CANBERRA, Australia, Two pieces of a Boeing 777 found in the Indian Ocean months ago “almost certainly” came from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 — the passenger plane that mysteriously disappeared two years ago and has still not been found, Australian investigators said in a new report Tuesday.
The two pieces of debris, part of a wing and a piece of tail section, were found about 130 miles and eight weeks apart along the coast of Mozambique in southeast Africa.
Although that African coastline is thousands of miles from Flight 370’s believed crash site, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said Tuesday it’s a near certainty the pieces of wreckage broke off the Malaysian jetliner.
“Assistance from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau was requested by the Malaysian Government in the formal identification of the items to determine if they came from the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777,” the bureau said on its website.
“The first part was initially identified from a number stencilled on the part (676EB), as a segment from a Boeing 777 flap track fairing from the right wing,” the ATSB continued. “The 676EB stencil font and colour was not original from manufacture, but instead conformed to that developed and used by [Malaysia Airlines] during painting operations. The part had been repainted, which was consistent with [the plane’s] maintenance records.”
The second part, the ATSB said, came from the right horizontal stabilizer.
“The [second] part was marked on the upper surface in black paint with ‘NO STEP.’ The font and location of the stencil were not original from manufacture, however the stenciling was consistent with that developed and used by Malaysian Airlines,” investigators wrote, adding that a fastener was also found on the tail part that was unique to MH-370.
Investigators said they are still awaiting results of marine ecology tests, which can give officials an idea what part of the ocean the debris came from and allow for more conclusive identification. But their conclusion on the wreckage identification report was clear.
“Part No. 1 was a flap track fairing segment, almost certainly from the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 aircraft … Part No. 2 was a horizontal stabilizer panel segment, almost certainly from the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 aircraft,” they wrote.
The evidence outlined in Tuesday’s report isn’t 100 percent conclusive. But combined with the fact that Flight 370 remains the only Boeing 777 unaccounted for anywhere in the world, and that the parts definitively came from a 777, the identification might offer the best proof investigators will ever get.
“I welcome the technical examination report released by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau confirming the debris almost certainly originated from MH370,” Darren Chester, Australia’s transport minister, said. “Stencilling on both parts of debris provided investigators with evidence of the link.”
Last month, Chester made similar statements to those in the ATSB report Tuesday, saying that the pieces of wreckage belonging to the missing flight was a near certainty.
Flight 370 disappeared after departing Kuala Lumpur on March 8, 2014, and was scheduled to fly to Beijing. Investigators believe the jet crashed into the Indian Ocean, about 1,000 miles off Australia’s coast. All 239 passengers and crew on board are presumed dead.