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Striking New Developments Malaysian Airline Flight 370

Aired March 15, 2014 - 15:00   ET



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FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello again, everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Welcome to the CNN NEWSROOM.

We are getting potentially significant new details about the events leading up to the disappearance of flight 370. Here's what we know right now.

Malaysia's prime minister says the cockpit's signoff to ground control, which you recall was quote "all right. Good night," was said after the plane's communication systems were disabled. And that means whatever incident happened on that plane was already happening when ground control heard that message. Malaysia's prime minister also says all of the evidence so far points to the likelihood that someone inside the plane deliberately took the plane off course, and the investigation will now focus on the crew and passengers.

This is video of police leaving the home of the plane's copilot. The pilot's home was also searched. U.S. authorities say they continue to review the backgrounds of the crew and the passengers, but so far have found no links to terrorism.

And satellite signals now indicate the plane may have been airborne several hours after losing contact with ground control and radar shows dramatic changes in altitude during that time, fluctuating between 23,000, 30,000 and 40,000 and 45,000 feet. Officials have also concluded the plane likely flew along one of two distinct paths -- he first, north all the way up to the border of Kazakhstan, the other south towards the southern Indian ocean.

So, let's dig now a little deeper into this development surrounding the timeline of events of that airplane. Richard Quest joins us now by phone from New York. So, Richard, that the communication system was disabled and that, according to Malaysian authorities, this voice was able to say, "all right. Good night." You were telling us earlier that's a radio frequency. That's radio conversation, and that's why that information was able to be transmitted, but is it possible that that pilot, if that was the pilot's voice, didn't know that the communications system was disabled?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR (via phone): Well, when you say communications system, you're talking about a particular communication system. You are talking about the ACARS system. And the p.m. said this morning, Malaysian p.m. said this morning that had been disabled, as they believe it had been disabled as it went out across the east coast of Malaysia. And yet several minutes later you have the transponder switched off, but you do have the hand over. And what I think we must emphasize here that at times we're dealing, and here, this is one of them, with conflicting pieces of information. It may all become ridiculously clear when somebody else comes out tomorrow and says, well, no, he didn't say, all right, good night. That was a mistake or something else happened.

You know? For example, one person's just e-mailed me to point out the, "all right. Good night." I mean, it should have been a full readback from the pilot, with the name of the aircraft, you know, Malaysia 3-7 -0, acknowledging what he just heard and then saying, all right, good night.

But these are minor details, and conflicting details in the jigsaw that will put together the piece, of the total picture. At the moment, what I'm seemingly to suggest there is a difference in the timeline between what we've heard, what we know, and then explanation for what happened.

WHITFIELD: And is it possible, you know, in the world of piloting that all right, good night, could have been a code for something else that perhaps could have been in way sort of a mayday?

QUEST: No. I don't believe so. And if it is, it's nothing that I've ever heard of before. One would have expected a full readout to be something along the lines of, Malaysia, 3-7-0, contact, whatever the sequence was and he would have said the frequency he needs to contact Vietnam, (INAUDIBLE) whatever, Malaysia, 3-7-0, good night. And that would have been the normal way.

We don't know, I think whoever was revealing that all right, good night, didn't give us the whole readback from the pilot, and there's no reason they would, because there would have been details in it. But ultimately, this was a, there is this question of what happened after the ACARS system was disabled, which the prime minister said after that happened, before the transponder was switched off, there does seem to be this gap of time and the question will be focusing upon what was going on just before, during and after.

WHITFIELD: And still unclear, because it has not necessarily been revealed from those Malaysian authorities, the same ones that gave us this bit of information is whether that voice is that of the pilot or copilot.

QUEST: No, because until now, we had no reason to question whether it was or otherwise. And until now, this was a perfectly normal transmission from one air -- from an aircraft going from one flight zone to from one piece of airspace to another. And it was entirely normal even the all right, good night. It sounds perfectly normal.

Look, I'll qualify that with one point, Fredricka. If the pilot only said, all right, good night, then that would have both been wrong and sloppy because he's supposed to do a full readback of what's just been told so there's no confusion. So I've made the assumption, erroneously, maybe, that we've been left out of something of the story. If he just said, all right, good night, then he -- I'm surprised the air traffic controller might have said to him, can we have the full details, please.

WHITFIELD: All right, Richard Quest, thank you so much. We'll be seeing you momentarily on-set. I'll let you go for now. Thank you so much.

