The hunt for missing Flight MH370 is likely to continue for another year — whether or not an aircraft piece that washed ashore is from the jetliner, a top official told NBC News on Saturday.
Judith Zielke, the chief of the Joint Agency Coordination Center that’s trying to pinpoint the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 off the coast of Australia, said the debris found thousands of miles away on Reunion Island was “not a game changer” but it could prove to be significant.
“We’ll continue with the search … we are confident we’re searching in the right area,” Zielke said.
However, she added that if the aircraft remnant that was found on a beach Wednesday is confirmed to be from MH370 it “may influence” the search zone.
“We expect that the search area will take the coming year to complete,” Zielke said. “However, the location of the debris is consistent with the drift modeling that’s been done.”
Boeing investigators have looked at photos of the fragment and say that they believe it is from one of their 777s, sources told NBC News. There is only one such aircraft missing in the world right now — Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.
The airplane part arrived in France on Saturday for investigators to study its origin.
It will be delivered to a military unit near the southwest city of Toulouse which specializes in analyzing aviation wreckage. Experts hope the barnacled wing surface known as a flaperon could yield clues as to the jet’s fate.
There were 239 passengers and crew on board MH370 when it vanished in March 2014.
Discovery of the debris may finally confirm the plane crashed into the sea after veering off course from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, helping to end 16 months of lingering uncertainty for relatives.
Investigators believe someone deliberately switched off MH370’s transponder before diverting it thousands of miles off course.
This article originally appeared on NBCNews.com.