Experts start examining wing piece that may be from MH370

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon
Missing MH370: Analysis of Wing Part Due to Begin in France


BALMA, France (AP) -- French and Malaysian experts on Wednesday began examining an airplane wing fragment that could offer the first tangible clue about the fate of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which vanished more than a year ago with 239 people aboard.

Intact and encrusted with barnacles, the metal piece washed up on the Indian Ocean island of Reunion and was sent to France, where investigators will determine whether it's from the missing Boeing 777, which disappeared after veering far off its set northerly course from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia to Beijing.

Photos from the scene of the debris finding:

32 PHOTOS
Malaysia MH370 debris found
See Gallery
Experts start examining wing piece that may be from MH370
Joao de Abreu, President of Mozambique's Civil Aviation Institute (IACM), holds a piece of suspected aircraft wreckage found off the east African coast of Mozambique at Mozambique's Civil Aviation Institute (IACM) in Maputo on March 3, 2016. A hunk of suspected aircraft wreckage found off the east African coast will be sent to Australia where experts will examine whether it is a new piece in the puzzle of missing flight MH370, officials said. The fragment was reportedly found near Mozambique and could provide clues in the huge and costly Australia-led investigation into what happened to the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines flight that disappeared nearly two years ago. / AFP / ADRIEN BARBIER (Photo credit should read ADRIEN BARBIER/AFP/Getty Images)
Joao de Abreu, president of Mozambique's Civil Aviation Institute (IACM), holds a piece of suspected aircraft wreckage found off the east African coast of Mozambique at Mozambique's Civil Aviation Institute (IACM) in Maputo on March 3, 2016. A hunk of suspected aircraft wreckage found off the east African coast will be sent to Australia where experts will examine whether it is a new piece in the puzzle of missing flight MH370, officials said. The fragment was reportedly found near Mozambique and could provide clues in the huge and costly Australia-led investigation into what happened to the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines flight that disappeared nearly two years ago. / AFP / ADRIEN BARBIER (Photo credit should read ADRIEN BARBIER/AFP/Getty Images)
A photo taken on March 3, 2016 shows a piece of suspected aircraft wreckage found off the east African coast of Mozambique at Mozambique's Civil Aviation Institute (IACM) in Maputo. A hunk of suspected aircraft wreckage found off the east African coast will be sent to Australia where experts will examine whether it is a new piece in the puzzle of missing flight MH370, officials said. The fragment was reportedly found near Mozambique and could provide clues in the huge and costly Australia-led investigation into what happened to the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines flight that disappeared nearly two years ago. / AFP / ADRIEN BARBIER (Photo credit should read ADRIEN BARBIER/AFP/Getty Images)
A photo taken on March 3, 2016 shows a piece of suspected aircraft wreckage found off the east African coast of Mozambique at Mozambique's Civil Aviation Institute (IACM) in Maputo. A hunk of suspected aircraft wreckage found off the east African coast will be sent to Australia where experts will examine whether it is a new piece in the puzzle of missing flight MH370, officials said. The fragment was reportedly found near Mozambique and could provide clues in the huge and costly Australia-led investigation into what happened to the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines flight that disappeared nearly two years ago. / AFP / ADRIEN BARBIER (Photo credit should read ADRIEN BARBIER/AFP/Getty Images)
In this photo dated Wednesday, July 29, 2015, French police officers inspect a piece of debris from a plane in Saint-Andre, Reunion Island. Air safety investigators, one of them a Boeing investigator, have identified the component as a "flaperon" from the trailing edge of a Boeing 777 wing, a U.S. official said. Flight 370, which disappeared March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board, is the only 777 known to be missing. (AP Photo/Lucas Marie)
Journalists stand next to a police officer holding a piece of plastic found on the sea front of Saint-Denis, on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, on August 4, 2015. Last week a wing part washed up on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, and has been taken to France to for physical and chemical analysis. In one of the most baffling mysteries in aviation history, MH370 inexplicably veered off course in March 2014 and disappeared from radars, sparking a colossal hunt that has until now proved fruitless. AFP PHOTO / RICHARD BOUHET (Photo credit should read RICHARD BOUHET/AFP/Getty Images)
A police officer holds a piece of plastic found on the sea front of Saint-Denis, on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, on August 4, 2015. Last week a wing part washed up on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, and has been taken to France to for physical and chemical analysis. In one of the most baffling mysteries in aviation history, MH370 inexplicably veered off course in March 2014 and disappeared from radars, sparking a colossal hunt that has until now proved fruitless. AFP PHOTO / RICHARD BOUHET (Photo credit should read RICHARD BOUHET/AFP/Getty Images)
Local residents look for debris on a beach of the Etang de Bois Rouge on the sea front of Saint-Andre, on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, on August 4, 2015. Last week a wing part washed up on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, and has been taken to France to for physical and chemical analysis. In one of the most baffling mysteries in aviation history, MH370 inexplicably veered off course in March 2014 and disappeared from radars, sparking a colossal hunt that has until now proved fruitless. AFP PHOTO / RICHARD BOUHET (Photo credit should read RICHARD BOUHET/AFP/Getty Images)
Johnny Begue (C), who stumbled across a piece of plane wreckage from the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on the beach on July 29, 2015, help repair the costline in Saint-Andre on the east of the French island of La Reunion, on August 6, 2015. The two-metre (six-foot) long piece of wing, was half covered in sand and had barnacles encrusted on its edges. AFP PHOTO / RICHARD BOUHET (Photo credit should read RICHARD BOUHET/AFP/Getty Images)
