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Aircraft pieces have sometimes been found floating for days after a sea crash. Peter Marosszeky, an aviation expert at the University of New South Wales, said the wing could remain buoyant for weeks if fuel tanks inside it were empty and had not filled with water.
Other experts said that if the aircraft breaks into pieces, normally only items such as seats and luggage would remain floating.
"We seldom see big metal (pieces) floating. You need a lot of (buoyant) material underneath the metal to keep it up," said Lau Kin-tak, an expert in aircraft maintenance and accidents at Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
Malaysian authorities have not ruled out any possible explanation for what happened to the jet but have said the evidence so far suggests it was deliberately turned back across Malaysia to the Strait of Malacca, with its communications systems disabled. They are unsure what happened next.
Police are considering the possibilities of hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or issues related to the mental health of the pilots or anyone else on board.
Gelineau reported from Sydney, Australia. Associated Press writers Todd Pitman and Scott McDonald in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Nick Perry in Wellington, New Zealand; Kelvin Chan in Hong Kong; Christopher Bodeen and Isolda Morillo in Beijing; Hohlbrook Mohr in Jackson, Miss.; Pauline Jelinek in Washington, and Mark Lewis in Stavanger, Norway, contributed to this report.
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