Investigators cast doubt on Flight 370 'fire catastrophe'
Published 22/09/2016 | 06:51
Accident investigators have cast doubt on the possibility that blackened debris found on Madagascar is evidence of a catastrophic fire aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 jet.
Wreckage hunter Blaine Gibson hand-delivered five pieces of debris last week to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau which is are searching for the Boeing 777 that is thought to have plunged into the Indian Ocean south west of Australia in 2014, killing 239 people.
The bureau said investigators had yet to determine whether the pieces were from the plane.
But a preliminary examination found that two fibre glass honeycomb pieces were not burned, but had been discoloured by a reaction in resin that had not been caused by exposure to fire or heat.
There were three small areas of heat damage on one of the pieces of debris which created a burnt odour, but that suggested the damage was recent, the bureau said.
"It was considered that burning odours would generally dissipate after an extended period of environmental exposure, including salt water immersion," the statement said.
Mr Gibson has collected 14 pieces of debris potentially from the missing plane, including a triangular panel stencilled "no step" that he found in Mozambique in February.
Officials say that panel was almost certainly a horizontal stabiliser from a Flight 370 wing.
Mr Gibson had said the darkened surfaces of the latest debris could be evidence that a fire ended the flight far from its scheduled route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing in China, but he conceded he had no idea when the apparent heat damaged had occurred.
A sonar search of 46,000 square miles of seabed calculated to be the most likely crash site in the southern Indian Ocean is almost complete without any trace of the plane being found.