Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has been an aerial mystery since it disappeared 16 months ago, captivating the world and sparking numerous theories into where the aircraft and 239 crew and passengers could have gone. On Wednesday, a piece of plane debris washed ashore on an island east of Madagascar, located thousands of miles from the crash search area in the waters west of Australia. In a Thursday news conference, Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said the discovered debris was a "significant development," since there have been absolutely no sign of the plane since it went missing March 8, 2014. But is the debris from MH370 and how will officials confirm it?
Officials have been extremely cautious in their investigation to avoid creating false hope for the victims' families, who have been waiting for any sign of the plane or its passengers for nearly a year and a half. Truss acknowledged the possibility that the debris could have come from MH370 but said officials would hold giving confirmation until they were 100 percent certain.
It's the first real evidence that it’s a possibility that a part of the aircraft may have been found. It's too early to make that judgment, but clearly we're treating this as a major lead.
So what will authorities look at to prove whether or not this piece is from MH370?
1. The Number
Truss on Thursday told reporters "BB670" was found printed on the wing piece. He said the marking was not a serial or registration number but suggested it may be an aircraft maintenance number that could help tie it back to MH370.
2. The Part
Boeing has yet to confirm the component belongs to its 777 model, which was the same type of aircraft as MH370. A U.S. official told the Associated Press that air safety investigators had a "high degree of confidence" the wing piece came from a Boeing 777. There haven't been any other missing triple-sevens, so if the piece is confirmed to come from that model, the possibility it belonged to a MH370 is extremely high.
3. The Barnacles
The plane part was covered in barnacles, which could indicate how long it was in the water tell us. Authorities have indicated the size of the barnacles is consistent with the timeline of when the plane crashed. The species of the small crustaceans could also tell authorities whether or not they are searching in the right area in the Indian Ocean.
4. The Current
Investigators are looking into whether currents were strong enough and drift patterns consistent with the debris' estimated path. But regardless of whether this is confirmed, experts have said given the amount of time that has passed, it would be impossible to trace the debris' path back to the plane's crash site.
Any of these factors would be relatively easy to confirm, yet authorities will definitely take their time to weigh all possibilities before officially making their findings public. And after so much time, this potential first clue could be a sign that we'll finally have answer to what really happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
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