Debris believed to be from a Boeing 777 arrived in France on Saturday, where a team of investigators must determine whether it belongs to Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.
The 6-foot-long fragment, which has been identified as a wing flaperon, will be transported to Toulouse for analysis in a defense ministry laboratory, according to AFP.
Boeing is sending a technical team to France to examine the debris, say company officials. Malaysia, which is responsible for the overall investigation, is also sending a team of aviation officials to Toulouse.
The debris was washed up on Réunion Island, a French territory off the east coast of Africa, where it was discovered by a team of beach cleaners.
While officials have not confirmed the link to the missing Malaysian flight, they do have a high confidence the debris belongs to a Boeing 777, and MH370 is the only Boeing 777 thought to have crashed south of the equator.
A source close to the investigation told CNN that Boeing investigators are confident the debris belongs to a 777 aircraft. Another source said that a Boeing part supplier have confirmed that a part number on a piece of aircraft wreckage was on a seal associated with the Boeing 777.
Malaysian authorities on Friday also said that the debris comes from a Boeing 777. "From the part number, it is confirmed that it is from a Boeing 777 aircraft. This information is from MAS (Malaysia Airlines)," Malaysia's deputy transport minister Abdul Aziz Kaprawi told AFP.
Martin Dolan, the head of the Australian agency coordinating the underwater search for the plane, also stated the agency was "increasingly confident that this debris is from MH370."
The Paris prosecutor's office announced that analysis will begin on Wednesday. It is unclear when the identification process will be completed.
Under a thorough analysis, the wing fragment could yield clues to its path through the Indian Ocean, and thus reveal what happened to the airplane, but there is no guarantee that investigators will ever find the plane’s black box recorders or other debris.
Mr. Dolan told the Los Angeles Times that "the main debris field associated with MH370 is going to be on the bottom of the ocean, not floating on the surface."
Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss told AFP that the part "could be a very important piece of evidence", but it is "almost impossible" to trace back the debris to the place it has drifted from.
He added that investigators would study the debris to see "whether there's any evidence of fire or other misadventure on the aircraft."
The experts hope the flaperon will indicate the plane's speed at the time the part detached, whether the plane was gliding because it ran out of fuel or whether it was plunging violently to the earth, as Los Angeles times reports. However, authorities have warned that a small piece of plane debris is unlikely to solve the whole mystery.
Flight MH370 disappeared on March 8, 2014, while traveling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers on board.
The last primary radar contact with the flight showed its position over the Andaman Sea about 230 miles northwest of the Malaysian city of Penang. Réunion is about 3,500 miles southwest of Penang, and about 2,600 miles west of the current search area.