporting evidence, circumstantial or otherwise.

      As a specific question;
      Does Micks’ theoretical termination-point for MH370 (34° 12′S, 94° 30′E), fall within the proposed New Primary Search Zone,?
      which may, or may not be investigated next year.?

      1. Tango

        You are very wrong on what is circumstantial evidence and speculations. Circumstantial evidence is hard physical or other evidence that out of context is meaningless .

        As I used previously in an actual criminal conviction .

        There was no DNA, no weapon found no security camera film linking the suspect to the killing of two co workers, (with whom he had a very antagonistic n relationship.)

        What was found were the bodies with bullets in them (hard evidence)
        The suspect owned a gun of that caliber that was never found
        That makes two possible links (again I say possible, you do not convict anyone on that basis)

        A security camera did film an identical colored and type of vehicle owned by the suspect outside the premises in the right time frame the killings took place (that time frame was a tight 30 minutes) . No license number was see.

        There was a contrived flat tire, a swapping of vehicles with more solid evidence of that activity and involved with the mans where abouts in the time line of the killing unaccounted for, but a tracking before and after that put him in a position to be there and do it. While rare in a murder case he was convicted due the stack up or hard physical evidence each and every item of which pointed to the suspect.

        What Mick has is pure speculation. While I don’t buy that the ACARs and Transponder going off and the flight patch are circumstantial , lets say it is.

        Each of those actions has no sole or direct link to Micks theory.
        Each of those has at least one far more likely alternative and a number of very unlikely alternatives, each of which is a higher probability than Micks extremely unlikely sequence (impossible to me but….)

        For real circumstantial evidence there would have to have been one sort or another that point to and ONLY to what Micks offers. It does not.

        Countering that is 100 years of Aviation experience that says nothing like that has ever occurred and when fires have broken out in aircraft, they crashed.

        Frankly every bit of evidence after his hypothesized incidents screams that in fact it did not occur as the flight continued on normal under control for 7 more hours.

        Don: Thank you, a voice of rationality .

        1. Dan Dair

          “Circumstantial evidence is hard physical or other evidence that out of context is meaningless”

          Circumstantial evidence might be that I am a suspect because I was in the vicinity of an incident at the time the incident took place.
          It might have been a stabbing & I might have blood on me from catching myself on something sharp sticking through a fence. How would investigators react to this situation.?
          I might have had nothing to do with it & be totally unaware of it, but circumstantially, I am a suspect until other evidence can implicate me, exonerate me or strongly implicate someone else.

          Circumstantial evidence is what it is. Evidence relating to circumstance.
          That is why Mick Gilberts windscreen fire scenario is plausible;
          because so many other aircraft built around that same period have had windscreen heater issues.
          It doesn’t mean there actually was a fire, but because so many other aircraft have had them, it makes it plausible.
          That is circumstantial evidence, relating to the specific circumstances of the construction of that aircraft.
          If it can be shown from the maintenance records that both windscreens had been replaced since new, that theory stops being relevant.
          But they haven’t, so it is.!

          1. Tango

            Frankly for the last part it is not. Windscreen heaters fail all the time, there were and are some that had specific issues. A new one actually has a higher likely hood of failing than an older one proven in service, that’s just a fact of manufactured equipment. Its called infant morality If it lives 25 hours it will tend to live out its expected life.

            But you make my point.

            If you are in the vicinity of the scene or a crime, that would be noted.

            Blood on you, hmm, take a test and confirms it is yours.

            That now removes you to a sub set of all the people in the area which again may be of note but no links.

            To established evidence as circumstances related to the crime or failure, you have to have connections of some actual not speculative data.

            And there in is the rub. There is zero convergence of windshield failures of the magnitude Mick raises. None. In the 100 years of aviation there has been one (shorter time span for high altitudes and said windshield of 60+ years)

            That is not circumstantial evidence, it is pure conjecture.

            In the millions of hours of flights of 777s there never has been a windshield failure, and none due to heaters. Throw in the set of jet aircraft (civilian) since the Comet, there has been one and it was not a heater.

            I could conjecture a meteorite hit the window , hit the oxygen tank and set off a fire and then follow Micks theory on out. Its more plausible. It also requires equally following impossible to implausible events to the point of quickly becoming impossible.

            Again in the case I am talking about, there was hard evidence that pinned the man to the crime.

