Photo via Raymond Wae Tion/EPA
In what could be a landmark shift in one of the biggest mysteries in the history of aviation, French and Malaysian investigators are meeting in Paris today following the discovery of a wing fragment which many hope could be from missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.In Monday's meeting, experts are trying to determine whether the sea-encrusted debris comes from the plane, which disappeared more than a year ago on March 8, 2014, while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.
Last week, the remains were shipped to France after being found on the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion. Air safety investigators, including one from Boeing, have identified the component as a flaperon from the trailing edge of a Boeing 777 wing, a US official has said. Flight 370 is the only missing 777 and many are convinced the flap comes from the ill-fated jet.On Friday, Martin Dolan, the head of the Australian agency coordinating the underwater search for the plane, told CNN he is "increasingly confident, but not yet certain" that the wreckage is from MH370."The only 777 aircraft that we're aware of in the Indian Ocean that could have led to this part floating is MH370," Dolan said.
Related: Officials 'Increasingly Confident' Debris Is From MH370Officials, keenly aware that families of those on board flight 370 are desperately awaiting word on the fate of their loved ones, hope to have at least some answers in the coming days."The most important part of this whole exercise at the moment is to give some kind of closure to the families," said Australian Transport Minister Warren Truss, whose country is leading the search for the plane in a desolate stretch of ocean off Australia's west coast.Still, given the myriad false leads that have peppered the search, some would prefer certainty to speed.
Similitudes incroyables entre le flaperon d'un #B777 et le débris retrouvé ce matin à #LaReunion… #MH370 ? pic.twitter.com/GDkzRLwi2h
— Xavier Tytelman (@PeurAvion)July 29, 2015
Jacquita Gomes, whose husband, Patrick, was a flight attendant on the missing plane, is anxious for the results of the analysis, but wants authorities to ensure they're conclusive before announcing them."We cannot rush it," said Gomes, of Kuala Lumpur. "We have been waiting for more than 500 days. The agony continues and I hope there will be answers soon."But even if the piece is confirmed to be the first confirmed wreckage from flight 370, there's no guarantee investigators can find the plane's vital black box recorders or other debris. A multinational search effort focused on the southern Indian Ocean has come up empty.Scanning the beach's distinctive black volcanic sand and stones on Friday, searcher Philippe Sidam picked up a plastic bottle for laundry detergent. "This is from Jakarta, Indonesia," he said, pointing to the writing on the bottle. "This shows how the ocean's currents bring material all the way from Indonesia and beyond. That explains how the debris from the Malaysian plane could have reached here."
Reunion environmental worker Johnny Begue told the Associated Press that he stumbled across the plane part on last Wednesday while collecting stones to grind spices. A colleague, Teddy Riviere, corroborated his account, but authorities wouldn't say who discovered the component.
"I knew immediately it was part of an aircraft, but I didn't realize how important it was, that it could help to solve the mystery of what happened to the Malaysian jet," Begue, 46, said.He and several workmates carried the wing fragment out of the water so that it would not be battered by the surf against the volcanic rocks that make up most of the beach.Related: After the AirAsia Disaster, Industry Experts Say It's Time to Overhaul Air Safety StandardsBegue also discovered a piece of a suitcase about 2.5 meters (eight feet) away, he said.Australian officials expressed skepticism that the suitcase was associated with the wing part. Truss, the transport minister, noted that there did not appear to be any marine life attached to the suitcase, indicating it probably hadn't been in the water for long. But he dubbed the wing part a major lead."There's strong evidence to suggest that the wreckage found on Reunion Island does come from a Boeing 777," Truss said.The Associated Press contributed to this reportFollow VICE News on Twitter: @vicenews