The baffling disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 has prompted at least one major news network to ask whether the aircraft turned into a “zombie plane,” allowing it to fly for several hours without a pilot.
On Thursday, CNN reported a story that explained the “zombie plane” theory, a similar scenario that happened to former pro golfer Payne Stewart’s plane that crashed in a North Dakota field in 1999. In that instance, the charter Learjet Stewart was flying in, along with four other people, lost pressurization, causing the passengers to pass out and then die. The plane flew unmanned for about four hours before it ran out of fuel and crashed in a remote area.
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Although U.S. Air Force planes flew alongside Stewart’s plane on its flight from Orlando to North Dakota, military officials said they never considered shooting it down.
Aviation expert Clive Irving also weighed into the “zombie plane” theory with Chris Hayes on MSNBC.
" The 777 is known as ... a very stable aircraft ... so it can actually fly on the autopilot without human intervention for a very long while, and how that would end would be the fuel in one engine would dry out, that engine would close down, the other engine would still be running so that would cause an asymmetry in the thrust of the engines. The plane would then do a kind of bank and turn and dive into either land or water, Irving told Hayes.
In an article on the Daily Beast’s website Wednesday, Irving wrote about several scenarios
that could have occurred on the plane, including one where lithium-ion batteries could have given off toxic fumes.
Irving said Dr. Victor Ettel, an expert on lithium-ion technology, told him that “the organic electrolyte in lithium-ion batteries decomposes at very high temperatures, generating very toxic fumes typically containing compounds of fluorine and arsenic. Regulation packaging would inhibit the potential of open fire and therefore enhance the probability of generating toxic gases.”
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