            There were no indicators or data of any sort that does that with MH370.

            Circumstantial evidence would be if there was reported burning electrical smells. If the aircraft was found on its flight patch with fire scoring in the cockpit that would lend credence to it and forensics would sort that out.

            In this case its been twisted into a convolution that would do a pretzel parent proud to then go on to one impossible or implausible sequence of events after another.

            If Mick wants to take the tiem and money and spend it on computer time to model exasly what happens with windiselr heate failorues that’s a start.

            Then you have to model what the aerodynamics affects of a blown out windshield would be. That is also been dismissed as irrelevant when in fact it can only be irrelevant if proven.

            Having had some experience with aerodynamic buffeting , I can make a solid case it is indeed a factor and the house of cards falls down.

            Ergo, lets not go there.

          2. Dan Dair

            A cockpit windscreen is roughly the same size, whatever the size of the aircraft.
            Essentially it performs the task of allowing one human being to sit behind it and to see outside.

            The bigger the aircraft, the smaller the comparative size of the windscreen is, as a proportion of the overall size of the aircraft or of the overall frontal-aspect of the aircraft.

            The total or partial-loss of one cockpit windscreen on a B777 would undoubtedly make the cockpit an extremely unpleasant place to sit & try to work.?
            It is unlikely however, to affect the aerodynamics of the aircraft significantly, certainly it would be well within the capacity of the autopilot to control its effects.?

          3. Tango

            You really do not get it. These are finely tuned machines.

            You have never been exposed to 500 mph winds.

            They can make a minute change in how various control work and doors open and close (not on the front by the way) and get 1/2% out of fuel efficiency.

            If you think you can have a hole in a window and not have it affect the aircraft you are mistaken as is Mick.

            A theory has to be able to pass each test to have any plausibility.

            This one has never passed the first one let alone the following ones.

          4. Mick Gilbert

            Tango, you could have saved yourself a lot of key strokes if you’d read the latest version of my paper rather than continuing to criticise an older one. Over the past few weeks I have refined and revised my thinking on the possible causes of a depressurisation event. I have dedicated a section specifically to this in V. 11.
            In short, I state that “… the fire would have only burned for a couple of minutes before one of two hitherto unprecedented events occurred; either:
            – the Captain’s windshield would have failed, or
            – the oxygen-fed fire would have burned through the fuselage.”
            Having again reviewed the accident reports for Swissair 111 and South African Airways Flight 295 (the “Helderberg”) together with the various FAA studies on inflight fires (partially summarized in Effects of Inflight Fire Exposure of Aluminum and Composite Fuselage Materials, 2008) I now conclude that “… while also unprecedented for an airplane in flight at cruise altitude, the alternative, a hull burn-through, was probably more likely.”
            So instead of a failed windshield, 500 mph winds, etc we’re now looking at a small hole in the side of the fuselage adjacent to the Captain’s oxygen mask stowage box.

          5. Tango

            Mick: I could save myself a lot of keystrokes by not writing at all.

            You are correct, I have not read the latest version. Keeping up with it has been deemed not worth it.

            I won’t repeat previous arguments. Subsequent outline events does not track either.

            I do have some familiarity with aircraft aerodynamics.

            I continue to believe any hole is going to be a major issue with a dramatic affect on performance.

            There are many more show stoppers after that one.

            I do think you take this seriously but I also can’t agree with any of it.

    2. Mick Gilbert

      You’re spot on, Don, isolating the Left AC Bus would have been a creative and desperate act, no two ways about it. An alternative to that action being taken by the crew might be that if enough circuit breakers on the left panel tripped together or in close succession the resulting voltage and frequency spikes might have been detected as a sufficiently large fault to trip the generator and/or field circuit breakers for the left IDG and prevent the left Bus Tie Breaker from closing. A big “if” and a big “might” in the absence of knowing what the voltage and frequency fault tolerances are for the main generator and main bus tie breakers (I’ve written to Boeing asking for that information but they will only provide it to operators). As always, I’d be interested in your thoughts on that.
      Regarding the flight terminus, if you roll out onto 180°M at or abouts 7° 5’ N 94° 18’ E by my calculations that track intersects the 7th arc around 34° 12′ S 94° 30′ E. If I plug the final turn onto 180°M at 19:25 UTC from 7° 5’ N 94° 18’ E with a speed of M0.831 and an average rate of descent of 10 fpm into Barry Martin’s flight path model I appear to get a pretty good fit to the BFO and BTO. As I’m most assuredly nowhere near confident in managing Barry’s model I’m currently looking to get someone to validate that for me. Again, any assistance on that front would be very gratefully recieved.

