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Mystery of Flight 370

Aired March 19, 2014 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. We begin tonight with several pieces of breaking news in the hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Item one tonight it is narrowing into the southern of two search zones, focusing on a swath of ocean off the southwest coast to Australia.

Item two, investigators now tell us the path it took, the path caught on radar, suggests the route was preprogrammed to hit certain navigational waypoints. We're going to explain what that means.

Item three, the FBI is now examining data from the captain's home flight simulator. Malaysian authorities say the files had been deleted.

We've got a lot to talk about with our panel of investigators, airline pilots, search professionals. First, though, because these developments have been stacking up day after day, some more were solid than others, I just want to take a moment tonight to try to get everyone back on the same page with what we know so far.

Now it begins at 12:41 local time on the morning of the 8th. Flight 370 takes off from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing. Now at 1:07 a.m., with the plane over the Gulf of Thailand, the final stream of information from the 777's ACARS data reporting system is received on the ground. From that last transmission, investigators determined that someone has programmed in a change into the plane's navigational computer.

Then at 1:19 with the airliner at cruising altitude the first officers utters four words leaving Malaysia air space telling controllers, "All right, good night." Two minutes later the radar transponder cuts out or is turned off, we don't know, making it hard for ground radar to track the plane. However, Thai military radar is following it. And somewhere between 1:21 and 1:28 a.m. detects that infamous left turn back toward the Malay Peninsula to the west and south.

Now at 1:30 a.m. air traffic controllers lose contact with the plane. A scheduled 1:37 ACARS transmission does not happen. Then at 2:15 Malaysian military radar detects what they believe to be Flight 370 hundreds of miles off course, about 200 miles northwest of Penang. From there there's no solid information, at least none that's been revealed publicly.

We only know that according to a satellite ping received at 8:11 in the morning investigators say the jet either turned north or south and flew into those two huge arcs of territory in open ocean. And again the breaking news, investigators now are focusing closer on that southern route. And we're going to talk to a U.S. Navy commander involved in that. A major development one that everyone hopes will finally bring some badly needed answers.

More now from Kyung Lah in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A mother's grief and frustration finally boiling over.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just want my son back.

LAH: Relatives of the missing passengers today storming into a normally subdued briefing room, demanding answers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What we need to know the truth. To know where the plane is. We have had it.

LAH: After about five chaotic minutes, she and others are dragged out by Malaysian officials. The Malaysian government says they regret the incident, but the reality is neither they nor anyone seems much closer to solving the mystery of what happened to Flight 370.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you have permission to answer or did you (INAUDIBLE)?

LAH: Could a clue be found in the pilot's home flight simulator? Malaysian authorities say data from the simulator was deleted on February 3rd, more than a month before the plane went missing. The FBI today saying it has sent a copy of the simulator's hard drive to its forensics lab in Quantico, Virginia, hoping to recover the deleted files.

The Malaysian authorities also disclosed a tantalizing detail. They have new radar information about the plane's path, provided by another country. But what exactly it shows the Malaysians aren't saying.

Meanwhile, operational crews are beginning to narrow their search, believing it's more likely the missing jet traveled along the southern corridor, away from the heavily populated Asian continent. Australian teams combing large swaths of the southern Indian Ocean say they're focusing on an area roughly the size of New Mexico, about 1600 miles off their southwest coast, using what information they know about currents and the plane's possible last position to make an educated guess on just where it might be.


COOPER: And as I said, we're going to talk to a U.S. Navy commander in that region. Kyung Lah joins us now, though.

You were in the room today during that pleas from relatives, just heart-breaking pleas from relatives of missing passengers. Are they expressing what pretty much all the families seem to be feeling there on the ground, I mean, that frustration, that sense of just kind of anger?

LAH: That anger and anguish, yes. That's felt across all nationalities, all the families here. And while it is a mystery for the rest of the world, for them it's very much about the loss of human life. This mystery about what's happened to fathers, sons, mothers, daughters. But as far as what that other woman said, calling the Malaysian government liars, we haven't heard that from the people who are Malaysian citizens because frankly we haven't had any access to them.

As far as the Chinese families, they absolutely feel that. Across the board, we're hearing it out of Beijing, we're hearing it here. They don't believe that the Malaysian government has been transparent at all. They feel that they have botched this investigation.

The government for its part, Anderson, saying that the best way that they can help these families is to simply find the plane.

