Aviation / Current

Fire in the Sky

My first impression of the disappearance of Malaysia Flight 370 is that the flight crew was incapacitated by an on-board fire.  Turning back or heading to a diversionary airport is standard protocol in an emergency, and no emergency is more serious than catching on fire.  Loss of communication (VHF radios, SATCOM and ACARS) and the transponder are consistent with an electrical failure induced directly by flames, a la Swissair 111 on September 2, 1998.

Disappearing is consistent with a failure of the pressure vessel, as the en-flamed Nationair DC-8 (flying as Nigeria Airways 2120) suffered over Jeddah on July 11, 1991.  At 35,000 feet (instead of traffic-pattern altitude over Saudi Arabia 22 years ago), the Malaysian B777-200 would have decompressed, starving both the fire and the 239 human beings aboard of oxygen.  The fire could easily have winked out in an environment with 23.6% the atmospheric pressure of sea level; the same lack of oxygen giving the pilots a mere 10-15 seconds of useful consciousness until they too winked out.

How will my initial impression hold up?  Only time will tell.  First, they’ve got to locate the 600,000 lb airliner…




One thought on “Fire in the Sky

  1. Pingback: Navigating Aeronautical Safety–Part 3 | In The Corner, Mumbling and Drooling

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