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Transportation

Indian Ocean Debris Believed To Come From Missing Flight MH370 89

McGruber writes that air crash investigators, though maintaining that it is "too early to tell" with certainty, have 'a high degree of confidence' that a piece of wreckage found on the Indian Ocean island of La Reunion is from a Boeing 777 — the same model as the doomed MH370 which disappeared in March 2014. Investigators will need to examine closely the wreckage to link it to MH370, but MH370 was the only Boeing 777 ever lost over water.
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Indian Ocean Debris Believed To Come From Missing Flight MH370

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  • by McGruber ( 1417641 ) on Thursday July 30, 2015 @04:03PM (#50217435)
    A 'badly-damaged' suitcase has also been found in the same area: Google Translation of French-Language news report [google.com]
    • by McGruber ( 1417641 ) on Thursday July 30, 2015 @04:07PM (#50217477)
      If you open the link, scroll down to the bottom of the page -- there are three pictures posted there, underneath the video of talking-heads.
    • "Badly-Damaged" suitcase? It's the zipper and some reinforcing. That is like holding up the aircraft flaperon that was found and declaring it to be a "badly-damaged" airliner.
      • by fisted ( 2295862 )

        holding up the aircraft flaperon that was found and declaring it to be a "badly-damaged" airliner.

        Well technically it is. Extremely badly damaged, even.

    • by Zocalo ( 252965 )
      It's looking increasingly likely. Apparently a Chinese water bottle and some Indonesian cleaning products have now washed up [sky.com] on Reunion as well.
  • That's 3800 miles (6100 km) from where the plane was last seen. I wonder if they'll be able to figure out how far the plane flew and how far the debris drifted.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I was thinking they may be able to have a better location of the wreck based on ocean currents and the time it drifted for distance.

      • Re: Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Rei ( 128717 ) on Thursday July 30, 2015 @04:44PM (#50217887) Homepage

        I wouldn't be surprised if they could get some more specific clues on what water it's been in - for example, marine growth species types or isotopic ratios - to help pin it down better than just general drift calculations (lots of places could dump debris on Réunion). There are could also be potential clues on how much sun or what temperatures it's been exposed to, such as rates of plastic degradation, and perhaps that might also help give them better ideas of what areas it's been in based on weather patterns since the flight was lost.

        There are so many potential clues... each one rather vague on its own, but all together, I imagine they'll get pointed in the right direction.

    • One of the early postulates was that

    • One of the early postulates was that a software bug caused the autopilot to fly along 90 E towards 0/0. If it ran out of fuel on that course ... I wonder what Indian Ocean currents look like. Given the time and some current mapping it might be possible to estimate the splash zone now.

      • So an autopilot malfunction caused the plane to lose all contact with the outside world completely and fly in a corridor, in three dimensions at the right altitude, precisely where different air traffic controls would think it was each other's responsibility and allow it passage? You think that if it gives you comfort. However, there is no getting away from the fact that this is the most alarming plane disappearance in history and even finding wreckage is unlikely to yield the answers required.
      • That course would have ended up at Zero Zero Island and Colonel Bleep [wikipedia.org] had to take action to keep his headquarters secret.
        • by xevioso ( 598654 )

          You are seriously dating yourself with this reference.

          • And your point is? At least I included a link to the reference because even I don't expect most Slashdotters to recognize that one! (To be honest, what I remembered was the name of the island, and worked from there.)
            • Thanks for that. That was way before my time but I've got quite a fondness for that era. Like the whole late-1950s to 1970s.

              " In the early 1970s, while Jack Schleh was closing Soundac and moving the company's materials to a van, car thieves stole the van, which was never found."

              So sad, and mysterious. I wonder if we'll find film rolls as people pass on?