    3. Mick Gilbert

      Don, thank you for pointing out the matter of the Left Transfer Bus. While I don’t state it clearly in my paper, the process I outline on pp. 12-13, “… the only remaining course of action immediately available to the crew to remove power from the Captain’s windshield heater is to isolate the Left AC bus. This is accomplished by selecting the Left Bus Tie Breaker to ISLN, selecting the Left Backup Generator to OFF, and selecting the Left Generator to OFF” will also isolate the Left Transfer bus.
      When the Left Backup Generator is selected OFF, the Left Converter Circuit Breaker (CCB) opens, the Left Tie Bus Breaker (TBB) closes and the Left Backup Generator is tripped. When the Left CCB opens, the Left Transfer Bus is isolated from the Right Transfer Bus and can only be powered by the Left Main AC Bus. However, by selecting the Left BTB to ISLN and the Left Generator to OFF, the Left Main AC Bus is isolated and will not be powered. Consequently, the Left Transfer Bus won’t be powered either, because it has already been isolated from the Right Transfer Bus and there’s no power from the L Main AC Bus.
      I’ll amend my paper to make it clear that the process I describe isolates both the Left Main AC Bus and the Left Transfer Bus.

      1. Guarded Don

        But the fundamental point is… why isolate entire busses, L AC and L XFR, when the window heat controls on the P5 overhead panel provide all necessary function?

        1. Mick Gilbert

          I can’t answer that question, Don. I have simply offered a hypothesis that includes an action that, while highly unusual, is not inconceivable given the hypothetical circumstances.
          To the best of my knowledge there are only three ways of removing power from the SDU in such a fashion that it can be restored; only one of those can be completed entirely from the flight deck. As it transpires, isolating the Left Main AC and Left Transfer buses, is an action that would not be inconsistent with dealing with a rapidly escalating fire on the left hand side of the flight deck. It is, as you have said, tenuous. If there is a better explanation for the loss and subsequent restoration of power to the SDU I’m yet to hear it.

  3. Tango

    I think the 737 rudeder issue and in fact Lauda Ari 767 are not understood in the conte3xt.

    From early on if not the sgtart, the rudder on the 737 was suspect. They could not prove it and very difficult to make a legal case let alone how the NTSB works in the US (they advise they do not implement, FAA has to implement)

    The rudder was proven to be a possible culprit via crude modeling.
    The only real proof is that in the end, when they changed it those accidents quiet (2?)

    Lauda Air was another one. If you did model the results they were disastrous.

    Proving it was an issue, but it was proven (mostly by Luada persistence) and never occurred again.

    In this case we have a supposed once in a 100 years of aviation history that does not follow with any other accident profile and indeed only one ever loss of a window.

    1. Ben Sandilands

      If you think you can come here and rewrite history you are in the wrong place. I covered the 737 rudder issues in detail, and I noted all of the lies and deceptions that were concocted by Boeing in relation to the two most serious out of what were in reality dozens of incidents, which were the loss of United and a US Air 737. Is your role here to invent cr*p or are you just uninformed? All of the stories from those times are on the public record and in most cases digital. Just get your head around the fact that these days, readers can check for themselves. Boeing did eventually face up to the situation and it supported extensive studies which were eventually able to replicate the problem, which led to a modification program. It’s earlier stance on these tragedies was totally dishonest and unacceptable. Reporters tend to get very angry when they are lied to. A similar situation arose in the now officially discredited first investigative report into the loss of UA 811. This post made no reference to the Lauda Air disaster.

      1. Tango

        Ben: Maybe we can reset things a bit here, or you can ask me to remove myself from your site and I will do so. You seem to be increasingly crabby in your responses to me. While we are both very passionate about aviation, I believe you follow it from a Journalist standpoint, I follow Aviation from a tech perspective. That means I remove emotion as much as possible, if I did not I would be a failure at my day in day out work as machinery, electronics etc do not respond to emotions.

