Expert: MH370 likely 'floated for awhile' before sinking 'in one piece'

(Image credit: Getty Images)

While the theory that Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 is lying intact on the floor of the Indian Ocean has been tossed around for awhile now, the piece of wing's flaperon found in July on Réunion Island more or less confirms it, at least in the eyes of one expert involved in the investigation. Zaaim Redha Abdul Rahman, who helped analyze flight data and was involved in the initial search for the aircraft, told Malaysia's Bernama news agency that the Réunion flaperon "was only slightly damaged and was just encrusted with barnacles. Its appearance indicates that it was not violently torn off the aircraft's main body."

Studying other aviation disasters can lend clues, too — the Germanwings flight that crashed in the French Alps in March, for example, resulted in a smattering of debris all less than a foot long. "If MH370 had crashed with a really hard impact, we would have seen small pieces of debris floating on the sea immediately after that," Zaaim Redha said.

The likeliest scenario, then, is that the flaperon rested at the bottom of the sea for some time before it detached and was pulled to Réunion's shore by currents. That would mean MH370 would have "glided down" onto the ocean — a scenario that could have resulted from the plane running out of fuel. Zaaim Redha told Bernama he firmly believes the plane must have then "floated for a while" before it sank into the deep sea "in one piece," not unlike US Airways Flight 1549, which executed an emergency landing on the Hudson River in 2009.

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Jeva Lange

Jeva Lange was the executive editor at She formerly served as The Week's deputy editor and culture critic. She is also a contributor to Screen Slate, and her writing has appeared in The New York Daily News, The Awl, Vice, and Gothamist, among other publications. Jeva lives in New York City. Follow her on Twitter.