A fragment of an aircraft wing found on the French island of Reunion in the western Indian Ocean last week did come from the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, Malaysian authorities have confirmed.
On Thursday, Malaysia’s transport minister Liow Tiong Lai said maintenance records from Malaysia Airlines match features detected on the discovered fragment, described as a flaperon – a component used for controlling the roll and bank of the aircraft.
Lai said sealants as well as paint colour matched the airline’s records, providing sufficient evidence for the authorities to conclude the flaperon belonged to the doomed Beoing 777 that disappeared on 8 March last year.
Malaysian investigators are part of a team currently examining the flaperon in facilities in French Toulouse. French investigators, however, didn’t provide any firm conclusions yet.
"We respect their decision to continue with their verification,” Lai said about the contradictions in the investigating team. “They have more verification process to make, the paint, the sealant and so on. For the Malaysian team, the technical report and maintenance report that we have matched with the flaperon ... the expert team strongly feel and confirm that it is MH370."
The transport minister also said investigators found further suspicious debris on the beaches of Reunion including what seemed to be a plane window and an aluminium foil.
"There are many items collected," he said, adding that suspicious objects had been sent "to the French authorities for verification".
The investigators also asked authorities on other islands in the area including Mauritius and Madagascar to focus on their beaches to help find other possible plane debris.
The confirmation of the flaperon’s origin is unlikely to bring about a major twist in the so far fruitless search for the wreckage and ultimately its flight data recorders or black boxes.
According to oceanographers, the place where the flaperon was found is consistent with the movements of ocean currents in the Indian Ocean. Reunion is about 3,700km to the west from where the plane is believed to have crashed. However, in the 16 months that have passed since the disaster, any floating debris would have been carried by the currents for vast distances.
Some biologists suggested that identifying the exact subspecies of the barnacles found attached to the fragment may at least help confirm whether the plane crashed in the area in focus.