American officials have a “high degree of confidence” that airline debris found on a French Island in the Indian Ocean appears to belong a Boeing 777, the same kind of aircraft as the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
A U.S. official told the Associated Press that air safety investigators identified the part based on a photo of the wreckage. The plane parts were found on Reunion Island, about 380 nautical miles off the coast of Madagascar and about 3,500 miles from where the plane disappeared over the Andaman Sea.
The official told the AP that a team of investigators, which include a Boeing air safety expert, have identified the debris as a “flaperon,” which is typically responsible for controlling the roll or bank of an aircraft. On a Boeing 777, the flaperon would be found along the trailing edge of a 777 wing.
Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said that his country had sent a team to the island to confirm the identity of the debris.
“Whatever wreckage found needs to be further verified before we can ever confirm that it is belonged to MH370,” he said.
A French official confirmed that French law enforcement is on the island for the investigation.
The ongoing search of the seabed is unlikely to change, according to Australian Transport Safety Bureau Chief Commissioner Martin Dolan, whose agency is heading up the location effort. If the part is from the plane, it would line up with the theory that it crashed within a roughly 46,000 mile area.
Paul R. Bergman, a spokesman for Boeing, referred questions to authorities investigating the incident.
“Our goal, along with the entire global aviation industry, continues to be not only to find the airplane, but also to determine what happened – and why,” he said in a statement.
Flight 370 mysteriously disappeared on March 8, 2014 with 239 people on board and a multinational effort has been searching for it ever since.