Blaine Alan Gibson, the man on a worldwide journey to find Malaysia Airlines’ missing plane from Flight 370, discovered a triangular piece of fiberglass composite material believed to be from the plane’s horizontal stabilizer. In aircraft, the stabilizer is an aerodynamic surface, typically including one or more movable control surfaces, that provides longitudinal and/or directional stability and control.
He found the fiberglass piece off the coast of Mozambique, the 177th country Gibson visited in his search.
On March 2, the Associated Press said a U.S. official “tentatively identified” the piece as a part from the same type of aircraft as the missing – a Boeing 777. Malaysian transport minister Liow Tiong Lai also confirmed in tweets about the discovery that it appears the debris may have come from the missing plane.
“Based on early reports, high possibility debris found in Mozambique belongs to a B777,” Lai said in a series of tweets.
Before Gibson’s discovery, the only confirmed trace of the aircraft has been a wing part known as a flaperon (another type of wing control surface) that washed ashore on the French island of Reunion off the east coast of Africa. The flaperon had a stenciled internal marking “657 BB,” which is the same as the flaperon from a Boeing 777.
The Boeing 777 gets about ten percent of its structural weight from composites, including fiberglass and other hybrid composites, saving 5,800 pounds. The 777 has a composite tail, which is 25 percent larger than the 767’s aluminum tail, and requires 35 percent fewer scheduled maintenance labor hours. This labor hour reduction is due to the result of a reduced risk of corrosion and fatigue of composites compared with metal. The upgrade to the 777, the Boeing 777X, also makes extensive use of composites in the aircraft’s wings. The 777X series is planned to enter service by 2020.