A piece of Boeing 777 wreckage that washed up on an Indian Ocean island arrived for analysis in France early today, after Malaysian authorities said the part was almost certainly recovered from missing flight MH370.
Paris’ Orly airport website confirmed the Air France flight transporting the piece of wreckage landed at 6.17 am local time (0417 GMT) from the French island of La Reunion.
A police escort will accompany the two-metre (6.5 foot) part on its journey by road to a defence ministry laboratory near the southwestern city of Toulouse.
Experts will begin their analysis on Wednesday, along with an examination of parts of a suitcase discovered nearby.
If confirmed, the discovery would mark the first breakthrough in a case that has baffled aviation experts for 16 months.
“I believe that we are moving closer to solving the mystery of MH370. This could be the convincing evidence that MH370 went down in the Indian Ocean,” Malaysia’s deputy transport minister Abdul Aziz Kaprawi told AFP.
The Malaysia Airlines flight disappeared on March 8, 2014 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. There were 239 people on board.
Boeing said in a statement yesterday that it would send a technical team to France to study the plane debris at the request of civil aviation authorities.
“Our goal, along with the entire global aviation industry, continues to be not only to find the airplane, but also to determine what happened — and why,” the US aerospace giant added.
However, others have warned one small piece of plane debris is unlikely to completely clear up one of aviation’s greatest puzzles.
Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said while the part “could be a very important piece of evidence”, using reverse modelling to determine more precisely where the debris may have drifted from was “almost impossible”.
MH370 was one of only three Boeing 777s to have been involved in major incidents, along with the downing of flight MH17 over Ukraine last year and the Asiana Airlines crash at San Francisco airport in 2013 that left three dead.
Photographs show the wing component bearing the part number “657BB”.
“From the part number, it is confirmed that it is from a Boeing 777 aircraft. This information is from MAS (Malaysia Airlines),” Aziz told AFP.
On La Reunion, where a clean-up crew discovered the wreckage and the suitcase, dozens of curious locals scoured the rocky shore for other possible debris.
Members of the same clean-up association on Friday discovered a detergent bottle with Indonesian markings and a bottle of Chinese-branded mineral water, which they took to police.
Of the victims, 152 were Chinese and seven from Indonesia.