    • Re:Wow (Score:4, Interesting)

      by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <circletimessquare@gm a i l . com> on Thursday July 30, 2015 @04:45PM (#50217901) Homepage Journal

      there's marine life attached to the wing

      i was wondering two things:

      1. if not by species, then maybe by subspecies, or some sublte variation within a species, that they could attach an area to where the wing developed the attached creatures

      2. if there are variations in isotopes the marine species would absorb differentially by area, if that can be pinpointed to an area. that would probably be very subtle and not helpful. just an idea

  • by Rigel47 ( 2991727 ) on Thursday July 30, 2015 @04:18PM (#50217609)
    If big wing sections broke off it suggests the onboard computer was not able to cruise the plane to a gentl landing (or maybe it tried and slammed into a giant wave). Anyways, if the plane broke up then the sonar signature for the jet is probably not what they're looking for and the pieces of the plane could be scattered over a very wide area. I imagine jet wings that are empty of fuel will float around for a while.
    • by Thelasko ( 1196535 ) on Thursday July 30, 2015 @04:24PM (#50217693) Journal

      I imagine jet wings that are empty of fuel will float around for a while.

      Wings that are full of fuel will float too, because jet fuel has a lower density than water.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 30, 2015 @04:57PM (#50218025)

      Uh, no autopilot has the ability to land a plane (intact) on water. Heck, I wonder if the data currently gathered by sensors and instruments would suffice to program one - the difficulty is assessing height and with no ILS beams to guide the AP, the radar altimeter is the only choice and probably not accurate enough for determining precisely when to flare (forget GPS and altimeter). Landing on water is so difficult that whilst it might seem preferable to land if no runway is in the vicinity when you need it, almost any somewhat flat terrain is better because then the landing gear can be used to absorb the impact. Water is hard as concrete at that speed (as you should know). And calm water is bad because it's harder for pilots to see their height by looking at it.

      The more interesting question is if they can decipher whether it started breaking up in the air. Wings are very robust and due to their shape they fall slower in in-flight breakups so a large chunk of a wing like that requires more examination - and I'd guess they also check for signs of a fire when that has been one of the more credible theories (+ one possible sighting of a burning aircraft from a sailboat under the believed flightpath). But then too the question is whether it was before or after impact.

      • by Deadstick ( 535032 ) on Thursday July 30, 2015 @05:21PM (#50218255)

        Uh, no autopilot has the ability to land a plane (intact) on water.

        Matter of fact, no human pilot does, consistently, at sea. Even the largest seaplanes depend on protected water (harbors, lagoons, rivers etc.) for normal operations, and an open-sea landing is an emergency procedure.

        When the USS Indianapolis survivors were found, 70 years ago this week, a PBY landed near them with no hope of taking off; it simply served as an improved lifeboat until surface vessels arrived, and was then sunk.

      • Uh, no autopilot has the ability to land a plane (intact) on water.

        Only if the engines are running, driving the generators and hydraulic pumps. An autopilot set for cruise will maintain altitude as long as possible (read: Until all fuel is exhausted), and then run for some time on battery power. If the Ram Air Turbine is not deployed quickly (and the autopilot by itself is incapable of doing this), the hydraulics will soon fail to work and whatever commands the autopilot sends will be ignored by the control system. Bottom line: The plane will descend uncontrollably. Not la

    • Watch this - https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com] - Ethiopian Airlines Flight 961. Water is terrible to land on. Let alone exposed middle of the indian ocean chopped up by the wind water.

      • The only reason that one ended up so bad was because the airplane actually hit a rock that was sticking slightly above the surface. Otherwise it could have glided along the water.

  • No Flotsam (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 30, 2015 @04:19PM (#50217623)

    But lots of JETsam.

  • Currents (Score:5, Informative)

    by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Thursday July 30, 2015 @04:33PM (#50217781)
    If you look at the currents in the Indian Ocean [tinypic.com], and trace backwards from Reunion (it and Mauritius are the two dots east of Madagascar), you pass right through the area they've been searching [spacesafetymagazine.com] off of Australia.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    First, we know this is from the aircraft in question. How? It has been visually verified to be a part that is unique to a Boeing 777. The 777 has a remarkable safety record, with only one being lost at/over sea. Therefore, unless a shipload of 777 wing parts sank without Boeing's knowledge, this is from the incident airframe.

