After more than a year, there could finally be an explanation for the mysterious disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. On Wednesday, debris that Boeing officials said could possibly have come from a 777 washed up on Réunion, an island near Madagascar.
MH370 disappeared in March of last year after leaving Kuala Lumpar. The commercial airliner disappeared not long after takeoff with 239 people on board. Air traffic control lost contact with the flight over the Gulf of Thailand, and for more than a year, its whereabouts have largely been a mystery.
As officials scramble to identify the debris and make a connection to the missing flight, one number found in the wreckage could offer a solid start, according to Wired magazine.
Wired reporters Nick Stockton and Alex Davies spoke to Xavier Tytleman, an airplane security expert based in France who was able to examine photographs of the wreckage. Tytleman told Wired that the piece looked like a movable part normally found on the wing of a 777, and that he was able to identify a series of numbers and letters from the photo: BB670.
What does "BB670" mean to Boeing officials? According to CNN safety analyst David Soucie, the numbers could be one of the aircraft's few unique identifiers.
But which identifier is it? Officials are still unsure, as the number doesn't match the serial number of the missing aircraft, according to Tytleman. Former NTSB investigator Greg Feith told Wired that the number could be part of a serial number used by a manufacturer or subcontractor. How simple would it be to identify the debris if that's the case? Here's what Feith told Wired:
Every manufacturer puts a data tag, or data plate, on every part that goes on an airplane. If that data plate is there, it’s relatively easy.
Mary Schiavo, former inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation, appeared to agree, telling CNN's Jake Tapper that the number might allow officials to identify the wreckage within hours:
If the part numbers that are stamped on the pieces of the plane still survived, it literally could be a phone call to Boeing or to the parts indices to look up the parts numbers to see if it belongs to a 777. And if it belongs to a 777 it is MH370 because there've only been five accidents or crashes of 777s [...] so the answer could come within hours if Boeing has been contacted and has been provided part numbers.
It appears that, while officials are still unsure about what the number means, it's going to be an important clue in helping them to determine whether the wreckage found on Wednesday is part of the missing airliner.
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