COOPER: All right, Kyung, appreciate the reporting from Kuala Lumpur.

A little later on in the program, by the way, I'm going to speak to the family of Paul Weeks who was on the plane and was on the way to a new job in -- in Mongolia. He's an engineer. He actually gave his wedding ring and his watch to his wife just in case something happened. I'm going to talk to his brother and sister about that.

I want to, though, bring in Evan Perez who's breaking the navigation story for us tonight.

Some of this can get really technical, Evan. So just to start with explain exactly what a waypoint is and what is significant about this information we're getting.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, consider it -- think about your GPS. You can enter longitude and latitude in your GPS to try to direct you, navigate you to a particular place. Now in the sky for pilots, they also have to include altitude. So essentially it's a place in the sky where a pilot can direct -- you know, to direct an aircraft and the computer system on board the aircraft to take the aircraft. And so the navigational systems on the plane essentially uses these five-digit codes to direct where to take the aircraft -- Anderson.

COOPER: So explain the breaking news on this tonight. What is -- what is new that we now know?

PEREZ: Well, one of the things that we've been wondering is how the investigators know that the aircraft deviated from its course. We know there is some radar. But how can they know with certainty? Well, we know that the investigators have discovered that the aircraft went to two specific waypoints away from the course that it was scheduled to go, towards Beijing. So what they believe this indicates is that whoever was doing this, whoever moved the aircraft off its scheduled course, specifically was directing it to these particular waypoints. Again, away from its scheduled course -- Anderson.

COOPER: And if it was being manually flown it probably would not have headed to these waypoints, is that correct?

PEREZ: That's the -- that's the understanding that the investigators are looking at. Now, you know, when a pilot normally turns an aircraft using the yoke, they feel that if somebody was manually turning the aircraft it wouldn't specifically go to these particular waypoints. And so they believe this indicates perhaps that someone with some skills, someone who had some knowledge, entered these waypoints for the aircraft to go to these particular places.

And then of course it disappears. It doesn't answer the final question that we all have which is who did this, why and where did the aircraft go after it disappeared -- Anderson.

COOPER: Right. And exactly when were these entered in.

PEREZ: That's right

COOPER: Evan Perez, appreciate it.

Once again this seems like evidence pointing towards human intervention. The question as always, was it pilots doing their jobs or is someone up to no good?

With us now is former CIA counterterrorism officer and Delta Force member Jeff Beatty. Also CNN analyst and 777 captain Les Abend and Mary Schiavo, former U.S. Department of Transportation inspector General. Currently she represents accident victims and their families.

Les, let me start off with you about these waypoints. I'm confused by these waypoints and what the significance of the idea of having these two waypoints is. Can you try to explain it?

LESS ABEND, 777 PILOT: Well, I mean, a waypoint really is just a definition of the route in the sky. I mean it's just that --

COOPER: So that's something that somebody would enter in.

ABEND: Absolutely.

COOPER: Those -- but two particular different ones.

ABEND: Well, we keep -- we keep going back to there were two particular waypoints. I don't -- I don't see where those waypoints came into play on this. I see the airplane might have been directed toward them. As a matter of fact, I looked on an en route chart to try to find the waypoints that allegedly they turned toward.

I still contend that the waypoint that they were headed for was a diversionary airport and it was specifically entered in by the captain. That's pure conjecture. I may fall on my sword on that one. But I don't see where that machine, the ACARS machine could actually -- I know through our dispatch process where they would know exactly what was put into that machine. They just don't know. That's not information they utilize or is helpful to them specifically. COOPER: And, Jeff, the fact that this pilot deleted information from his simulator, you can look at it with a nefarious interpretation of that, you can look at it as though he's just an organized guy. He's cleaning up his files. How do you -- what do you make of it?

JEFF BEATTY, SECURITY CONSULTANT: Well, we only have part of the information on that. And in order to determine whether it was nefarious or not or benign we need to know the other part. That is, were there other flights on that simulator that he didn't delete? So in other words, what's left on the hard drive of that simulator and what is absent on the hard drive of that simulator.

And if only selective routes have been taken out of it, only a portion of his experience on the simulator has been deleted, then that makes me raise my eyebrow and says I find it difficult to find a benign explanation for that.