    Second, we can now be certain of what was gleaned from the satellite data, that the crew flew the plane off course. How? The part washed-up from the Indian Ocean rather than the Pacific

    • by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Thursday July 30, 2015 @06:11PM (#50218643)

      Had this part been on the plane at the time of a "gentle" ditching, it likely would have been dragged to the bottom with the rest.

      It's a flap (and high-speed aileron). In a 'gentle' ditching, it would have been one of the first things to hit the sea, at over 100mph. I'd be amazed if it wouldn't be one of the first things to be torn off the plane, after the engines.

      Hopefully Boeing can work out whether the damage is consistent with ditching or an uncontrolled impact, but I wouldn't make any claims yet myself.

    • Please watch this - https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com] This is the video of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 961 trying to land on the ocean. THAT is a close to a gentle ditching as you are going to get and you think it would have remained intact???

      • THAT is a close to a gentle ditching as you are going to get

        Well, no it isn't, actually; US Airways 1549 is. That one took place on smooth water, not the high seas, but there have been numerous other ditchings in moderately higher sea states that were non-catastrophic. It's a crapshoot.

        Underwing engines are held in place by shear pins that will break in a ditching and let them be carried away, so if everything goes just right, the wings won't be ripped off and the airplane will have a chance of floating for a while. Flaps, OTOH, would be down for minimum speed and w

        • True, it wasn't a really accurate video but I thought offset the "it was water, plane should be fine" argument.

          I believe the plane probably hit the water unguided and un-powered. I suspect it flew along the guessed flight path on auto till the fuel ran out and then glided into the water. Meaning it would have come down nose in first if nothing else. Also in the period after the crash weather was disrupting the search and those storms had come in from where the plane was thoughts to have gone down. It wo

      • This is the video of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 961 trying to land on the ocean. THAT is a close to a gentle ditching as you are going to get and you think it would have remained intact???

        A minor detail that derails your argument - the flight crew of Ethiopian Flight 961 were fighting hijackers in the cockpit [wikipedia.org] while attempting to dead-stick the jet with no power after it ran out of fuel. The crew was a bit task-saturated, to put it mildly.

        Airliners can be ditched more or less intact in calm seas - that is why they are equipped with floatation devices, rafts, detachable inflatable escape slides. There are established check-list procedures for at-sea ditching.

        See U.S. Air 1549 for an example o

        • 1549 was into a smooth river and there was a pilot in control and he had power. Realistically MH came down after running out of fuel, with no one controlling it. Auto pilot wouldn't have been able to detect the water level and who knows what it would have been trying to do with no power and a glide decent.

          The only argument where MH comes down in the Indian ocean with a live pilot at the stick would be either a suicidal pilot or a pilot under duress.

          More likely it hit the water nose down in an unpowered gl

          • Auto pilot wouldn't have been able to detect the water level and who knows what it would have been trying to do with no power and a glide decent.

            In that situation, with no power, the autopilot would have automatically disconnected, there is no way the aircraft would have been under autopilot control after the fuel ran out and the RAT (ram air turbine, the emergency power system) deployed.

          • 1549 was into a smooth river and there was a pilot in control and he had power.

            Please try Googling some facts before posting. US Airways 1549 lost both engines to bird strikes [wikipedia.org]. The A320 can be flown on a single engine if one fails, but both were knocked out on 1549. Yes, he landed on a relatively smooth river, but he had only a few minutes to cope with the situation. It was an excellent bit of flying.

            Also, even if an airliner is able to ditch intact, 15 months in the ocean can tear apart structures. Just because we see a part has been torn off does not automatically mean it was torn o

            • I believe by saying "he had power" the OP meant that the APU [wikipedia.org] was running so the pilot had power to to flight control mechanisms.

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