REUNION ISLAND – A piece of wreckage that washed up on an island in the Indian Ocean is from a Boeing 777 — the same type of aircraft as MH370, which vanished last year, Malaysian authorities said Sunday.
France and the United States identified the flaperon as one from that particular type of Boeing, Malaysia’s transportation ministry said. A flaperon is part of an aircraft’s wing that helps control its speed and banking angle.
Experts will determine whether the debris, which was found on the French territory of Reunion Island last week, is linked to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
MH370 disappeared after leaving Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for Beijing on March 8 last year. It had 239 people on board.
Work to conclusively identify the piece of wreckage will begin Wednesday, French prosecutors said. The debris was transferred to Toulouse, France, on Saturday for analysis.
In addition to local officials, experts from Boeing, Malaysia, China and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board will join the investigation in France.
“The only 777 aircraft that we’re aware of in the Indian Ocean that could have led to this part floating is MH370,” said Martin Dolan, the head of the Australian agency coordinating the underwater search for the plane.
“But as I said, we still need to confirm that through closer study.”
If confirmed to be part of MH370, the wreckage would be the first bit of physical evidence recovered from that plane. It could help resolve key questions on the fate of the aircraft, which vanished last year with 239 people on board.
Dolan said last week that he is “increasingly confident but not yet certain” that the debris is from MH370.
A “metal object of interest” related to the search was found Sunday morning on the beach in St. Denis, part of Reunion Island, a local government official said.
The government official declined to be identified because he is not authorized to speak to media. The official declined to provide more information, saying the origin of the object needs to be verified.
Malaysian authorities said they are reaching out to authorities in territories near Reunion Islands to allow experts to conduct more substantive analysis should more debris surface.
Teams in Reunion are scouring the stretch of coast where the debris was found.
In addition to the flaperon and the metal object, other debris washed ashore Thursday and appeared to resemble remnants of a suitcase, local police officials said.
The French General Directorate of Armament, which is analyzing the debris, has sophisticated equipment and expertise to quickly identify the plane the debris belongs to and what happened to it, a source told CNN.
That analysis will begin Wednesday, the Paris prosecutor’s office said.
Authorities have so far been unable to establish why Flight 370 flew sharply off its route from Kuala Lumpur and disappeared.
A preliminary assessment by U.S. intelligence agencies suggested someone in the cockpit deliberately caused the aircraft’s movements before the Malaysian airliner disappeared. – CNN