ABEND: Well, and I understand your point, Jeff. But the way I'm looking at it is from the standpoint of, you know, maybe there was a flight that -- pilots are organized people. And they feel that maybe the hard drive is going to take too much room and they delete a particular flight. But, you know, on a humorous note it might have been a profile he might have been practicing for his recurrent training and just a profile because this is not the kind of thing which you can really do.

But he may have deleted it because he was embarrassed that it didn't go well or something to that effect.

COOPER: Right. So there are -- obviously it's open to interpretation.

Mary, you've been involved with the FBI in this kind of investigations. Are there circumstances that you know of where they would not be able to retrieve the data because now Quantico -- the FBI and Quantico is going to be looking at it?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Yes. In the circumstances where they can't retrieve the data is for someone has erased it and knows how to do that effectively. In other words, you don't just erase it you overwrite or you destroy certain things. You have to be -- not just erase it but take extra pains. And you know that too might be very interesting to show how they have overwritten it or erased it or deleted certain things.

But when I was inspector general we worked aviation crimes with the FBI's aviation crimes unit. And we many times had to recover computer data. And they were pretty good. So I'm going to bet on the FBI. I think that they will be able to get whatever was on there. I just have to believe they're going to be able to see what those files were. Unless -- and I would be surprised to learn this -- unless this erasure was so good and competent it wasn't just erased but overwritten.

COOPER: And Jeff, how complex in operation is this? I mean, are we talking -- that it might them weeks or months?

BEATTY: I don't think so, Anderson. I think you're really talking about hours and days rather than weeks and months. They've got a tremendous capability. But remember just as in this case we've had countries who have been reluctant to share with us their radar information because it shows what their true capabilities are.

COOPER: Right.

BEATTY: The United States if they have information that tells us well no goodwill come of it, we can't help those missing by releasing this in such a way and show or capability, they may not do so. I would hope that they would -- they would err on the side of getting that information out there.

COOPER: Right.

BEATTY: But we too have to protect our capabilities.

COOPER: Mary, you raised an interesting point, though, that even if they can't find what the information that's been overwritten, the mere fact that information was intentionally overwritten can be meaningful.

SCHIAVO: Yes, it depends what the erasure is. I guess I have to confess. I mean, all of us who have flight simulators, you want to land, you want to try to see if you can land. And most of us don't do it successfully. But you want to try to see if you can land at the weirdest places on earth. You know, you want to see -- you're really good. And so just, you know, flying around the earth and seeing different places might not tell us much of anything. That's what you do with a flight -- you know, like a Microsoft flight simulator.

But where they went, what was there, what wasn't there, what's missing, the pains taken to take it away, if anyone else was on the flight simulator. All those things. I mean, I'm pretty confident if it's there to be gotten that the FBI will get it because they just -- you know, they're just so good at it.

COOPER: And, Jeff, the FBI is also we're told analyzing the copilot's computer. You see a number of sort of cumulative acts, operational acts. What do you mean by that?

BEATTY: What I mean by that, Anderson, is nothing significant in the crime or terrorism world happens without some planning, some casing, some rehearsal, and then the act itself if you're going to be successful. And so those are the operational acts that lead up to a terrorist incident or a major crime.

And so rehearsals in this case might be things that he did on his flight simulator. It might be interesting to go back and see what other routes had this captain flown in the months and weeks prior to this particular incident.

COOPER: On the simulator you mean.

BEATTY: Or in real life. You know what I mean? What other trips has he taken. Why as a senior captain did he bid -- the airline people will know what I'm speaking about, that he bid this trip? Was this a good trip for a captain with his seniority or was this kind of a dog of a trip but he bid it? You know, that could raise questions as to, you know, OK, there's not a good reason for him to take this trip. There must be something else afoot.

COOPER: Mary, do you agree with that?

SCHIAVO: Yes. But there's a really important point, too. He makes a great point. Because just flying on the simulator we can all fly weird places on the simulator. But you would have had to have gone there to make the contacts. Because what's the point of knowing how to land someplace if once you get there you can't do anything with yourself, with the plane, with the plot.

So there has to be more than that on the computer. There has to be additional contacts. And by the way, since it was the copilot who spoke last and whose voice sounds normal, what we'd also want to know is much more information about him and is this how he spoke to air traffic controllers?

Other people who fly with him need to provide a lot of information about him because he's the only one we know that's living and talking when the turn is made.

COOPER: Again, though, mechanical anomalies, mechanical issue is still very much at play here for investigators.