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, center, gestures before speaking at a special press conference announcing the findings for the ill fated flight MH370 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, early Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015. Experts have confirmed that the debris found on Reunion Island last week was that of Malaysian Airlines flight 370 that went missing last year, Malaysia's prime minister said early Thursday. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Police officers inspect metallic debris found on a beach in Saint-Denis on the French Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean on August 2, 2015, close to where a Boeing 777 wing part believed to belong to missing flight MH370 washed up last week. A piece of metal was found on La Reunion island, where a Boeing 777 wing part believed to belong to missing flight MH370 washed up last week, said a source close to the investigation. Investigators on the Indian Ocean island took the debris into evidence as part of their probe into the fate of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, however nothing indicated the piece of metal came from an airplane, the source said. AFP PHOTO / RICHARD BOUHET (Photo credit should read RICHARD BOUHET/AFP/Getty Images)
This picture taken on August 2, 2015 shows metallic debris found on a beach in Saint-Denis on the French Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean, close to where where a Boeing 777 wing part believed to belong to missing flight MH370 washed up last week. A piece of metal was found on La Reunion island, where a Boeing 777 wing part believed to belong to missing flight MH370 washed up last week, said a source close to the investigation. Investigators on the Indian Ocean island took the debris into evidence as part of their probe into the fate of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, however nothing indicated the piece of metal came from an airplane, the source said. AFP PHOTO / RICHARD BOUHET (Photo credit should read RICHARD BOUHET/AFP/Getty Images)
Police officers leave the scene with container holding metallic debris found on a beach in Saint-Denis on the French Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean on August 2, 2015, close to where where a Boeing 777 wing part believed to belong to missing flight MH370 washed up last week. A piece of metal was found on La Reunion island, where a Boeing 777 wing part believed to belong to missing flight MH370 washed up last week, said a source close to the investigation. Investigators on the Indian Ocean island took the debris into evidence as part of their probe into the fate of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, however nothing indicated the piece of metal came from an airplane, the source said. AFP PHOTO / RICHARD BOUHET (Photo credit should read RICHARD BOUHET/AFP/Getty Images)
Police officers inspect and photograph metallic debris found on a beach in Saint-Denis on the French Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean on August 2, 2015, close to where a Boeing 777 wing part believed to belong to missing flight MH370 washed up last week. A piece of metal was found on La Reunion island, where a Boeing 777 wing part believed to belong to missing flight MH370 washed up last week, said a source close to the investigation. Investigators on the Indian Ocean island took the debris into evidence as part of their probe into the fate of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, however nothing indicated the piece of metal came from an airplane, the source said. AFP PHOTO / RICHARD BOUHET (Photo credit should read RICHARD BOUHET/AFP/Getty Images)
Workers for an association responsible for maintaining paths to Jamaica beach from being overgrown by shrubs, search the beach for possible additional airplane debris near the shore where an airplane wing part was washed up, in the early morning near to Saint-Denis on the north coast of the Indian Ocean island of Reunion Sunday, Aug. 2, 2015. A barnacle-encrusted wing part that washed up on the remote Indian Ocean island earlier could help solve one of aviation's greatest mysteries, as investigators work to connect it to the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 that vanished more than a year ago with 293 people aboard. (AP Photo/Fabrice Wislez)
Police officers inspect metallic debris found on a beach in Saint-Denis on the French Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean on August 2, 2015, close to where a Boeing 777 wing part believed to belong to missing flight MH370 washed up last week. A piece of metal was found on La Reunion island, where a Boeing 777 wing part believed to belong to missing flight MH370 washed up last week, said a source close to the investigation. Investigators on the Indian Ocean island took the debris into evidence as part of their probe into the fate of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, however nothing indicated the piece of metal came from an airplane, the source said. AFP PHOTO / RICHARD BOUHET (Photo credit should read RICHARD BOUHET/AFP/Getty Images)
Workers for an association responsible for maintaining paths to the beaches from being overgrown by shrubs, search the beach for possible additional airplane debris near the shore where an airplane wing part was washed up, in the early morning near to Saint-Andre on the north coast of the Indian Ocean island of Reunion Friday, July 31, 2015. A barnacle-encrusted wing part that washed up on the remote Indian Ocean island could help solve one of aviation's greatest mysteries, as investigators work to connect it to the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 that vanished more than a year ago with 293 people aboard. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Workers for an association responsible for maintaining paths to the beaches from being overgrown by shrubs, search the beach for possible additional airplane debris near the area where an airplane wing part was washed up, in the early morning near Saint-Andre on the north coast of the Indian Ocean island of Reunion Friday, July 31, 2015. A barnacle-encrusted wing part that washed up on the remote Indian Ocean island could help solve one of aviation's greatest mysteries, as investigators work to connect it to the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 that vanished more than a year ago with 293 people aboard. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Johnny Begue, 46, who says he found the piece of aircraft debris that is being investigated, walks on Bois-Rouge beach where the debris was washed up, near to Saint-Andre on the north coast of the Indian Ocean island of Reunion Friday, July 31, 2015. The fragment may be the first clue as to what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared last year with 293 people aboard. Massive search efforts have failed to find any sign of the plane, and authorities are analyzing the piece to see if it matches the missing plane. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
