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French Investigators Examine Wing Bit Thought To Be From Missing Airliner

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

A piece of aircraft wing has arrived in Paris. Experts there will see if it's a clue in the mystery of Malaysia Airlines. Let's remember that Boeing 777 disappeared over the Indian Ocean 17 months ago. This piece of wing washed up on an island far from the search area. Jake Cigainero reports from Paris.

JAKE CIGAINERO, BYLINE: French investigators at a laboratory near Toulouse are now looking at a wing component known as a flaperon found on a beach on the Indian Ocean island of Reunion. They know it came from a Boeing 777. Only one of those planes is missing, but investigators haven't confirmed if it comes from the disappeared flight MH370. The wing piece arrived in France over the weekend, along with the remains of a suitcase found on the beach nearby. Investigators from France, Malaysia, China, as well as from Boeing, are expected to start analyzing the flaperon on Wednesday. If the debris did come from MH 370, former air crash investigator, Bertrand Vilmer, says it may be possible to determine how the wing separated from the rest of aircraft and maybe even tell if the plane landed in the ocean or broke up in midair.

BERTRAND VILMER: (Through interpreter) After analyzing the piece, we'll be able to understand compression, wear and tear, breaking and buckling. There are techniques to see all of this.

CIGAINERO: La Reunion is thousands of miles from the main search zone, but oceanographers say currents could have carried the debris that far. The mysterious disappearance has confounded aviation experts and has spurred speculation with theories ranging from mechanical failure, terrorism and even pilot suicide. French authorities say that it's unlikely the flaperon alone will explain what happened to the plane even if it is from MH370. They say that information will only come when and if the aircraft's black box flight recorders are found. For NPR News, I'm Jake Cigainero in Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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