The fate of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is deemed one of the greatest mysteries in aviation history.
But now experts from Malaysia say they are “almost certain” a piece of plane debris found on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean is from a Boeing 777 – the same plane used for the fatal flight.
International investigation underway
France’s BEA crash investigation agency is examining the debris, which is believed to a flaperon – a part of a plane’s wing which helps the pilot control the aircraft while in flight.
Experts from Malaysia are also heading to the island to assist and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said it was coordinating with Boeing.
There have been four serious incidents involving 777s since it was first put into service. Of those, only flight MH370 is thought to have crashed south of the equator.
“Oceanographers always said that the debris, if we found any, would be in southern Indonesia or on the east coast of Africa or on one of the islands,” aviation expert Geoffrey Thomas explained.
Each part of each plane has a serial number, in theory making identification of the the washed-up piece relatively simple. Thomas enlarged:
In aviation, every single part of aeroplane, all the millions of pieces, have a serial number. You can track it back to the day it was manufactured and so, yes, there will be markings on that that’ll tell Boeing yes, it’s from a 777 and yes, it’s from MH370.”
The plane disappeared less than an hour after takeoff from Kuala Lumpur on March 8 2014. No distress signal was sent.
Search efforts have so far focussed on an expanse of the southern Indian Ocean off the western coast of Australia, some 3,700 kilometres from the French department of Reunion.
If found to be part of the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, the washed up debris could provide some answers for the families and friends of the 239 passengers and crew on board.
It is expected to take two days to verify its origin.