COOPER: And we're going to look at tonight as well.

Jeff Beatty, good to have you on. Mary Schiavo, as well. Captain Les Abend is going to stick around. He's going to join us shortly.

Two of his colleagues are going to join us. Two colleague who are going to run through all the evolving scenarios investigators are looking at now and including some you've been tweeting us about and some of your questions.

You can keep them coming, tweet us using #ac360. Follow me @andersoncooper.

Coming up next more on the breaking news. Intensifying focus off Australia. We're going to hear from a commander in the U.S. Navy's Seventh Fleet which has planes and vessels in the area.

Later we're going to dig deeper into the possibility of a fire on board and look at possible parallels to the crash of Swiss Air flight 15 years ago. What can we learn from that flight that might be applicable to this? We'll be right back.


COOPER: Welcome back. Among all the breaking news today President Obama weighed in for the first time on Flight 370 and America's role in the search. Listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have put every resource that we have available at the disposal of the search process. There has been close cooperation with the Malaysian government. And so not just NTSB but FBI. Anybody who typically deals with anything related to our aviation system is available.

And so, you know, our thoughts and prayers are with the families, but I want them to be assured that we consider this a top priority and we're going to keep on working.


COOPER: And chief among the hardest working people on the planet tonight are members of the U.S. Navy's Seventh Fleet who are in that southern search area off Australia on the ocean and above it using air traffic that can detect almost anything on surface of the water.

Commander William Marks is the spokesman for the fleet. He joins us tonight by phone.

Commander Marks, I know you can't comment on reports about Indonesia not allowing U.S. aircraft to fly over air space today. But I want to ask you on this southern route to you is that -- is that the most hopeful? Is that the most important area to search now?

CDR. WILLIAM MARKS, U.S. NAVY SEVENTH FLEET SPOKESMAN: I think you just have to look at the areas that have been researched. So we first covered the Gulf of Thailand. We completely saturated that. We moved to the Andaman Sea. We completely saturated that. We've gotten from flying from Kuala Lumpur. We've penetrated very deeply into the Bay of Bengal.

And that's just from our side because the Indians were flying over there, too. So I think really it's simply a matter of this southern area has been searched the least. So we're out here and Australia is out here. And at this point that's all you can do is you find the areas where you haven't looked, where there may have been information that came from satellites whether that's military or governmental or commercial, and you go to those. And so that's what we're doing.

COOPER: If you are able to find debris, does that automatically mean that you would be able to figure out where the plane went down if in fact the plane did go down in the water? Would you be able to automatically figure out based on tides and time?

MARKS: Great question. And the -- the currents and the wind and the sea state plays such a huge factor. Being so long from that initial flight takeoff, it's such a huge variable. So what we normally do in the U.S. Navy, when we come upon this situation we immediately launch a helicopter and we establish a central point where we think the last known contact was. That's called a datum.

So from this datum we calculate the currents and the winds. And that is why these search areas slowly expand. And so for what we usually do for a search and rescue is you look at that first 72 hours. And it can grow fairly big but within your helicopter range. Well, now that is completely a different scenario. And the current and the winds and the set and drift on there play a huge factor.

We can track that slightly and we can drop a sonar buoy and get a kind of a GPS position that tracks the environmentals, but it's such a long period of time it is certainly a huge factor. And really no one can -- no one can say if a piece of debris started in one area where it is 10 days later.

COOPER: This may be a dumb question, but are you -- are you still hopeful? Are you losing hope? I mean, with each day that passes by this gets more and more difficult.

MARKS: You know, this is what we train for. And our pilots, our air crews, even our maintainers on the ground, our mission is to fly these planes and to search. And the way I think of it personally is each of those people on that aircraft, they have families associated with them and friends. And I know they want closure no matter what happens. And I know if it were me and my family I'd want the U.S. Navy out here looking and that's what we're doing.

COOPER: Well, Commander Marks, I'm glad you're out there. Thank you.

MARKS: You're welcome. Thank you.

COOPER: Incredibly difficult task right now.

Digging deeper now in the capabilities and limits in this situation. I want to bring in a veteran of these kinds of things, David Gallo of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and co-leader of the search for Air France Flight 447, also retired airline pilot Ron brown.

David, let me start with you. You heard the commander there saying they're searching off the coast of Australia now because they've already basically thoroughly searched the northern part of the Indian Ocean.

So, I mean, do you basically just keep on expanding out until they've searched the entire area the plane could possibly have reached given the amount of fuel it had?

DAVID GALLO, CO-LED SEARCH FOR AIR FRANCE FLIGHT 447: You know, Anderson, we need to find some clue about where that aircraft is. We can't be mapping the entire Indian Ocean. And if that plane impacted the water, even came down gently there's going to be some clue. And the Navy is well suited to be able to find those bits of that plane.

You know, I'm hoping -- would still with the families that it's sitting on land someplace. But this is the way to exclude the ocean.

COOPER: And, David, it's interesting, though, what the commander said which was that given the amount of time that has gone by, even if they find some debris on the water, that doesn't guarantee that they'll be able to pinpoint where the plane entered the water if in fact it did, correct?

GALLO: Right. Well, the Air France 447 it was five days. I thought that was a long time after the tragedy before the first wreckage was found. But it was two years, not continuously at sea but giving mobilizations and the like, two years before we found that aircraft on the bottom. So you're right. It's no guarantee. But you know what, there's some very talented modelers out there that can look at wind currents with models and then backtrack that information to try to find the location.

And even if it's not exactly right or if there's a lot of error in it, it cuts down the search area. It could cut it down the search area dramatically. So it's important stuff.

COOPER: Ron, I've been getting a lot of questions on Twitter about this new search area. Marie asks, "This new search area south of Australia, how busy is the flight path? Did the plane have enough fuel to get that far?"

As far as we know it did have enough fuel. But how busy is the area for air traffic?

RON BROWN, AIRLINE PILOT: Well, Australia, the western end is not that busy. In my experience of flying in that area for seven years with three different companies and two private individuals, going north and south and going east out of Australia it's -- it can be busy. But the area that they're searching in, if it did go down in that area, it would be tremendously hard to find it. And I honestly think it didn't go that way. I think it started that way on purpose to put everybody in a false lead and then it went below radar and headed north.

COOPER: And you're saying that based on what?

BROWN: What I would do if I was that guy trying to steal that airplane.

COOPER: If it landed -- Ron, if it landed in water, there's something called the ELT. Wouldn't that have gone off?

BROWN: Yes. And there's more than one ELT on that type of airplane.

COOPER: Can you explain what an ELT is and how it works?

BROWN: It's an emergency transmitter. And it helps you locate the airplane or the raft where the people are in the ocean. It just transmits a signal. It -- nowadays it's picked up by satellites. And it really is a great device when you want to find something in a hurry that has gone down.

Now, as each day goes by and there's no ELT signals and there's no this and there's no that, it makes me believe that that aircraft may be on land.

COOPER: Dave, on the Air France flight was there -- was there an ELT signal that you were able to read? And also your organization sent as you animation of how an underwater submersible works to map the deep sea during a search for wreckage. Obviously does not show this precise situation because we don't know what happened. But viewers will get an idea of how that worked for Air France. And certainly if it is in the ocean this kind of technology could be applicable.

GALLO: Absolutely. Well, Air France we had a good last known position so the aerial search teams could center on that position and it was five days still. We had backtracking data and we also knew that there were four minutes of ACARS data before everything went silent. So that gave us four minutes of full speed, 40-mile radius circle. That was the haystack in which to find the bits of the needle.

You know, the area they're looking at now, the seafloor there, we know that kind of seafloor very well. It's volcanic terrain. It's the Southeast Indian Ridge. And it's not particularly difficult. It's deep, but those vehicles, these autonomous underwater vehicles are perfectly equipped to map that kind of terrain.

COOPER: And these vehicles, would they pick up the transmission from the black box, which I think only lasts for about 30 days or so?

GALLO: No, you know, not really. I mean, we could equip them to do that, Anderson. But you know, I don't put a lot of faith in the black box -- in the pingers because the ocean can play a lot of tricks with sound, especially if you're in rough terrain. An underwater mountain, a valley, thermal layers. So we want to put eyes on that debris field before -- rather than try to find a ping.

And in fact, with Air France I looked back at some of the maps. And it looks like they went right over the top of the wreck site with some of the listening equipment and never heard the pingers on Air France.

COOPER: Really? Wow, that's fascinating.

