Satellite expert Zaaim Redha Abdul Rahman, who helped the UK satellite firm Inmarsat analyze data shortly after the plane went missing in March last year, said the plane probably made a soft landing on the water, floated for a while on the surface, and then sank mostly in one piece.
This is consistent with what other experts have said about the likely fate of the plane after new evidence emerged last month.
A piece of debris that was almost certainly part of MH370 suggests the aircraft may have glided along after running out of fuel and descended slowly into the water. A Boeing 777 flaperon washed up on Reunion Island near Madagascar in the Indian Ocean.
Former US National Transportation Safety Board investigator Greg Feith told Bloomberg that since the piece was not “crushed,” experts could “deduce it was either a low-energy crash or a low-energy intentional ditching.”
Rahman came to the same conclusion.
“It (the flaperon) was only slightly damaged and was just encrusted with barnacles,” Rahman told the Bernama news agency. “Its appearance indicates that it was not violently torn off from the aircraft’s main body … it does seem that it got detached pretty nicely at its edges.
“If MH370 had crashed with a really hard impact, we would have seen small pieces of debris floating on the sea immediately after that,” he added. “Furthermore, the flaperon that was recovered (from Reunion Island) wouldn’t have been in one piece … we would have only seen bits and pieces of it.”
It’s possible that the flaperon broke off from the submerged plane body, Rahman said.
“Similarly, other parts would also become detached and float with the help of the strong water current, before being washed up on the shores of islands like Reunion,” he said.
Teams continue to search the southern Indian Ocean, where the plane is believed to have crashed, for the rest of the aircraft.
Patrick Smith, airline pilot and author of the book “Cockpit Confidential,” told Business Insider last month that the debris could hint at the manner of the crash — but it would still just be speculation at this point.
“If indeed the wing piece was in the extended position, consistent with where it would be in low-speed operations, this MIGHT suggest the airplane was still under control when it crashed,” Smith told Business Insider in an email.
“But we’re looking at one tiny, badly damaged piece from the jetliner. It’s merely supposition at this point.”
MH370 disappeared on March 8, 2014, while flying from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing. The Boeing 777-200ER vanished with 239 people onboard.
The search for the Malaysian jet has been focused on a 7.3-million-square-mile area in the southern Indian Ocean off the western coast of Australia.