MH370: Wreckage may help piece together flight’s final moments says expert Geoff Dell

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Air-safety investigators say any confirmation that aircraft wreckage that washed up on a remote island in the Indian Ocean is from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 will help piece together the final moments of the jetliner’s crash.

However, they warn that the discovery of what appears to be a flaperon from the trailing edge of an aircraft wing is highly unlikely to make it easier to find the ill-fated Boeing 777.

The debris found on Reunion Island is to be sent to France for forensic examination to determine whether it is from MH370, as part of a coordinated effort with authorities from Malaysia and Australia.

Air-safety expert Geoff Dell said the wreckage, if confirmed to be from MH370, would help support modelling of the structural break up of the aircraft and how it crashed into the water.

“We may get some more evidence from it about how it separated … and how much force would have been needed to break the aircraft up to that degree,” said Dr Dell, an associate professor at Central Queensland University and a former Qantas safety manager.

“Then you can make some assumptions about what that means for the [aircraft] structure. Are we looking for lots of little pieces, or larger pieces, which will allow you to fine tune the modelling of what you are looking for?”

If it is confirmed to be from the Malaysia Airlines 777, which disappeared on March 8 last year carrying 239 people, it would be the first corroborated evidence supporting some of the assumptions that had been made, including satellite data analysis which pointed to the fact that the aircraft veered across the Malay Peninsula before crashing in the southern Indian Ocean, Dr Dell said No clues for search

However, Dr Dell cautioned that it would do little to help authorities narrow down the search area. The debris floating in the ocean for 16 months would make it hard, “if not completely impossible”, to work backwards to determine where exactly the aircraft had crashed.

“It confirms we are in the right ocean but it doesn’t necessarily confirm anything about whether we are searching in the right place,” he said. “I don’t think it helps very much, if at all.”

Nevertheless, Dr Dell said it would increase pressure on the Australian and Malaysian governments, which had already spent tens of millions of dollars on scouring the southern Indian Ocean, to continue searching for the plane.

“Where do you go next? You’ve got the whole bloody ocean to search. It will be cost prohibitive to just keep searching. Do you go north, south, east west?” he said.

The French aviation safety bureau is studying the information on the aircraft part found on Reunion Island and coordinating with their counterparts from Malaysia and Australia.

However, Australia’s Air Transport Safety Bureau, which is leading the underwater search for MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean, will not be sending any experts to Reunion Island because the overarching investigation is in the hands of Malaysian authorities. More aviation news and analysisFollow us on Twitter @BusinessDay

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