New wing part could reveal MH-370 clues, Australia says

Published 02.08.2016 00:00
Updated 02.08.2016 00:33

Australian authorities responsible for the search for the downed MH-370 are hopeful that a wing part found in Tanzania will shed light on how the flight crashed, amid a lack of public information on debris found a year ago.

As the underwater hunt far off Australia's west coast draws to a close without any sign of the plane, there has been speculation that the flight's final resting place may be outside the current search zone in the southern Indian Ocean.

The Malaysia Airlines jet was carrying 239 passengers and crew when it disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014.

The first debris linked to MH370 – a two-meter-long wing part known as a flaperon – washed up on the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion one year ago. But it has remained in the hands of French investigators, leaving questions unanswered on how the airliner entered the ocean.

"We have also seen some analysis from the French that suggests that it's a possibility that (the flaperon) was in a deployed state," Peter Foley, the head of the Australian Transport and Safety Bureau (ATSB) and in charge of MH-370 search operations, told Channel Nine late on Sunday.

A deployed state, which means the flaperon was extended for landing, could suggest that someone was at the controls – the "rogue pilot" theory – when the aircraft entered the water.

Investigators have considered all scenarios, but alternative possibilities could potentially have debris fields three times the current search zone, ATSB former chief Martin Dolan told AFP in March.

The current area was defined under the "most likely" scenario that no-one was at the controls and the plane ran out of fuel. But Foley told the commercial broadcaster that if the pilot was still in control of the plane or control-ditched the aircraft, it could potentially have had an extended range of flight.

A team of Italian scientists said last month the debris zone may be a further 500 kilometers (310 miles) north.

Foley said he was hopeful the wing part found off Tanzania, which is in Canberra for analysis and was confirmed by Australia on Friday to be "highly likely" from the downed MH-370, could reveal how the plane crashed.

"We are looking to see whether or not we can work out whether that flap was extended at the end of flight... it suggests a different end-of-flight scenario," he said.

The Australian, Malaysian and Chinese governments,whose citizens constituted most of the passengers, have agreed that when the target area is fully searched, which is expected around December, they will pull the plug unless "credible new information" emerges.

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