MH370 Flaperon

Sixteen months ago, I took a lot of interest in flight MH370. Now it’s back in the news, with what’s thought to be one of its wing components washing up on the island of Reunion, 5000 km from the area of the Indian ocean just west of Australia where the search for it is still being conducted.

It seems perfectly plausible that it could have drifted most of the way across the Indian ocean, given that the prevailing current in the region flows westward at around one nautical mile per hour.

What seems much less plausible is David Cameron’s offer of British hydrology experts to “pinpoint” where the airliner came down:

Hydrology experts who map currents and tides for the Royal Navy are ready to help pinpoint where the craft entered the water, if the wing is indeed part of the missing airliner.

Using detailed computer models of water movements, they may be able to trace back how the debris had moved, guiding search teams looking for the rest of the wreck.

Mr Cameron made the offer at dinner with Najib Razak, the Malaysian leader, in Kuala Lumpur.

I bet there are too many unknown variables to be able to do this. I believe sea surface currents are in part caused by winds, and winds can blow in all directions. So there’s no way the crash location can be “pinpointed”. But the exercise might not be entirely useless, because it would probably generate a swathe of possible crash sites, some of which might overlap the arc of possible locations that has already been generated using the satellite engine monitoring.

The wing component – believed to be a Boeing 777’s starboard ‘flaperon’ – is now on its way to Toulouse. What seem most remarkable to me is how little damaged it is.



flaperonOr rather, how the damage is almost entirely restricted to its trailing edge. This doesn’t look like something that has survived a high speed impact or explosion, which would have left it either twisted and torn, or full of holes.

It seems to be more consistent with an aircraft that has ditched in the sea at a fairly low speed, with the lowered flaperon fracturing and being torn off on impact with water.

I even wondered if the damage to the trailing edge might have happened some time later. However, since the seashells encrusting the trailing edge seem to be the same size and age as others, it looks as if this was damage that happened when the plane hit the water.

And if the aircraft was ditched at a fairly low speed, it would probably mean that the rest of it is as intact as this flaperon, and all in one piece. And it would also mean that it was still being flown when it hit the water.

It now seems clear that it did come down in the Indian ocean, and not at some obscure airfield. And they have been looking in the right region. Perhaps a marine biologist would be able to identify the various shells that are attached to the flaperon, and their usual habitat. That might give a further clue to the crash location. I hope they examine the shells as carefully as the rest of it.


About Frank Davis

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28 Responses to MH370 Flaperon

  1. Lord Galleywood says:

    What shells ?

    • Frank Davis says:

      It’s covered in seashells. Click on the pics for enlargements. There’s hundreds of them.


      Robin Beaman, a marine geologist at Australia’s James Cook University, said it would be worth studying the crustaceans to gauge their age, which might indicate how long the fragment had been adrift and whether they are unique to a certain part of the ocean.

      Erik van Sebille, an oceanographer at Imperial College London, added: ‘There’s different barnacles in different parts of the ocean, so you might expect some CSI scenario where just by looking at the barnacles, you can pinpoint where it came from.’

      Seems that a lot of pilots believe it was ditched:

      Bailey believes that the captain of the flight, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, carefully landed the plane on the water and let it sink to the bottom in one piece, where it still lies today.

      He does not believe that it was flown until it ran out fuel, because it would have crashed in a “near vertical dive”, smashing into pieces that would have washed up the shores of Tasmania, New Zealand’s South Island, or Chile in South America.

    • wobbler2012 says:

      The small shells all around the sides of it mate, expand the pic to full size and you can’t miss ’em.

  2. Oh, the subject is boeing. OK.
    I’m a only “girl”. So, look this bird strike:

    • Foo Bas says:

      You are insane. Take a 100 – 300 ton aircraft flying at 200-400nm/h and calculate the forces exerted on stationary building and indeed you’ll understand how those aircraft did just that.

  3. And by the way another headline, I love this song: “Rose garden”

  4. Rose says:

    In was wondering if a “flaperon” which I’d never heard of, was a new name for an aileron, because the latter is virtualy impossible to pronounce.

    I didn’t find anything definitive so resorting to the hive I found that –

    “Flaperons are airfoils with a dual purpose that is normally served by the combination of ailerons and flaps.”

    Which will have to suffice until I hear different.

    The barnacles on the tv news pictures look huge.

