Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 mysteriously fell off the radar more than a year ago, leaving investigators stumped as to what went wrong and where exactly the plane went down. Recently, debris from one of the plane’s wings, known as a flaperon, turned up on Reunion Island, allowing authorities to confirm that the plane did in fact crash down in the Southern Indian Ocean.

What Is A Flaperon?

Malaysia Airlines stated that the debris was a component of a Boeing 777 airplane known as a “flaperon,” a term most non-aviation experts are unfamiliar with. In short, the component is a combination of two other wing components – the flap and the ailerons, which create lift or drag and prevent the aircraft from rolling over, respectively.

Flaperons, which are positioned near the rear of a plane’s wings, are deployed solely for take-offs and landings.

“A flaperon is part of the flap structure of the aircraft along the trailing edge, but unlike a traditional flap which does not move up or down except when being extended or retracted, a flaperon at certain speeds, becomes part of the flight controls and deflects up and down with the ailerons,” said ABC News aviation consultant John Nance.

Nance further explained, “As the speed increases and the flaps are retracted the flaperons disappear inside the back of the wing and all the lateral control is achieved.”

The flaperon was likely able to stay afloat due to its hollow structure. Its natural buoyancy allowed it to eventually land on Reunion Island, where it was found by beach cleaners late last month. Further aiding investigators in positively identifying it as part of MH370, the flaperon typically has markings and/or parts numbers that would correspond to the plane.

By finding and identifying the flaperon as a part of MH370, authorities were able to give closure to the families of the 239 people who perished aboard the ill-fated flight that took off on March 8, 2014.

“Today, 513 days since the plane disappeared, it is with a very heavy heart that I must tell you that an international team of experts has conclusively confirmed that the aircraft debris found on Reunion is indeed from MH370,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said in a televised statement last week. “We now have physical evidence that, as I announced on 24th March last year, flight MH370 tragically ended in the southern Indian Ocean.”

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