Pilot offers a ‘smoke in the cabin” scenario for #MH370 on G+….

Okay, here’s a quick slightly off beat post for us. It comes from the Google Plus page of Chris Goodfellow, who apparently (I’ve not had time to verify) is a professional pilot based in Florida.  I picked it up late last night from a retweet from Lorcan Roche Kelly who in turn had retweeted Jon Ronson.

In it Goodfellow lays out a very scenario for the disappearance of flight MH370  from Kuala to Bejing that seems to answer most if not all the limited information points so far released by the Malaysian government.

What’s remarkable is that this post (and the engaged conversation it has given rise to) has been in full sight for three days as the mainstream media has been following increasingly complicated and perhaps fanciful scenarios.

HOwever, this morning on Morning Ireland, the first intimation that smoke or fire in the cockpit would explain the extinguishing of the onboard tracking system finally broke through, not as the ‘driving narrative’ of the story, but as one likely explanation as to why the pilots might have legitimately shut everything down.

Sometimes good journalism is knowing when and how to outsource. And yet this respectable, well argued possibility has langored on Google Plus since Mar 14, 2014. Perhaps there are some things that Twitter’s not so good at? Or at least, that  takes it rather more than a nanosecond to distill.

Just to add: the problem here is the desperate rush to certainty, in circumstances where, without the black box, there is none to be had. What may prove useful about the “Goodfellow” view is that he sits outside the official “sensemaking matrix”, with a singular point of view. Time only can tell its value.

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  • Comrade Stalin

    What’s remarkable is that this post (and the engaged conversation it has given rise to) has been in full sight for three days as the mainstream media has been following increasingly complicated and perhaps fanciful scenarios.

    That’s what happens for posting it on G+ 🙂

  • Charles_Gould

    It fits with the story that was in the news how the co-pilot smoked on the job, which shocked me.

  • Mick Fealty

    There’s an important point wrapped up in that CS, but it relates more to the limitations of Google’s search algorithms than the shortcomings of G+ per se. Google grades sources on their past performance as reliable witness.

    It will have graded Goodfellow out because he has no track record as a ‘reliable source’ on this or any news story.

    So as far as the Great Google is concerned, even though they hosted the story they did not know it was important until the human matrices of Reddit and Twitter came a calling.

    The trigger for me taking a look was Ronson’s involvement in the Twitter chain (which is not to say I don’t rate LRK very highly also).

    More prosaically, I think the assumption that everything that’s relevant will be quickly displayed in front of you on the news dashboard just because you are on FB and Twitter is false.

    The G+ story didn’t stand still whilst Twitter could not see it, it employed a smart (ie diverse) mob of loons and sceptics whilst it was still in the dark.

    In an age of always on demands for transparency, I think we massively undervalue the need for dark time in any given story arc.

  • Mick Fealty

    Well, I’d stow that one till there’s an actual link for it it Charles. There’s nothing in the Goodfellow thread that indicates that.

  • aquifer

    “Sometimes good journalism is knowing when and how to outsource.”

    Yep. Speculation from experts is more interesting than rambling from generalists. Hopefully media organisations have enough scientific and technical people available to screen out the attention seeking amateurs.

    But think Global Warming. Has anybody reported the Greenland ice sheet melting more quickly than expected?

    I guess stuff that crashes more quickly or kills more people at once gets the headline.

    Dufuses with bombs make great television.

    And more people are fit to report it.

  • Charles_Gould


    I will provide the link:


    The Guardian (and other news agencies) have an interview with girls who flew with him on a previous flight. He invited them in to the cockpit to sit with him and they noticed that the co pilot smoked during the flight.

  • Charles_Gould

    Quote from above link

    “Jonti Roos, one of the passengers, told Australia’s A Current Affair: “They were actually smoking throughout the flight, which I don’t think they’re allowed to do.”

    This includes the pilot who was co-pilot on the doomed flight.

  • Clanky

    There are still several inconsistencies with this account.

    ACARS was switched off (or in this scenario failed due to a fire) as the flight left Malaysian airspace, the final contact with the plane was some time later where everything appeared normal, had they been dealing with a fire then this would not have happened.

    The reason why the mainstream media haven’t picked up on his amazing solution and shared it is not because Google search is flawed it’s because he’s just another random voice on the interwebs.

