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Rediff.com  » News » Will debris help find MH370?

Will debris help find MH370?

By The Rediff News Bureau
Last updated on: August 07, 2015 14:12 IST
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Was Flight MH370 diverted en route Beijing? What exactly caused the fatal crash? Even as Malaysia confirms that the wing part washed ashore Reunion Island was from the missing jet, crucial questions remain unanswered.  

French police inspect a large piece of plane debris which was found on the beach in Saint-Andre, on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion. Photograph: Prisca Bigot/Reuters

Malaysia has confirmed that the debris found on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean belonged to missing Flight MH370. But will the small part of the aircraft’s wing help to solve one of aviation’s biggest mysteries?

The discovery of the part of the wing, known as the flaperon, is the first piece of physical evidence since the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people aboard in March 2014.

Based on the confirmation from Malaysia Prime Minister Najab Razak about the ill-fated aircraft, investigators know only one thing -- that the plane crashed in the water and there are no survivors.  

“The confirmation on how it (MH370) went down is many months away,” said CNN aviation analyst Peter Goelz. According to him this is a “very difficult investigation” and “it’s going to continue to be one”.

The discovery of the flaperon seems to further strengthen the theory that MH370 crashed into a patch of the Indian Ocean, west of Australia, the BBC reports. This means it was diverted from its route.

“We will continue to search this area thoroughly in the expectation that we will find the missing aircraft," said the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, which is leading the 17-month search operation. 

However, other experts differ. “It's very difficult to draw any conclusions about what this particular piece (the falperon) means in the context of where the airplane is exactly or how it broke up," airlineratings.com aviation expert Geoffrey Thomas said.

What do we learn from the condition of the debris?

Tom Ballantyne of Orient Aviation magazine said the condition of debris could indicate if the plane met a catastrophic end. Charring, for example, could indicate an explosion, he told CNN.

The images of the flaperon show a small amount of damage in the front. According to a group of independent observers, this indicates that the piece came off while the plane was mid-air.

Zhang Yongli, whose daughter was aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, breaks down while a plainclothes police officer tries to make him leave as he and other family members express their demands to Malaysia Airlines outside its Beijing office. Photograph: Jason Lee/Reuters

How did debris travel to Reunion Island?                

Reports suggest that the washed wing part can help trace the wreckage and possibly the black box. But, University of Western Australia's Charitha Pattiaratchi says this is wishful thinking.

"There are too many pathways and too many currents. They have to find more debris in different areas to have a better fixture [on the route]," Prof Pattiaratchi told phys.org.

A computer stimulation released by ocean experts shows the wreckage likely emerged from the northern part of the vast search area off the west coast of Australia.

Dutch water research firm Deltares used a particle tracking routine to compute the movement of debris from different locations in the search area. [See the movement of debris here (External link)]

The calculation was made using surface currents (assuming that they are the most relevant for the floating debris) and the results show how debris moves with the counter-clockwise gyre in the Southern Indian Ocean and quickly disperses over large areas, The Mirror reports.

The model shows us that the ocean currents are able to carry the debris from the search area west of Australia to Reunion, the report said.

Will the search area expand?

Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss told the media last week that the discovery of the debris was consistent with models searchers have been using.

The debris could help investigators focus their search, David Gallo of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution told CNN. But added, “It's a complicated process, particularly given how much time has passed since the plane went missing”.

How the Mh370 serach progressed (external link)

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