It took well over a year, but at long last, the tragic fate of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 is starting to get a little clearer. On March 8, 2014, MH370 vanished from radar, ceased all communications, and was never heard from again. Last week, authorities discovered a badly damaged piece of an airplane wing on Reunion Island in the west Indian Ocean, and it's since been confirmed that it came from the ill-fated airliner. So, what could MH370's flaperon tell us about what happened, now that it's been confirmed?
For the uninitiated, a "flaperon" is a component of an airplane wing. It's the piece that helps stabilize a flight's course while it's in the air, the flexible, tiltable pieces that extend from the rear-facing edges of a plane's wings. After the Reunion Island flaperon was discovered, it gave rise to immediate theories that it had come from MH370, in spite of it's immense distance from where the plane was last seen. And, lo and behold, those instincts were proven correct — the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak, confirmed the news on Wednesday. Here are four things we can pretty well assume about the sad saga of MH370, by virtue of this discovery.
1. MH370 Crashed Into The Ocean
Sure, there are other, less likely scenarios — like the plane crashing on land, and some of the debris scattering into the ocean — but given the vast expanse of the ocean over which MH370 disappeared, and the fact that it washed up so far away seemingly by way of oceanic currents, it seems as safe a bet as possible that the plane went down into the water.
2. The Flaperon Traveled A Long Way
Just how far is Reunion Island from where MH370 was last observed? It's a rather mind-boggling distance, to say the least — it's nearly 4,000 miles. In other words, this piece of wing went dark for 18 months, then turned up further from its last sighting than the entire length of the United States, from coast to coast. This is by no means an impossibility, but it's nonetheless a rather startling fact.
3. The Conspiracy Theories Were Wrong
Obviously, this shred of MH370's remains doesn't tell us everything. In fact, there's plenty left unsolved, especially what caused the wreck in the first place. But there were some wilder conspiracy theories that seem more or less conclusively disproven, perhaps foremost among them the idea that Vladimir Putin had the plane hijacked and diverted to an air strip in Kazakhstan.
Basically, finding a piece of MH370 drifting through the ocean leans entirely towards the most standard-fare, unassuming explanations of what might have happened — if a plane vanishes over the ocean under unknown circumstances, trusty old Occam's Razor would tell you it likely hit the water.
4. All The Passengers Likely Died
It might have seemed obvious, but it's nonetheless been a source of mystery, confusion and heartache for so many families of the MH370 victims — a plane vanishing with no trace clearly left painfully little closure or resolution for the passengers' loved ones.
Obviously, discovering just one piece of a wing won't change this for some people — as The Guardian detailed, an in-flight supervisor's wife named Jacquita Gonzalez doesn't feel any closure's been brought by this discovery — but for others, hopefully this allows for some.