The purported discovery of plane debris washed up on a remote island off the African coast is the subject of speculation it could be from missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.
A part, believed to be from a Boeing 777 – which matches the doomed MH370 aircraft – has been found on the west coast of the French island of Reunion, which is located in the western portion of the Indian Ocean.
Images show the debris is rusted and has barnacles growing on it, indicating it may have been in the water for some time.
Xavier Tytleman, a former military pilot who now specialises in aviation security, says he was sent the images by a man living on the island and has published them on his blog Peur Avion.
He told The Telegraph: “I’ve been studying hundreds of photos and speaking to colleagues, and we all think it is likely that the wing is that of a Boeing 777 – the same plane as MH370.
The debris is said to have washed up off Reunion Island, which is off the coast of Madagascar
“Police in Reunion examining the wreckage say that it looks like it’s been in the water for about a year, which again would fit with MH370. We can’t say for certainty, but we do think there is a chance that this is it.”
Adjutant Christian Retournat, a member of the French Air Force in Reunion told CNN: "It is way too soon to say whether or not it is MH370. We just found the debris this morning in the coast of Saint Andre."
The part of the aircraft in question is believed to be a flaperon – the part of the wing that controls the roll and bank of an aircraft.
The Beijing-bound Boeing 777 disappeared from radar with all 239 souls on board on 8 March last year, an hour into its departure from Kuala Lumpur.
If the debris is not connected to the disappearance of MH370 it will raise questions as to where it is from.
In the 16 months since the Boeing 777 disappeared, a vast number of theories have been put forward in an attempt to explain just what happened.
They range from the bizarre to the credible and include the calculations of senior British pilot Simon Hardy who pinpointed where in the Indian Ocean he believes the doomed aircraft is, following a six month analysis of existing flight data.
Hardy used a unique mathematical technique to identify the final resting place of MH370 as being 100 nautical miles away from where the Australian Transport Safety Board (ATSB) is currently carrying out its search.
Simon Hardy believes the aircraft is just 100 nautical miles away from the prescribed search area
The Boeing 777 captain’s theory shares the belief that someone – possibly captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah – deliberately flew the plane off course and endeavoured to make it vanish.
Aviation experts appearing on a UK screening of a National Geographic documentary agree with this theory.
But while Hardy then places the plane 100 nautical miles from where the search is currently being carried out in the Indian Ocean, former National Transportation Safety Board investigator Malcolm Brenner believes no such thing.
Aviation expert Malcolm Brenner believes Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 was deliberately taken off course and flown towards Antarctica
Appearing on the National Geographic documentary, Brenner’s analysis of satellite data from the lost Boeing 777 tracks several turns “which appear to be human-directed and finally ends up flying and heading to Antarctica.”
He added: “So the appearance is this is a carefully thought out effort to evade detection.”
ABC News Aviation Analyst John Nance supports Brenner’s theory, stating: “I feel very strongly, very very strongly, given all the evidence we think we have, we always have to put that caveat on it, that whoever did this intended for the airplane and the passengers to simply vanish from the planet.”
Others who believe someone on the flight carried out a “murder/ suicide” mission include author Ewan Wilson.
Wilson’s book Good Night Malaysian 370: The Truth Behind The Loss of Flight 370, suggests captain Zaharie Shah was suffering from mental health problems and deliberately depressurised the cabin causing the rest of the crew and passengers to lose consciousness, before ditching the plane in the sea.
Former airline boss Marc Dugain however suggests an altogether more sinister fate for the aircraft and its passengers.
The ex-Proteus Airlines head has suggested the plane was shot down by the United States after being remotely hacked.
Marc Dugain believes the plane was shot down by the USA
Dugain claims that fearing a 9/11-style terror attack, the USA took action from the British-controlled Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia after learning hackers had taken control of the Boeing 777.
He reports speaking to residents of the Maldives who saw "red and blue stripes with a white background" on a plane heading towards Diego Garcia on the day of MH370's disappearance.
In an interview with Paris Match magazine, Dugain also claimed to have seen pictures of an empty Boeing fire extinguisher washed up on a beach on the nearby Baarah island.
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The former airline boss suggests that Boeing planes are particularly vulnerable to hijacking, and could have been set on fire remotely.
"In 2006, Boeing patented a remote control system using a computer placed inside or outside the aircraft," Dugain told Paris Match.
He told France Inter: "It’s an extremely powerful military base. It’s surprising that the Americans have lost all trace of this aircraft."
The couple were travelling from Cochin, India to Phuket on board a 40-foot sloop when Tee saw: “… the outline of a plane. It looked longer than planes usually do. There was what appeared to be black smoke streaming from behind it.”
Author John Chuckman backs Dugain's theory that the US shot down the plane and is now trying to cover it up. He noted: "There would be nothing unprecedented in such an act: on at least three occasions, regrettably, America's military has shot down civilian airliners."
"I have no idea what event (a rogue pilot, a hijacker?) led to Flight MH370 turning off its communications, changing course, and flying low, but I do know that the event could not have gone unnoticed by America's military-intelligence eyes and ears."
A further major name in air travel who has remarked upon the missing jet is Emirates President Sir Tim Clark.
Emirates boss Sir Tim Clark has cast doubt on whether MH370 crashed in the Indian Ocean
Sir Tim, whose own fleet includes 127 identical aircraft to the missing jet, said: “Our experience tells us that in water incidents, where the aircraft has gone down, there is always something.
“I am saying that all the ‘facts’ of this particular incident must be challenged and examined with a full transparency. We are nowhere near that.
A further, deeply intriguing theory is the plane came to rest nowhere near the sea and instead was hijacked and landed secretly in Kazakhstan.
Science writer and pilot Jeff Wise says the plane avoided being spotted by radars by deliberately flying along national borders before it was landed in Baikonur Cosmodrome, which is leased from Kazakhstan by Russia.
Wise’s research is compelling, as are satellite images of the area he believes where the plane may have been temporarily housed, which show a flurry of activity both before and after the disappearance of MH370.
Jeff Wise has appeared on CNN as an aviation expert numerous times
Wise mused on the reasons as to why Russian President Vladimir Putin may want to steal a passenger plane in a lengthy piece for New York Magazine.
“Maybe he wanted to demonstrate to the United States, which had imposed the first punitive sanctions on Russia the day before, that he could hurt the West and its allies anywhere in the world. Maybe what he was really after were the secrets of one of the plane’s passengers. Maybe there was something strategically crucial in the hold. Or maybe he wanted the plane to show up unexpectedly somewhere someday, packed with explosives.”
'A terrible place to hide an airplane': The Yubileyniy complex pictured in 2012
The same spot in October 2013 (above) and with Wise's addition of the silhouette image of a 777 (below)
He told Huffington Post UK: "I spent a good chunk of last year telling friends and acquaintances about my research, and most of them thought I had a screw loose.
"I think what’s different about now is that as time has gone by and the official search has continued to come up empty handed, there’s a growing awareness of the need to consider alternative scenarios.”