Earlier today, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau issued a report entitled, “Debris examination — update No. 1: Identification of two items of debris recovered in Mozambique.” The report confirms that the pieces are consistent with a right-hand flap fairing and a right horizontal stabilizer, pointing out that the lettering found on each part matches stencils used by Malaysia airlines. In the case of the piece found by Blaine Alan Gibson, shown above, the report says:
The fastener head markings identified it as being correct for use on the stabiliser panel assembly. The markings also identified the fastener manufacturer. That manufacturer’s fasteners were not used in current production, but did match the fasteners used in assembly of the aircraft next in the production line (405) to 9M-MRO (404).
This wording is ambiguous–does “current production” mean production at the time that 9M-MRO was built, or now? If the fastener wasn’t used when 9M-MRO was built, one wonders what it is doing in this piece. Hopefully the ATSB will clarify what it means. At any rate, the report concludes that both pieces “almost certainly from the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 aircraft, registered 9M-MRO.”
Naturally, I was particularly keen to hear what the ATSB would say about the marine life found on these pieces, or lack thereof. The report contains a section entitled “Quarantine and marine ecology” which reads, in its entirety:
On arrival into Australia, both parts were quarantined at the Geoscience Australia facility in Canberra. The parts were unwrapped and examined for the presence of marine ecology and remnants of biological material. Visible marine ecology was present on both parts and these items were removed and preserved. The parts were subsequently cleaned and released from quarantine.
Later, in the “Conclusions” section, the report states: “At the time of writing, ongoing work was being conducted with respect to the marine ecology identification as well as testing of material samples. The results from these tests will be provided to the Malaysian investigation team once complete.”
The key here seems to be to reinforce the idea that the results of the biofouling examination will go to Malaysia, and not released to the public. Which raises the question: why does Australia feel empowered to release a fairly detailed report explaining why they think the pieces came from 9M-MRO, but not to say anything about the marine life on them? Is there a legal distinction between these two kinds of assessment, as pertains to ICAO protocols? Perhaps some legally-minded readers can shed light on the matter.