Wing part to undergo expert analysis in France

Malaysian team working with French officials in bid to solve aviation mystery

PARIS • Malaysian aviation experts met French officials yesterday to coordinate the investigation into missing flight MH370, days after the discovery of a washed-up plane part offered fresh hopes of solving the mystery.

The Malaysian team met a French judge, a group of experts and police charged with the investigation at the Palais de Justice in Paris.

France is leading the current phase of the investigation after a 2m-long flaperon, already confirmed to be part of a Boeing 777, surfaced last week on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion.

Technical experts, including from US aerospace giant Boeing, will begin examining from tomorrow the wing component, which is likely to have come from the doomed Malaysia Airlines flight as no other such plane is known to have crashed in the area.

Mauritius said it would do all it can to search for more debris after Malaysia appealed to islands near La Reunion to hunt for clues.

In one of the most baffling mysteries in aviation history, MH370 inexplicably veered off course in March 2014 and disappeared from radars, sparking a colossal hunt that has until now proved fruitless.

In January, Malaysian authorities declared all 239 people on board MH370 presumed dead.

The wing part will undergo physical and chemical analysis in a bid to prove beyond doubt that the flaperon once belonged to MH370. It will be examined with an electron microscope "that can magnify up to 10,000 times" to try to understand how it was damaged, said former General Directorate for Armaments director of tests Pierre Bascaryat.

However, experts have warned grieving families not to expect startling revelations from a single part. "We shouldn't expect miracles from this analysis," said Mr Jean-Paul Troadec, former head of France's BEA civil flight authority.

In order to provide clues on what happened to the aircraft, "the part would need to be at the centre of the accident and the chances are fairly small", he noted.

Meanwhile, over 9,000km away, locals on La Reunion were scouring the beaches for more debris.

On Sunday, there was a frenzy of speculation over what locals believed to be a plane door, but which the authorities quickly identified as part of a domestic ladder.

Also on Sunday, La Reunion police collected a mangled piece of metal with Chinese characters and attached to what appeared to be a leather-covered handle, sparking more frenzied speculation.

However, Chinese Internet users suggested it may be a kettle.

"People are more vigilant. They are going to think any metallic object they find on the beach is from MH370, but there are objects all along the coast, the ocean continually throws them up," said Mr Jean-Yves Sambimanan, spokesman for the town of Saint-Andre, where the wing debris was found.

Scientists say it is plausible that ocean currents carried a piece of the wreckage as far as La Reunion.

But Mr Roland Triadec, a local oceanographer, said La Reunion represented only "a pinhead" in the Indian Ocean and the likelihood of other debris washing up there was low.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 04, 2015, with the headline 'Wing part to undergo expert analysis in France MH370'. Subscribe