Malaysia

Transport ministers say Mozambique debris ‘almost certainly from MH370’

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The transport ministers of Malaysia and Australia say two pieces of debris found in Mozambique are almost certainly from missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

This follows a statement from the authorities in France last September that an aircraft flaperon found on the island of Reunion last July was from MH370.

The missing Boeing 777 disappeared on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board. It was en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

The Malaysian Transport Minister, Liow Tiong Lai, said today that the dimensions, materials, and construction of both pieces of debris “conform to the specifications of a Boeing 777 aircraft “.

The paint and stencilling on both aircraft parts matched those used by Malaysia Airlines (MAS), he said.

“As such, both parts are consistent with panels from a MAS Boeing 777 aircraft, and almost certainly are from MH370.”

Liow Tiong Lai said the location where both pieces of debris were discovered was consistent with the drift modelling performed by the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

One of the pieces of debris discovered in Mozambique was found by American amateur investigator Blaine Alan Gibson, who has been searching for wreckage over the past year. He spotted it on a sandbank in February.

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The triangular-shaped piece of metal is 94 centimetres long at the base and 60 centimetres high. The words “No Step” are printed along one side of the fragment.

This find prompted a South African tourist, Liam Lotter, to come forward with a piece of debris he found on a beach in Mozambique last December and took back with him to South Africa.

Both pieces of debris were flown to Australia for analysis.

Australia’s Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Darren Chester, said the analysis concluded that both pieces of debris were “consistent with panels from a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 aircraft”.

The debris, he said, was “almost certainly from MH370”.

That such debris had been found on the east coast of Africa was consistent with drift modelling performed by the CSIRO “and further affirms our search efforts in the southern Indian Ocean”, he added.

There are many, however, who have cast doubt on the calculations made by the British company Inmarsat that determined the search location. Inmarsat analysed satellite pings – or handshakes – from the aircraft to make its calculations.

BBCMap courtesy of the BBC.

The flaperon discovered last July was found by a local man, Johnny Begue, on Reunion’s Saint-André beach.

The Paris prosecutor, François Molins, said last September that analysis of the flaperon had allowed investigators to determine “with certitude” that it came from Flight MH370.

Another piece of debris that reportedly bears a partial Rolls Royce logo was found earlier this month near Mossel Bay on South Africa’s southern coast by  local archaeologist and aviation enthusiast Neels Kruger and is still being examined.

Liow Tiong Lai said the two pieces of debris discovered in Mozambique were examined from March 21 to March 23 at the Geoscience Australia and Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) facilities in Canberra.

The examination and analysis of the debris was carried out by experts from the Malaysian MH370 safety investigation team, the ATSB, the Department of Civil Aviation Malaysia, and Boeing.

The experts were also assisted by specialists from Geoscience Australia and the Australian National University.

“We wish to extend our appreciation to the Mozambique, South African, and Australian authorities for their generous support and assistance in this matter,” Liow Tiong Lai said. “Malaysia would also like to express our sincere gratitude to Mr Johnny Begue, Mr Blaine Gibson, and Mr Liam Lotter for highlighting their discoveries to the investigation team.”

Underwater search continues

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Darren Chester said today that there were still 25,000 square kilometres of the southern Indian ocean to be covered in the Australia-led underwater search for the missing plane.

“We are focused on completing this task and remain hopeful the aircraft will be found.”

It has been stated that once this current search area has been completely covered, which is likely to be by about June this year, the search will end.

However, Malaysia’s prime minister, Najib Razak, said recently that, if MH370 is not found in that area, “Malaysia, Australia, and China will hold a tripartite meeting to determine the way forward”.

Martin Dolan, who heads the ATSB, which is co-ordinating the search, told the BBC that the governments’ positions were unchanged and the search would end soon “unless new and significant information comes to light”.

Interim statement

The international investigating team released a second interim statement on the two-year anniversary of the MH370’s disappearance. It is very brief, and reveals no new conclusions.

The three-page statement, which was made accessible to close relatives of those on board the missing flight prior to its public release, was produced to comply with International Civil Aviation Organisation requirements¹.

The new statement made only two main points: the wreckage of the aircraft had not been found, and (at the time the statement was issued) only one piece of debris – the flaperon discovered on Reunion island – had been determined to have been a part of the missing plane.

The statement also lists the current areas of investigation.

The investigators say they are continuing to work towards finalising their analysis, conclusions, and safety recommendations and are focusing on eight areas:

  • diversion from the filed flight plan route;
  • air traffic services operations;
  • flight crew profile;
  • airworthiness, maintenance, and aircraft systems;
  • satellite communications;
  • wreckage and impact information (following the recovery and verification of a flaperon from the aircraft);
  • organisation and management information (the Department of Civil Aviation, Malaysia, and Malaysia Airlines); and
  • aircraft cargo consignment.

The disappearance of MH370 is the greatest mystery in aviation history and the air and sea search for the aircraft is the biggest ever carried out. A huge area of the ocean floor has been examined in detail.

Since MH370 disappeared there have been innumerable theories about its fate that range from the perfectly plausible to the wildly bizarre. There have been accusations of ineptitude on the part of the Malaysian government, and allegations of a cover-up.

Malaysia’s former prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, has publicly alleged that the fate of MH370 has been concealed.

1) If a final report cannot be made publicly available within twelve months, the state conducting the investigation is required to make an interim statement publicly available on each anniversary of the occurrence, detailing the progress of the investigation and any safety issues raised.

 The MH370 safety investigation team comprises 19 Malaysians and accredited representatives from safety investigation authorities in seven other countries.

Australian Transport Safety Bureau report.

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