The wing part discovered on the Reunion island in the Indian Ocean believed to come from the missing MH370 aircraft will be sent to France for analysis before final confirmation.
Although multiple aerospace experts said the 2.5m long fragment, a flaperon used to steer the aircraft, does come from a Boeing 777 aircraft and that no other 777 apart from MH370 is currently missing, official investigators refuse to make early conclusions.
The piece of debris, found by a beach cleaner about 3,700km from where the ill-fated plane is believed to have come down more than 16 months ago, is therefore on its way to Toulouse, where it will be examined by French defence ministry experts.
The flaperon has been moved from the beach to a local airport and is expected in France on Sunday. Malaysia has sent a team to Toulouse to help with the investigation.
Experts said previously the identification should not be too difficult as wing parts, such as the discovered flaperon, usually have identification numbers that make it rather straightforward to trace the component back to the particular aircraft.
The find, although not likely to lead to the discovery of the rest of the wreckage and the flight data recorders trapped within, will help families of the plane’s passengers to get at least some closure after more than a year of uncertainty.
"Nothing has been confirmed, but obviously this is, by far, the most encouraging sign so far," said Tony Abbott Prime Minister of Australia, the country leading the search operations.
"We have long thought it went down somewhere in the Indian Ocean and, at last, it seems that we may be on the verge of some confirmation."
A French law enforcement helicopter is scouring the waters around Reunion in hopes of spotting more debris and ground-based teams are scrutinising the beaches looking for objects that may have come from the plane.
The so far unexplained disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 that veered off its regular course from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on 8 March last year has sparked the most extensive and costly search operation in the history of aviation.
The flaperon found on Reunion could be the first firm evidence about the plane’s fate found in months of search efforts. Ships equipped with submersible scanners and unmanned submarines have been crisscrossing the remote patch of the southern Indian Ocean off the coast of western Australia where the plane’s automated system last contacted telecommunication satellites. However, nothing has been found.
Experts say that the location of the debris is consistent with where the plane is believed to have crashed as powerful ocean currents would have moved any floating debris thousands of kilometres away in the amount of time that passed since the disaster.
239 people are believed to have died aboard the plane.
Flight MH370 wing tip fragment infographic