After an agonising 510-day wait, the breakthrough in the search for MH370 may have finally come.
An airplane fragment of about two-metre long and one metre wide was found drifting by a local group that clears trails along the coastline in the town of Saint-André on the northeast coast of La Reunion Island about 1,000 km east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean yesterday. The fragment is thought to be a ‘flaperon’, the part of the wing that controls the roll and bank of an aircraft, and has some kind of identifying code “BB670″ on it that should allow it to be traced to an individual aircraft.
It is too early to tell whether the fragment is from the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 but speculation are running rife that it could be from missing flight MH370.
Boeing investigators, after studying photos of the fragment, have commented that they believe it is a piece of a wing or flap from a Boeing 777 aircraft and there is only one 777 missing in the world right now — MH370.
Flight MH370 took off with 239 people on board from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on March 8, 2014, at 12:41 a.m. local time headed for Beijing. Less than a half hour into the flight, air-traffic control on the ground lost contact with the jet, and less than two hours into the flight, it disappeared from military radar, although it continued to send data to a satellite until 8:11 a.m. Malaysia time.
A joint investigation by Australia and Malaysia used satellite data to conclude that the plane probably changed course and headed south for hours before crashing somewhere in the Indian Ocean after running out of fuel.
A massive, multi-nation search using boats, planes and sophisticated sonar equipment, have scoured tens of thousands of square miles of the open ocean, but not a trace of the missing plane has been spotted to date. The southern Indian Ocean, where the plane is thought to have gone down, is so remote that it’s difficult to access and hard to spot anything.
The Malaysian government eventually declared the loss of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 an accident and all of its passengers and crew presumed dead.
The Malaysian government has dispatched a team to Reunion Island to investigate the debris, Malaysian Minister of Transportation Liow Tiong Lai told reporters at the United Nations in New York.
“We need to verify. We have wreckage found that needs to be further verified before we can further confirm if it belongs to MH370. So we have dispatched a team to investigate on these issues and we hope that we can identify it as soon as possible,” the minister said.
Malaysia Airlines issued a statement that it was working with authorities to confirm the matter.
“At the moment, it would be too premature for the airline to speculate on the origin of the flaperon,” the carrier said.
If the debris were to be traced to MH370, it would be the first sign of the passenger aircraft since it disappeared in March 2014.
Once Boeing engineers get to examine the debris, they would know almost immediately if it was from a 777. Making the determination should not be a complex process because the serial numbers riveted to numerous parts of the plane can be linked to not only the plane’s model, but also the exact aircraft.
In a few days’ time, vital clues to the mystery of MH370 may finally be revealed.