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MH370: What the airplane debris may reveal — and what it won't

A former transportation official said water may have "obliterated" identifying numbers on airplane debris recently found in the Indian Ocean.
/ Source: TODAY

A former transportation official saidairplane debris found in the Indian Ocean won't tell investigators what may have brought down the jet it came from, but the wreckage will probably "answer enough questions" about Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 that disappeared more than a year ago.

“That one single piece isn’t going to answer all the questions, but I think it will answer enough questions, especially with the conspiracy theorists that said this airplane landed somewhere and has been hidden,” said Greg Feith, a former air safety investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board. “I think this will now confirm that the airplane did in fact go down in the water.”

Authorities consider the large piece of metallic debris that washed up Wednesday as a "major lead" in the hunt for Flight MH370, which disappeared on March 8, 2014 with 239 people on board.

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The wreckage belonged to the bottom part of a wing, which may help investigators determine at what speed the plane went down, Feith said.

“They can look at it and see it may have separated during a controlled impact, such as a ditching, rather than a high speed impact, where you have high fragmentation,” he said.

But investigators still have their work cut out for them, even if they eventually find the plane's flight data recorder, Feith said.

“All this box will tell you is what parameters the pilot may have set into the flight management system and what the airplane was doing to get to where it ended up,” he said. “But it’s not going to give us the answer as to why the pilot flew the airplane to that point, or why he programmed the autopilot to fly the airplane to some point that either was in a controlled crash, or it ran out of gas and went into a controlled event.”