About 18 months ago, Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 vanished, a 2.7m-long piece of debris discovered on Wednesday, July 29, on the island of Réunion seem to finally give answer to one of aviation’s great mysteries.
According to The guardian UK, investigators suspect the debris is a “flaperon”, a mix of a flap and an aileron.
Flaps are built into planes to keep the aircraft flying at slower speeds, but also increase drag, hence they are normally raised during flight for efficiency.
They are mounted on the trailing edge (the back) of a wing and allow take off and landing at shorter distances.
An aileron, also hinged on the trailing edge, is used to roll the aircraft left and right.
The Guardian reports that officials examined an aircraft part washed up on island in the French Indian Ocean as possible clue to fate of missing Malaysia Airlines plane.
According to Adjunct Christian Retournat, the debris was found off the coast of St. Andre, a community on the island.
Due to Réunion’s remote location, armchair investigators are relying on photos taken at the site to determine where the debris’ originated from.
There are numerous speculations regarding the debris, some of which seem really wild.
Many airline blogs have been busy trying to compare the debris with what a flaperon should look like.
The photo of a flaperon said to be from a Boeing 777 - MH370’s model - on a factory floor,has been used to compare the image of the debris found in Réunion.
According to the Guardian UK, French aviation expert Xavier Tytelman was one of the first to compare the photos to diagrams of the kind of flaperon attached to MH370.
Xavier highlighted four key similarities, pictured below.
Meanwhile, CNN reports that the Malaysian government has dispatched a team to Reunion Island to investigate the debris, Malaysian Minister of Transportation Liow Tiong Lai said 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.
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Malaysia’s prime minister Najib Razak, has confirmed that the debris found on Réunion is “very likely” to be from a Boeing 777, but it is still too early to speculate whether it is from MH370.
In a statement he said the debris will be taken to the French city of Toulouse for examination by civil aviation investigators.
He also promised relatives of passengers that Malasia will not give up searching for the plane.
"Initial reports suggest that the debris is very likely to be from a Boeing 777, but we need to verify whether it is from flight MH370. At this stage it is too early to speculate.
To find out as fast as possible, the debris will be shipped by French authorities to Toulouse, site of the nearest office of the BEA, the French authority responsible for civil aviation accident investigations.
A Malaysian team is on the way to Toulouse now. It includes senior representatives from the Ministry of Transport, the Department of Civil Aviation, the MH370 investigation team, and Malaysia Airlines.
Simultaneously, a second Malaysian team is travelling to where the debris was found on Reunion.
The location is consistent with the drift analysis provided to the Malaysian investigation team, which showed a route from the southern Indian Ocean to Africa.
As soon as we have more information or any verification we will make it public. We have had many false alarms before, but for the sake of the families who have lost loved ones, and suffered such heartbreaking uncertainty, I pray that we will find out the truth so that they may have closure and peace.
I promise the families of those lost that whatever happens, we will not give up."
Meantime, Malaysia Airlines said it was working with authorities to determine where the part came from.
"At the moment, it would be too premature for the airline to speculate on the origin of the flaperon," the carrier said.
CNN analysts said there are indications the airplane part could be from a Boeing 777, and if that's the case, it's likely from MH370.
Aviation analyst Les Abend said: "Making the determination should be very simple 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."
Abend who flew 777s during his 30 years as a pilot added: "This means crash investigators may be able to figure it out from photographs of the part, which could be an aileron, a flap or a flaperon, even before arriving on the island."
According to CNN safety analyst, David Soucie, there are at least three elements of the discovery that are consistent with MH370, the first is that the part appears to have been torn off the aircraft.
Martin Dolan, the head of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), the agency tasked by Malaysia with leading the search for MH370, said the piece of debris is "not inconsistent" with drift modeling done by Australian authorities.
The ATSB Chief commissioner said: "If there was something from MH370 it could have reached Reunion Island from the area we're covering." Adding that "It's not inconsistent with the drift modeling we've done. It's not inconsistent with the search area we're covering."
However, Dolan would not say how likely it was that any debris would move in a westerly direction.
He said: "There's a range of possibilities," adding: "It's not an exact science."
Dolan further said that surface currents, wind direction and how high an object was floating in the water might all play a role.
However, relatives of the passengers aboard the ill fated plane are treating the Reunion discovery with caution after witnessing many false leads in the search previously.
"We will follow the developments and hope to receive the official confirmation as soon as possible," a group of Chinese families said on Thursday, July 30.
"We do not want to hear guarantees of 99% likelihood from certain authorities. We need confirmation of 100% certainty." They added.
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The Malaysian Airlines flight 370, with 239 people aboard, disappeared after taking off from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, early on March 8, 2014, bound for Beijing. Drift possibilities
Authorities have said they still don't know why it turned dramatically off course over the sea between Malaysia and Vietnam, or where exactly its errant journey finished.
An international team of experts used satellite data to calculate that the plane eventually went down in the southern Indian Ocean. Search teams have been combing a vast area of the seafloor in the southern Indian Ocean, hunting for traces of the passenger jet, about 2,300 miles (3,700 kilometers) from where the debris was found.
However, the Malaysian government eventually declared the loss of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 an accident and all of its passengers and crew presumed dead.