Experts in France have not been able to determine with certainty whether a piece of airplane wing found July 29 on an Indian Ocean island belongs to MH370, the Malaysian airliner carrying 239 people that disappeared 2014.
Judicial investigators know the part comes from a Boeing 777, but they say they still need to identify a number inside the wing part, called a flaperon, said a source investigated by American news station CNN.
When the flaperon washed up on Reunion island, a French territory, its discovery was considered possibly the first physical evidence that might help shed light on one of the world’s greatest aviation mysteries.
Authorities have not been able to explain why the jet veered dramatically off course on 8 March, 2014, during a scheduled flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, or to say where exactly the plane ended up.
Though French authorities have not yet confirmed it, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said earlier this month the flaperon does, in fact, come from MH370. The part was transferred to a lab in Toulouse for inspection.
Martine Del Bono, spokesperson for the French BEA (Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses) — the government agency in charge of investigating aviation accidents — said there were two investigations in France: one by the BEA about how to improve security on planes and a judicial investigation on whom to blame for the crash.
Australian authorities have admitted they have no idea when a report by French prosecutors will be finalised, but Joint Agency Coordination Centre chief Judith Zielke is hopeful it will be soon.
“We would hope it’s soon if possible but quite appreciate the fact the (French) judge will make that call when he’s comfortable,” said Ms Zielke.
Australian aviation expert Neil Hansford said relations between Malaysia and France were strained as a result of a criminal investigation into MH370 being conducted by the French.
“This is tit for tat — the Malaysians won’t give vital evidence to France, they won’t cooperate,” said Mr Hansford.
He questioned reports that a missing “identification” plate on the flaperon was delaying the French investigation, adding that “…any serial numbers on an aircraft are either punched into the surface or engraved on the surface so they can’t come off.”
Del Bono, however, is not as convinced by the existing evidence.
“Experts still haven’t determined the causes of the MH370 accident,” she said. “The flaperon isn’t enough. We need more. We need to localize the wreckage. It is extremely crucial in order to determine what happened.”