Two pieces of debris found in the western Indian Ocean “almost certainly” came from the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 that disappeared two years ago, investigators with the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said Tuesday.
Investigators found the pieces about 135 miles apart on the coast of Mozambique, thousands of miles from the suspected crash site, which is about 1,000 miles west of Australia.
The plane disappeared on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014, with 239 people aboard. Radar tracking showed the jet made at least three unexpected turns without the pilots signaling an emergency, and hourly satellite signals suggested the plane headed to the remote Indian Ocean before running out of fuel.
Investigators calculated that ocean currents could carry the wreckages far from the site where the plane slipped into the ocean to the coast of Mozambique. The discoveries, investigators said, confirm the search is focused in the right place. A piece of right wing was found Dec. 27 and a piece of the tail was discovered Feb. 27.
The parts were sent to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, which is leading the search, from aviation authorities in Mozambique and South Africa.
Stenciling on the parts matched not just a Boeing 777, but the specific plane registered for the flight, according to investigators. The stenciling on the part from the right wing said 676EB in the font and coloring that Malaysia Airlines used on its planes, rather than slightly narrower Boeing stencil. The part had been repainted, which is consistent with maintenance records for the missing plane.
Likewise, “NO STEP” was stenciled in black on the part from a horizontal stabilizer on the tail in a slightly narrower font than the standard Boeing stencil.
In both cases, investigators said the part “almost certainly” came from the missing plane. In addition, a single fastener was found in the part that is no longer in production. But the fastener matched those used during the production of the missing plane, investigators said.
“I welcome the technical examination report released by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau confirming the debris almost certainly originated from MH370,” said Darren Chester, Australia's transport minister. “Stencilling on both parts of debris provided investigators with evidence of the link."
Australia, Malaysia and China have searched 62,000 square miles of ocean floor, an area larger than Georgia, and plan to search a remaining 12,000 square miles, about the size of Maryland, by mid-year.
After that, the governments have agreed not to expand the search area if nothing is found.