Mystery of Flight MH370 over? Part of wing found | Global News

Mystery of Flight MH370 over? Part of wing found

/ 06:02 AM July 31, 2015

SAINT-ANDRÉ, France—Investigators headed to a tiny Indian Ocean island Thursday to inspect whether plane wreckage that drifted ashore was from missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, raising hopes of solving one of aviation’s most perplexing mysteries.

Australia described the discovery of the 2-meter long piece of wreckage, which appeared to be part of a wing, as an “important development” after more than 16 months of searching.

It may be the first trace of Flight MH370 found since it vanished nearly a year and a half ago.


Investigators—one of them a Boeing investigator—identified the component found on the French island of Reunion as a “flaperon” from the trailing edge of a Boeing 777 wing, a US official said.


Flight MH370, which disappeared March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board, is the only 777 known to be missing.

Part of a bag with a closed zip was found on Thursday on the island near the spot where the flaperon had been found.

Local air transport police picked up the piece of luggage.


US probers

American investigators have concluded that the flaperon came from a Boeing 777.


A person with knowledge of the inquiry said American government officials and experts from Boeing based their conclusion on photographs and videos.

The person said the Americans were waiting for French aviation experts to examine the object and determine if it contained a serial number matching that of the Malaysia Airlines jet.

“It’s the first real evidence that there is a possibility that a part of the aircraft may have been found,” said Australian Transport Minister Warren Truss, whose country is leading the search for the plane off Australia’s west coast. “Clearly we are treating this as a major lead.”

Flight MH370 had been traveling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing but investigators believe the plane turned south into the Indian Ocean after vanishing from radar.

If the wing part is from the Malaysia plane, it would bolster that theory and put to rest others that it landed somewhere after being hijacked.

Rest of wreckage

A French official said the object appeared to have been in the water for a very long time.

Flaperons are located on the rear edge of both wings, about midway between the fuselage and the tips. When the plane is banking, the flaperon on one wing tilts up and the other tilts down, which makes the plane roll to the left or right as it turns.

The piece could help investigators figure out how the plane crashed, but whether it will help search crews pinpoint the rest of the wreckage is unclear.

The last primary radar contact with Flight MH370 placed its position over the Andaman Sea 370 kilometers northwest of the Malaysian city of Penang. Reunion is 5,600 km southwest of Penang and 4,200 km west of the current search area.

East coast of Africa

It was well understood after the aircraft disappeared that if there was any floating debris from the plane, Indian Ocean currents would eventually bring it to the east coast of Africa, said US aviation safety expert John Goglia.

Malaysian Deputy Transport Minister Aziz Kaprawi said the debris was “almost certain” to be from a Boeing 777 plane.

“The flaperon is similar to that of a Boeing 777. It will take at least two days to verify,” he said.

If the find proved to be part of the missing aircraft, it would be consistent with the theory that the plane crashed within the 120,000-square-km search area, said Commissioner Martin Dolan of the Australian Transport Safety.

Sonar, video search

“It doesn’t rule out our current search area if this were associated with MH370,” Dolan said. “It is entirely possible that something could have drifted from our current search area to that island.”

Dolan said search resources would be better spent continuing the seabed search with sonar and video for the wreckage.

Robin Beaman, a marine geologist, said there was precedence for large objects traveling vast distances across the Indian Ocean. Last year, a man lost his boat off the Western Australia coast after it overturned in rough seas.

Eight months later, the boat turned up off the French island of Mayotte, west of Madagascar—7,400 km from where it disappeared.

The unsuccessful search for Flight MH370 has raised concern worldwide about whether airliners should be required to transmit their locations continually via satellite, especially when flying long distances over the ocean.


Missing Chinese parents

A Beijing man who had lost both parents on Flight MH370 said that what he and other grieving families wanted most of all was solid information, rather than another run of rumors and speculation.

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“If it is Flight MH370, then tell us as quickly as possible,” he said by telephone. “But don’t just have more guessing. We can’t handle that.” Reports from AFP, AP

TAGS: Boeing 777, Flight MH370, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370

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