Technical experts in France are to begin examining whether a washed-up plane part belonged to missing flight MH370, raising hopes that some light may finally be shed on one of aviation's darkest mysteries.
The Boeing 777 disappeared on March 8 last year when it inexplicably changed course en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board - including six Australians - and a colossal multinational hunt for the aircraft proved fruitless.
But last week's discovery of a two-metre-long wing part called a flaperon on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion has raised fresh hopes for relatives desperate for answers.
The piece has been taken the southwestern French city of Toulouse, where it will undergo the high-profile examination.
The case containing the wing part will be opened early Wednesday afternoon, a French source close to the case said.
It will be opened in the presence of French and Malaysian experts, Boeing employees and representatives from China - the country that lost the most passengers.
It is as yet unclear whether their conclusions will be announced on the same day or later, added the source, who wished to remain anonymous.
Jean-Paul Troadec, the former head of France's BEA agency that investigates air accidents, said the analysis would focus on two issues - whether the flaperon belongs to MH370 and if so, whether it can shed light on the final moments of the plane.
He pointed for instance to the paint on the piece - which has already been confirmed as coming from a Boeing 777 plane - as a key element of the probe.
"Every airline paints their planes in a certain way ... and if the paint used is used by Malaysia Airlines and other companies, there may be more certainty," he said.
Pierre Bascary, former director of tests at the French Defence Procurement Agency, where the analysis will take place, added that the airline may have written maintenance information on the piece such as "Do Not Walk".
"The phrase used and the way it was written also gives an idea of the origin of the plane."
Troadec said experts would also examine the way the part detached itself from the wing.
"Was it in a violent impact with the sea or not?" he said.
"This piece looks like it is in good condition, it doesn't look like the part of a plane that fell vertically in the water at 900 kilometres an hour."
He added that experts may also look for traces of an explosion or fire.
Scientists have pointed to the barnacles that are attached to the flaperon, saying these could give an idea of how long the piece has been in the water, and perhaps where it has been.