When the excitement over the debris discovery on Reunion dissipates, there will be a realisation that the balance between known and unknown has tipped only fractionally in the investigators’ favour.
It will consign the more eccentric theories on MH370 to the junkyard of palpable nonsense, from which they ought never have been taken, at least by anyone who wanted to retain a reputation for credibility.
Confirmation will also force-feed a decent mouthful of crow to some of the dissenters who had voiced scepticism over the conclusions from Inmarsat, which, by putting mathematics over motive, claimed MH370 had headed to a place where it would be harder to locate than if it had been flown to the Moon.
Analysis of the debris might hint at the dynamics of the impact, which might prompt a rethink of assumptions, which might feed back into the flightpath modelling. The emphasis being on the word “might”.
But the first tangible part of MH370 to have turned up in 500 days of hunting will probably yield, in isolation, fewer useful clues about the jet’s location than the intangible satellite echoes and trigonometric juggling.
Solving the MH370 riddle will demand much more than a reassurance that the inquiry really does know what it already thought it knew. Because even if the wreck is in the Indian Ocean, as the first solid debris suggests, the answers still might not be.