David Gallo, appreciate you being on. Ron Brown as well. You can -- you can also find more on the story at

Just ahead our panel of pilots drills down on all the competing theories right now. Plus no one on board survived when Swiss Air Flight 111 was brought down by fire 15 years ago. But to some the maneuvers the pilots made on that flight look a like -- a lot like what we've learned about Flight 370's path.

We're going to look at that for any clues.


COOPER: Tonight's breaking news on Flight 370, the search effort narrows to the southern section of the Indian Ocean, intensely focusing there. Investigators now believe that changes in the plane's flight path after it made that first left turn were pre-programmed by somebody to hit certain navigational way-points.

Keep in mind, the fact the investigators believe someone programmed those changes in the flight path. If that is what happened doesn't necessarily mean whoever did it had a sinister reason. For every piece of evidence that has turned up as you noticed by now there are competing explanations, some nefarious, others completely benign.

That's what makes this such a frustrating and difficult story to report on and for investigators such a difficult investigation. One theory is that a fire might have caused the pilots to change course as they tried to manage the crisis. That's exactly what happened 15 years ago to a Swiss jumbo jet carrying 229 people. Took off from New York's John F. Kennedy Airport just after 8:00 p.m. Randi Kaye looks back.


RANDI KAYE, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The pilots of Swiss Air Flight 111 bound for Geneva from JFK notice a strange smell in the cockpit less than an hour after takeoff. Then they see small amounts of smoke. Concerned they ask to land at the nearest airport. This is the air traffic control tape from that night, still haunting all these years later.

UNIDENTIFIED PILOT: Swissair 111 is declaring pan pan pan. We have smoke in the cockpit. Request deviate, immediate return to a convenient place, I guess Boston.

UNIDENTIFIED CONTROLLER: Swissair 111, roger. Turn right, proceed you say to Boston you want to go? Would you prefer to go into Halifax?

UNIDENTIFIED PILOT: Affirmative for Swissair 111, we prefer Halifax from our position.

KAYE: Bill Pickrell was the air traffic controller talking to the pilots.

BILL PICKRELL, FORMER AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: It was a fairly straightforward operation. Up to the point that they advised that they needed to dump fuel.

KAYE: The plane reaches the coast of Nova Scotia.

UNIDENTIFIED CONTROLLER: You've got 30 miles to fly to the threshold.

UNIDENTIFIED PILOT: We need more than 30 miles.

KAYE: The pilots are worried about landing with so much fuel on board.

UNIDENTIFIED CONTROLLER: Swissair 111, when you have time, could I have the number of souls on board and your fuel on board, please, for emergency services?

UNIDENTIFIED PILOT: Roger. At the time fuel on board is 230 tons we must dump some fuel.

KAYE (on camera): The captain then makes a faithful decision. The plane is only 25 miles from the airport, but instead of heading straight there for a landing, he takes the plane out over the ocean to dump fuel. Neither he nor his co-pilot have any idea there is a fire just above the cockpit.

UNIDENTIFIED PILOT: Swissair 111 is declaring emergency. We are between 12 and 5,000 feet we are declaring emergency now at time, 0124.


UNIDENTIFIED PILOT: Eleven heavy, we starting to dump now, we have to land immediate.

PICKRELL: In the background I could hear the warning alarm for the auto pilot disconnecting and he told me verbally at the same time that he was flying the plane manually, that the auto pilot had disconnected.

UNIDENTIFIED PILOT: We are declaring emergency now Swissair 111

KAYE (voice-over): That is the last transmission from Swiss Air Flight 111. The transponder also fails, but the plane is close enough to the airport that radar can still track it. As it makes an unexpected turn to the west.

PICKRELL: Whether it was a manual input by the pilots or what the reasoning was, they flew for probably 2 or 3 minutes west and then they did a 180-degree turn and headed back. A that point we thought perhaps they had control of the airplane. But then soon after that they turned again and headed out toward the ocean and then the aircraft disappeared.

KAYE: The plane slams into the Atlantic Ocean, 16 minutes after smoke was first reported. Hitting with such force it explodes into 2 million pieces. Everyone is killed. Only one body is recovered intact. The flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder found days later reveal the fire had caused the pilot's flight screens to go dark, making it nearly impossible to discern up from down. Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


COOPER: That is a terrifying look back. I want to bring in our panel. Joining us again, Les Avend, Ron Brown, and also with Jim Tilmon. They are seasoned commercial pilots with many decades of experience between them. Les, it's difficult to watch that and to hear obviously the transmissions and those pilots. What was learned from that? What do you think is important to remember from that to look at what happened here?

