La Réunion, that wing flap, and MH370

The wing flap that has drifted ashore in La Réunion on the western side of the Indian Ocean may well have come from the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 that flew the ill-fated flight MH370.

But if it really was a part of that aircraft, does it help the search for the main wreckage?

Unfortunately no. It certainly does not mean the wreckage is near La Réunion.

This flap section has been afloat since the aircraft hit the sea on 8 March 2014, a year and four months ago. It has drifted a long way in that time, and tracing it back to its possible origin using a model of the prevailing sea currents and winds would provide such a massive approximation that it would indicate a larger search area than the one the Australian government has already searched, and which it continues to search right now.

The Indian Ocean’s main sea current system flows anti-clockwise, so if the aircraft did indeed crash in the area off the west coast of Australia where the search is taking place, the flap – and possibly other parts – would have been carried north, then westerly, then southerly, which makes La Réunion a plausible location for it to wash up. So the find certainly does not invalidate the present calculations.

Does it tell us anything new about how the aircraft was lost?

Again, unfortunately no. The experts reckon the aircraft had nothing wrong with it, and that it crashed into the sea when it ran out of fuel.

That is because an aircraft that sets off for one destination, makes a U-turn and then flies successfully for hours in the wrong direction while it could be seen on radar, and probably many more hours when it could no longer be seen, had nothing structurally wrong with it.

The favourite explanation from all the major players in the industry is that the disappearance of MH370 was a deliberate act by someone in control of the aircraft. In the light of the Germanwings crash earlier this year, deliberately carried out by the unbalanced copilot, that explanation now has additional credibility with the public.

If the flap is indeed from MH370, the discovery finally lays to rest two theories: sadly but inevitably, those who lost relatives on the flight and were still hoping that the aircraft had safely landed in a remote place, will now be confronted with the reality that the aircraft broke up, probably on impact with the sea; and finally those conspiracy theorists who reckon the CIA hijacked it to Diego Garcia – or anywhere else – are going to have to search their imaginations for an alternative explanation.

11 thoughts on “La Réunion, that wing flap, and MH370

  1. You underestimate conspiracy theorists, who will surely start explaining how this piece of wreckage was planted there by whomever is truly responsible.

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  2. Great discovery. If it is indeed part of the missing plane, although I can’t think of any other obvious source, people in Réunion and Mauritius should be on the lookout, just in case more wreckage shows up.

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  3. How about “the CIA hijacked it to Diego Garcia – or anywhere else” and then scattered a few pieces in the ocean and let them drift about only to be discovered after many months? Ha! You didn’t expect that, did you? 🙂

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  4. Thinking — or speculating — out aloud: suppose the aircraft did fly on an apprximately WSW heading after overflying the Straits of Malacca… what is there between there and Réunion? Diego García, roughly midway. Suppose the aircraft neared the archipelago, still under the cover of darkness, with transponder, lights and all other forms of identification switched off, and the pilot in control (supposing he was acting alone) unresponsive to communication; might not the US military have simply perceived the unidentified aircraft approaching as hostile and shot it down pre-emptively? Embarrassing as that might have become in hindsight, in the heat of the moment and without the means to positively identify the aircraft, it may have been deemed the least bad option at the time.

    Diego García may be one of the missing pieces to this puzzle — just not necessarily in some of the more outlandish ways several conspiracy theorists have suggested. There need not have been a single CIA agent on board for the above scenario to unfold, or any premeditation from anyone other than the pilot.

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  5. Far from the Madding crowd, Learmount is a global anchor of sanity among an oceanic sea of inanity. QED!

