MH370, which had been travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, disappeared on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board. The Boeing 777 aircraft last communicated with air traffic control at 1.19am when the plane was flying over the South China Sea, before vanishing from civilian radar screens. In 2015, a piece of the plane’s wing, known as a flaperon, was discovered on the French island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean.
The piece was boxed-up and flown back to France, for the Gendarmerie of Air Transport (GTA) to conduct their own investigation.
The agency said the presence of four French victims on board the doomed flight gave them the right to study the piece of evidence.
Peter Foley, who was part of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s investigation alongside the Malaysian government says the piece is crucial to finding the plane.
Asked in 2016 by Australian investigation team 60 Minutes whether the official search team should have the piece, he replied: “Absolutely.”
MH370 debris were discovered on reunion island
The French government held on to the discovery
We’ve seen some evidence that shows it was in a deployed state
He continued: “It’s a hard one, perhaps one you should ask the French judicial authorities.
“I think it has been a frustration for the investigation.”
Mr Foley went on to explain how if evidence showed the wing was in a downwards position, it could mean the plane was gliding to a stop, therefore extending the possible search area.
He explained: “We’ve seen some evidence [visual] that shows it was in a deployed state.
“If you glided the plane, or control ditched it, it has an extended search range potentially.”
Visual evidence of the wing showed damag
This is a theory aviation experts have been proposing for a while.
Larry Vance is a former investigator with the Transportation Safety Board in Canada and has spent the last four years looking into the mystery.
He claimed that, by just looking at the piece of the wing, he was able to conclude the plane was brought a controlled stop.
He said in 2018: “We can see the flap was down at the back and that is what caused all the erosion to the design.
“I think you could do a successful ditching in an aircraft of this size in that sea and you could end up with the aircraft mostly intact.
Larry Vance believes the plane was brought to a controlled stop
“I think this was planned meticulously to make sure the aircraft disappeared into the sea.
“If I was going to do this, I would make sure I was there at the end to control it into the ocean.”
Ross Coulthart, from Australia’s 60 Minutes team, asked Malaysian transport minister Liow Tiong Lai in 2016 if the French had relayed any findings.
Mr Lai replied: “We are unable to get the details from the French government.
“At the moment we do not have any evidence to investigate the controlled ditching theory.
MH370 went missing in 2014
“We have not been briefed.”
In August 2018, French authorities revealed they were still investigating the flaperon and would not comment until they had reached a conclusion.
A statement from the GTA revealed: “Our investigation continues; we did not reopen it because we never closed it.
“France is still the only country investigating the accident.
“We can’t comment as the investigation is ongoing.”