In this photo dated Wednesday, July 29, 2015, French police officers carry a piece of debris from a plane in Saint-Andre, Reunion Island. Air safety investigators, one of them a Boeing investigator, have identified the component as a "flaperon" from the trailing edge of a Boeing 777 wing, a U.S. official said. Flight 370, which disappeared March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board, is the only 777 known to be missing. (AP Photo/Lucas Marie)
In this photo dated Wednesday, July 29, 2015, a piece of debris from a plane is pictured in Saint-Andre, Reunion Island. A 6-foot long piece of an airplane was found off Reunion Island on Wednesday by people cleaning the beach. Air safety investigators, one of them a Boeing investigator, have identified the component as a "flaperon" from the trailing edge of a Boeing 777 wing, a U.S. official said. Flight 370, which disappeared March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board, is the only 777 known to be missing. (AP Photo)
Police carry a piece of debris from an unidentified aircraft found in the coastal area of Saint-Andre de la Reunion, in the east of the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, on July 29, 2015. The two-metre-long debris, which appears to be a piece of a wing, was found by employees of an association cleaning the area and handed over to the air transport brigade of the French gendarmerie (BGTA), who have opened an investigation. An air safety expert did not exclude it could be a part of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which went missing in the Indian Ocean on March 8, 2014. AFP PHOTO / YANNICK PITOU (Photo credit should read YANNICK PITOU/AFP/Getty Images)
This image taken from video, shows a piece of debris from a plane, Wednesday, July 29, 2015, in Saint-Andre, Reunion. Air safety investigators, one of them a Boeing investigator, have identified the component as a "flaperon" from the trailing edge of a Boeing 777 wing, a U.S. official said. Flight 370, which disappeared March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board, is the only 777 known to be missing. (Reunion 1ere via AP) FRANCE OUT
In this photo dated Wednesday, July 29, 2015, French police officers carry a piece of debris from a plane in Saint-Andre, Reunion Island. Air safety investigators, one of them a Boeing investigator, have identified the component as a "flaperon" from the trailing edge of a Boeing 777 wing, a U.S. official said. Flight 370, which disappeared March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board, is the only 777 known to be missing. (AP Photo/Lucas Marie)
Police and gendarmes carry a piece of debris from an unidentified aircraft found in the coastal area of Saint-Andre de la Reunion, in the east of the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, on July 29, 2015. The two-metre-long debris, which appears to be a piece of a wing, was found by employees of an association cleaning the area and handed over to the air transport brigade of the French gendarmerie (BGTA), who have opened an investigation. An air safety expert did not exclude it could be a part of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which went missing in the Indian Ocean on March 8, 2014. AFP PHOTO / YANNICK PITOU (Photo credit should read YANNICK PITOU/AFP/Getty Images)
ANKARA, TURKEY - JULY 30: Debris found on the island of Reunion east of Madagascar, appears to be part of Malaysia Airlines MH370 that disappeared in 2014. (Photo by Graphic: Ahmet Burak Ozkan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A policeman and a gendarme stand next to a piece of debris from an unidentified aircraft found in the coastal area of Saint-Andre de la Reunion, in the east of the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, on July 29, 2015. The two-metre-long debris, which appears to be a piece of a wing, was found by employees of an association cleaning the area and handed over to the air transport brigade of the French gendarmerie (BGTA), who have opened an investigation. An air safety expert did not exclude it could be a part of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which went missing in the Indian Ocean on March 8, 2014. AFP PHOTO / YANNICK PITOU (Photo credit should read YANNICK PITOU/AFP/Getty Images)
In this image taken from video, police officers looking over a piece of debris from a plane, Wednesday, July 29, 2015, in Saint-Andre, Reunion. Air safety investigators, one of them a Boeing investigator, have identified the component as a "flaperon" from the trailing edge of a Boeing 777 wing, a U.S. official said. Flight 370, which disappeared March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board, is the only 777 known to be missing. (Reunion 1ere via AP) FRANCE OUT
This image taken from video shows a piece of debris from a plane, Wednesday, July 29, 2015, in Saint-Andre, Reunion. Air safety investigators, one of them a Boeing investigator, have identified the component as a "flaperon" from the trailing edge of a Boeing 777 wing, a U.S. official said. Flight 370, which disappeared March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board, is the only 777 known to be missing. (Reunion 1ere via AP) FRANCE OUT
In this his image taken from video, police officers looking at a piece of debris from a plane, Wednesday, July 29, 2015, in Saint-Andre, Reunion. Air safety investigators, one of them a Boeing investigator, have identified the component as a "flaperon" from the trailing edge of a Boeing 777 wing, a U.S. official said. Flight 370, which disappeared March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board, is the only 777 known to be missing. (Reunion 1ere via AP) FRANCE OUT
A policeman and a gendarme stand next to a piece of debris from an unidentified aircraft found in the coastal area of Saint-Andre de la Reunion, in the east of the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, on July 29, 2015. The two-metre-long debris, which appears to be a piece of a wing, was found by employees of an association cleaning the area and handed over to the air transport brigade of the French gendarmerie (BGTA), who have opened an investigation. An air safety expert did not exclude it could be a part of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which went missing in the Indian Ocean on March 8, 2014. AFP PHOTO / YANNICK PITOU (Photo credit should read YANNICK PITOU/AFP/Getty Images)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

