A piece of wreckage apparently from a Boeing 777 — like the missing MH370 airliner — was found washed ashore over the weekend on the coast of Mozambique, a U.S. official told CNN on Wednesday.
A Mozambican official told CNN the plane part, measuring 35 inches by 22 inches, was discovered by an American tourist, Blaine Gibson, and a local fisherman on a sandbank in Mozambique.
The discovery was reported to officials Monday, and the tourist handed over his find to Mozambique authorities, said Commander Joao de Abreu Martins, chairman of the Institute of Civil Aviation of Mozambique.
The newly discovered debris is on its way to Malaysia for further examination. The wreckage is a piece of horizontal stabilizer skin, the U.S. official said.
The horizontal stabilizer is the part of the aircraft’s tail that is horizontal as the plane flies.
A second aviation source said there was no record of any Boeing 777 missing other than Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board.
No comment from airline
Malaysia Airlines called the identification “speculative.”
“It is too speculative at this point for MAS to comment,” the airline said, using its initials.
The mystery of what happened to the plane remains unsolved. The search has turned up some aircraft debris, but also some false leads.
It took more than a month for French investigators to confirm that aircraft debris found on Reunion Island in July was from the missing Malaysia Airlines plane. The airline displayed similar caution Wednesday when it refused to confirm immediately that the newly found debris is from MH370.
Mozambique is about 1,300 miles (2,100 kilometers) west of Reunion Island, with the large island of Madagascar between them.
Debris found in Thailand in mid-January turned out not to be from MH370.
One of aviation’s greatest mysteries
The disappearance of MH370 remains one of aviation’s greatest mysteries.
The flight took off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia early in the morning, bound for Beijing.
At 1:19 a.m., as the plane was flying over the South China Sea, Malaysian air traffic controllers radioed the crew to contact controllers in Ho Chi Minh City for the onward flight through Vietnamese airspace.
The crew’s acknowledgment of the request was the last thing ever heard from MH370: “Good night Malaysian three-seven-zero.”
Shortly afterward, air traffic controllers in Malaysia lost contact with the plane somewhere over the sea between Malaysia and Vietnam.
The aircraft’s transponder, which identifies the plane and relays details like altitude and speed to controllers, stopped transmitting. MH370 seemingly disappeared without a trace.
Malaysian authorities revealed later that military radar had tracked the plane as it inexplicably changed course, turned back to the west and flew across the Malaysian Peninsula, up the Strait of Malacca, before flying out of radar range at 2:14 a.m. and vanishing once again.
By Rene Marsh and Don Melvin, CNN