MH370 search: Reunion debris on way to France

Initial reports suggest the two-metre long object is very likely to be from a Boeing 777, Najib Razak said.

The Malaysia Airlines flight – a Boeing 777 – vanished while travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March 2014.

The search has focused on part of the southern Indian Ocean east of Reunion.

There were 239 people on board the plane when it went missing.

Mr Najib said French authorities were taking the debris to the southern French city of Toulouse – the site of the nearest office of the French body responsible for air accident investigations (the BEA) – to verify it as quickly as possible.

A Malaysian team of investigators and representatives from the government and the airline was travelling to Toulouse, and a second team to the site of the find on Reunion, he said.

Najib Razak said the location was “consistent with the drift analysis provided to the Malaysian investigation team”.

“As soon as we have more information or any verification we will make it public. I promise the families of those lost that whatever happens, we will not give up.”

Aviation experts who have studied photos of the debris found on Reunion on Wednesday say it does resemble a flaperon – a moving part of the wing surface – from a Boeing 777.

All aircraft parts carry a serial number which should aid identification.

On Thursday, a municipal employee found what appeared to be part of a very badly damaged suitcase on the Reunion coast, according to local media (in French).

The item was found at Saint-Andre, the same location as the earlier debris, and by the same man.

Reunion, a French overseas department, is about 600km (370 miles) east of Madagascar.

Search efforts for MH370, led by Australia, are focused on an area west of the Australian city of Perth – about 4,000km east of Reunion.

The Australian government has described the discovery of the wreckage as “a very significant development”.

The wife of the in-flight supervisor for the missing plane, Jacquita Gonzales, told the BBC that she was “torn” by the news.

“A part of me hopes that it is [MH370] so that I could have some closure and bury my husband properly but the other part of me says ‘No, no, no’ because there is still hope,” she told the BBC by phone.

After MH370 disappeared from radar screens, experts analysed data from faint “pings” the aircraft sent to satellites to narrow down its possible location.

Oceanographer David Griffin of Australia’s national science agency told the BBC that the location of the find was “consistent with where we think debris might have turned up”.

More than half of those on board the plane were Chinese citizens.

A spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry said: “We have noticed the reports and are wasting no time in obtaining and checking the information.”

A group of relatives of many of the Chinese passengers said in a statement that they wanted “100%” certainty about where the part is from, and that the search for the airliner should continue.

I am told that Boeing’s engineers will be able to tell from the shape of the wreckage if it’s from a 777 aircraft.

Second, it may have a data tag with a serial number. That will be directly traceable to MH370. Even if there isn’t a tag, it should have a traceable manufacturer’s stamp.

A very experienced investigator has told me it could have come off in a controlled ditching, where the pilot would have the flaps down and it would be vulnerable if it hit the sea. Equally it could have disintegrated at altitude.

Finally, there is some confusion over the serial number. Originally it was reported as BB670. Now it’s suggested the number was BB657. According to the 777 maintenance manual that is the “right wing flaperon”.

 

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