French investigators have finally confirmed that the wing fragment found on Reunion Island in late July did come from the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 plane.
Although Malaysian authorities said they were certain the wing part belonged to the ill-fated jet shortly after its discovery, the French took a more cautious approach, examining it for over a month.
The prosecutor in Paris has now revealed that three numbers were found on the component, known as a flaperon, linking it beyond doubt to the missing Boeing 777. The identification numbers were confirmed by technicians at Airbus Defence and Space facilities in Spain, were the component was manufactured.
"It is therefore possible to confirm with certainty that the flaperon found on Reunion Island on July 29 2015 corresponds to the one from flight MH370," the prosecutor said in a statement.
The information is not surprising. Soon after it was found, multiple experts said the wing part came from a Boeing 777 and with no other 777 missing, the only plausible source was Flight MH370.
Malaysian investigators previously said the paint colour and sealants found on the barnacle-covered fragment matched Malaysia Airlines’ maintenance records.
Flight MH370 disappeared on the night of 8 March 2014 on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. For reasons unknown, the jet diverted sharply from its course and continued flying for up to eight hours with its communication equipment switched off. Eventually, it is believed, it ran out of fuel above a remote stretch of the Southern Indian Ocean off the western coast of Australia.
239 people are believed to have died aboard the aircraft.
The flaperon washed up on Reunion Island is the first physical trace of MH370 to have been found since the plane’s disappearance, despite a massive search operation – the most extensive and costly in the history of aviation.
Reunion is about 3,700km west from where the plane is believed to have come down based on the last automatic data exchange between the aircraft and telecommunication satellites.
However, oceanographers said the distance as well as direction would be in line with the motion of the ocean currents in the area.