Debris looks like Boeing 777, could be MH370, says source
(CNN)Debris found in the western Indian Ocean on Wednesday appears to be part of a Boeing 777, the same model as Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 that disappeared in 2014, according to a source close to the investigation.
The source said there is a unique element to the Boeing 777's flaperon, a wing component, that Boeing observers believe they are seeing in photos.
The debris was found Wednesday off the coast of Reunion Island, a French department in the western Indian Ocean. It is being examined to see if it is connected to flight MH370, a member of the French air force in Reunion said Wednesday.
The debris was found off the coast of St. Andre, a community on the island, according to Adjutant Christian Retournat.
Officials conducted an initial assessment of the debris using photographs.
The source said stressed the observations are preliminary.
The debris was found off the coast of St. Andre, a community on Reunion Island, according to Adjutant Christian Retournat.
Earlier, Retournat said the debris appeared to be a wing flap and had been taken to the island, located about 380 nautical miles off the coast of Madagascar.
The Malaysian government has dispatched a team to Reunion Island to investigate the debris, Malaysian Minister of Transportation Liow Tiong Lai said in New York.
"We need to verify. We have wreckage found that needs to be further verified before we can further confirm if it belongs to MH370. So we have dispatched a team to investigate on these issues and we hope that we can identify it as soon as possible," the minister said.
Police carry a piece of debris from an unidentified aircraft found off the coast of Reunion island.
CNN analysts say there are indications that the airplane part could be from a Boeing 777, and if that's the case, it's likely from MH370.
Making the determination should be "very simple" because the serial numbers riveted to numerous parts of the plane can be linked to not only the plane's model, but the exact aircraft, said CNN aviation analyst Les Abend, who flew 777s during his 30 years as a pilot.
This means crash investigators may be able to figure it out from photographs of the part -- which could be an aileron, a flap or a flaperon -- even before arriving on the island, he said.
There are at least three elements of the discovery that are consistent with MH370, said CNN safety analyst David Soucie. The first is that the part appears to have been torn off of the aircraft.
Airplane debris is being examined to see if it's connected to MH370.
"This is from a sudden impact, it looks like to me," Soucie said.
There also is a seal on the top of the part that "is consistent with what I would see on an inside flap on a triple 7," he said, and the barnacles on the part are consistent with the "parasitic activity" that would take place from being under water so long.
However, the part appears to be coated in white paint, which would run counter to Soucie's other observations in that the 777's parts would be coated in zinc chromate, not paint. Soucie acknowledged, however, that the part could be coated in something from the ocean.
"If it is a part from a triple 7, we can be fairly confident it is from 370 because there just haven't been that many triple 7 crashes and there haven't been any in this area," said CNN aviation analyst Mary Schiavo.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, with 239 people aboard, disappeared after a late-night take off from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on March 8, 2014, bound for Beijing.
An international team of experts used satellite data to calculate that the plane eventually went down in the southern Indian Ocean. Search teams have been combing a vast area of the seafloor in the southern Indian Ocean, hunting for traces of the passenger jet, about 2,300 miles (3,700 kilometers) from where the debris was found.
The Malaysian government eventually declared the loss of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 an accident and all of its passengers and crew presumed dead.
CNN's Eliott C. McLaughlin and Steve Almasy contributed to this report.