A piece of debris, believed to be the section of an aircraft wing, and which could help discover the fate of missing Malaysian flight MH370, has arrived in France.
The wreckage, discovered on the island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean, will be delivered on Saturday to a military unit near the southwest city of Toulouse which specialises in analysing aviation debris.
Experts hope the barnacled 2 to 2.5 metres long wing surface, known as a flaperon, as well as a fragment of luggage, could yield clues as to the fate of the Malaysia Airlines flight which vanished without trace in March 2014.
There were 239 passengers and crew on board, and some families of the victims are demanding further compensation from the airline.
Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai told the Reuters news agency in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday that additional Malaysian officials were headed to Reunion, to look for more debris, and others would go to France.
“If the flaperon does belong to MH370 it is actually in accordance with the drift pattern seen in the Southern Indian Ocean,” he said.
“But we do not want to speculate. We will wait for verification from the French authorities.”
Discovery of the debris may finally confirm the plane crashed into the sea after veering off course from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, helping to end 16 months of lingering uncertainty for relatives.
Investigators believe someone deliberately switched off MH370’s transponder before diverting it thousands of miles off course. Most of the passengers were Chinese.
Starting from Wednesday, the debris will be analysed at a laboratory near Toulouse staffed by 600 experts that is operated by the defence ministry.
If the serial number on the flaperon confirms that it is from the flight, then the laboratory can use sophisticated tools to try to glean more information about the causes of the crash, such as whether its shape corresponds more to a midair explosion or a descent into the ocean.
The defence ministry also contributed to the investigation of Air France flight 447 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris that killed 228 people in June 2009.
The fragment of luggage that was also found in the area will be sent to a unit outside Paris that specialises in DNA tests.