So what does this new information mean for the investigation in this search for flight 370? I want to bring back aviation lawyer and pilot and aviation engineer Arthur Rosenberg.

Good to see you.


WHITFIELD: So based on the information we're getting from Malaysian authorities, are you anxious to hear whether there was more to this message? All right, good night? Or is it alarming or disturbing enough to you that it was just simply all right, good night, after the communication system was disabled?

ROSENBERG: All right, good night, is a game changer in this investigation. So I think we just have to back up a little bit. We have a plane that took off from Kuala Lumpur in the middle of the night. The middle of the night is the least traveled time for airplanes, the least time that air traffic controllers are manning the stations. Things are much more relaxed. Forty-five minutes into this flight, we now know from the prime minister of Malaysia, that it was either the transponder or the ACARS system. I'm not sure which one, was turned often, and then you have a communication, which is, all right, good night.

Now, with all deference to Mr. Quest, I disagree with that, with his analysis. I they was atypical and improper message from the plane to the controller. What he should have said is Malaysia flight 3-7-0 and then repeated the frequency to the handoff to the Vietnamese controller, but that was not done. That was an ominous foreboding of everything what was to follow. And what follow happened very rapidly.

You had a plane which almost immediately turned back to the southwest. You had a plane which was no longer being followed, identified with transponder codes. You have a plane which was painted with primary radar hits and the ACARS information which show for discrete way points heading to the west coast towards the Andaman Islands and this plane was flown either on autopilot or by hand to those waypoints. It was flown intentionally and with deliberation and with great skill. The altitude deviations which we thought about a lot, I don't give a lot of credence to, because the plane was already about couple hundred miles away from the nearest radar station. The farther you get away from radar, the less accurate the altitude deviations are, although there may have been altitude deviations. But I say that the prime minister's information that whether it be most probably the transponder was turned off before, all right, good night, is an absolute game changer, and it implicates, it implicates, whoever was in that cockpit.

Now, it may have been the flight crew. The flight crew may have been disabled. It may have been some passenger terrorist who moved forward into the cockpit, but we don't know that yet. Perhaps, if someone listens to that voice very carefully, a loved one, someone who knew the captain or copilot, we can figure that out. But for now that is an absolute game changer, which tells us that this plane was deliberately commandeered to another location.

WHITFIELD: All right. Arthur, hold it right there. I want to talk to you more about this game-changer moment in your view. We're going to take a short break and when we come back we're going to talk more about the crew, what more investigators can extrapolate from that transmission, and what might be next in this investigation after this.


WHITFIELD: All right. The search for Malaysia airlines flight 370 is widening. And the investigation into how it van vanished now nine days ago will now focus more on the crew and passengers.


WHITFIELD: This was video of police leaving the home of the plane's copilot. He is a 27-year-old man and he only recently started copiloting a Boeing 777. The pilot is a 53-year-old experienced pilot, his home also searched. And he joined the Malaysia airlines back in 1981. He has more than 18,000 flight hours.

I want to bring in aviation attorney Mark Dombroff in Washington and CNN aviation analyst Mary Schiavo in South Carolina.

All right, to both of you now, Mary, you first. When you hear that there is a change in the sequence of events; that the communication system would be disabled, or switched off, and then you hear a voice say, "all right. Good night." Are you convinced that it is the pilot, given that we just talked to one pilot before the break who was saying usually there is a whole lot of other information identifiable information for the pilot before they say good night? Is this -- how strange is this to you?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: It's strange. But Richard's right. Ordinarily you have to do the readback and you have to do the readback because, and it is part of air traffic control, because sometimes pilots get lost in the hertz. Meaning they have the wrong frequency and then they switch over. There's not, you know, there is no way to contact them. But air traffic controllers and pilots alike get sloppy, particularly at night. I mean, I've had air traffic controllers wish me a happy birthday before and people don't usually get wound up about it.

The second thing is, the FBI and law enforcement agencies around the world have a very reliable way to do voice identification. If they haven't done it already, I would be surprised. They should already know by now whether or not that's one of the pilots' voices identification. The equipment is pretty, you know, easy to come by and reliable.

Here's the third thing. The third thing is every airline trains on a verbal hijack code as well. So Malaysia airlines ought to know whether or not the pilot, you know, said this, you know, these codes that they do and only they know what their words are. So if he had been hijacked at that point, presumably he would have said something, because he the verbal chance to do so. All right, good night, is not pilot lingo. So at this point, they should have found out that if it is his voice. There is reliable ways to do it. The readback was missing. Maybe we just don't know it all, but that was odd. But air traffic controllers don't bust you for it. And third, did he say anything that Malaysian airlines would know gave him an indication he'd been hijacked.

WHITFIELD: So, that could potentially be a mayday. But you're saying those jurisdictions would have to know the lingo is. They would have to be agreed upon that would be it? How would they know otherwise?

SCHIAVO: Well, Malaysia airlines would train their pilots. And so, Malaysia Airlines is the one who knows whether they trained their pilots on this whether this pilot was trained on it. I assumed he has, he has so many hours, and whether he said it. Once again, we go back to the airline. Who is investigating what the airline did? So, this is a very important clue. Presumably they know all this by now though. I don't know. It's kind of a mess.

WHITFIELD: OK. So, Mark in your view, are you in agreement with Arthur Rosenberg, whom we spoke with earlier, who said this is a game changer, to have this kind of information is a game changer? Although we already knew from a Malaysian authority that they said they believe there was a deliberate action that had taken place. It does this just underscore that?

MARK DOMBROFF, AVIATION ATTORNEY: Fredricka, I think quite frankly, with all respect to Mr. Rosenberg, I think it's irresponsible to suggest it's a game changer or ominous. I think tall does is add to the, this crescendo of speculation.

There are air traffic control tapes. Air ground tapes that the Malaysian air traffic control authorities have. They can replay those. That's where they get the final words. They can easily determine exactly what's on that transcript and said between the aircraft and ground up until the pound they discontinued talking on the frequency. So I think that Mary is absolutely right. I spent 44 years doing this and Mary absolutely correct. Pilots are not only always precise in their phraseology. Air traffic controllers are not always precise in their phraseology. And to somehow suggest that the words "all right, good night" are ominous or game changers, maybe they are, but to suggest that does a disservice to the families. Is does a disservice to be airlines and to the passengers.

WHITFIELD: OK. So, Mark, not to pick a fight or anything, but actually Arthur Rosenberg is still with us. And so, we've brought him back into the fray here.

So, you know, Arthur, you still feel very confident about your use of the terminology that this is a game changer, even though Malaysian authorities had already said at, earlier in the, wee hours of the morning they thought this was a deliberate action? But now getting this detail about, all right, good night, in your view, heightens it. Why?

ROSENBERG: Well, with all due respect to Mr. Dombroff who I have known for most of his 40-plus years practicing, I think he misses the point here. The point is that sequence of events is very telling. If you first have a transponder that is turned off followed by a very last communication, which is all right, good night, that is very, very telling. It means that whoever was in that left seat knew that the transponder was off. I'm not saying it was the captain or the copilot. The plane could have been commandeered at that point. But the point being they knew and had to be part of the sequence of events which was resulting in the commandeering of that airplane. That sequence, transponder off first, followed by that communication is the game changer. That's the point.

It's absolutely true that sometimes pilots get sloppy in their lingo, but I don't think that you can downplay that enough. You have a transponder, which was intentionally turned off, meaning they didn't want to be seen, followed by a very last communication, all right, good night. If I'm the captain of that plane, at that point in time, I'm saying, Malaysia air traffic control, acknowledging, and then I would given the frequency to the Vietnamese controller. I would repeat the frequencies to the Vietnamese controller and then I would move on. That's point. It's not so often, all right, good night, as it is the sequence of events, transponder off followed by that, which implicates everything going on in that cockpit.

WHITFIELD: OK Arthur, hold it there. Mary and Mark, I do want to continue this conversation. We got to take a short break for now. We will continue this conversation. It is fascinating sequence of events that I'd love to hear all of your expertise on right after this.


WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Strange game changer, bizarre, some of the words being use to describe now this new sequence of events according to Malaysian authorities. Authorities are now saying that it is believed that the communication system was disabled on that flight 370, and then a radio transmission from a voice from that cockpit saying, all right, good night. What does it all mean? Different interpretations about what may have been happening in that cockpit.

I want to bring back three guests I was talking to before the break -- Aviation attorney Mark Dombroff in Washington, CNN aviation analyst ma Mary and Arthur Rosenberg also joining from New York.

All right, so Mary, to you first. What does this mean in your view? Is it a game changer? Is it just simply bizarre that this voice wouldn't use all of the code, the readback language, as you put it, in trying to communicate with Kuala Lumpur before no one was able to communicate with it again?

SCHIAVO: Well, it doesn't sound bizarre until we now apparently know, not who knows how the facts will sort out tomorrow. But at this point, since the transponder was turned off before all right, good night, and you can only a turn off the transponder in the cockpit, either one of the two Malaysia airlines pilots said this and knew about the transponder turned off, if it was really turned off or just quit working. Then, presumably they knew that happened before that last transmission. So, again, we go back to Malaysia airlines. Did you have a verbal hijack code, and was this it? And we don't want to know their hijack code is by the way. Because it's secret in most countries, and you should -- they really should be able to know at this point, because the pilots would have known something was happening.

And if they didn't and never trained for this what to do in this event, well, you know, it's just another reason to never set foot on Malaysian airlines. It is very poor operational practice. But I think it is something they should have known before now. I don't see it as new information. It's new to us. We didn't know the transponder was turned off before these last spoken words. And it's very easy through voice identification analysis to find out if this is one of the two pilots. I would have assumed good law enforcement would have done it already. So, I don't see it as a game changer but it is very important. But it is clues and it is telling.

WHITFIELD: So clearly, you all say in the picture of their variation of safety nets if a plane were to go off the grid, to go off track of something terrible were to happen, whether it be deliberate or accidental from the verbal hijack code, possibly being used to using the right kind of readback information.

So, you know, Mark, back to you, then. Vietnam apparently did have a conversation with Malaysia to say, we haven't heard, you know from this jet. But might there have been another means in which whether it was entering that other airspace to the west, whether some other jurisdiction would have been able to pick up that plane was in their airspace and try and communicate with that plane, or is that just a long shot?

DOMBROFF: Well, I think it is probably a long shot, because air space, whether over this country or it is over the ocean, is relatively well defined in terms of jurisdictional issues. The handoff that is made between the Malaysian air traffic control authorities and the Vietnamese air traffic control authorities on that route is probably always made at the same time because of the radar coverage and who has jurisdiction over the airspace. So it's unlikely that we'd be looking at a third nation. My guess is, that if there is a third nation involved, they're involved in talking to the investigators.

I think that one thing that's very important to keep in mind is that a lot of these questions can be answered even separate and apart from locating the aircraft itself. The air traffic, the air ground communications which is where they got the words, all right, good night, are recorded. And those are available. And undoubtedly, the Malaysian authorities have listened to them. And in this country, certainly, it's very usual, Fredricka, for the airline and the investigators during an investigation to bring in, listen to two tapes, pilots, training pilots or other pilots from the company, who knew or who flew with both the captain and the first officer for the purpose of seeing if they can identify their voices.

Mary's correct. You can use voice spectra graphic analysis and so forth, but in terms of identifying the voices probably the best way is the simplest way. And that's just bring a pilot in who has flown in the simulator with them or flown on the line with them and say who is that? Is that his voice? That is typically the way the NTSB, for example, identifies who says what in one of our cockpits in this country.

So, so many of these questions about which all of us, myself included, are speculating, and all. And all the media is speculating, can be answered separate from finding the aircraft. It's frustrating that the Malaysian authorities haven't been more forthcoming on a more timely basis to prevent this sort of speculation from going on. As I said before, at the risk of repeating myself it does an enormous disservice to the airline, to the families, to the crews' families, to the other employees on the airplane, the cabin crew. Really, I think the time has come forward to address some of these questions and put to rest the speculation where we can.

WHITFIELD: Arthur, you get the last word on this.

ROSENBERG: Yes. You know, I think in putting all the pieces of the puzzle together, I think you also have to look at what was said, the fact that the transponder was turned off before that final communication, and then take a look at what happened immediately after. Facts which we apparently know now. We know that the plane from the primary radar hits turned left heading back in the southwest direction. So when you put it all together, when you put the plane would go up by the time of low traffic, traffic control is a very low level, you have a transponder which got turned off, you then have a communication followed by an airplane, which basically made a 180- degree turn.

All it says is, this was an intentional act by someone in the cockpit. We don't know yet if it was a captain. We don't know yet if it was a co-pilot. Could have been someone who broke in, but it certainly is clear that this airplane was steered under the command of someone, and through an intentional act.

WHITFIELD: All right. Still setting the stage for those questions of why, and who, and what is next. All right, hanks so much to all of you. Appreciate that. Mary Schiavo, Mark Dumbbroth and Arthur Rosenberg. We'll have much more coming up next.


WHITFIELD: We're getting potentially significant new details about the events leading up to the disappearance of Flight 370, including this new development. Malaysia's prime minister says the cockpit's signoff to ground control, which you recall was, quote, "All right, good night," was said after the plane's communication systems were disabled. And the order of those events suggests whatever incident happened on that plane was already happening when ground control heard that message.

There's so much to talk about, I wanted to bring in our panel of experts. Captain Bill Savage, a former 777 pilot, with 30 years experience, who has flown extensively in that region. Commercial pilot Rob Mark, pilot and aviation attorney Brian Alexander and Arthur Rosenberg, aviation lawyer, pilot and aviation engineer. Good to see all of you, gentlemen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good afternoon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good afternoon.

WHITFIELD: All right, so Mr. Savage, I want to ask you first. You know, given that this information is being provided by Malaysian authorities, that these words, "all right, good night," have been now conveyed publicly and Malaysian authorities have already said that they do believe that there was a deliberate action taking place here, does it frustrate you at all that they wouldn't first try to identify whose voice that is so that it is not presumed that it's the pilot? Because it very well could have been someone else too may be commandeering that plane? What are your frustrations, or how are you enlightened by this information?

BILL SAVAGE, FORMER 777 PILOT: Well, it's interesting that there was such a short signoff that did not include Malaysian 370 heavy, which is pretty much the protocol we use when either checking on or checking off a station. And it also would indicate, again, the timeliness of Malaysia giving us this information.

But it's interesting to me that there's one other way you could turn off this equipment, and that's by pulling circuit breakers in the cockpit which would require some knowledge of the aircraft or at least a list of where the circuit breaker identifier lines were to get at them and one would have to know how to do that. That's a very troubling thing that there was this delay. It would tell me that somebody was at, turning this equipment off, and the data link can only be turned off by either a maintenance function or a circuit breaker. There's no switch to it. Unlike the transponder, which does have a knob that can be put into the standby modem which will effectively turn the transponder off --

WHITFIELD: And given your experience --

SAVAGE: So it's definitely troubling.

WHITFIELD: Okay. And given your experience with this type of plane and this region, give me an idea, you know, how complicated it might be for someone who is not a regular pilot of this plane to be able to suddenly take over this plane, and be able to make that left as we've seen in the maps and go to airspace over the Indian Ocean,

SAVAGE: Well, access to the cockpit is really the key factor here. Or somebody already in the cockpit, like an operating crew member, would be able to do this.

Now, the shortness of the signoff would also explain the inability for Malaysians to be able to identify the individual's voice, even if there were other company employees that would be familiar with the individual's voice. A short clip like that may not be enough time, because there is a little difference in resonance over radio versus your personal voice ear to ear. So it may have purposely been a short signoff just to quell air traffic control's, you know, query as to whether they got the frequency change to Ho Chi Minh Center. So -- there's definitely something afoot.

Now, access to the cockpit that could have happened if the flight attendants had opened the door to deliver meals. One of the crew members had gotten up to go to the bathroom. They had just reached cruise altitude. So that would be a place where either food or bathroom relief was -- was going on. So the cockpit door may have been breachable at that point.

WHITFIELD: Okay. Mr. Savage, just take a pause there and everyone just stick around. I want everyone's points of view on this, because this is incredibly fascinating. We're going to take a short for break now and continue our conversation about the newest developments involving this missing aircraft.


WHITFIELD: Welcome back. We're talking about the latest developments in the search for Malaysia Airlines flight 370. Malaysian authorities now saying that they believe the communication system on that plane was disabled, and then they heard a voice saying, "all right, good night." We're trying to understand what all that means. We're talking with former 777 pilot Bill Savage, commercial pilot Rob Mark, pilot and aviation attorney Brian Alexander, and Arthur Rosenberg, aviation lawyer and pilot. Welcome back, gentlemen.

So Mr. Savage, before the break you were talking about the fact that this, "all right, good night" is a very short correspondence and because of that, it might be difficult to try to identify that voice. And so I want to ask you, Arthur, if you believe that -- that might have been intentional, that it's difficult to discern, whether that is indeed the pilot's voice. Or might it be sort of a hijacked call, kind of code for, we're in trouble in that region?

ARTHUR ROSENBERG, AVIATION LAWYER/PILOT: Yes. I think at this point, that's an excellent question, and that's another piece of the puzzle that we have to solve. First off, I think the easiest way to determine if that was the captain or the copilot's voice would be to have a family member listen to it. Yes, I agree with Bill that voices do sound a little bit different when you're on the air, but I would think that a loved one would be able to discern whether that was her husband, boyfriend, or what have you.

But in trying to delineate whether it was the captain or the copilot, there's another way to look at this, and --with this game-changing information, what we actually have been able to do is narrow the scope down to 239 possibilities. That was the number of souls onboard. Before this piece of information, the possibilities were infinite. Now we know, because this was an intentional act, the transponders ACORS, was turned off. We have a communication. We have a plane which immediately made, or shortly thereafter, made a 180 degree turn going into a southwesterly direction. One of those 239 people onboard is responsible for that, and that's a huge clue which could lead us to where this plane ended up.

WHITFIELD: And Rob Mark, we have at least two investigations now. We've got an accident investigation and a criminal investigation now that Malaysian authorities have said nearly definitively they think this was deliberate action.

So what do want to see next in this investigation, the direction? What are some of the blanks that you need filled at this point, besides the fact that everyone would love for this plane to be located. But based on the information we have thus far, what are the next set of questions that you have?

ROB MARK, COMMERCIAL PILOT: Well I think one of the biggest questions for me, in addition to your point about finding the airplane, which I think is really critical is that, we have to take a -- everything that comes out of Malaysia with grain of salt at this point. Because we have been on so many wild goose chases in the last week. Now, whether they were intentional or not, I have no idea. I'm just saying that as a journalist, as a pilot -- I mean, this topic of, you know, picking apart the last few words -- to those of us that fly, I mean, I spent 10 years as a controller. I mean, it's very common on a night shift when things are very quiet and people are just very relaxed to tell an airplane, hey, contact the center 1359. Good night. Or see ya. Or, bye-bye.

So, again, are we going to find out that that is absolutely related to something? Maybe. Maybe not. But we're taking bits and pieces of this story out of the context of the beginning, the middle and the end, and we're all guessing. And, again, I go back to the fact that we're basing most of this on the Malaysian input, and I have come to not trust that in the last week.

WHITFIELD: Okay. Bill Savage. Rob Mark. Brian Alexander. Arthur Rosenberg. You're all going to stick around as far as I know, except maybe Arthur, I think you have somewhere to go. But thanks so much. We're going to take a short break, and we're going to continue this conversation right after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WHITFIELD: All right, it's that time of year again: the NCAA basketball championship time. And it's a very special time for one particular in Nebraska. Andy Schultz introduces us to the McDermotts.

ANDY SCHULTZ, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Doug McDermott is Creighton's star player. He's a two-time all-American, and he's only the eighth player ever to score at least 3,000 points in a college career. Now, Dough would have been a top pick in last year's NBA draft, but he passed up millions to come back for his senior year to help Creighton make a deep run in the tournament and play one more season for his dad.


SCHULTZ: Basketball was a passion instilled in the McDermott household at an early age.

DOUG MCDERMOTT, CREIGHTON BASKETBALL PLAYER: Being around his teams all the time. And I oftentimes carried that home with me and always had a ball in my hands.

GREG MCDERMOTT, DOUG'S FATHER AND COACH: Low, low, low, low. Quick. Quick.

SCHULTZ: In 2010, Doug enrolled in Creighton to play for his dad and balancing the father/son, coach/player relationship became a challenge to the family dynamic, especially at first.

DOUG MCDERMOTT: It was tough as an 18 year old because I was coming out of high school. Around my parents every day. A lot of 18 year olds want to get away from parents. And you know, it's normal. But I realized the opportunity we had.

GREG MCDERMOTT: Play, play, play. Fight him, Doug. Fight him! Inside, inside, inside, Doug!

Remember the other night though? You had it in post?


GREG MCDERMOTT: With six seconds. You kicked it out. We didn't get a good shot. You got six seconds, just go make a play.

I think the challenge was maybe for Doug to separate the fact this voice that's been my father's voice for 18 years is now also my coach's voice during parts of the day.

Doug, after the trap, you've got to get out of there and find your man.

SCHULTZ: How often do you call him dad?

DOUG MCDERMOTT: Very rare I call him dad. So -- he's in my phone as Coach Mac. So - I don't know if I'll ever change that.

SCHULTZ: But at home, Coach Mac has to go back to being Dad. It's not all hoops. Why? Because mom said so.

GREG MCDERMOTT: She understands what I need to know and what I don't need to know. But at end of the day, we both want what's best for Doug.

SCHULTZ: Now as we enter the NCAA tournament, Doug and his dad know that once in a lifetime opportunity is coming to an end.

DOUG MCDERMOTT: We look at each practice and each game like oh, the clock is ticking. We're trying to cherish it even more.

GREG MCDERMOTT: There's not many of us that look back on our life and say we spent too much time with our parents. I think a lot of us would like to go back and maybe spend more time, and I think Doug saw it as an opportunity to spend another year with the family.

SCHULTZ: So since Doug did pass up millions in coming back for his senior season and you're still footing the bill here at Creighton, is there any kind of reimbursement plan when he does eventually go to the NBA?

GREG MCDERMOTT: He says he calls me Coach Mac unless he's asking for a few bucks. Then it's hey, Dad, how about a little something for dinner tonight? He probably doesn't know it yet, but I'll probably send him a bill at some point in time for that.


SCHULTZ: Andy Schultz, CNN, Omaha, Nebraska.


WHITFIELD: All right. And if you really want to go out on a limb, you can test your bracket skills against mine in the official NCAA March Madness Bracket Challenge Game. I laugh, you know why. Go to and join the CNN group to see if you can pick the NCAA bracket better than me. We'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: All right. It's been a fascinating day about the latest developments in the search for the Malaysia Airline flight 370. Malaysia's prime minister, in fact, says the cockpit's sign off to ground control, "all right, good night" was actually said after the plane's communication systems were disabled.

I want to get some final thoughts now from our panel. They have been so fantastic throughout. Commercial pilot Rob Mark, pilot and aviation attorney Brian Alexander, and former 777 pilot Bill Savage.

So given all that we have heard, gentlemen, tell me what you think, what does your gut tell you about what happened to this plane in 20 seconds or less each. Brian, you first.

ALEXANDER: Well obviously there's still many, many possible explanations that are out there. Obviously also it's trending towards more deliberate actions, trending towards possibilities in the cockpit involving the crew.

I would point out one thing that's of interest to me in the last 20 minutes of dialogue is the timing of again this call and the transponder and ACARS being turned off. One of the things that's not been discussed is when the transponder's turned off, the air traffic controllers at that moment would have lost all the information about the aircraft. Its altitude, its heading, and its air speed. If that happened before the handoff between Malaysian air space and Vietnamese air space, that really should have immediately send up a red flag to the controllers that something was amiss. You would not need to wait for the Vietnamese controllers to hear from the aircraft. So that's another factor probably to look at.

I think the other thing is the story needs to shift away from what lawyers and other speculators want to say and really focus on why there isn't more information coming from the Malaysian investigation authorities. I think that's a good spin.

WHITFIELD: All right, Rob Mark, 20 seconds or less, what do you think? What does your gut say about what happened here? Rob?

MARK: I like that last comment about the data block and the fact that the information disappeared that we should have heard the Malaysian controllers or the Vietnamese controllers say something on the radio. I haven't heard anything about that. I'd like to know more about that.

WHITFIELD: Bill Savage?

SAVAGE: I agree with the other two gentlemen. It was exactly my thought during the break. And -- but it's quite obvious that whoever was flying that airplane was an aviator and knew how to fly that aircraft. With all of the turns and climbs and descents, plus the interruption of the systems, I speculate that someone knew something about flying airplanes. And particularly that airplane during this event, whether it was the crew or one of the 239 or more is something that should be looked into. Who was in the back of that airplane?

WHITFIELD: All right. It's the greatest aviation mystery that anyone can ever recall. Thank you so much, gentlemen. We appreciate your expertise and insight. Rob Mark, Brian Alexander, Bill Savage, thanks to all of you.

That's going to do it for me. Thanks so much for being with us this afternoon. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Much more coming of the NEWSROOM continuing with extensive coverage of the mystery of Flight 370 with Jim Scuitto in New York after this.