Paris: A piece of Boeing 777 wreckage that washed up on an Indian Ocean island arrived for analysis in France early today, after Malaysian authorities said the part almost certainly came from missing flight MH370.
Paris' Orly airport website confirmed the Air France flight transporting the piece of wreckage landed at 6:17 am (local time) from the French island of La Reunion.
A police escort will accompany the two-metre (six-and-a-half-foot) part, encased in a wooden crate, on its journey by road to a defence ministry laboratory near the southwestern city of Toulouse.
If confirmed, the discovery would mark the first breakthrough in a case that has baffled aviation experts for 16 months.
The Malaysia Airlines flight disappeared on March 8, 2014, en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.
Malaysian and French experts will begin their analysis of the part, identified as a flaperon, on Wednesday, as well as fragments of a suitcase discovered nearby, according to an informed source.
Residents of Saint Andre, the beachside town where the flaperon was found, said a police officer inspected the beach early today.
"I believe that we are moving closer to solving the mystery of MH370. This could be the convincing evidence that MH370 went down in the Indian Ocean," Malaysia's deputy transport minister Abdul Aziz Kaprawi told AFP.
US aerospace giant Boeing said in a statement yesterday that it would send a technical team to France to study the plane debris at the request of civil aviation authorities.
Some warn that one small piece of plane debris is unlikely to completely clear up one of aviation's greatest puzzles.
Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said while the part "could be a very important piece of evidence", using reverse modelling to determine more precisely where the debris may have drifted from was "almost impossible".
MH370 was one of only three Boeing 777s to have been involved in major incidents, along with the downing of flight MH17 over Ukraine last year and the Asiana Airlines crash at San Francisco airport in 2013 that left three dead.
Photographs show the wing component bearing the part number "657BB".
"From the part number, it is confirmed that it is from a Boeing 777 aircraft. This information is from MAS (Malaysia Airlines)," Aziz said.