Missing Plane Update: Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 Cargo Batteries Could Have Downed Plane, Report Says

December 5, 2014 Updated: December 5, 2014

A new Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) test has raised questions about whether missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 downed due to rechargeable lithium batteries in the cargo hold exploding.

The test shows that passenger planes are susceptible to fires ore explosions resulting from the batteries.

It shows a cargo container packed with about 5,000 lithium-ion batteries. A cartridge heater was added to simulate a battery overheating. The heat triggered overheating in other batteries, which raised the ambient temperature to about 1,100 degrees F, which led to an explosion that blew the container door open.

San Diego-based attorney Dan Gilleon, a representative of family members of the Flight 370 passengers, said the tests could provide insight into what happened to Flight 370, which went missing March 8 with 239 people on board.

“When the FAA conducts a test, those results are going to be accepted by most experts. It’s a huge development, as least for this particular theory,” said Gilleon, according to 10 News in San Diego.

Malaysian officials determined that the flight had about 440 pounds of lithium ion batteries on board. 10 News said it received documents from the plane’s cargo manifest, which reads: “This package must be handled with care and that a flammability hazards exist if the package is damaged.”

There’s been a theory floated around that a fire on the plane caused smoke and fumes, which inundated the cargo, knocking out the passengers, pilots, and crew. As a result, the plane flew for hours on autopilot before it crashed.

“If it’s true, these tests could help all the family members in civil cases,” added Gilleon. “But until the plane is found, we are at a standstill. It’s difficult to prove a case if you go in and can’t say what happened.”

But Hans Weber, an aviation safety expert, said the theory is problematic. “The fire suppression system should have addressed the fire,” he told the station.

“Sensors should have told the pilots about a problem, and they could have put on their masks and had time to address it. If the fire became a big issue quickly, it would have taken down the plane. Instead, it flew for hours. Also, how do you explain the fact the flight was willfully directed in a difference direction?” he asked.

Meanwhile, a former Boeing 777 pilot said Flight 370–which was a Boeing 777–was sabotaged nine months ago.

In an editorial with the Daily Telegraph, Byron Bailey wrote: “The flight profile is programmed into the FMS (Flight Management System) computers before engine start and, with the autopilot(s) engaged, normally immediately after take-off, the aircraft would have flown itself automatically to its destination unless there was human input to change the flight profile.”

He also asked questions as to why only Malaysia’s military captured the tracking of Flight 370 going south to the Indian Ocean.

“Is it a coincidence that this track managed to avoid Indonesian, Thai and then Indian military radar?” Bailey said. “The B777 has 80 computers and, except for two engines, nearly every system on board is triplicated to ensure a practically fail safe operation,” he said.