MH370: Richard Godfrey theory ‘closest anyone has come’ to solving aviation mystery

The retired aerospace engineer believes pilot hijacked and diverted his own plane for political reasons

Tribute to MH370 passengers
Family members pay tribute to missing MH370 passengers
(Image credit: Adli Ghazali/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

A retired British engineer believes he has pinpointed the crash site of the mysterious Malaysia Airlines plane, which vanished in 2014.

The Boeing 777 departed from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people on board on 8 March 2014, but 40 minutes into what should have been a six-hour flight to Beijing, the plane diverted from its scheduled route and flew towards the southern Indian Ocean, where it disappeared from radars.

Richard Godfrey, 71, believes he has located the doomed jet’s exact resting place – on the sea bed some 1,200 miles west of Perth, Western Australia. He also has a theory as to how it ended up there.

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The aerospace engineer believes the pilot, Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, had a political motive, he told The Times. “My current view is that the captain hijacked and diverted his own plane.”

Godfrey discovered that at one point during the flight, the aircraft’s pilot was following a route it later turned out he had plotted on a flight simulator found at his home.

A crucial element in Godfrey’s theory is a 22-minute holding pattern the pilot put the plane into. Zaharie was a supporter of the Malaysian opposition and an acquaintance of its leader, Anwar Ibrahim, who, on the day before the fateful flight, was sentenced to five years in jail on sodomy charges that his supporters believe were bogus and politically motivated.

Godfrey speculated that Zaharie may have attempted to negotiate Anwar’s release during the 22 minutes of circling. “Maybe somehow that negotiation went wrong and he ends up flying to the remotest part of the southern Indian Ocean,” he said.

Although the engineer acknowledged he has “no evidence” and discussions of the pilot’s motive are at this stage merely “speculation”, he added: “To me, it is clear there is still certain information being withheld, principally by the Malaysian government.”

His theory has gained support. The Times said that Godfrey’s report is “by broad agreement the closest anyone has come so far to solving the world’s greatest aviation mystery” and Airline Ratings said his theory has received “expert support”.

Godfrey says his theory comes after laborious investigation, which saw him “plodding away for eight hours a day for seven years”. The Times described how he would “spend his days studying the data he had patiently accumulated on satellite communications, long-range radio signals, oceanic drift, underwater search technology and flight simulations”.

The area he now believes the plane crashed is a 40 nautical mile radius, far smaller than that in previous searches. Godfrey told the BBC he hoped his report meant “we’ll be able to give closure to the next of kin and answers to the flying public and the aviation industry on exactly what happened with MH370 and how we prevent that in the future”.

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