SYDNEY • The discovery of a wing flap from Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 is unlikely to put an end to wildly diverse theories about one of the biggest mysteries in modern aviation.
Analysis of the wing part, called a flaperon, that washed up on the French island of La Reunion could reveal how it detached from the jet and therefore how the Boeing 777 entered the ocean, as well as how violent the impact was.
But aviation analysts are cautious about how much the wing part could reveal about why the plane went missing.
Australian expert Neil Hansford said what it can prove is that MH370 definitely crashed into the southern Indian Ocean, but why it went there in the first place can be solved only if and when the black boxes are recovered.
Meanwhile, a host of other experts and enthusiasts are coming to their own conclusions about what happened after MH370 disappeared off radar on a night flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March last year with 239 people on board.
The theories range from the wild - alien abduction, or that the plane was shot down by the US military near the island of Diego Garcia, or that it was transported to Russia or Pakistan for use in terrorism - to sober, science-based arguments that the plane is in the southern Indian Ocean, but not necessarily where searchers are looking.
Official investigators say that the torn, barnacle-encrusted flaperon confirms MH370 went down within the designated 120,000 sq km search zone in the southern Indian Ocean.
However, they cautioned that even after weeks of analysis, it may divulge little more about why the plane crashed.
But that has not deterred interpretations of photographs of the flaperon and revised drift modelling by the Australian-led search team, which some argue was changed to suit the finding, to pursue existing theories.
"People came out and staked a claim early on what happened, like the theory that MH370 had been shot down during war games," said Dr Chris Fleming, a senior lecturer in cultural and social analysis at the University of Western Sydney.
"To retract that is an enormous blow to their credibility and professional career."
The Independent Group, or IG, a respected global coalition of aviation experts and scientists, said the torn debris implies the plane broke up in mid-air.
And there is the most basic rebuttal of all: The find itself is not real. That analysis means conspiracy theorists can keep alive their belief that the plane flew north and did not crash in the Indian Ocean at all.
"The very nature of a conspiracy theory is a distrust of the authorities; that they are covering something up," said Dr Fleming. "It helps people understand the senseless."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS