After the start of the search for missing Boeing 777 several debrises were found in several locations (Réunion island, Mozabique, Mauritius, South Africa, Madagascar, and Tanzania).

All the debrises were positively linked to a Boeing 777 plane and thus, to the MH370 flight.

My question is that how does a single plane have several debrises in such far distances? Was it flying and losing its parts in the duration of its flying?

Also, the debris found in South Africa was found in its southern coast. Does it mean it was the plane's last location and it crashed there? If yes, why has not anything more been found there?

Note: It's easy to say the plane reached South Africa at the end. Because when a plane flies from Malaysia and goes westward (just like the MH370 flight), it first reaches Mauritius, then Réunion, then Madagascar, then Tanzania (shifting the direction), then Mozambique, then South Africa.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ According to Wikipedia "The location of the discovery was consistent with models of debris dispersal 16 months after an origin in the search area then in progress off the west coast of Australia" $\endgroup$
    – sophit
    Jun 15 at 16:45
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, so the debris moved with water. But why they weren't discovered when they had not moved yet? $\endgroup$ Jun 15 at 16:54
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ As usual due to a chain of events, mainly "lack of official information in the days immediately after the disappearance"; "transponder no longer functioning"; "Countries were reluctant to release information collected from military radar" and "it left radar range" $\endgroup$
    – sophit
    Jun 15 at 17:00
  • $\begingroup$ And why did they search the waters in west of Australia? It wasn't relevant to the path of the plane which was westward when it stopped communicating. $\endgroup$ Jun 15 at 17:04
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ It was done according to the information known at the time of the search. This information changed/improved with time $\endgroup$
    – sophit
    Jun 15 at 17:09

2 Answers 2


The oceans tend to be fairly large. The Indian Ocean is 27 million square miles in area (70 million km2). For comparison, the US is 3.5 million, Alaska included. Searching the Indian Ocean is at least eight times the job that searching the entire US would have been.

Actually, more like eight hundred times. You can fly over land at 500 knots and descend to look closer when you find something. Underwater, you have to search at 5-10 knots to get best sonar performance. Then you don't immediately see if it's plane debris, an old shipwreck, or illegally dumped trash. You have to summon a ROV mothership to bring and dive that 2-knot machine to the bottom.

Where the floating debris was found doesn't indicate if the plane has actually crashed in that area. Currents can carry it thousands of miles. We can say with certainty that the MH-370 diverted West, and reached the Indian Ocean, because otherwise debris would've washed East of the Malay Peninsula, in the South China Sea. Where exactly in the Indian Ocean remains undetermined as of 2023. Remember, it's 8 times the area of the US.

The actual crash site can only be positively determined once debris is found on the bottom.

  • $\begingroup$ Why diverted East? The Indian Ocean is at the West of Malaysia. $\endgroup$ Jun 15 at 18:19
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ West, I meant West. Fixed. $\endgroup$ Jun 15 at 18:37

If you are interested in what happened to MH370, it would probably be a good idea if you read all searches and studies that were made since it disappeared (the real ones, not the conspiracy theories, of course). The Wikipedia page on the topic is probably a good starting point.

Most of the evidence points to the aircraft having crashed into open ocean West of Australia.

The aircraft then disintegrated into many different pieces of various sizes, some of which kept afloat. Winds and currents then carried them away to the East coast of Africa (and islands on the way) where they were discovered, recovered and identified.

Given the great distances, and given varying sizes and shapes and buoyancy, not all pieces ended up in the same place, they were spread out over quite large distances.

While there was a lot of confusion initially on the trajectory of the aircraft (which led to searches in many different places), it is now clear that after turning back and crossing Malaysia, the aircraft then veered South, and flew for many hours before running out of fuel and crashing. This was estimated from analysis of ACARS data received by satellites, where Doppler shift and round-trip-time information yielded speed and distance (from the satellite). This has later been confirmed (with apparently higher accuracy) by analysis of disturbances in Wsprnet transmissions at the time.

The initial confusion, lack of transponder data, and limited radar data, means that initially, a lot of time was lost looking for the aircraft in places where it wasn’t. When it became clearer where the aircraft was, the possible area was still extremely large. While many overflights took place in that area, identifying relatively small pieces floating on the ocean, already dispersed over a large area, is very difficult. It’s not like there were full wings floating on the ocean with a beacon on them, or bright orange or yellow liferafts.

If you consider AF447, remember that in that case:

  • The actual flight path was pretty well known;
  • Their last known position was very close to the actual crash site (last position sent at 2:10 UTC when the crash occurred around 2:15)

In that case it still took about 36 hours to find signs of the wreckage, and it was already spread over 5 km. So you can imagine what happens if you get that area to search a week after the aircraft has disappeared, and the area to search is soo large that it’s materially impossible to cover it in a timely manner.

I believe there is still debate on how the aircraft “landed”, I.e. whether it was a somewhat controlled ditching (in which case most of the aircraft would have been intact and would quickly have fallen to the bottom of the -very deep- ocean) or if it really crashed (which means a lot more smaller pieces, but a larger possibility of floating debris), but in any case, the delay and the size of the area make locating any pieces in the open ocean extremely difficult.

  • $\begingroup$ Why did the aircraft turn back and flyed twoard the south for many hours? Didn't the pilot know the flight path? $\endgroup$ Jun 18 at 16:31
  • $\begingroup$ @SnackExchange I think the pilot was likely dead or incapacitated. Think fire on board. $\endgroup$ Jun 18 at 16:43
  • $\begingroup$ @CareyGregoryisonstrike Well, pilot is not alone. What about the co-pilot? $\endgroup$ Jun 18 at 17:06
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @SnackExchange what everybody thinks but the Malaysians won’t accept is that it was the captain who orchestrated the whole thing. Either incapacitated the other pilot or locked him out of the cockpit, probably incapacitated the whole cabin by hypoxia, disabled the transponder, turned back towards the origin airport (so it doesn’t look too suspicious), then crossed Malaysia, reached the Western tip of Indonesia and headed south towards a place with no radar coverage, no population, deep oceans… it was all planned and rehearsed. $\endgroup$
    – jcaron
    Jun 18 at 18:08
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @jcaron: Advancing this as a hypothesis is sensible (although there is not much hope of proving or disproving it) -- but claiming that it is "what everybody thinks but the Malaysians won’t accept" elevates it to a conspiracy theory. $\endgroup$ Jun 18 at 20:12

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .