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PIERS MORGAN LIVE
Missing Flight 370
Aired March 18, 2014 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL WEIR, CNN ANCHOR: This is Piers Morgan Live. And with your host on holiday, I am Bill Weir filling in for this week.
Well, it is the equivalence of trying to find the head of a pin, not a whole pin, just the head hidden somewhere in greater Seattle or trying to find one misplaced letter in 600 Bibles. Those are just some of the mathematical analogies computed by folks on Reddit today trying to help understand the sheer size of the Flight 370 search area.
This is what three million square miles looks like relative to the continent of the United States. You hide a plane there and go. It'd be hard enough to find a jet or pieces of one in a heavily populated chunk of land that size but of course we're talking about an area that includes huge swashes of open ocean.
But tonight, we're also talking with people who are very good at finding things in open oceans like the engineer who helped to find the AirFrance flight that went down off the coast of Brazil nearly five years ago. Just for perspective, they found the debris within about five days of that crash and started with a search area that was 600 times smaller than this one and it's still took two years before the black box turned up. But they found it.
And you know things are grim when a hijacking and secretive landing is the best case scenario but somehow that is still a very real point of worry for some governments around the world. We'll hear from Israels on their cause for alarming just a moment.
But for all the loved ones, hoping and praying 12 days later, a hijacking and a hostage scenario is a threat of hope has it when it comes to proof of life, they will take anything they can get.
So as Flight 370 becomes the Big Story for a 12th night, we begin at the epicenter of this search in Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur and CNNs Kyung Lah has the very latest and once again I'm most interested on how these loved ones are holding up there, what's the scene like? Is it a vigil, we've heard threats of hunger strikes from the folks in Beijing. How are they doing?
KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We'll start with the families here in Malaysia. We actually went to the hotel where most of them are gathered. Almost all of the families have gathered in this hotel. And we didn't see that many of them walking around there. But you can certainly felt that there is a frustration because the families just don't know what to believe. And Bill, you were talking about having hope. Well, there's a banner in that hotel and it says, "Pray for your safe return." They are clinging to hope because of all of the crazy theories out there, the lack of -- what's perceived as lack of transparency from the authorities, families are just hoping that they're going to come home.
WEIR: What's the latest on the investigation into the pilot, his co- pilot? We've ridden this roller coaster of them as suspects and then decent men who may have been heroes trying to save the plane from some catastrophe. What are you hearing tonight?
LAH: Well, the latest that we're hearing from U.S. authorities telling CNN that so far everything that the authorities here has looked at and the police have been telling us that they are looking at the backgrounds, they've looked at the houses, they've even looked at the flight simulator inside the pilot's home. They've come up with nothing according to U.S. authorities that they simply haven't found any shred of evidence that they have specifically planned this, looking at the flight simulator, Bill, they haven't found that there's any sort of practice that the pilot had, that he was planning to do something like this.
So, again, just a frustrating lack of information.
WEIR: We're going to hear from an expert tonight who says sometimes an erratic flight plan means a heroic pilot, not a nefarious one. So we'll get into that.
But I know you spoke with a former retired Malaysian air pilot who is actually flown this missing plane, let's listen to a bit of your interview and come back on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAH: So given all these cockpit procedure ...
NIK HUZLAN, RETIRED MALAYSIAN AIRLINES PILOT: Yeah.
LAH: ... is it possible for someone to rush into the cockpit still?
HUZLAN: You know what, impossible. It's a difficult thing for me to play around. Let me put that it is not impossible for a determined set of people, not one. A determined set of people with proper plan and intimate knowledge of the procedures of the airplane and that can be easily done by observation flying in the air a couple of few times.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WEIR: Did he have a prevailing theory? What does his gut telling him?
LAH: Well, he believes, Bill, that there must have been human intervention, that someone on that plane made a turn, made it -- make these erratic moves that it was not catastrophic mechanical failure. And the reason he believes that because again he sat at the controls of this plane, he says it's the most solid thing he's ever seen, it's a solid plane. He believes in the 777s that Malaysia Airlines is flying and that he has flown.
He thinks that it had to have been human intervention whether or not he thinks it's a hijacking, he says that he believes it's a remote possibility because of the tight security surrounding cockpits, Bill.
WEIR: All right, Kyung Lah from Kuala Lumpur again tonight. Thank you for your reporting.
And let's vivid now to my former ABC colleague, current CNN colleague Jim Sciutto joining us from D.C.
Jim, let's talk about the American part of this investigation. I know a lot of sources are probably expressing frustration have been in recent days. We heard -- was it Chuck Hagel now asking for more transparency? What did they say?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEFL NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, this has been an issue since the beginning. How much are the Malaysians sharing whether it's radar data, information on the pilots, the flight crew, et cetera? And in fact, that lack of sharing led to a devastating mistake because remember in the early days, they were searching on the wrong side of the Malay peninsula, right? Where it lost contact to get a, you know, 25 ship from a dozen countries essentially wasting their time there, you know, a mistake that could have been avoided that I'm told had the Malaysian shared this other radar data earlier or in fact asked for help to help analyze that data because, you know, it's an art, it requires expertise.
But my understanding is that sharing has improved over the last 10 days and so. And that, you know, U.S. officials and other participants in this search are getting better information. They're now refining this search and, you know, moving a bit forward in the investigations as we're seeing, as this information dribbles out.
But I think what you saw from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel as he's speaking to his Malaysian counterpart is, you know, something of a gentle nudge, bringing up the topic, not beating the Malaysians over the head with it and saying, you know, transparency wouldn't be a bad thing going forward, you know, much more gentle than what we heard in public from the Chinese for instance who have been, you know, openly critical of the Malaysian investigation, in fact threatening to take it over.
WEIR: Yeah. This is the part in the movie where we see the Tommy Lee Jones character come in from the NTSB and take over but there's so many ...
WEIR: ... diplomatic dance moves that has to be done.
But tell me about Israel, we saw a story that they're on high alert in Tel Aviv.
SCIUTTO: Well, what they've done is that they have extended the area, you know, for all planes coming into Israel, of course Israel, you know, this is a country under a stretch so that they -- and you and I we've traveled there, you know. That's a country that has the most severe airline security. When they do a search, they do a real search. When they do an interrogation, they do a real interrogation.
So when they're asking planes, when they're coming in, what they've done now is they extended the time before the plane gets to Israel that they have to identify themselves or in fact gets close to Israel in response to this incident. And, you know, it's because of that and they talk -- in fact, in an interview that one of our colleagues did there, Nick Robertson today, the head of that kind of air traffic identification unit, the security unit said, you know, that maybe this is a vulnerability, right, the flight cruise because he said the flight crews are always in general not been considered a threat. But if indeed turns out to me and that's a big if in this case that the flight crew was somehow responsible, you know, the Israelis are certainly concerned.
I've talked to people on Capitol Hill here, members for instance of the House Intelligence Committee to say they're looking at measures that the U.S. might take. But so far, the impression here is that the security we have in the U.S. post 9/11 is much better than what you would have overseas but that's not the same, people aren't looking at because, you know, if someone successfully commandeered a giant airplane, you know, everybody's got to look at their security procedures going forward.
WEIR: Right. And this dirt of facts, man, everything is on the table. Jim, thanks. And then for more on this Israel idea, why don't we turn out to CNN Middle East (ph) Analyst Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren joins us now.
And Ambassador, why are you on high alert right now?
MICHAEL OREN, CNN ANALYST : Israel's a tiny country. It's situated along the coast. A jet that's been hijacked flying at 600 miles an hour will take about a minute and a half to cross the entire country of Israel. It's where Israel's most populated cities are right along that coast.
So Israel has close to zero margin for error in countering and protecting itself against a hijacked airplane. If this Malaysian jet has been hijacked and there's a sense among Israeli intelligence officials that that is a possibility then Israel feels that it has to take the necessary precautions.
The government met with security officials this week and decided on a number of emergency measures. Those remained classified secret, but one has been published. Foreign aircraft approaching Israel shores will have to identify themselves far earlier than as previously been the case.
WEIR: So IDF think it is a possibility that this plane is being weaponized somewhere?
OREN: Well, they can't rule out that possibility. The Israel press today quoted a number of former IDF air force officers including the former officials of Israel's national airline ELAL.
Security officials saying that they cannot rule out that possibility, they also noted that this could not have happened in Israel where security is far tighter and therefore a closer cooperation between military radar and the civilian air traffic control that didn't exist in the Malaysian case.
So they can't rule out that possibility and they have to take every possible measure to protect the country in case this airliner has been hijacked and in case it could be at the state of Israel.
WEIR: So how do you prepare for this? Do you have planes identifying themselves farther out? And what happens if one of them doesn't answer to your sufficient satisfaction?
OREN: Well, precisely. Well, foreign aircraft are now going to have to identify themselves far earlier than has been the practice. And what would happen if they don't identify themselves if the plane approaches Israel shores? But we have one precedent that occurred 41 years ago in February 1973 when a Libyan aircraft bound for Cairo straight into Israeli controlled airspace. As the Israeli jets intercepted that, the Libyan airliner instructed it to land when it ignored the Israeli instructions, that airliner was shot down.
All the five of the 114 people aboard have died. Israel paid compensation to the families but that is the precedent. Israel again has no margin for error for planes, alien planes, unidentified planes and possibly hostile planes that are entering its airspace.
WEIR: But here's the thing. Your defense minister at the time called that an error in judgment. It turns out that it was a sandstorm that had knocked their navigational equipment on and they weren't paying attention to the orders to try to land, that had to do more with tensions there. But my question as to now is does this heightened state of fear, raise the possibility of a tragic accident with another commercial flight?
OREN: Well, I think the security and the technology has improved significantly over the last four decades and thus far greater communication that existed back in the early 70s and a greater ability to identify aircraft.
Again, we're dealing with an aircraft. We know its make. We know it's designed. We know it's vintage and if it appears on Israeli radar screen approaching the coast, Israel will take again probably all measures necessary to defend its citizens who will be very vulnerable. They are along the coast. The entire country is very tiny.
WEIR: And before I let you go, what do you think the chances are that this may have already happened? That this plane wandered into Chinese or aerospace have one of the stans, Kyrgyzstan or something was shot down and now there's some sort of cover up. Would the world know about that in the last dozen days if it happens?
OREN: Well, all I can say is that Israel has very expensive intelligence capabilities. It shares those capabilities with the United States, with other allied governments around the world. Israel has also satellite observation capabilities. And so whatever Israel knows and again it has the ability to know a great deal and they're sharing it with the United States and other allies.
WEIR: Well, anybody has flown in or out of Tel Aviv knows that abundance of caution takes out a whole different meaning in that part of the world. It's understandable, the steps you're taking. Michael Oren ...
WEIR: ... we appreciate your insight as always. Thanks for being with us.
OREN: Pleasure, Bill.
WEIR: That was an interesting last answer he had that. Let's dig into that further about what Israel might know especially about Iranian airspace. Could that flight have made it that far if someone was so inclined to take it there and this idea about it being used as a weapon, the most disturbing of all.
We'll dig in with the experts when we come back. Stay with us.
WEIR: Well, we just heard some concerns from Israel that they're on heightened alert under the -- maybe far fetched idea that this plane is somewhere on the ground being weaponized in some way with dirt of facts, this is sometimes where the mind goes.
So let's explore this further with Fran Townsend, a Former Homeland Security Advisor for President George W. Bush, also General Spider Marks, Military Analyst here at CNN, U.S. Army, Former Commanding General, and Mary Schiavo, new CNN Aviation Analyst we've been watching throughout the week, Former Inspector General of the Department of Transportation and helped so many families after 9/11 on those flights.
So let's get into Michael Oren's idea that maybe that we should all be on heightened alert about this being out there. Fran, what are your thoughts on that?
FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, if you look at the Northern root, look, you would have had to skirt very close to the Pakistan-India border probably the best air defenses in the world.
You also would have been very close if not over the United Arab gram (ph) roots which has also incredible air defenses. I mean, I'm not sure where that takes you. I mean, I can't imagine that it could've actually navigated that far, skirted all those air defenses and the theory is you landed where in Iran? To load up ...
TOWNSEND: ... with some sort of weapon?
WEIR: And I'm guessing that Israel has their eye on Iran in some way. I don't know but there's one thing when it comes to satellites watching the nuclear development labs and the other thing watching commercial aviation now, right?
TOWNSEND: That's right. But in fairness to Israel I mean, it's a tiny country, it's not as though they, you know what I mean, they take this air defense system very, very seriously because they don't have a lot of time to react.
And so until you know where the plane is that is if you know it's in the Indian Ocean, until you've accounted for it, in some ways given your own security posture, it's understandable that they would simply go to a heightened state of alert to watch out for.
WEIR: That's a constant state of existence ...
TOWNSEND: That's right.
WEIR: ... in that place. Yeah. I think my record is six hours being held at Tel Aviv airport.
But, Mary, let's turn to you. There's a new reporting, NBC is now saying -- they came out earlier today and talking about the left turn. That now this change of direction they are reporting was made at least 12 minutes before the co-pilot said, "All right, good night." How does that change your thinking if that is true?
MARY SCHIAVO, FMR. INSPECTOR GENERAL, U.S. DOT: Well, it's a troubling 12 minutes because the clues there that you had time to communicate, so you had time to do other things, you know, the old saying is, you know, first fly the plane and navigate, you know, aviate navigate communicate.
WEIR: Communicate. Right.
SCHIAVO: But they had time to communicate and that was obviously at least according to the airline, it was the pilot not flying or the co- pilot and they have supposedly, positively identified his voice. So the other -- the captain was flying so there was time to communicate and with this time they would have had time to put in a hijack code on the transponder, they would have had time to speak the hijack code words, presumably Malaysia Airline has trained for that and they have them, you know, they do that in most airlines.
But nothing and the finally they didn't say the emergency words. If you're having an emergency that doesn't -- you don't thing you're going to lose the plane imminently, you call out, it was called the "pan pan".
SCHIAVO: If you're in danger of losing the plane then you just -- you declare and emergency. And that didn't happen either. So, you know, I have a lot of, you know, theories running around in my mind about what could have happened to the plane structure, mechanical, and a fire and a electrical problem and there were all sorts of ADs and warnings on this plane.
But in that time, if you had a problem, you desperately try to communicate it because you've got to -- you got to get an alternative airport, you have to find a new landing strip, you have to get the plane on the ground. So it's troubling to me.
WEIR: Spider, I want to go back to a question I asked Michael Oren about this just from a military perspective. If we can eliminate this at all that the plane was shot down say in China would be hugely embarrassing obviously for that government to have to admit something like that. They've covered up past disasters. Would the world know about an incident like this, this much longer?
MAJ. GEN. JAMES 'SPIDER' MARKS (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Bill, it would. I mean, that's what we call an IR, an Infrared Event. That would be picked up by satellite. It would be able to be immediately discerned if something like that took place.
To the point that we've been talking about though, Bill, look, I spent my life as an Intel guy and to better understand the situation, you got to have intent and you have to have capabilities. Right now as you've indicated we've got a dirt of both and so it's a big white board and we're trying right now to fill in the gaps. And quite adequately, we're filling in the capabilities gaps. What went wrong? What do we know? What are the very specifics? How can we linearly progress through this event? But we don't know jack of that intent.
We haven't spent time on what I would call the human intelligence aspect. Every place in the world I went, I generally walked in there with a boatload of technical intelligence and I had to confirm or deny through a process of getting my hands on guys who are intimately aware and start the process of doing a human intelligence interrogation. And as we've discussed, that's a very, very tough process and it should have started -- I know as Fran has indicated from day one, it should have started very aggressively and the Malaysians again not the Malayan and anybody but the Malaysian should have opened up their arms and said, "Look, we need a lot of help with this. Can you FBI please come here? Can you intelligence community, please lend a hand. We need to be able to get arms around this thing."
WEIR: That has to happen at some point. Don't you think?
TOWNSEND: And it's happening now. And so, you know, what we've seen is the Malaysian said they went to the pilots homes on March 9th but they didn't actually searched them until the 15th. That's a loss of six days. We're used in this country when we conduct a sort of air, a tragic event investigation. We start both the investigation and the search operation simultaneously as soon as we're notified of the event. And it doesn't appear at least by what we're seeing that that happened by the Malaysians. There's been a delay in the investigation and that frankly is to the detriment both of the investigation and to the families getting information of the victims' family.
MARKS: Bill, can I jump on that ... WEIR: Sure, Spider.
MARKS: ... just a sec? What Fran just indicated? It's called intelligence latency and it's what we try to crash all the time. It's the notion of targetable intelligence. And that if you allow it to languish, it suddenly morphs into something else and then you have to pick your way through it.
So as Fran indicated, you need to be able to grab this intelligence as quickly as possible, dissect it as quickly as possible and eliminate all the options. And right now, we're walking through such an array of options that just boggles the mind and it is devastating again as Fran and Mary have indicated to the families.
WEIR: Absolutely. Yeah. And to add insult to injury the ties just said, our radar showed that it didn't come north but you did not think to ask us that specifically. But Mary, please stay, we got a pilot coming up. I want to ask you more about all of this when we come back.
Abundance of theories, zero concrete answers. What is this experienced 777 pilot think happened next.
WEIR: Boeing's 777 has the world's largest twin jet airplane and widely considered the most technologically advanced commercial jet. So how can it possibly just vanish? The question we have been asking and not answering for a dozen days now.
And back with me now Mary Schiavo and joining us Keith Wolzinger, Commercial Pilot who flies 777s, also a Safety Consultant from the spectrum group Civil Aviation Team.
So Keith, talk to me about this report from NBC. They're saying now that the turn left to go off track, leaving the path to Beijing happened about 12 minutes before the "All right, good night." This doesn't add up does it?
KEITH WOLZINGER, COMMERCIAL PILOT WHO FLIES 777: No not really. Really reports had indicated that that could have been done after the last radio transmission. So that sets a new angle on when this occurred and whether or not it had been preplanned.
WEIR: Right. Now, talk me through the navigation box. We got the report last night that the eight or nine members have been typed in to change course, we've seen Martin Savage (ph) throughout the day show how easy that is. That happens all the time in a flight, right, to do the weather or whatever but could that have been preprogrammed as a contingency in some way?
So you got your A route and then in some ways, this is the B route if you needed to get out of that. Does it work that way or is it one route at a time?
WOLZINGER: There is capability for a second route to be loaded and it's a simple matter to switch from to say the A route to the B route. But that would not necessarily occur at the same point during the flight as the radio transmissions.
The route could have been programmed on the A route with the turn in it. Sometimes that can occur as well but it seems more likely that it could be the B route being activated or a change in the A route.
WEIR: And would that send, if you did make a change and ACARS were still working, Mary, would they know in Kuala Lumpur that, "Hey, wait a minute, they're not going to Beijing anymore."
SCHIAVO: Well, if they entered the change and they actually entered it in and started acting on the change and they should know if ACARS was still working, sure.
WEIR: Right. And so Keith, what is your prevalent theory? The one that is -- that everybody came back around to today was some sort of catastrophic smoke in the cockpit, maybe a tire fire, so the pilots put on their masks, they're pulling circuit breakers, I guess, to try to isolate where this electrical fire is coming from, which then cascades, shuts down the transponder and the radios go. What do you think of that?
WOLZINGER: Well, I think that's little bit far-fetched. Certainly, based on the last radio communication that was received, it didn't seem like they were in any sort of distress. When you put on the oxygen mask and then attempts to talk on the radio, there is a significant change in the audio quality because you're talking through a mask rather than through the air through the microphone. So, while they would normally attempt to communicate with the outside world, if that were the case, it doesn't seem like there was any attempt to make their communication that way.
WEIR: Mary, you disagree?
SCHIAVO: Well, no, I don't disagree. I think, you know, there's so many different scenarios, and over the years, the different cases I worked on probably were the ones -- some of the ones that are more similar. Things started to go wrong and the pilots don't realize how wrong things are going. It starts spilling down. And first, it's one thing.
And if I was to try to make sense of the 11 minutes in the "all right, good night" sounding normal is that they have something they think is minor. They're perhaps turning back or going to an alternative airport that's easier to get to which explain a turn. And the thing that they thought was minor and they're not going to tell air traffic control, they're going to do, you know, what they shouldn't do in flight troubleshoot, which what they did in Alaska 261, and start heading back and then things go bad in a hurry like Air France, like Alaska 261. They think they can handle it and they try and they can't.
WEIR: And they can't. And by the time they're reaching for the mayday, it's too late.
SCHIAVO: It's a disaster.
WEIR: It's ...
SCHIAVO: It's a disaster.
WEIR: ... it's too late. So, Keith, I don't know, I imagine, you know, fly boys like you sitting around with your pilot buddies theorizing and speaking more freely than you might do, say on CNN. But, is there anything that leads you to a conclusion giving your experience with this plane, any hunches that you might have, any confidences that you might have in the integrity of that Boeing that pushes you in one direction.
WOLZINGER: No. I've got full confidence in the airplane and the engines. It doesn't look to me like it was fire or some sort of issue with the structural integrity of the aircraft. If there was structural integrity problem with the aircraft, there would been a larger debris field, they would have been more easily detected, and we would have some sort of physical evidence somewhere.
Emergency locator transmitter possibly would have gone off and so lights (ph) would have picked it up. Something physical evidence would have been found. It's looking more to me like intervention -- human intervention in the cockpit that changed the route. It was purposely done either by the crew -- either by the crew under duress or by another person familiar with airplane operations that took over the airplane.
WEIR: OK. When we come back, Mary and Keith, if you'll be kind enough to stay with me, we'll talk about maybe the significance of a flight simulator in the pilot's home and if anything has changed since 9/11. What are the lessons we learned? Mary is here for that. Stick around.
WEIR: We know so little of course about what happened in the cockpit of Flight 370. But back with me now, two people who can dig into some of the theories. We have Pilot Keith Wolzinger and Mary Schiavo.
Keith, I'll just ask about this flight simulator in the pilot in the captain's home. A guy with 15,000-18,000 hours of experience, is that common?
WOLZINGER: I wouldn't say it's common, but, somebody that's enthusiastic about flying, I could see it, yes.
WEIR: I guess they searched this Mary and then from what we understand from American sources, there was nothing on the hard drives to indicate anything nefarious, just maybe practicing new landing patterns at different air, you know, airstrips around the Southeast Asia.
SCHIAVO: And as I understand it and nothing else either, e-mails, lifestyle, bank accounts, life insurance, you name it, and that would be expected because on 9/11, one of the things including the messages in training the hijackers, they were supposed to avoid the limelight, they were supposed to be on down mode, this guy had videos on Youtube. So it didn't fit a sort of a traditional kind of airline terrorist.
WEIR: Yeah. It seems like just appearing enthusiast 53 years old ...
WEIR: ... three grown children. How many investigations were you involved in, in which the pilot was suspected but exonerated.
SCHIAVO: Well, many. I've even lost count but I can think of one where he was blamed and it was burning ribbon wire in the control column, one where there were problems with the engines, one were the engines had core lock, and the instruction manual was wrong, one were the pilots had to deal with trim system that was misreg. So, if they pull the nose up, the nose went down and the manuals were wrong.
So, when you dig -- but these takes years to figure out. This case has lasted an average of three and a half years, but eventually, there were mechanical reasons and some of those cases, the NTSB said it was the pilot.
WEIR: Yeah. But that must do that pilot's family if ...
SCHIAVO: Terrible. In fact, on most of those cases, the pilot was deceased then. But it's the families that were the driving force. You know, many of them found me and said, you know, we need to turn this around. We can't believe this. And they're so strong. I think the circumstances help to make them strong, but, they hang on every piece of information and it's the family's often that are the drivers.
WEIR: And this is the thing, you know, we can compare America to other countries for better or ill this days. But when it comes to this sort of thing, the -- as your experience in the NTSB and the fact that is a law that everyday an investigator has to tell the families whatever scraps of information, right?
SCHIAVO: Right. The family assistance act. And this act came into beam because of crash families. They gather together and didn't appreciate the treatment or lack of information or being shut out of the investigation that may have taken their families from them. And they got together and they got this law passed, the family assistance act.
The NTSB must brief the families, you know, whether they have no information or have information. They have to tell them what's going on. The families have access to view the crash site. They are entitled to certain things and information including things that you might not even think of like designation of the memorial site and assistance from the airline. And that's law in this country and that law needs to be exported to the rest of the world.
WEIR: Speaking of learning from bad experiences passed to Keith, out of that interesting output today in the New York Times about transponders and that 9/11, they turned them off. We would have known those planes have been hijacked if the transponders didn't have that capability. I talked to a pilot last night who says he likes to have controls. He wants to be able to turn everything off and on in his cockpit. But, should we have transponders with off switches at all? What do you think?
WOLZINGER: Well, first, the transponder is turned on before the flight starts. Part of the checklist before you leave the gate is turning on the transponder. Transponder stays on the entire flight until you reach the gate or your destination and then you turn the transponder off.
Now, in 9/11, they turn the transponder off and of course it was harder to detect them. Now, Mary might know about this, but I thought that post 9/11 results of investigating those incidents that there was supposed to be system that would leave the transponder on at all times and without the pilots being able to turn it off in flight.
Mary might be able to comment on that. I thought, by now, you know, 13 years later that would have been part of the ...
WEIR: Obviously not.
WOLZINGER: ... the aviation system.
WEIR: What happened there?
SCHIAVO: Right. Well, now, we only have that, but there's still resistance from pilot groups and from the FAA. You know what most aircraft in the United States don't even have to have a transponder. Generally, aviation, much of the planes fly -- hand-fly legally without them. And that is another travesty because we all know that Osama bin Laden bought a general aviation plane before 9/11.
And so, there are so many disconnects from lessons learned we thought from 9/11. The transponder issue that we don't do in flight downloads from the flight data recorder or change. So we could that from the cockpit voice recorder. We don't have video surveillance and video streaming. And there's even a congressman in Florida who wants to be off security back to the airlines. We might learn our lessons sometimes but we also have to remember don't forget (inaudible).
WEIR: But it also speaks to just how safe we are most of the time.
SCHIAVO: Most of the time. That's right.
WEIR: I think the guy from MIT (ph) said, if you want to commit suicide by commercial jet, you don't have to fly everyday for 55,000 years. But at times like this, all these reforms seem logical.
WEIR: All right. Hang with us. Let's check in with Don Lemon. He is hosting CNN's special report "The Mystery of Flight 370" at the top of the hour as he did last night. Huge response Don ...
DON LEMON, CNN SPECIAL REPORT, "THE MYSTERY OF FLIGHT 370": Yeah
WEIR: ... and we are -- CNN has become sort of the global water cooler when it comes to this story. What are you hearing tonight?
LEMON: And what a mystery it is. We're hearing a lot. I mean, last night, we were getting maybe 40 tweets per second, if not more, of people asking questions. Questions like this, Bill.
This one is from Amy. And Amy says, "Do the sightings of the low- flying jet on the Maldives mesh with the timing and location of the last ping on ACARS?" We answered that at the top of the hour.
Here's what Alex is asking. Alex says, "Rule of flying is to navigate, aviate, then communicate. Perhaps fire came on quickly, pilot responds, course change, and passes out."
So, there are lots of different scenarios, lots of different questions. We have the best aviation experts in the United States, not only in the United States, but in the world to answer all of those questions. And if you want to send them, you can send them, make sure you hashtag 370QS, 370QS and we will try to get your questions on the air tonight. The host of experts and myself will be doing that at the top of the hour, Bill.
WEIR: All right Don. If you want the very best, you got to get Mary on your studio.
LEMON: Mary will be in the studio tonight. She'll help answer some of those questions.
WEIR: We love this woman ...
LEMON: Yes, she's amazing.
WEIR: ... giant of brain of knowledge.
All right. And also thanks to Keith Wolzinger, pilot friend as well.
When we come back -- let's of course, tune in to Don at the top of the hour.
Coming up, it is about the size of the Continental United States. That is the area of ocean currently being searched for Flight 370. Seems like an impossible task. We're going to talk to a man who knows more about it the most. He helped find Air France Flight 447 in the middle of the Atlantic and we'll meet him next.
WEIR: More in some incredible turn of events where Flight 370 actually turns up impact somewhere on land. It will probably be guys like our next two guests that's going to ultimately answer this mystery.
Bill Waldock is a Professor of Safety Science at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Crash Investigator for over 30 years. And Mike Purcell is -- works at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Chief Sea Operations for the Air France 447 mission, and joins me via Skype. A good way to think about these gentlemen, Bill is the haystack guy, Mike is the needle guy. They start big and go down.
But let's start with you Bill. Something like 200 investigations working for the coast guard for many years, even guest starred as yourself on lost profanes of that fictional aeronautical mystery there. Just try to put the scale of this in perspective. I'm guessing no one like you has ever seen anything like this.
BILL WALDOCK, PROF., EMBRY-RIDDLE AERONAUTICAL UNIVERSITY: That's exactly right. Just the sheer size of the search area is one of the major factors we got to deal with right now. I heard somebody say earlier today that because of the size of the search area, if we employed every aircraft and every ship we have in our disposal, we wouldn't be able to search this area and find this airplane.
WALDOCK: And typically, you know, that's how you start. We at least have an idea where the airplane was and we just don't hear.
WEIR: So, with everyday that goes by, let's say it's a seat cushion, a single piece of flat some (ph), you know, two weeks after the crash, would you know where to start, and if you don't find anything, do you even know where to start?
WALDOCK: Well, the longer it goes, the further materials that are floating are going to disperse. With the Air France situation, they found the floating debris within five to six days. At least you have a general idea where to start. But, the longer it goes on, the sea currents, the wind currents are going to move all of that debris, they're going to scatter it and mix it in with all the other trash that unfortunately happens to be throughout most of the oceans.
WEIR: Well, Mike, you were there, you help find this thing, and I guess what, two years after that first wreckage was found. How -- just give us some perspective, how big was your initial search area?
MIKE PURCELL, WOODS HOLE OCEANOGRAPHIC INSTITUTE: I think the initial search area for the under water vehicles was 5,000 square miles.
WEIR: 5,000, which is about 600 times smaller than this one right now. And you had what? Submarines, underwater robots, what were you using?
PURCELL: We had three autonomous underwater vehicles, are basically unmanned submarines that swim, program tracks over the sea floor, they go back and forth using acoustic sensors to map the sea floor, and from those maps, we could detect wreckage site.
WEIR: Is it true -- I know the black box was intact two years after the fact. But it wasn't still emitting any signals, was it?
PURCELL: No, I think the batteries on the black boxes last about at least 30 days.
WEIR: 30 days, that's what I thought.
PURCELL: And sometimes longer.
PURCELL: In this case, at least one of the batteries was damaged. So it's not clear whether it ever worked after the Air France accident.
WEIR: Yeah right. So Bill, are you -- when you go out on a search like this one, I imagine you have empathy for the families, but how do you process their urgency with a meticulous, just monotonous nature of looking for something like this?
WALDOCK: Well, it's one of the major problems we have sometimes, the sense of urgency to find people. But we always assume they're alive until we prove positive whether or not. And the faster we get to them, the more likely that we are to be able to save them. So that sense of urgency is always there. It produces a pressure to perform and sometimes it gives us some incentive to go beyond what we really should be doing.
On the other side of that, anybody that's ever done search observation, it is boring. The first couple of hours, you're running on adrenaline, you're going to find them. By the time you're into the 5th, 6th, 7th day of the search and you spent most of that time scanning the surface, it's very easy to miss things, you know, fatigue starts setting in ...
WALDOCK: ... and, you know, you just overflew the target when you did something as simple as what I just did. So that is -- it's a competing set of factors ...
WALDOCK: ... that sometimes gets us in trouble.
WEIR: I can only imagine. Well, I hope that your wisdom and experience helps these folks, these families find some peace and closures, some information out there. Thank you for time gentlemen.
And we comeback, how about the statisticians? Can we call them the brainiacs and crunch the numbers that will find 370. We'll meet the man who does the math, next.
WEIR: If someone says small world, that will cliche these days. It certainly doesn't apply to anybody looking for Flight 370 and there's not a jumbo about a jumbo jet when you consider it is missing in a size of area about the size of the continental United States, 3 million square miles.
But, maybe statisticians, guys who crunch number, do probability theories can help us out. Carl Bialik, he's a writer for the newly expanded fivethirtyeight.com, which launched yesterday. Nate Silver's guys, the ones who sort of predict elections with incredible accuracy. Congrats on the launch.
CARL BIALIK, NEWS WRITER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: Thank you.
WEIR: This is interesting. Help us understand how -- what you do can help maybe find this plane. When you look at that vast ocean, what do you see? A grid and then it becomes -- or I bet it's there as opposed to there?
BIALIK: It pretty much comes down to that, I mean, you have to think about every spot is having some probability. And if you think they all have the same chance, then you have no chance of finding it at anytime soon. So these statistical tools aren't magic, but they might help speed up the search, they might help make a little more efficient and a little smarter.
WEIR: Now, so you would start based on what, the presumed flight path, the last turn, that sort of thing?
BIALIK: Anything you have, anything you can find, expert judgment, previous searches, information from the satellite. The key thing about these tools, it's a theory called search theory, is that you're always questioning your assumptions. You're always incorporating new information. And there's been so much new information everyday. These are tools that help you take some of the error and guess work out of how to incorporate it.
WEIR: What about motives or possible scenarios in which it happened. So, if you look at the history of aviation and the history of terrorism or the history of accidents, is there a way to extrapolate something from that or is every flight a different story?
BIALIK: I mean, you have to -- because there's no situation like this, you have to look at the ones that are closest to it. And that's where a human judgment comes in. Even though these are statisticals tools and numbers, ultimately, you're putting a number on somebody's best guess and hopefully they have a good one. And that can take anything that was sort of similar. Air France 447 was pretty different, but it's close enough that you can get some information from it.
WEIR: So, are you guys going to run these numbers on your own? Are you offering to help the Malaysians? I mean ...
BIALIK: We're more on writing. We're going to more write about this.
BIALIK: But there are experts including on the Air France 447 search who have done this and this was used back in World War II to look for U-boats ...
WEIR: Oh, interesting.
BIALIK: ... look for a missing navy sub in 1968. So this goes way back to before there were today's super computers. So, I think even though this is a harder problem, it's a bigger area, there are tools and machinery that can help maybe refine the search, maybe speed it up.
WEIR: OK. Well, Carl, we appreciate you being here.
BIALIK: Thanks a lot.
WEIR: Thank you so much. Good luck on this, both with the site and if you can shed some light on that. We thank you for that.
So, so many questions tonight and some great interesting answers from all of our specialists here.
CNN's special report, "The Mystery of Flight 370" with Don Lemon, it's' coming up for just second. But as we leave here tonight, let's go back to the loved ones staring at their cellphones, just think of the anticipation and a hope for those folks. We're going to keep the story going if not for only for them.
Here's Don Lemon.