    • microdave says:

      Flaperons act as ordinary ailerons during normal flight – moving in opposite directions for roll control, then droop (but continue to move in opposition) when the main flaps are lowered for approach and landing.

  5. Ben Palmer says:

    How can such a large piece containing metallic parts float for months without sinking to the ground? How can it be covered by shells when it is supposed to have been floating and therefore partly exposed to air and sun?

    • Frank Davis says:

      It’s hollow, of course. And partitioned into multiple voids. As for the barnacles, last time I went down to a rocky sea shore, I saw lots of barnacles on rocks exposed at low tide. The flaperon would have had waves breaking over it almost all the time.

      Seems the French investigators are in no hurry to look at it.

      Experts will begin their analysis on Wednesday.

      August is when the French go on holiday.

  6. harleyrider1978 says:

    I use to well was ordered to work with the AMSO Aviation Medical Senior Officer and our job was to go to military plane crashes in the south eastern US and basially write a report on the crash and do body recovery. Needless to say we could be called day nite anytime and gone for a few weeks.

    I had baggie duty………that’s picking up the smallest body parts left of a pilot or aircrew that perished. Still have chills about a pilots head in his helmet I found still.

  7. harleyrider1978 says:

    Well we cant exactly hunt Cecil the Lion here at home But we can hunt big white tails

  8. harleyrider1978 says:

    State hires ‘cigarette cop’ to go after smokers near Capitol

    ALBANY — New York City’s tough smoking laws have nothing on Albany, where bureaucrats have hired a “cigarette cop” to patrol a newly expanded perimeter around the Capitol building where smoking is now prohibited.

    Officials defended the hiring of a security guard whose sole assignment is to go after smokers puffing away in forbidden areas.

    “Previously, the non-smoking range had been 25 feet from building entrances and was extended based on a goal of further protecting building occupants and visitors to the Capitol, many of whom are children on class or camp field trips, from second-hand smoke,” said Heather Groll, a spokeswoman for the Office of General Services.

    The guard works from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., alerting smokers of the new boundary lines, which are clearly marked with dozens of signs encircling the building and half of the park space around it.

    Groll said the guard’s duties are to “politely explain the new rules” and she called the response to the new setup “overwhelmingly positive.”

    But some smokers were steamed.

    “It feels like discrimination,” said one state worker.

    Many ridiculed the rules, pointing out that the state doesn’t have jurisdiction over city sidewalks.

    “We cannot prohibit smoking on city sidewalks but have politely explained the intent of the new rules around the Capitol to those standing just over the line,” Groll responded.

    The guard declined to comment.

    It’s not clear how much he earns because his employer, Summit Security Services, has a $50 million contract that covers a variety of state buildings.

    • harleyrider1978 says:

      Sweeping cuts will harm efforts to improve public health, councils warn

      LGA says proposed 6.2% cut in public health grants across England threatens attempts to reduce levels of obesity, drinking and smoking

      A 6.2% across the board cut in public health grants to local authorities threatens to undermine attempts to reduce levels of obesity, drinking and smoking in England, councils have warned.

      The Department of Health plans to achieve £200m savings demanded by the Treasury this year through one flat rate measure.

      Its month-long consultation, published on Friday, says this would be simpler to implement than adapting cuts to local circumstances.

      The savings must take effect within the current financial year, which began in April. They come at a time when councils are under pressure to help reduce huge disparities in life expectancy between different parts of England.

      Demand-led local services covering areas such as sexual health and drug abuse – which are commissioned by councils from the NHS – could also, in practice, be difficult to cut because of fears over infection risks.

      The responsibility for commissioning public health services for children under five, and the funds to go with them, transfers from the NHS to local authorities in October. The government says councils could cut in this area providing they meet their legal obligations.

      The measures are likely to intensify debate over why measures designed to improve long-term health and prevent later pressure on acute services in hospitals are being hit at the same time as extra funding has been guaranteed for the NHS until 2020.

      Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said: “A £200m in-year reduction in public health funding will clearly impact on councils’ ability to improve the public’s health and wellbeing as well as reduce demand for hospital, health and social care services. This comes on top of a year-on-year real terms reduction in public health budgets.

      “Giving councils the ability to make a real impact to the health of local people was a positive step, but local government can only continue its important work such as reducing smoking or excessive drinking and tackling obesity if we are adequately resourced to do so.

      “With further reductions in public spending expected next year we need to move away from a focus of treating sickness to actively promoting health and wellbeing. Cutting public health budgets is not the solution.”

      Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, the government body responsible for distributing the grants to councils, said: “Local government is best placed to lead on prevention and since taking on public health in 2013 have made significant progress in improving the public’s health. Though the government’s decision is a difficult ask of them, they are best placed to manage and prioritise resources and I am confident they will with the least possible impact.”

  9. John Watson says:

    There are a lot of very strange occurrences around flight MH370, We have an airframe loaded with enough fuel to not only take her to Beijing but almost anywhere in Europe, A fault on the aircraft that makes the aircraft unable to make the nearest compatible airport may be severe enough to also be unable to dump sufficient fuel for a ditching which pilots tend to view as a last resort.

    Too many things can go wrong with ditching an aircraft, the sea conditions have to be perfect, the aircraft needs to be close enough to land for any survivors to reach, there needs to be time to either burn off or dump sufficient fuel in order to make a safe controlled ditching, the pilots must have complete control over the aircraft or it breaks up on impact.

    In any event there would be time for a mayday unless both radios are down, unlikely since they are on separate electrical systems, unless power loss is total on both generators, the APU and the batteries. Likewise the aircraft’s transponder would give the location of the aircraft unless there was a total power failure, even so ATC would know the last recorded position. There are also no circumstances where an aircraft may fly without a serviceable transponder. Without electrics the chances of a controlled ditching are extremely low Hydraulics would also be affected, even with the Ram Air Turbine deployed power and hydraulics would only be able to run basic systems.

    While it would be nice to find the aircraft, to see the passengers returned to their families for burial, perhaps, instead of spending taxpayers money tracing and back coursing currents for a part that may, or may not be from MH370 it may be better to wait a while longer in case a numbered part which can be traced back to the M370 airframe is washed up before yet another fruitless search is made which only serves to raise then dash the hopes of the victims relatives.

  10. Chris Snyder says:

    I agree with all (makes sense, and was always the simplest scenario), but hadn’t considered the rest of the plane could be as intact as the flap. No breakup also means (in addition to no other debris found) that the plane had fuel when it came down – likely near empty, to reduce weight and increase chance of successful ditching, but the engines have to be running to control the plane. Below links a documentary about the ditching of hijacked Ethiopian Air 961 (pilot was a hero) –

  11. Frank Davis says:

    Part of the aircraft wing found on Reunion Island is from the missing MH370 plane, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has confirmed.

    Mr Najib said international experts examining the debris in France had “conclusively confirmed” it was from the aircraft.

    • Chris Snyder says:

      Seems the Malaysian PM said “experts say the flaperon is definitely from 370”, but I saw an article saying “investigators (from two agencies, one being the NTSB) said they’re holding off confirmation because a modification is not present that would be consistent with MH370” (I can’t find the article with these specifics). Maybe there was a recommended mod that wasn’t done – or there’s some misunderstanding. Seems the paint would be unique enough to say it was from 370 – something was good enough for the PM to make the call. Seems odd because, in the past, the PM has been cautious and has wanted to be SURE after making some false calls and getting bad feedback from relatives. Will be interesting to hear when investigators are all sure, but it’s safe to assume this is from 370. Will be interesting when others give info about how the flaperon came loose from the plane. I think they’ve said there’s no sign of explosion.

  12. salescart says:

    Correct, I agree. All of the damage on the trailing edge seems likely to support the hypothesis that the flaperon was fully extended to slow flight for landing, or to extend flight due to an out-of-fuel condition by the autopilot. In such a case of level contact with water, the trailing edge of the flaperon would likely be one of the first objects to contact the water with the trailing edge nearly perpendicular to the direction of travel. The flaperon is connected to the wing on the front “underside” of the leading edge but we have no images of that side. As the water tore at the trailing edge of the flaperon, it would have ripped the supporting structure along the same horizontal plane as the water where the flaperon was connected and could have easily torn the flaperon off of the wing with not much further damage besides the trailing edge. I would expect to see a little but not a lot of damage on the underside of the leading edge where it is connected and would have sheared away from the aircraft’s wing. IMHO, the condition of the flaperon tends to support a case for a “hard” water landing where the plane could have remained partially intact and survivable assuming the water landing was “piloted”. However, I also believe it is highly consistent that the autopilot would automatically extend flaps to extend the range of the jet if the engines became inoperable due to fuel starvation so a hard water landing does not necessarily mean anyone was alive on the plane.
    (I can’t edit the message)

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