Analysis of photographs taken of a large piece of debris on Reunion Island in the western Indian Ocean point to the wreckage being from Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which mysteriously disappeared on March 8, 2014 with 239 people on board. This is the first big break in one of the biggest aviation mysteries of the last 50 years. Months of searching by aircraft and ships with deep-sea sonar failed to discover the wreckage of the aircraft, which disappeared from air traffic control radars on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. (CNN timeline of the disappearance of MH 370).
The barnacle-encrusted part, which washed ashore on this small French-owned island 370 miles east of Madagascar in the western Indian Ocean, measures 6 feet long by 3 feet wide. Aviation experts who have examined the photos posted by local authorities believe that the part may be a flaperon from a Boeing 777. The flaperon is a large part on the trailing edge of the wing, situated near the fuselage. It can be used as an aileron to bank the plane, and also as a flap to give increased lift at low speeds when landing or taking off. MH 370 is the only Boeing 777 to be lost over water. if the debris is positively identified as a 777 flaperon, it could only have come from MH 370.
Reunion Island is 2,300 miles away from the generally accepted area off the west coast of Australia where MH 370 is thought to have crashed, but oceanography experts note that the prevailing currents in the Indian Ocean could very well have transported the large piece of debris to Reunion over the almost 17 months since the crash.
A shredded suitcase was found Thursday on a beach near where the first piece of wreckage was found.
Officials from Malaysia's aviation authority are en route to Reunion Island to examine the wreckage, as local officials scour the beaches and nearby waters for more debris. Once the part is taken to a forensic laboratory, it is hoped that detailed examination will yield clues that will point to what happened in the final moments of the doomed airliner.