“I knew immediately it was part of an aircraft, but I didn’t realize how important it was, that it could help to solve the mystery of what happened to the Malaysian jet.” - Johnny Begue, Saint Andre, La Reunion
Representatives from Boeing announced today that they are confident a piece of airplane debris discovered on a beach in the French territory of Reunion belongs to a Boeing 777. The challenge now is to find out if this piece of debris belongs to the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 plane. But, since there is only one missing B777 in the world, and it is Malaysia Airlines’ MH 370, the conclusion is hard to escape: this is apart from the ill-fated flight.
MH370 and the 239 people on the plane disappeared from radar in March 2014. This piece of wreckage found on the shores of Reunion would represent the biggest clue yet in unraveling the mystery of what happened to MH370 and the souls on board.
The piece of plane wreckage, from a part of the wing called the flaperon, was discovered on Wednesday by a group of people cleaning a beach in Saint Andrade, which is on the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion. The same cleaning crew also found tattered remains of a suitcase on the beach as well.
What is a flaperon?
A flaperon is a moving part on a plane’s wing which functions partly to help control roll or bank, as would an aileron, and also functions as a wing flap to help the airplane fly at slower speeds without stalling. The piece of plane debris is roughly three feet wide and between six and nine feet long.
Why do officials believe this is MH370 debris?
Authorities say they are certain the piece of debris found today is a flaperon from a Boeing 777 because it bears the code 657BB, which appears on the Boeing 777 aircraft maintenance manual. A marine expert in Reunion said the barnacles that attached themselves on the plane debris are around one year old, which closely corresponds with when MH370 went missing.
How did the supposed MH370 plane debris end up in the western Indian Ocean?
The flaperon was found on Reunion Island, some 2,300 miles away from where search teams were looking for the missing plane. While currents can be unpredictable, wind-driven ocean currents in this part of the world look something like this, which means it is plausible that the piece of debris drifted some distance to Reunion.
Who found the debris?
A man named Johnny Begue discovered the debris believed to be from MH370. He told reporters that he and his crew had stopped to take a break from their work when he went looking for stones to grind up some spices for a meal. Walking along the shore, “there it was, you couldn’t miss it.”
What about the suitcase?
According to Begue, the suitcase was discovered on Tuesday, though it went largely unnoticed on the beach until the debris was discovered Wednesday. At this time, any link between the debris and the suitcase is speculation. Nonetheless, the coincidence is noteworthy. “…it’s just surreal, it makes me shudder,” said Begue.
How are the families of MH370 victims taking the news of the found debris?
Dai Shuqin’s sister and five other members of her family were passengers on MH370. She told reporters she doesn't accept the news. “We do not believe what they claim. The finding does not constitute anything.”
Shuqin added that she is frustrated by the lack of information provided to her by Malaysia and Chinese authorities.
What happens now in the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 investigation?
Malaysia is sending a team of investigators to the island. They are due to arrive on Friday. As for the discovered wreckage, it will be shipped to France for further analysis.
While the discovery has reinvigorated hope that we will soon be able to answer the mystery of MH370, it doesn’t by any means guarantee that the crash site will be found in the near term. The debris is a significant clue, but there is still a lot left to discover in order to get to the bottom of the MH370 disappearance. Unless the main wreckage is located and the so-called black boxes retrieved, the cause of this tragedy may never be completely understood.