        And while you may not believe it, I do admire the site and the work you do.
        I also think you have some flaws you are unaware of. One does not detract or negate the other. Yours is one of the few open forums (or has been).

        First: the 737 rudder was a passing reference and not an in depth history. I don’t think the 737 rudder has any relevancy here. I don’t say Boeing would not cheat, like, steal and shoot my grandmother if it saved them from being proven wrong. or there was a problem with their aircraft.

        737 Rudder: Please note that I never mentioned Boeing in this. I know and fully understand what Boeings take was and it was indeed criminal. They kicked and fought and refused when they should have been testing (or did test and hid the results)
        The NTSB pointed out in the first crash it was one of two possibilities and they could not sort out which due to the damage to the mechanism.
        Boeing should have been looking hard at the rudder control (unique to the 737 and Jet aircraft) and did not. Yes there was another crash and a number of incidents related to that ruder control failure.
        NTSB can not enforce and they can’t come up with a fabricated possible cause, that was a rare case where they listed two. They have to convince the FAA to act or they have to publically humiliate them into action if they can make a strong enough case and get the press involved. The system has its flaws, but it comes up with independent outlook.
        It took a crash that left the mechanism intact to test it. DC-10 was similar and it took a crash to get that corrected. It should not have, the FAA has serious deficiencies in that regard.

        Where I do have some issue with you Ben is you have been a proponent of close to what Simons theories are.

        One was another implausible cause of the MH370 loss in the electronics bay scenario.

        While I agree access there is a serious issue, you jumped on it with no rational explanation of how or why a non State actor (or even a State actor) could have the capability to link into that system and control and aircraft, let alone to what end.

        Micks idea is pretty much the same. You have jumped on that. While interesting and worth a thought, it is not worth the amount of publicity you have given it (my opinion as a tech/engineer/mechanic – and yes I hold the tittle of engineer and I fully admit there are no letters to that tittle, just 35 years of practical tech work experience on complex system)

        So the question is do you have an open discussion here and posters point out the flaws or do you slam a participant over an issue many would not recognize and the point was not the 737 rudder but an example of a real trail of aircraft forensics and tragedy?

        The 777 has had no failures of any type regards to the MH370 flight

        I will continue to point out the flaws I see in any theory.

        So do we disagree respectfully as possible or do you throw me out?

        1. Ben Sandilands

          If anyone tries to rewrite history, and especially history in which I was present at the relevant events or media conferences, I’ll call it out. I don’t have any problem with differing opinions, but the factuals, readily capable of being checked for accuracy, are another matter.

          1. Crocodile Chuck

            Ben, I would like to thank you for Plane Talking, all you do for aviation & your clear writing & intelligent posts. Have a great break!

          2. Mick Gilbert

            I’ll happily second that, Chuck.
            With the other major news outlets either simply not interested in real aviation stories or acting as unquestioning and uncritical hand maidens to their in-house “experts” (one “aviation” reporter said to me that he is just a humble journalist and he just writes what the experts tell him, I pointed out that that was more akin to dictation than journalism) you’re one of the few people to treat aviation seriously. Moreover, your, dare I say, “old school” approach to accuracy, brevity and clarity is enormously refreshing, particularly for an old schooler like myself.
            I trust you, yours and your readers have a very Merry Christmas and the we all have a safe, happy and healthy 2017 ahead of us.
            Best regards,

          3. Tango

            I don’t see where I tried to rewrite history. It obviously was an abbreviated version but it also obviously not a complete coverage of the subject. I made no claims per Boeing one way or the other.

            I believe I clearly presented in the follow up that yes I understood it and Boeing part in it, that is part of my history.

            I can completely lay out the history of a subject but then it becomes a ridiculously long post.

          4. Tango


            Lauda air had a similarity to the 737 Rudder issue in that Boeing categorical denied that the thrust reverser could deploy and as I recall that it could not destroy the aircraft if it did. Another example of their covering up.

            Lauda continue to push as he fully believe inn his pilots and was proven to be right, there was a flaw in the circuit.

  4. Dave M

    The hypothesis is fascinating, but vaguely unsatisfying in that we have to accept that the fire coincided almost perfectly with the captain’s signoff from ATC.

