Can one piece of debris tell us what happened to MH370?
The debris has only just washed up on La Reunion Island and speculation is already rampant that this may be the first trace of the missing flight MH370. The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 went missing in March of 2014 and since then a massive search effort has revealed no firm evidence of its fate. Now a piece has washed up on a tiny island located in the West Indian Ocean, around 400 miles from Madagascar. Could this be MH370?
Firstly, the debris does look to be consistent with an aerodynamic device of a large aircraft. Some are already citing it as part of a Boeing 777’s 'flaperon'. First reports are also stating the presence of alpha-numeric markings which could be either a part number, or a number assigned to a small dent on an airframe component. Although, one would suspect the latter may have washed off after months at sea. Either way, the fact that such numbers exist on a substantial component should at least mean a positive identification of the debris can be made. And if it is from MH370, what can one piece tell us?
(Image: Daily Mail UK)
Its location can be compared against known currents and possibly refine the search area. Even the barnacles and encrustations may give some indication of the journey and geography of the debris. However, if the piece is from MH370, it has been adrift for a very long time so this may be a very long shot indeed.
Air crash investigation is both science and art and draws upon expertise from many resources. And while it is a lone piece, investigators can still draw a good deal of information from this. Damage to the component can potentially indicate the speed at impact and depending on the identity of the component, whether it was deployed, deflected or retracted at the time of impact. That in turn may give some indication of crew input at the time of impact with the water. Or possibly whether it separated from the airframe in flight.
It is still very early in the process and a formal identification of the debris is still yet to be made. As such, it is still far too early to say whether this is MH370 or not. If it is, it will be the first evidence of the Boeing 777 that has been found. If it is not, then the hunt for MH370 continues. Either way, this find has sparked a great deal of interest and given rise to a whole new series of unanswered questions.
(Image: Daily Mail UK)