March 19th, 2014
11:11 AM ET

Journalist Says That Hero Pilot Theory You Read Is Wrong

Have you read this article by pilot Chris Goodfellow that started on Google+, was republished by Wired,  and circulated heavily online Tuesday?

Goodfellow puts out his theory on the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and supposes there was a fire in the plane and the pilots acted as heroes.

The pilot explains the sharp left turn the plane took as the pilots looking for the nearest 13,000 feet runway to land, at an airport in Langkawi.

So, mystery solved?

Not quite.

Slate aviation journalist Jeff Wise says people are choosing to believe this theory because it's emotionally compelling. But he doesn't buy the hero pilot answer.

Wise writes in Slate:

"He said he knew what the lost pilot and co-pilot had been thinking when they made that turn, and it was something he’d thought himself, while behind the yoke of an aircraft, many times before. 'We old pilots were always drilled to always know the closest airport of safe harbor while in cruise,' he wrote. 'Airports behind us, airports abeam us and airports ahead of us. Always in our head. Always.' He did not turn back to Kuala  Lampur because he knew he had 8,000 foot ridges to cross. He knew the terrain was friendlier towards Langkawi and also a shorter distance."

On "New Day" Wednesday, Wise explained the main reasons he doesn't believe Goodfellow's version with three counter points.

The journalist says 1) the data points doesn't support it, 2) if there was a fire, the pilots would have accepted landing at a shorter length runway, and  3) the deliberate nature of the way point being entered at least 12 minutes before the co-pilot said goodnight suggests a planned action.

"A fire on an airplane is one of the most perilous things that can happen on a plane. They would immediately try and go to the nearest airfield, anything over 5,000 ft. would be perfectly fine to land the plane... it would have been more difficult to land at but you don't care. If your plane is on fire you get down. As for the Langkawi theory – they didn't enter the code for Langkawi, they entered a code for beyond Langkawi.  And the most damning  information is that this way point was entered well before, at least 12 minutes before, the co-pilot said goodnight and the plane began its heading change. This navigation was not the result of a last minute panicked attempt to reach an airport,  it had been planned well in advance."

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soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Curious

    Assuming that the waypoint timeline is incorrect and was actually entered after the pilots signed off and shortly after a fire or other emergency such as total electric and communication failure occurred on the plane, is there any reason why the pilots may have considered Langkawi at first but ultimately decided that their best bet was to continue on and try to land at Car Nicobar or other such place (perhaps given they had no way to communicate)?

    March 19, 2014 at 11:25 pm | Reply
  2. DTS

    According to Wikipedia, the Flight Management System contains a navigation database that is updated every 28 days to ensure the information it contains is current. Among the information contained in the NDB are waypoints/intersections. If it is confirmed that a waypoint was entered into the FMS 12 minutes prior to the copilot's goodnight , was it a waypoint that preexisted within the NDB?

    March 19, 2014 at 5:08 pm | Reply
  3. DTS

    According to Wikipedia, the Flight Management System contains a navigation database that is updated every 28 days to ensure the information it contains is current. Among the information contained in the NBD are waypoints/intersections. If it is confirmed that a waypoint was entered into the FMS 12 minutes prior to the co-pilot's goodnight, was it a waypoint that preexisted within the NBD?

    March 19, 2014 at 4:06 pm | Reply
    • DTS

      Correction: this question I posted should state NDB, for navigational database. *Not* NBD.

      March 19, 2014 at 4:32 pm | Reply
  4. Thinker

    I spent a while looking at the pilots facebook page. I surmise the pilot with his great love for flying wanted to create a situation where HE become a HERO by landing a plane on water. He clearly loved to fly, and spent time at a lake flying and landing his "rescue" plane on the lake. How he manipulated the co-pilot and passengers, or imagined the scenario he wanted to take I'm sure we fill figure out soon. He tried to set up a HERO scenario.

    March 19, 2014 at 3:27 pm | Reply
  5. DTS

    I'm curious. Why wasn't Mr. Goodfellow given an opportunity to defend his hypothesis on CNN?

    March 19, 2014 at 2:51 pm | Reply
  6. English Breakfast

    is it confirmed that it was a waypoint that was programmed into the FMS, and not an airport?

    March 19, 2014 at 2:38 pm | Reply

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