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.