Multiple reports now indicate that a weather-battered aircraft section found earlier today on Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean is part of a flaperon — a control surface that acts both as a flap and an aileron — from a Boeing 777. The only Boeing 777 that is presently unaccounted for is Malaysia Airlines 370, which has been missing since it disappeared from radar in March of 2014 with 239 people aboard. Today’s news appears to be the strongest evidence yet of the airliner’s fate.
The debris was found far west of officials’ original search zones for MH370’s wreckage that had been guided by satellite data transmitted from the aircraft before its disappearance, but there could be a simple explanation: ocean currents have undoubtedly moved any floating debris from the plane in the year and a half since its crash. Unfortunately, this also means that the component may not do much to help investigators zero in on where the rest of the plane can be found.
Officials are currently being cautious not to assert that the component is from the missing jet, but other explanations are fading fast in light of the fact that it seems to have come from a 777. Next, investigators will need to find more wreckage or locate identifying information that would definitively tie the flaperon to 370; that job presently falls on France, as Réunion is a French territory.