LES ABEND, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: That's a great question, Anderson. We changed our whole philosophy on a smoke or fire situation especially that's affecting the cockpit. The procedure originally had us troubleshoot to some degree or either do a smoke evacuation procedure. The basic philosophy now is get the airplane on the ground. This captain felt that he was over his structural limit to land the airplane, which he more than likely was and felt that he had to dump fuel. We don't even go to that because most airplanes have the structural capability of landing the airplane even over the FAA approved landing weight.

COOPER: Ron, getting a lot of tweets about this. Raul tweeted someone said inflight fire and they kept flying. Impossible if we remember how fast Swiss Air 111 crashed after. What's it like for a pilot a fire on board? I mean, is that the nightmare scenario?

RON BROWN, AIRLINE PILOT: That definitely is a nightmare scenario. That particular crash that we're talking about the smoke and fire started in the entertainment center behind the cockpit.

COOPER: In the entertainment center.

BROWN: Yes. At eastern every year we spend a day going through recurrent of going over accidents that had happened throughout airline history. And this was one of those things that even though you have screens up front, you still have the old what we call steam engine gauges to fly by in case you lose electrical.

Now, granted if you're worried about being over gross weight, forget that. You want that airplane on the ground as quick as you can. And that was the scenario that was taught to us. If there's smoke and fire, turn off all electrical that's not needed and get that airplane on the ground. And who cares if it's overweight.

COOPER: Which then raises a lot of questions about this Malaysian Air flight. Is it possible if there had been a fire on board, which is one of the theories investigators are looking at that it would continue to fly for so long for so many hours. We're going to talk to Jim Tilmon when we come back. We are going to take a quick break. Stay where you are.

I also want to ask you which theory is on the fate of the Flight 370 you believe are most valid now that investigators are looking at.

Also ahead, my conversation with two siblings of passenger, Paul Weeks. He gave his wife his wedding ring and watch before he boarding the jet just in case something happened so it could be given to his children. The agony for this family of waiting. They have not given up hope that Paul is still live. We'll talk to them ahead.


COOPER: Twelve days now since Flight 370 vanished without a trace. Our breaking news tonight the primary focus of the search is now in the southern Indian Ocean off Australia's west coast. Investigators believe the path that Flight 370 flew after the turn west suggests the route was pre-programmed to hit certain navigational way-points. Plenty of theories that investigators are looking about what may have happened.

Let's get some feedback on some of them from our commercial airline pilots with decades of experience. Back with Les Abend, Ron Brown and Jim Tilmon. Jim, we didn't hear from you before the break. I want to ask you about the ELT, the electronic locator transmitter, correct?


COOPER: So if this plane did hit water that would automatically go off which sends out various kinds of signals both to a satellite and over various frequencies, correct?

TILMON: Actually if it hits almost anything. If it landed and hit the ground too hard, that thing would go off. It's even used in light aircraft and business jets. It's a means of locating an aircraft or its wreckage immediately after it has struck something out there that's solid.

COOPER: So Les, the fact that we haven't heard anything from this ELT, does that tell you anything?

TILMON: It does --

COOPER: Sorry. The question was for Les. Go ahead.

ABEND: Just to correct Captain Tilmon, the ones that are in the life rafts are strictly salt water activated ones that will only --

COOPER: They actually are in life rafts.

ABEND: They are in the life rafts. Now, there are some that are portable sometimes in the overhead bins that you can remove and in another situation. But we're told in training that if you have to do a crash landing on the ground, it's a survivable situation and you have an ELT available to you, which when the slide deployed you'd have that because they're slide rafts, you'd grab that ELT and you would urinate on it.

COOPER: In order to put some salt on it to get the signal to go off.

ABEND: Exactly. And that signal goes both to the VHF emergency frequency and UHF emergency frequency, and to a satellite, which gives (inaudible).

COOPER: Can an ELT, Les, be disabled or can it not function if the plane hits with a certain velocity?

ABEND: It's possible with those because they are designed to activate for a ditching situation in water.

COOPER: So the fact that it wouldn't go off wouldn't necessarily mean there's no way it hit water.

ABEND: Correct, yes.