    The timing leaves just one minute for quite a lot to occur. It would be interesting to hear an experienced 777 pilot on the question of whether a first officer is likely to complete the entry/execution of an LNAV diversion command just 60 seconds (or, more likely, less time) after a fire is first noticed by the captain in a situation like this – especially when (1) diverting to an alternate airport is apparently not the first item on the checklist for a fire and (2) that action requires seeking an alternate that was not on the list of nearest airports. Consideration should also be made for any additional delay by the flight system after the command is entered (delay before execution and/or before the change in track is detectable) since the 60 second interval is from the captain’s signoff to the first evidence of a track change (if I’ve read this correctly).

    1. Mick Gilbert

      Dave, the consideration of a diversion is actually the very first item on the Smoke, Fire or Fumes QRH Checklist; 1. Diversion may be needed. appears before 2. Don oxygen masks and smoke goggles, if needed.

      With regards to how long it takes to programme a diversion in LNAV, the answer from a former B777 Check Captain is “Not long at all, say 10 seconds.” The process is extraordinarily simple. Even though WMKP Penang did not appear on ALTN page 1, the pilots could have simply overwritten one of the displayed alternates on that page with “WMKP” and then pressed DIVERT NOW and EXECUTE. Alternatively, if they wanted to track directly to a waypoint first, they would use the Alternate Navigation Legs Page, enter the waypoint at the top of the page and press EXECUTE.

      Bear in mind that Penang is Malaysia’s third busiest airport. Both pilots, but the Captain in particular, would have been very familiar with it. Just as I suspect you know the streets on either side of where you work, the Captain, and quite possibly the First Officer, would have known that KENDI was the relevant waypoint for setting up for an instrument approach into Penang.

      Once the diversion was selected and the pilot hit EXECUTE the FMS’s response is pretty much immediate; the lag would be no more than a second or two.

      Accordingly, 60 seconds would have been ample time for the crew to don their masks, agree on a diversion, programme and execute it.

      1. Dave M

        Looks like I misinterpreted the PDF pg. 19 which said “If the Captain had donned the PBE he was then out of communication with the First Officer…this would have left the First Officer to work the Smoke, Fire or Fumes checklist. Having identified the source of the fire as the Captain’s windshield the First Officer would have first turned the windshield heat off”. I mistakenly took this to mean that the checklist would instruct the First Officer to deal with the electrical issue first, but I see now that that sequence follows the discussion on the diversion airport.

        Surprising to hear that the checklist implies that one should deal with diversion before putting on oxygen. Thanks for the clarification on the response timing of the airplane’s systems, and I do appreciate the point that experienced pilots may know where to turn right from the start. The timing remains very tight.

        1. JW (aka James Wilson)

          “Surprising to hear that the checklist implies that one should deal with diversion before putting on oxygen. ”

          It doesn’t! The SMOKE, FIRE or FUMES checklist states:
          “1. Don oxygen masks if needed.
          2. Diversion may be needed…”

          The first action in any smoke, fire or fumes event is to don an oxygen mask to prevent crew incapacitation.

          1. Mick Gilbert

            JW, I haven’t been able to source a copy of the Malaysia Airlines B777 QRH that would have been in effect as of 7 March 2014 but I am looking at a Qatar Boeing B777 QRH D632W001-QTR dated December 14, 2009.
            8.6 Smoke, Fire or Fumes reads:
            1 Diversion may be needed.
            2 Don oxygen masks and smoke goggles, if needed.
            3 Establish crew and cabin communications.
            I thought the sequence was odd too but there it is in black amd smudge.
            Either way, I think we can agree that considering a diversion is one of the first items that should have been addressed.
            That said, if the crew did have time to consult a checklist it would very much depend on which checklist they consulted. If the first sign of a problem with the windshield heater was interpreted as electrical arcing or cracking then the crew may well have consulted the WINDOW DAMAGE L, R checklist. It is perhaps instructive that in the case of Air France 062, the first B777 windshield heater fire that was the subject of a full investigation, the crew didn’t consult the Smoke, Fire or Fumes checklist at all. Despite the presence of of fire instead they followed the WINDOW HEAT L, R FWD INOP, EQPT COOLING OVRD and WINDOW DAMAGE checklists.

