Serial numbers found on the aircraft flaperon washed up on the shore of Réunion, a French island in the Indian Ocean, should allow authorities to say definitely whether it is from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
Models by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau suggest the debris could have reached Réunion within this timeframe, and that is “consistent with the drift modeling.” In addition to the French investigators, officials from Malaysia are also heading to the island.
An unnamed source told the broadcaster that a “unique detail” to the 777 aircraft appeared to be in the washed up wreckage, although they would not reveal more details.
— Xavier Tytelman (@PeurAvion) July 29, 2015
Xavier Tytelman, a French expert in aviation security, tweeted “incredible similarities between a #B777 flaperon and the debris found,” referring to a Boeing 777 – the type of plane that disappeared. The number BB670 is visible on the debris.
Referring to the number found on the object, Mr Tytelman told AFP: “This code is not a plane’s registration number, nor serial number.
“However … it’s clear that this reference would allow a quick identification. In a few days, we will have a definitive answer.”
Boeing said in a statement it remained “committed to supporting the MH370 investigation and the search for the airplane”.
“We continue to share our technical expertise and analysis. Our goal, along with the entire global aviation industry, continues to be not only to find the airplane, but also to determine what happened – and why,” a statement from the US aviation giant said.
“In accordance with international protocol governing aviation accident investigations, inquiries relating to an active investigation must be directed to the investigator in charge.”
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.