Asia

MH370: The key pieces of debris found by the public

A file picture dated 17 July 2016 shows a passenger walking past a Malaysia Airlines aircraft within a viewing gallery of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in Sepang, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Image copyright EPA

The underwater search for flight MH370 has ended, with no trace of the Malaysian Airlines plane being found.

While the search has been going on, more than 20 pieces of possible debris have been found by members of the public, on the African coast and islands in the Indian Ocean.

Most have been handed in to French authorities or the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) which has been co-ordinating the search.

So far only a handful have been confirmed as "definitely" or "almost certainly" from the doomed plane.


'Definitely' from MH370

Right wing flaperon

Image copyright Reuters
  • Found: July 2015, on a beach in Saint Denis on Reunion Island
  • Part: A section from the plane's right wing that helps to control speed and position

The flaperon was the first piece of potential debris found. In September 2015 French judicial authorities who examined it confirmed it did come from MH370. One of three numbers found on the part matched up with the plane's serial number, 9M-MRO.

Left outboard flap trailing edge

Image copyright ATSB
  • Found: May 2016, on Ilot Bernache in Mauritius
  • Part: The rear edge of an outboard flap - which controls the plane's rolling and banking - on the left wing

Investigators say this piece has identification numbers belonging to parts that were uniquely made for Malaysia Airlines and incorporated into MH370's plane.

Right outboard flap

Image copyright Australian Transport Safety Bureau
  • Found: June 2016, on Pemba island in Tanzania
  • Part: A flap from the plane's right wing

One of the largest pieces of debris found so far, this piece had identification numbers and date stamps tallying with those belonging to MH370 parts.


'Almost certainly' from MH370

Flap track fairing

Image copyright ATSB
  • Found: December 2015, on Daghatane Beach in Mozambique
  • Part: A part on the underside of the right wing which reduces wind drag

Also known as "676EB", this piece has a stencilled number with the same font and colour used by Malaysia Airlines. Investigators also found that the part had been repainted, which matched the maintenance records for MH370.

Horizontal stabiliser panel

Image copyright Reuters
  • Found: February 2016, at Valankulo on the Paluma sandbank in Mozambique
  • Part: A panel from the right part of a plane's tail

The ATSB says the stencilling of the words "No Step" is consistent with that used by Malaysia Airlines. It also has a fastener matching those used in assembly of aircraft next in the production line of MH370's aircraft.

Engine nose cowling segment

Image copyright ATSB
  • Found: March 2016, at Mossel Bay, South Africa
  • Part: A piece covering an aeroplane's engine

This piece carries the logo of Rolls-Royce which manufactures parts for Boeing. The ATSB says the stencil closely matched that used on other Boeing-777s owned by Malaysian Airlines.

Closet panel

Image copyright ATSB
  • Found: March 2016, on Rodrigues Island in Mauritius
  • Part: A panel from a stowage closet near one of the plane's doors

ATSB investigators say that the presence of a hinge and a trim line indicate this was likely part of a closet panel that contained a foldable work-table. Its decorative pattern also matches that of Malaysia Airlines' Boeing-777 aircraft, and is not used by any other airlines' Boeing-777s.

Cabin interior panel

Image copyright MH370.GOV.MY
  • Found: June 2016, on Antsiraka beach in Madagascar
  • Part: A fragment of the interior panelling of the plane

This panel, which appears to have a similar decorative pattern as that of the closet panel, was examined by Malaysian investigators who declared it as "almost certainly" from MH370.


Still under investigation

Many pieces of debris are still being evaluated for links to MH370.

These include items found by Blaine Gibson, an American lawyer who has gone on self-funded expeditions around the world to look for MH370 debris. Among other things, in Madagascar he found a seat back panel that could have housed a monitor.

Image copyright Blaine Alan Gibson
Image copyright Blaine Alan Gibson

False alarms

'Burnt debris'

Image copyright ATSB
Image copyright ATSB
  • Found: February 2016, near Sainte Luce on the Madagascar coast
  • Part: Two fibreglass honeycomb composite panels

These pieces initially sparked speculation that a fire had broken out onboard MH370, as they appear to have burn marks or discolouration caused by burning.

But the ATSB found that the discolouration was caused by the presence of resin. One item had small marks from "localised heating", but it was unclear how those marks were made.

Australian authorities have cast doubt on the fire theory and say work is still ongoing to determine if these pieces belong to a Boeing-777 aircraft.

Kangaroo Island piece

Another piece found on Kangaroo Island in Australia in June 2016, which had the words "Caution No Step" stencilled on it, was thought to confirm that the aeroplane went down in the "seventh arc" of the southern Indian Ocean, where search efforts have focused on.

The ATSB said later that the piece did not match Boeing manufacturing specifications and thus could not have come from a Boeing aircraft.

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