MH370: Malaysia sends teams to Reunion and Toulouse to discover the fate of missing plane

The first task is to establish that the wreckage is from the missing plane, which could include analysing the paint as well as matching part numbers

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The Independent Online

Malaysia has sent teams to the Indian Ocean island of Reunion and to Toulouse in a bid to find out more about the fate of MH370. The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 disappeared on 8 March last year on a scheduled flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, with 227 passengers and 12 crew on board.

On 30 July, what is thought to be a flaperon - part of the wing deployed for turns and low-speed flying - was found on a beach on Reunion. Malaysia’s Transport Minister, Liow Tiong Lai, would not confirm it was from the jet. He said: “Let’s not speculate on this. We are still waiting for verification.” But speaking at Kuala Lumpur airport, he said a team has been sent to Reunion “to look for more debris and more wreckage”.

Other sources, including the Australian expert leading the search of the seabed 2,500 miles east of Reunion, have expressed confidence that the wreckage is indeed the first part of the aircraft to be located.

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Reports of a metal component from the plane being found were quickly refuted (AFP/Getty)

Large quantities of flotsam, mostly lost from shipping, wash up daily on the shores of Reunion. The discovery triggered a series of false alarms, with local beachcombers and international media attuned to the possibility of more debris turning up.

Reports of a metal component from the plane being found were quickly refuted. Malaysia’s Director General of Civil Aviation, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, told AP: “I checked with the Civil Aviation Authority, and people on the ground in Reunion, and it was just a domestic ladder."

Reunion is part of France, and French investigators are due to start examining the debris on 5 August. It arrived in Paris aboard a scheduled Air France Boeing 777 flight early on 1 August and was taken by road under police escort to a defence research establishment on the outskirts of Toulouse. Investigators gained expertise from analysis of Air France flight 447 - the Airbus A330 which crashed in the Atlantic in 2009 and remained on the sea bed for two years.

Teams from Malaysia, Australia and the planemaker, Boeing, will attend. The first task is to establish beyond doubt that the wreckage is from the missing plane, which could include analysing the paint as well as matching part numbers. Once verified, the component will be scrutinised to help investigators understand how the aircraft entered the water. Microscopic damage to the surface could indicate the speed and angle of the Boeing when it hit the ocean.

 

Tests have been run on a 777 simulator to emulate a scenario in which the right engine runs out of fuel shortly ahead of the left engine - with no control from the flight deck. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau reported: “This scenario resulted in the aircraft entering a descending spiralling low bank angle left turn and the aircraft entering the water in a relatively short distance after the last engine flameout.”

If the investigators’ conclusions are at odds with this scenario, it will heighten speculation that someone was at the controls right to the end of the flight and ditched the plane in a manner intended to keep the airframe intact.

Marine biologists will study the barnacles that have attached themselves to the flaperon during its time in the ocean. Analysing the type and growth patterns of marine life could provide clues to the location of the rest of the aircraft.

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