COULD THE SEARCH FOR MH370 BE OVER?
‘‘Our goal … continues to be not only to find the aeroplane, but also to determine what happened and why. BOEING SPOKESMAN
THE discovery of what looks to be the first piece of debris from the missing MH370 is the strongest indication yet the $ 180 million search for the plane is being conducted in the right place.
The aircraft flaperon identical to that of a Boeing 777 was found on a beach of Reunion Island, more than 6000km west of Perth.
Oceanographers and other experts said the discovery was “absolutely consistent” with drift modelling based around MH370’ s likely resting place in the southern Indian Ocean.
As families processed the news, Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss called for a cautious approach until the debris could be identified.
Australia has committed $ 90 million to the search, a sum Malaysia has promised to match.
So far, $ 76 million has been spent by Australia alone and the Government has refused to commit to more once the current search effort is complete.
Mr Truss yesterday described the discovery on Reunion Island as “interesting” and said Malaysian officials would lead the investigation.
Covered in shells and barnacles, the wing part was immediately assessed by experts as having been in the water for about a year.
A number printed on the debris could assist investigators, who indicated it should only be a matter of days before they could confirm the flaperon’s origins.
US aviation safety consultant John Cox said it looked as if the wing had been broken rather than ripped off, consistent with the theory MH370 made a controlled ditch into the sea.
A Boeing spokesman said they were helping in any way they could.
“Our goal, along with the entire global aviation industry, continues to be not only to find the aeroplane, but also to determine what happened and why,” he said.
The Malaysia Airlines plane disappeared on March 8, 2014 on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, with 239 people on board including six Australians.
After vanishing from radar screens, the aircraft is thought to have flown for up to seven hours before running out of fuel over the southern Indian Ocean, about 2000km west of Perth.
The French Island of Reunion is 4000km from the current search zone but drift modelling showed it was possible debris had travelled that far.
Imperial College oceanographer Erik van Sebille said it was possible nothing further would be found on Reunion Island.
“Because the ocean is so chaotic, it will be very hard to track back where this particular piece was 16 months ago,” said Dr van Sebille.