Missing MH370: Fire scenario extremely unlikely, says expert

PETALING JAYA - An aviation consulting company has said that a fire on board the missing MH370 plane can't be ruled out totally but it was an extremely unlikely scenario.

Scott Hamilton, the managing director of Leeham Co pointed that in almost all the cases where fires caused crashes, the pilots would have radioed in about the fires.

He gave the example of the Swissair Flight 111 that crashed off Nova Scotia in 1998.

Hamilton said that in the incident, the pilots smelled smoke before it emerged in the cockpit not long after take off from New York.

"However, the pilots radioed Air Traffic Control of the situation and began to divert to Halifax," he said in an emailed statement to the media.

"It is true they began to pull circuit breakers, per procedure, to isolate the problem. However, even as it got worse, the pilots radioed updates and the decision to dump fuel prior to an emergency landing. Thus, this fire scenario hypothesized for MH370 breaks down," he added.

In a blog post that went viral, veteran Canadian pilot Chris Goodfellow expressed his belief that a fire, not a hijacking, was the main reason behind the disappearance of MAS flight MH370.

Goodfellow believed that an electrical fire could explain MH370's failure to communicate.

"In the case of a fire, the first response is to pull the main busses and restore circuits one by one until you have isolated the bad one," he said.

The fire theory re-ignited on Friday when Malaysia Airlines (MAS) confirmed that lithium ion batteries, which are highly flammable were part of their MH370 cargo.

Hamilton said at least one or two plane crashes occurred because lithium-ion batteries in cargo caught fire and went out of control, the UPS Boeing 747F crash in Dubai and the Asiana Airlines 747 crash in the Pacific.

"However in both cases, the pilots radioed that a fire existed. As we know, there was no communication from MH370," he said.

Hamilton also pointed out a 2012 Airbus study that said it takes just eight minutes for a fire to go out of control and the airplane has to be on the ground within 15 minutes,

"The implication being that the airplane would be lost beyond this time. We know from the satellite pings that MH370 was airborne for up to seven hours after contact was lost.

"If any fire occurred strong enough to cause the loss of all radios and transponders, it certainly would have resulted in the loss of the airplane well before seven hours," he said.