A stenciled part number on a fourth recovered potential fragment of MH370 has major implications for the search for the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER now missing for just over two years.
The part was found last December by a South African family holidaying in Mozambique but came to light this morning.
The part number corresponds with an access panel near the tip of the right hand side of wing of the jet, and is of similar part honeycomb structure to another fragment found on Mozambique last week by Blaine Gibson.
According to Duncan Steel, a member of the Independent Group studying the available evidence concerning the loss of MH370 the significance of the find (if confirmed) is as follows:
Small debris fragments are evidence of a high-speed impact into the ocean, and that would mean an uncontrolled spiral dive following fuel exhaustion. Such a dive would end up close to the 7th ping arc, and that is vital. Recent pronouncements out of Canberra have indicated that they think that the aircraft may have undergone a (controlled) glide following fuel exhaustion, and that is why it has not been found (because then it could have ended up (a) Intact, then sinking; and (b) Some distance from the 7th arc). The discovery of fragments such as those now in hand indicate that this did not occur, and it really did fall out of the sky close to the 7th arc.
In an analysis of drift patterns by another IG member, Richard Godfrey, published on Dr Steel's website today
, it is assumed that if 1000 pieces of debris were generated on impact by MH370, some 58 of them would be in the wider oceanic areas of La Réunion island and proximate shores including that of Mozambique.
When AF447 struck the mid Atlantic in 2009 it generated about 1000 items of recovered floating debris and considerably more that dispersed or sank before recovery, and it should be added, mostly within a time frame shorter than that prior to the start of the aerial search phase for MH370 two years ago.
The AF447 recovery effort also had the benefit of a starting point, while to this day no one knows exactly where MH370 hit the south Indian Ocean.
This is part of the report, which needs to read carefully and in full to understand the assumptions and the calculations.
The most likely location for debris to have washed ashore already (i.e. 24 months post-crash) is Madagascar, followed by the Comoros Islands and Mayotte, Mozambique, Réunion, and Tanzania.
The total probability that floating debris will be positioned in the area investigated is 5.8%; that is, out of one thousand floating debris items starting out at 37S near the 7th Arc, 58 may be anticipated to be within the area investigated (and 942 will be elsewhere).
Of the above 5.8% estimated to be in the area investigated, about 89% is expected, based on these calculations, to still be floating on the ocean, and only 11% already to have come ashore. That is, of the above putative 58 items there would be about six already come ashore, and 52 still on the ocean within that area investigated.
The map below shows the calculated spread of debris over the area investigated.
The report says the finds in Mozambique (if they indeed turnout to be from MH370) are also against the odds, and that Blaine Gibson and Liam Lotter were certainly in the right place at the right time.
"There are about four more items of debris perhaps waiting to be found on the north, east and west coasts of Madagascar; or, four multiplied by the number of thousands of initial floating items from the crash (assuming that none of the initially-floating items subsequently sunk)."
The analysis done by Steel and Godfrey will no doubt lead to calls for an intense oceanic search if the details of their work doesn't sink in, to use a poor metaphor. The odds against success are daunting, although determination, and luck, have produced what appear to be two grounded fragments.
Perhaps more good luck will produce more parts. The elusive sunk sections of the wreckage, including the cockpit noise and flight data recorders and perhaps personal recording device chips are potentially of the utmost importance, alongside the faint possibility that regime change or an outbreak of honest accountability in Malaysia will tell us much more about what happened before and during the night MH370 took off on 8 March 2014 from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing with 239 people on board.
Why was the search such a pathetic, craven affair on the part of the authorities and the airline? Why did the government lie to its early search partners about what it knew? These are vital questions. Former Malaysia PM Mahathir Mohamad has publicly described this week's second interim report in the loss of MH370 as 'unacceptable'. When will honesty and candor prevail in KL concerning this terrible tragedy, or crime?