SYDNEY: Authorities hunting for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 said Friday they were “increasingly confident” that wreckage found on an Indian Ocean island was from the ill-fated jet, raising hopes of solving one of aviation’s great mysteries.
The two-metre (six-foot) long piece of wreckage is to be sent to France for analysis, with expectations building it will be the first tangible proof the plane went down in the Indian Ocean.
Investigators are hoping they will then move closer to understanding the mystery swirling around the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, which vanished 16 months ago with 239 people aboard, most of them Chinese.
“We are increasingly confident that this debris is from MH370,” Martin Dolan, chief commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, which is leading the MH370 search, told AFP.
“The shape of the object looks very much like a very specific part associated only with 777 aircraft.”
Dolan cautioned that it remained to be confirmed, but said he was hoping for greater clarity “within the next 24 hours”.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak had said Thursday the object was “very likely” from a Boeing 777, but also said this had yet to be confirmed.
Several experts have said the debris is a Boeing 777 flaperon, a wing part, and that if it is confirmed it almost certainly belonged to the Malaysia Airlines plane.
The debris washed up on the French island of La Reunion, some 4,000 kilometres (2,500 miles) from the oceanic region where MH370 was thought to have gone down in March last year.
The recovered object is expected to be flown to a testing site in France near the city of Toulouse for analysis by aviation authorities and could reach there by Saturday, French sources told AFP.
Authorities involved in the search at sea, guided by the analysis of signals from the plane that were detected by a satellite, believe it went down in the southern Indian Ocean.
But no confirmed physical evidence has ever been found and Malaysian authorities in January declared that all on board were presumed dead.