Authorities on the French island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean have found debris that may be from a missing Malaysia Airlines jet.
A source familiar with the investigation tells NPR’s Geoff Brumfiel that the debris appears to have come from a large passenger aircraft, but it remains unclear whether it’s from Malaysia Airlines flight 370, which vanished from radar on March 8, 2014.
The Boeing 777 took off from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and was flying to Beijing, China, with 239 people on board. About an hour after departure, the flight crew made a final radio transmission and was never heard from again.
As Geoff reported for our Newscast unit:
“Up until now, the only lead in the search for the plane were brief transmissions it sent to an orbiting satellite in the hours after it disappeared. Based on that signal, investigators believed the aircraft flew to the Southern Indian Ocean near Australia, before it ran out of fuel and crashed.”
Investigators have found a 9-foot by 3-foot section of a white wing. It appears to be a part called a “flaperon” which combines flaps (the trailing edge of the wing that help planes during takeoff and landings) and ailerons (which turn the aircraft). Several media outlets are quoting senior Boeing officials who say the debris is consistent with a 777.
Pictures show the wing part has likely been in the water for a while. There will be serial numbers on the flaperon that investigators will use to definitively say whether this debris came from the missing plane.
Models by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau suggest the debris could have reached Réunion within this timeframe, and that is “consistent with the drift modeling.” In addition to the French investigators, officials from Malaysia are also heading to the island.