Viewpoint

Reunion Discovery Returns Spotlight To MH370

“It was unusual, very unusual. It was big and it was flying low. First, I saw the plane flying towards me over water. When it was over my head I saw it starting to turn away. I didn’t know that a plane was missing,” said the 47-year-old-court official.

The above is one of several similar testimonies from Maldivian islanders who claimed to have seen a large low-flying aircraft on the day of the disappearance of MH370, a Malaysian Airlines 777-200ER. 

The Maldives lies about 3,000km north-east of La Reunion, the French territory upon which the world’s media have descended to examine a tabletop-sized piece of flotsam.

A mechanic at local airline Air Austral, which also operates 777s, has said he’s convinced the object is part of the wing – a flaperon – of the Boeing widebody type, though formal identification awaits.
 
After so many months of fruitless searches, officials are understandably reluctant to feed speculation about the identity of the part, and it should be noted that four other large commercial aircraft have crashed in the Indian Ocean in the last 30 years.
 
If serial numbers attach the wreckage to MH370, questions will be asked about search efforts so far, which have focused on an area of ocean 3,000km off Western Australia.
 
Prevailing currents could well have transported wreckage from there to La Reunion, but they also link the Maldives to the French island.
 
Accounts from the Maldivians – who live a huge distance from the search area – were dismissed by their government, which said they had most likely seen an Island Aviation Dash 8. That airline does have a similar livery to Malaysian, even if some might struggle to confuse a 50-seat propeller aircraft with a large widebody jet.
 
Ultimately, though, any recriminations shouldn’t detract from the herculean efforts of search teams in one of the most inhospitable ocean regions on earth.
 
In the event of positive identification, a more immediate concern will be for grieving relations: the part should provide a degree of closure, but no answers for why the crash happened.

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