In a dramatic turn of events, it has emerged that the co-pilot of flight MH370 smoked in the cockpit. He also routinely entertained passengers there. This casts a whole new light on the mysterious disappearance of the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777.
A fire in the cockpit could explain the mysterious radio silence from the plane, shortly after it commenced a u-turn without notifying air traffic control. It may even explain the loss of automatic transponder transmissions identifying the aircraft callsign and its present whereabouts.
A possible scenario emerges: a fire started in the cockpit, destroying the plane’s most critical avionics. The plane then flew under limited control for at least an hour, but without fully functioning instruments the pilots could not prevent it falling into the sea on the Western side of the Malay peninsula.
Fire has brought down passenger planes before. Only one passenger survived Varig Flight 820 after a cigarette ignited the contents of a waste bin. Swiss Air flight 111 crashed due to an uncontrollable blaze caused by overheating electronics. Air Canada Flight 797 managed to land but only after a fire “burned through crucial electrical cables that knocked out most of the instrumentation in the cockpit”.
At the very least a co-pilot who routinely lets passengers into the cockpit ought to be a prime focus of the investigation.