As of tomorrow it will be a full two weeks since forensic testing of a claimed wing section from missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 began at the behest of a criminal probe in France in a military aviation laboratory in Toulouse.
Two weeks and yet no finding on the authenticity of the barnacle encrusted two metre long, and visually partly damaged flaperon, from the trailing edge of a Boeing 777-200ER that was found on 29 July (possibly for the second time in three months) on a beach on La Reunion, a French island in the west Indian Ocean between Madagascar further west and Mauritius to the north east of its tropic shores.
The social media echo chamber is, not surprisingly on this occasion, full of so far unsubstantiated rumours that Boeing doesn’t think that what is definitely a part of a Boeing 777 was in this case ever put into service.
(Boeing hasn’t yet officially said anything about provenance. It knows the protocols of air accident investigations, and sticks to them, notwithstanding that what is happening in Toulouse is actually a criminal investigation by the public prosecutor’s office in Paris, inquiring into the deaths of four French nations, at least three of whom were residents of that city.)
However the Minister for Transport in Malaysia Liow Tiong Lai, has said quite a lot about the debris found on La Reunion, and been basically called as wrong in his utterances by the French authorities on the island.
According to Mr Liow on 6 August, parts of aircraft windows, seat cushions and aluminium sheeting that he said were from a plane had been found and handed to authorities.
Who have clearly lost them? Or maybe decided they were the sort of stuff you use to keep food left overs in a ‘fridge, or were discarded furnishings, and not part of an airliner with 239 people on board that disappeared on 8 March 2014 when it was flying for Malaysia Airlines between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing.
Which would be huge news. Imagine a jet airliner partly built from reinforced concrete!
Mr Liow’s willingness to say things that are unconfirmed by French authorities, follows on his Prime Minister Najib Razak calling an urgent press conference in a near empty room in Kuala Lumpur earlier this month to say international experts had ‘unanimously concluded’ that the wing part came from MH370 minutes before another press conference in Paris said no such thing, and urged caution as to provenance.
The public prosecutor’s office also expressed disquiet over a lack of ‘reciprocity’ on the part of Malaysia in responding to its requests for more information about the police inquiries made in Malaysia.
Liow and Najib are continuing to harm their credibility on matters MH370, as did the Australia Prime Minister Tony Abbott who in April last year briefly took centre stage to publicly assured China that the acoustic experts in a defence facility in Australia had concluded that the then early search for MH370 had detected two sets of ‘pings’ in waters off the NW shore of Western Australia that sounded like they came from the jet’s two black box recorders.
The erratic claims about MH370 that have come out of KL are cause for concern.
It may well be that the flaperon now in France did come from MH370. The French investigators are entitled to take as much time as they need to determine if it ever flew, and if it did, how it might have become detached from an aircraft, presumably the one flying as MH370.
But the impatience of the media, and a distrust of Malaysia’s authorities in terms of their disclosures to date, have made the determination of the causes of the loss of MH370 a toxic and corrosive topic that remains the plaything of fantasy peddlers, opportunistic politicians and civil servants seeking to further or even save their careers.
Worse than that, some of those suppositions about dishonest and misleading behaviour may even be true.
For the next of kin of the dead, this is an awful and obscene spectacle.
Ben Sandilands has reported and analysed the mechanical mobility of humanity since late 1960 - the end of the age of great scheduled ocean liners and coastal steamers and the start of the jet age. He’s worked in newspapers, radio and TV in a wide range of roles as a journalist at home and abroad for 56 years, the last 18 freelance.