          2. JW (aka James Wilson)

            Just to give you some background, in 2004/5 the Flight Safety Foundation sponsored an industry-wide initiative to improve the checklist procedures for airline pilots confronting smoke, fire, or fumes events. A common Smoke/Fire/Fumes (SFF) Checklist Template was developed to replace the multitude of different checklists that existed at the time. The first step in that SFF Checklist Template was “Diversion may be required” and the second step was “Oxygen masks…”. Boeing subsequently changed the order of those two steps because the company considers that donning an oxygen mask should be a memory item (ie something that should be accomplished without reference to the checklist) and memory items always come at the beginning of an abnormal checklist. The “Diversion may be required” was then relegated to second place, because Boeing does not consider it to be a memory item.

            In actual fact, the “Diversion may be required” is not an instruction to consider a diversion at that point in the checklist. It was only put at the beginning of the checklist as a reminder to crews that a diversion may be required at some point. The instruction to “initiate a diversion to the nearest suitable airport…” occurs at step 10. of the SFF Checklist Template and step 12. of the current B777 SFF checklist.

            That said, I agree that a crew faced with a serious in-flight fire would probably consider an immediate diversion, with or without a checklist.

          3. Mick Gilbert

            Thanks JW, I have seen some stuff on the work done between October 2004 and mid-2005 in trying to come up with a common philosophy, set of definitions and template checklist for smoke, fire and fumes. Compared to some attempts at industry-wide standardisation the panel did a remarkably good job in a relatively short time frame.
            As you’re no doubt aware, with regards to diversions the philosophy they developed states;
            “Crews should anticipate diversion as soon as an SFF event occurs and should be reminded in the checklist to consider a diversion.”
            There is perhaps a lesson in competing priorities and unintended consequences when it comes to flight deck fires. High altitude flight necessitates the use of pressurised 100% oxygen to sustain consciousness in the event of depressurisation. From a crew protection perspective, you really can’t get around having the crew don masks as a priority item. However, introducing a source of pressurised 100% oxygen in the vicinity of a fire is clearly potentially dangerous and antithetical to the goal of containing and extinguishing the fire.

  5. Ben Sandilands

    Chuck and Mick,
    Thanks for your kind words. 2016 was a sharp reminder to me that not posting predictions for the New Year at the end of 2015 was the right call, for once. But I truly hope I make the right call in wishing everyone a better year in 2017 than most of us expect. Cheers

  6. Dan Dair

    “wishing everyone a better year in 2017 than most of us expect”
    I’d grab that with both hands right now….

    Cheers friend,
    All the best to you too.

  7. Simon Gunson

    In December I met with some of Zaharie’s family & we reviewed ATC audio recordings. They had previously disclosed to myself & others through a closed FB forum that 17:07 radio call and all calls thereafter were made by Zaharie. At the meeting I was surprised they volunteered his voice sounded slurred to them.

    I fact checked and found that Zaharie’s wife Faizah in 2014 had also publicly disputed ATC tapes and said last call was from Zaharie.

    When given instructions at 17:19 UTC to contact Ho Chi Minh Control Zaharie failed to read-back instructions. Lumpur Control also failed to challenge lack of read back.

    For those of you with an open mind this could equate to evidence of the onset of hypoxia before IGARI.

    People should also consider the erratic behaviour of crew on Kalitta 66 that any number of explanations are possible if MH370 crew were already hypoxic at IGARI.

    I also fact checked with a senior MAS cabin crew friend. She confirms that MAS has no SOP requirement for Purser to contact the cockpit when O2 masks drop down.

    1. Mick Gilbert

      Simon, the Factual Information Report (p. 21) makes its clear that of a total of 23 utterances over the radio from MH370, the first 14 were exchanges with Airway Clearance Delivery, Lumpur Ground and Lumpur Tower and were all handled by the First Officer. The final nine utterances were exchanges with Approach Radar and Lumpur Radar and were all handled by the Captain. All of that is entirely consistent with the Captain conducting line training for the First Officer, who was transitioning to the B777 (as stated on p.1 of the FIR).
      The First Officer handled the radio up to take-off and then the Captain handled the radio from take-off, presumably as Pilot Monitoring while the First Officer flew as Pilot In Command.
      If you go over the radio transcripts, Lumpur Radar let a number of procedural errors slide in a short period of time that evening including at least two hand-offs to Singapore ACC where the wrong frequency was read back.
      The Captain’s “poor” radio work may have been symptomatic of hypoxia; equally it may have stemmed from any combination or all of a lack of practice, being tired or being distracted.

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