Plane debris in Réunion could solve mystery of Flight MH370

Part of an aircraft wing has washed ashore on the French island in the southwest Indian Ocean.

Plane debris that has washed ashore on Réunion island in the southwestern Indian Ocean could be that of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

But French air accident investigation agency BEA, which is studying the information in coordination with Malaysian and Australian authorities, says it is too soon to establish this as fact.

“It is not possible at this time to ascertain whether the part is from a [Boeing 777] or from MH370," BEA says.

A police official in Réunion, a French territory near Madagascar, says the debris appears to be an aircraft wing measuring 2-3m by 1.5m.

“It’s not the piece of a small plane,” the official is quoted as saying.

Flight MH370 disappeared on March 8, 2014, after taking off from Kuala Lumpur en route to Beijing. It veered sharply from its intended path and is believed to have crashed far off the coast of southwest Australia, in the southern Indian Ocean.

Search teams have covered a 50,000sq km zone in the Indian Ocean but have failed to find any trace of the aircraft. All 239 on board are presumed dead.

French news agency AFP says Xavier Tytelman, a Paris-based aviation consultant who previously worked on maritime patrol planes for the French navy, has examined pictures of the debris with colleagues and compared them to a large number of aircraft types.

“It looks like the wreckage of a 777,” he said, citing both its shape and other features visible on the plane. Mr Tytelman suggests the part appeared to be a flaperon, a control surface on a plane’s wing.
He also notes a reference on the wreckage: BB670.

"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," he says.

Manufacturer Boeing says 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," the statement says.

The debris was found in the early morning on a beach near Saint-André, a town on the northeast coast of Réunion.

"It was covered in shells, so one would say it had been in the water a long time," a witness told AFP.

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