The Latest: Searcher thought his find was from smaller plane

AP News
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Posted: Mar 03, 2016 5:50 AM
The Latest: Searcher thought his find was from smaller plane

SYDNEY (AP) — The Latest on the investigation into debris found in Mozambique that may be from a Boeing 777, the same aircraft as missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (all times local):

10 p.m.

An American who discovered an aircraft part in Mozambique that may be from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 says he initially thought it was part of a much smaller plane.

Blaine Gibson, who has been searching the region's beaches for the debris, told The Associated Press on Thursday that a boat operator who took him to a sandbank named Paluma called him over after seeing a piece of debris with "NO STEP" written on it.

Gibson says the discovery happened after he decided to go "somewhere exposed to the ocean" on the last day of a trip to the Mozambican coastal town of Vilankulo.

Malaysia's transport minister says the part is probably from a Boeing 777, and Australia's transport minister says the find is consistent with modeling forecasts of where Flight 370 debris would wash ashore.

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6 p.m.

Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai says based on pictures of the debris found on Mozambique, there is a "high probability" that the part is from a Boeing 777. Flight 370 is the only missing 777.

Lai said on Thursday that the area where it was found matches investigators' predictions of where debris from the plane would end up.

Liow says a Malaysian team with representatives from the country's civil aviation department, Malaysia Airlines and investigators will be heading to Mozambique. The debris is still in Mozambique and Liow says it is unclear when it will be sent to Australia for examination.

Liow says authorities in Mozambique are helping to comb the area where it was found for other possible debris.

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3:30 p.m.

An oceanographer says there may be a reason why the debris found in Mozambique appears to be free of sea life — unlike the barnacle-encrusted wing part found on Reunion Island last year.

Charitha Pattiaratchi at the University of Western Australia said if the part was discovered on a sandbank as reported, the motion of the waves against the abrasive sand may have shaved off any sea life. If it had been found at sea, he says he would expect barnacles, "But if it's been on a beach, it's basically been sandblasted."

Also, the part appears to be flat and barnacles need something to grip. He noted the flaperon had barnacles only on the corners and the crevices.

Pattiaratchi has used computer modeling to predict a Flight 370 debris path, and in September he met American Blaine Gibson, who's been searching the region's beaches for the debris and wanted the oceanographer's opinion on where to look.

Pattiaratchi's models indicated Madagascar or Reunion Island, and possibly in the Mozambique channel. That's apparently where Gibson went, Pattiaratchi said.