MH370: More debris found – current search in the wrong place?

Current search area in the southern Indian Ocean - far from Réunion island. Photo: ATSB

Malaysia said on Thursday more aircraft debris, including a plane window and aluminium foil have been as part of on the shore of Réunion, a French island in the Indian Ocean, since a piece of wing was found there at the end of June.

If confirmed, this may indicate the current search is occurring in the wrong place and direction because it is unlikely several unattached parts were drifting in the same direction for more than one year (unless they were part of a big piece).

The nation’s Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai told a media conference that the recently discovered items are being analyzed by the authorities.

According to him, paint colour and maintenance-record of the flaperon found earlier match those of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.

French authorities haven’t confirmed the part was from MH370 flight.

The minister said “we respect” the French decision for further verification, but that the Malaysian team of experts have already confirmed it to be from MH370.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak also confirmed earlier that the flaperon was from MH370.

The aircraft, a Boeing 777-200ER, flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, disappeared off radar over the South China Sea, less than an hour after takeoff on 8 March 2014 with 239 people, including 12 crewmembers on board.

At the request of the Malaysian Government, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is leading the underwater search for MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean.

The underwater search on the Indian Ocean floor, started 6 October 2014, with joint funding from Australia and Malaysia has so far scoured 55,000 square kilometers (21,000 square miles) of remote seafloor.

Australian government said in a statement that while Malaysia is responsible for the investigation, it also involves Boeing, the French and US air safety agencies, and the ATSB.

“In the event that the wreckage is identified as being from MH370 on La Reunion Island, it would be consistent with other analysis and modelling that the resting place of the aircraft is in the southern Indian Ocean,” said the statement.

“Any new evidence will be used to further inform and refine ongoing search efforts”.

The high priority search area in the  southern Indian Ocean has been drawn based on “handshakes” between the plane and a communications satellite.

As the plane’s transponders, which transmit the plane’s location to air traffic controllers, were manually switched off from inside the cockpit, hourly satellite pings were the only interaction kept live for hours – after which investigators believe the aircraft ran out of fuel.

Investigators said in the initial report that movements are consistent with the deliberate action of someone on the plane.