Air safety investigators have a "high degree of confidence" that aircraft debris found in the western Indian Ocean is of a wing component unique to the Boeing 777, the same model as the Malaysia Airlines plane that disappeared last year, a US official said yesterday. Air safety investigators—one of them a Boeing investigator—have identified the component as a "flaperon" from the trailing edge of a 777 wing, the US official said. While it's too early to know if the piece belongs to MH370, NBC News does have this to say: "They believe it is a piece ... from a Boeing triple 7 and there is only one 777 missing in the world right now—MH370." Here are 7 things to know about the possible clue and where it was found:
- The last primary radar contact with Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 placed its position over the Andaman Sea about 230 miles northwest of the Malaysian city of Penang. The French island of Reunion is about 3,500 miles southwest of Penang, according to a Google map.
- The sea-crusted wing part is about 6 feet long. Investigators have found a number on the part, but it is not a serial or registration number, per Australian Transport Minister Warren Truss. It could be a maintenance number, which may help investigators figure out what plane it belongs to, he says.
- How long will it take to determine if MH370 is it's source? Malaysian Deputy Transport Minister Aziz Kaprawi had this to say, by way of the AP: "The shape and size of the flaperon is similar to that of a Boeing 777. It will take less than two days to verify if it is so and whether it is from MH370."
- Malaysia's prime minister today announced the debris will be sent to France for investigation, per the AP.
- The discovery is unlikely to alter the seabed search, says Australia's Transport Safety Bureau Chief Commissioner. If the find proves to be part of the missing aircraft, it would be consistent with the theory that the plane crashed within the 46,000-square-mile search area, 1,100 miles southwest of Australia, he says.
- If confirmed as from MH370, a former NTSB member tells the AP the debris is unlikely to provide much help in tracing the oceans currents back to the location of the main wreckage. "It's going to be hard to say with any certainty where the source of this was," he says. "It just confirms that the airplane is in the water and hasn't been hijacked to some remote place."
- But the piece could provide valuable clues to investigators trying to figure out what caused the aircraft to vanish in the first place, says an Australian aviation professor. The nature of the damage to the debris could help indicate whether the plane broke up in the air or when it hit the water, and how violently it did so, he says.
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