    Message in a Flaperon (aucune bouteille) from a Réunion BEA Rendezvous. July 29 2015.
    Unique by all metrics, apparently.
    Samuel Beckett – CRM-in effect- said, “Fail, fail again, fail better!”.
    PHD is not always exclusively Permanent Head Damage though, to be fair. Groucho still casts a long shadow..
    On MH370, time flies, memory stands still. Still, in motion in general and emotion, in particular, upon the ocean floating with hitch-hiking barnacles upon its humbling abyss of our Learmount human comprehension. Quite the flap-eron without a trailing “Ron” for conjecture.
    Now to the business of 20 years of B-777 commercial operation. That is without any documented flaperation migration.
    On each hull loss, the reputation of the B-777 was enhanced, in general, but in particular, on AAR214. From RKSI-KSFO’s RWY28L on July 6 2013 and the KTVU Comedy Gold of comedy following tragedy on July 06 2013.
    Capt. Sum Ting Wong was KTVU-Asiana invoked on short final, while adjusting his PM-right- seat to attain a better view of the crash.
    What other product’s business case is enhanced by its human A/P and A/T interaction of A/P and manual flight miss-management.
    Manual flying, of which, my view of the AAR’s ICAO, rather than its IATA OZ tag is thus:
    AAR 214 means, in my view, “Assumed Autothrottle Rescue”….that is to say, the A/T would “wake-up” in a NON-A/T mode, but NOT in, man-handled A/T HOLD mode. B-777 A/T wakes up when disconnected. It is Good, not God.
    Total non-airmanship of AAR214 gives the benefit of 18 years of B-777 operation in 3 minutes of NTSB animation. No better lesson learned of a CAVOK “Throttle HOLD/FLCH-up”. But looking at the NTSB AAR214 of July 6 2013 and its Gold Standard animation, lesson remedial.
    Now for flaps…
    The flaperons on the B-777 are solo. They are roughly mid-span, approx. 25 feet outboard from the fuselage, between the flap segments and directly in the thrust line. Their range of travel is 10° up and 36° down. When the thrust lever angle is initially moved into the takeoff range -before TOGA tapping- the flaperons are on hydraulic PCU bypass and gravity-droop into the fan-plume, until it-the N1 fan-plume expands and raises the flaperon above Détente-Neutral. At approx.100KT IAS, the fan plume is ram-flow laminar streamlined and the flaperon comes off bypass and power-droops into the -non-plume- ambient laminar airflow to assist the Flaps 5,15 or 20 takeoff. This prevents plume-turbulent and acoustic damage to the surface, dual actuators and cove lip-door. Apart from the Boeing 787, flaperons are unique to the B-777 in the Boeing stable.In common with inboard “all speed” ailerons of earlier types, the B-777 ailerons -outboard of the flaperons- are locked out for high speed flight, flaps-up flight.
    Upon observation of the barnacled and bitted trailing edge, I “suggest” a drooped water impact.
    With melted wax and loosened strings, sank hapless Icarus upon flaperoned wings, for when the buckled spar, lets down the grinding span, the grief for loss incurred shall confer upon a man and grief shall be a falling leaf upon the dawning of the day.

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  6. David, you are by far my favourite authority on all things Aviation and I have been following you for many years.
    It is my understanding that MH370 is the only 777 to have been lost and not found, therefore the flaperon must be from 370.
    Is this accurate?

    Keep up the good work.

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    • You are absolutely right about 777 losses. There is a distant possibility, until confirmation comes, that this could have come from a Yemenia Airbus A310 that crashed just off the Comoros Islands a few years ago, but I think it’s more likely to be from MH370

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      • I have read that there is a possibility it could be from the Yemenia A310, though due to it’s size and all other corresponding information, I agree that it’s more likely to be from MH370.
        It still blows my mind that in this day and age, we can lose an entire aircraft without not knowing what happened, and that we have only found possible wreckage a year later.
        Also, my understanding is that the 777 has a 2-hour Solid State CVR. However, if by some small chance we actually do recover the FDR/CVR, we won’t know what happened at the crucial moment when the flight went wrong, due to the recorder only capturing the last 2 hours of flight.
        That is, unless they were turned off. (Not that I subscribe to that theory)

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  7. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), leading the search for MH370, have described Capt Hardy’s compelling theory you wrote about in your blog as “credible”. Do we know if they have yet searched the location he predicted?

    If they haven’t, why not???

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