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Thursday 18 September 2014

Did smoke in cabin force crew to alter jet's course?

Raf Sanchez in Washington

Published 20/03/2014 | 02:30

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BILLIE Vincent, the former head of security at America's Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) and a key witness in the Lockerbie bombing trial, said yesterday he believed that Flight MH370 went off course in a desperate attempt to reach safety as the cabin filled with smoke.

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"As opposed to being hijackers, the crew were heroically trying to save the airplane," he said last night.

Mr Vincent said he believed MH370 had suffered a "catastrophic event" that filled the cabin with smoke or noxious fumes shortly after the pilots made final contact with ground control.

He said smoke could have been caused by an electrical fire, hazardous materials in the cargo hold, or a small bomb that failed to destroy the aircraft.

He said he thought a bomb unlikely as no group had taken responsibility for an attack.

TRAINING

The fire could have knocked out the aircraft's transponder and the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (Acars), he said. The disabling of the two systems has been used as evidence of foul play, but Mr Vincent said shutting down the Acars deliberately would involve a complicated process, beyond the training of most pilots.

As they realised what was happening, the crew turned the aircraft west towards Langkawi, a cluster of Malaysian islands, he said. That would explain why the flight left its original path towards Beijing.

The smoke and confusion in such "horrendous conditions" would also explain why the aircraft climbed to 45,000 feet and then fell erratically back to 23,000 feet, he said.

He added that he put little faith in reports that the aircraft had turned west 12 minutes before the co-pilot wished ground control a final 'good night', and that such a turn would have been seen by the ground if it were still in contact with the plane. (©Daily Telegraph, London)

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