In addition to confirming the provenance of the 777 flap, analysts say the investigators will examine the metal with high-powered microscopes to gain insight into what caused the plane to go down.

Malaysian military radar last confirmed the Boeing 777 over the Strait of Malacca. Highly technical efforts to extrapolate the jet's final hours before it would have run out of fuel gave force to the theory that it went down somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean.

No one is certain why the plane deviated so far from its planned route.

The French agency that investigates air crashes, known as the BEA, confirmed the inquiry was beginning. Experts from Boeing were also expected in the southern French town.

Analysts have said a close look at the metal of the part known as a "flaperon" could indicate what kind of stress the plane was under as it made impact. It won't fully solve the mystery of why the plane disappeared, nor will it help pinpoint where the plane crashed.

No other debris from MH370 is known to have washed up in the Indian Ocean.

A six-week air and sea search covering 4.6 million square kilometers (1.8 million square miles) of the southern Indian Ocean surface early last year failed to find any trace of the jet. The Reunion island debris would be consistent with the working theory that the jet went down in the Indian Ocean.

Authorities are working on a theory that the plane ran out of fuel, but some analysts argue that the apparent lack of damage to the piece of wreckage indicates a controlled landing on the ocean, with the jet sinking largely intact.

Another theory is that the jet plunged into the water vertically - high dive-style - snapping off both wings but preserving the fuselage. Yet another possibility, supported by a flight simulator, is that an out-of-fuel Boeing 777 would belly-flop heavily tail-first, disintegrating on impact.

---

Corbet reported from Paris. Associated Press writer Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, contributed.

Related - MH370 debris ocean drift animation:

MH370 Debris Ocean Drift Animation

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners