Officials say debris that washed up in Mozambique belongs to a Boeing 777 – the same type of aircraft as the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.
Liow Tiong Lai, Malaysia’s Transport Minister, tweeted, “Based on early reports, high possibility debris found in Mozambique belongs to a B777. It is yet to be confirmed and verified.”
The debris, recovered between Madagascar and the African mainland, appears to include the fixed leading edge of the right-hand tail section, also known as the tailfin.
The infamous flight disappeared on 8 March 2014 with 239 people on board, including six Australians, while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
Needle In A Haystack?
Two years later, a comprehensive search has found only one trace of the plane – a wing part that washed onto the French island of Reunion.
Finding an aircraft underwater and mapping its debris field is complicated work, usually performed by technical experts using sonar and hydrography, the science of plotting depths, to retrace an aircraft's final movements before an accident.
The work is often compared to finding a needle in a haystack, and as days pass without any trace of the jumbo jet, experts began referring to the search as looking for "bits of a needle."
Complicating the Malaysian search is the mystery of what made the plane fall from the sky. If the jet indeed turned back and flew several hundred miles to the west, that would rule out the possibility of a sudden mechanical failure after air traffic controllers lost contact with it.
But the pilots' failure to contact either controllers or officials at the airline still suggests a catastrophic event could have occurred – such as a bomb or a mechanical failure that caused the pilots to lose control of the aircraft.
If the plane broke up at high altitude, the explosion would create a large debris field, scattering parts of the plane over a much larger area than if the plane fell intact and then broke up on impact.
Air Crash Investigation: What Happened To Malaysian 370?
Premieres Tuesday 8 March at 8.30pm AEDT on National Geographic Channel