Australian investigators said Friday that the confirmation of a wing part’s link to Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 was significant but would not alter the search for the missing plane. Martin Dolan, chief commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), acknowledged France’s confirmation that the flaperon, which washed up on the Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean in July, was part of the missing Boeing 777-200.
French prosecutors declared Thursday that the wing part was “certainly” from Flight MH370. The confirmation came over a month after the debris washed up on the shores of the French island, giving rise to hope that the mystery over the plane's disappearance would finally be solved.
"We have been working on the assumption that the flaperon was associated with MH370," Dolan told Agence France-Presse (AFP). "It's useful to have formal confirmation of this, so it's good for us. But it hasn't actually made a significant difference to our search."
An international search, led by Australia, is underway in an area of 46,332 square miles in the southern Indian Ocean, where authorities believe the plane went down.
Dolan reportedly said Friday that Australia was considering bringing in new vessels and equipment to take advantage of the improved weather during the upcoming southern hemisphere summer.
"We are currently reviewing the options available to us to see whether we will acquire other vessels and equipment for the summer period," Dolan reportedly said. "We haven't made any decisions on that yet."
Dolan said that the flaperon’s discovery on Réunion Island in late July was consistent with drift modeling based on the plane’s crash in the search area.
"It hasn't changed our thinking about the search area," Dolan said, according to AFP, adding that the flaperon has not yielded any clues about the plane’s disappearance. "All we know is that the flaperon at some point became detached from the aircraft and there are a range of possible scenarios from that," he said. "We will watch developments obviously but at this stage we haven't seen anything that actually assists in refining or changing the search area."
Australia’s Transport Minister Warren Truss remained confident on Friday that the search for the missing plane is in the right area.
"This is a significant announcement and it confirms beyond any reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost at sea," Truss said, according to local reports. "We are confident we're looking in the right area but of course we are frustrated that the search has been going on for such a long time ... without so far achieving the kind of result that we had hoped.”
Flight MH370 went missing on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board, while on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The flaperon, which is the strongest piece of evidence to surface so far, was reportedly confirmed to be from the missing plane after a technician from Airbus Defence and Space (ADS-SAU) in Spain, which made the part for Boeing, formally identified one of three numbers on the flaperon as being the serial number of Flight MH370.