A wing flap found off the coast of Africa in late June believed to be from missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has been sent to Canberra for further analysis.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) and Department of Civil Aviation Malaysia said the piece of aircraft debris was discovered on Pemba Island near Tanzania on June 23.
“Malaysia and Australia have worked with Tanzanian officials to assume responsibility for the wing flap,” the pair said in a joint statement.
“Technical specialists from the ATSB are working with Malaysian investigators to determine if it is from the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, MH370.”
The statement said the ATSB had previously determined four pieces of debris to be “almost certainly” to be from the 777-200ER, 9M-MRO, that went missing enroute from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8 2014 carrying 239 passengers and crew. Meanwhile, a flaperon that washed up on La Reunion Island in July 2015 was positively identified by French investigators as a part from MH370.
Meanwhile, the ATSB said efforts to locate the missing aircraft continue to be hampered by poor weather in the Indian Ocean.
“Ongoing poor weather conditions have severely impacted search operations and resulted in delays to search operations of around 6-8 weeks,” the ATSB said in its weekly operational update.
“Since the onset of poor conditions associated with winter weather, progress has slowed with only a minimal area searched during this time.”
As a result, the ATSB reaffirmed previous guidance that should the run of bad weather continue, the remaining 10,000 square kilometres yet to be searched could run “well beyond the winter months”.
About 110,000 square kilometres of the 120,000 square kilometre search area has been covered.
The governments of Australia, Malaysia and China have said previously that in the absence of new leads the search would not be expanded beyond the current 120,000 square kilometre area.
The ATSB said marginal weather conditions still allowed the use of deep tow equipment. Further, the autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) used to search areas that the deep tow sonar could not was only able to be used in calmer conditions in spring and summer.
Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester said he would meet with representatives from Malaysia and China on Friday to discuss the search effort.
Also attending the Ministerial Tripartite Meeting at Putrajaya just outside Kuala Lumpur will be Malaysian Minister of Transport Dato’ Sri Liow Tiong Lai and Chinese Minister of Transport Yang Chuantang, Chester said.
“I’m looking forward to meeting with our international partners in the search for MH370. The search has been unprecedented in both size and scale, conducted in some of the world’s most isolated waters and at times in extremely challenging weather,” Chester said in a statement on Wednesday.
“The meeting will provide an opportunity to reflect on achievements to date and discuss next steps as we near completion of the 120,000 square kilometre search area.”