A 90cm piece of debris, discovered on a sandbank in the Mozambique Channel and believed to belong to a missing Malaysia Airlines plane, will be fast-tracked to Australia to be examined by aviation experts.
Almost two years to the day since flight MH370 disappeared, the discovery of the debris at the weekend by American lawyer Blaine Gibson has prompted fresh hope of eventually solving one of modern aviation’s greatest mysteries.
Photos released on Thursday by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau show what experts say appears to be a horizontal stabiliser, made of fibreglass composite and aluminium.
The part has the words “NO STEP” printed on it, which is common to aircraft, and was discovered in an area officials say is consistent with predictions from drift modelling undertaken by investigators.
The ATSB confirmed on Thursday that arrangements were being made to ship the part to its laboratories in Canberra.
“Until the actual debris has been examined by government investigators and specialists from the manufacturer, Boeing, we cannot comment on the nature of the debris,” an ATSB spokesperson told AAP.
“Arrangements are being made now, we do not yet have an anticipated date of arrival.”
The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 disappeared on March 8, 2014 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, killing 239 people, including six Australians. It’s believed it crashed somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean, off Western Australia.
The seas have so far yielded just one other piece of evidence – a wing fragment – which was discovered last July on the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion.
Australian Transport Minister Darren Chester said it was “a desperately difficult time for the families” of those killed.
“I can confirm that a piece of metal wreckage has been found on a beach in Mozambique. It’s of interest to us obviously because it’s in the area where we plotted that debris could end up from MH370,” Mr Chester told reporters in Canberra.
The comments came after Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai earlier said there was a “high possibility” the debris was from MH370.
Joao de Abreu, president of Mozambique’s Civil Aviation Institute, said the grey piece of debris was a “composite” material and measured 57 by 90cm.
“It’s still premature and speculative to say that this piece belongs to a Boeing or an Airbus or another plane,” he said.
Image: A supplied image obtained Thursday, March 3, 2016 of a piece of metal, approximately one meter in length, that has been found on a beach in Mozambique. The location of the debris is consistent with drift modelling commissioned by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) and reaffirms the search area for MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean. (AAP Image/ATSB/Blaine Gibson)