    The fact that his solution is “so obvious” to him, means that the authorities have probably already investigated and discounted it. Just because someone declares themselves as an expert on the internet doesn’t obligate the whole World to suddenly sit up and pay attention.

  • Gopher

    Until stuff is actually found its speculation. Over 1000 for these things flying, hundreds daily and two previous accidents on approach, people are just buying a lottery ticket in the hope they are right when the metal turns up for five minutes of fame.

  • Mick Fealty

    The thing that strikes me most vividly about this story is that it presents like a 19th century ghost story and early 21st people will, it seems, try almost anything to fend off the idea that they simply don’t know.

    That’s hard for the media to cover for in these circumstances when a story like this creeps in unbidden and takes its place alongside others, largely because of degree to which simply don’t know what happened.

    But hardening into fact something just because it makes a story/narrative the audience can relate to is some of what this may be about. See Matt Strassler’s blog on the media’s ‘inflation of the universe‘. Or read the Economist’s generalist on anything you actually know something about?

  • Gopher

    I don’t see the problem there are thousands of components on an 777 which could lead to a crash if they failed multiply that exponentially by whatever a human can do deliberately or in error both in the air and on the ground, without even getting into international demarcation lines. Throw in nature and two thirds of the earths surface area and I really don’t see what the mystery is.

  • Mick Fealty

    Well, the ‘mystery’ occurs at the heart of a digital revolution in which there is a broad public expectation that the state will know what we had for breakfast this morning… 🙂

    In lieu of that we have been inventing scenarios that cannot be proven one way other unless and until the plane is found, and the black box recovered.

    All else is intelligent fiction, even the pilot’s story above…

  • Gopher

    The public are stupid then the parameters for the disappearance of this flight are so wide and so obviously wide the only currency worth reporting are facts.

  • Thanks for this posting; plausible scenario. And perhaps the Maldivians are even closer to the truth (sighting ‘low flying’ jumbo near time of ultimate disappearance): http://www.haveeru.com.mv/news/54062

  • Mick Fealty

    Goodfellow’s view made Wireda few hours after this post…http://www.wired.com/autopia/2014/03/mh370-electrical-fire/

  • Comrade Stalin

    Mick, I was being facetious but yes it is interesting that this didn’t get more circulation until Twitter/etc pushed it out.

    I think the fascination with the story is the nature of it as being very unsettling. I’m surprised with all the satellite, GPS, ground-to-air communication and so on that it is even possible for a plane to go missing. It’s quite easy to make yourself afraid of flying if you think too hard about it, and one of the ways I rationalize it is to bear in mind that the pilots and flight crew do it every day and probably are not interested in committing suicide. To hear that this can happen makes things tricky.


    ACARS was switched off (or in this scenario failed due to a fire) as the flight left Malaysian airspace, the final contact with the plane was some time later where everything appeared normal, had they been dealing with a fire then this would not have happened.

    The theory is that the transponder/ACARS got knocked out by a fire and the crew were not aware of it at the time.

  • The fire hypothesis has one flaw though – if the pilot set course for langkawi but overshot because he had been incapacitated, then the plane should have crashed somewhere near reunion island, which is flat out contradicted by the “last blip” satellite data. So long as the last blip is sound, there’s still a piece missing.

  • Actually, it would be the Seychelles rather than reunion.

  • Actually it has two flaws. Why would the pilot aim for Langkawi in an emergency when there’s a lovely new 747-capable runway in Kuala Terengganu?

  • Mick Fealty

    It also avoids the timing issue, which is that point where the hand off/hand on is supposed to take place.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Gerry Lynch has written an interesting piece on this, debunking some of the theory quoted above. I suggested he post it up on Slugger as a story.

  • I’m quite happy to crosspost here if Mick doesn’t think it’s an inappropriate use of bandwidth. I’ll tidy up a bit at the end too before I too it, as my language gets a bit impenetrable there.

  • Mick Fealty

    It’s good and informative Gerry (since you’re drawing on some of your own expertise, though I think there’s some breaking news that may have a baring on the final story:



    Strictly speaking, it’s less a debunk and more a competitor hypothesis… There’s so much material we simply don’t have that it is hard to see what’s actually gone on here…

  • Mick Fealty

    Guardian has switched blogs now:


    Just to emphasize, all these scenarios remain abstractions till the black box is found and analysed.