COOPER: Ron, you've flown a lot of routes in that part of the world. I want to put this question to you that Christine tweeted me. Could the military or air force of another country have intercepted the plane and diverted it? I mean, theoretically possible, but not all that probable.

BROWN: No. You got to put common sense back into this. We're talking about 2:00, 3:00, 4:00 in the morning. In that part of the world they're sleeping. And no, I don't think so. I think that this airplane was hand flown in another direction or flown on the auto pilot in another direction for another purpose.

COOPER: Ron, excuse me, Jim, there's another theory that someone tweeted me. Travis says if you truly wanted to disappear you would land as soft as possible at the deepest part of the ocean and let the plane sink to the bottom. That's easier said than done. Landing soft on the ocean is very, very difficult. And again you would have the ELT thing right, Ron? Right, Jim?

TILMON: Yes. We're not talking about Hudson River here. We're talking about an ocean that has all kinds of waves and all kinds of other challenges, as you say to do a soft landing. I think that would not be my first choice if I was the captain on that airplane. I can't imagine why he would want to even try it.

COOPER: Les, what makes this for investigators so difficult and certainly reporting on this is every possible scenario you can raise questions and poke holes in -- every scenario leads to certain things that should have happened that did not happen. So there's no clean scenario where it could be said this likely happened.

ABEND: I mean, we have a homicide investigation without a victim. You know, this is a difficult problem, difficult problem.

COOPER: Les, it's good to have you on. Ron Brown, Jim Tilmon as well.

Just ahead, I'm going to talk to the sister and brother of Paul Weeks, one of the missing passengers on Flight 370, a husband, father of two, as we told you, he left behind his wedding ring and a watch on this work trip just in case something should happen to him. His siblings desperately are wanting information and more communication with Malaysian authorities. We'll talk to them ahead.


COOER: Welcome back. The 239 lives intersect on Flight 370, a random group of mostly strangers. Their families now locked in a nightmare together waiting. Paul Weeks is among the missing, 39 years old, mechanical engineer lives in Perth, Australia with his wife and two children. He was on his way to a mining job, Mongolia.

He left behind his watch and wedding ring in case that happened. They survived an earthquake in New Zealand, moved to Australia after. He wanted his sons to have the wedding ring and the watch in case something happened to him. His family still hopes for his safe return. Sarah and Peter Weeks, Paul's brother and sister, join me tonight.

Sarah, let me start with you. I'm so sorry for what you and your family are going through. I cannot imagine what these days have been like. How are you holding up especially with the constantly changing information?

SARA WEEKS, BROTHER ON FLIGHT 370: It is very difficult. Information just changes all the time. There's so many different stories and so much speculation. And I guess we just spend a lot of time together as a family. That's what helps us get through.

COOPER: How has communication been from Malaysian officials? I know a lot of families have been very frustrated by the way they're communicating.

SARA WEEKS: Malaysian officials as such we don't hear from. We hear from Malaysian Airlines. They send us e-mails on a fairly regular basis. But it contains all the same information that we have usually seen on the news and the press conference the night before. So there's nothing new in any of it.

COOPER: And Sara, I understand before Paul left on the trip he gave his wife his wedding ring and watch in case something happens to him to give to his kids. Has she spoken at all to you about that?

SARA WEEKS: That's correct. They had a bit of a car accident earlier on, actually just a year before and they sort of discussed what they wanted to do. And for some reason before he left to go to Mongolia he decided to leave them both behind. And he said to Daniko that's the oldest child should get his wedding ring and the youngest should get his watch if something happened to him --

COOPER: And he's an engineer.

SARA WEEKS: -- to Mary.

COOPER: He's an engineer. He was going to go work in a mine in Mongolia. Peter, tell us about Paul. What kind of a man is he? What kind of a brother, a father is he?

PETER WEEKS, BROTHER ON FLIGHT 370: Paul is an incredible man. He was without a doubt my -- I'm still hoping my best friend. He's a very strong personality. He's definitely a leader. He's a leader in the family. He has so many friends, more than you could count. People love Paul. And in general he's just a wonderful man. We're all hoping that he comes back.

COOPER: Sara, I spoke to Sarah Vajic last night whose partner Phillip is on the flight. And she spoke about miracles and holding onto hope, that she's keeping hope alive. Your brother just spoke about it. You say you and your family are holding out hope as well.

SARA WEEKS: Yes, we are. Yes, of course we are. We hope and pray that he'll come home. We hope that everyone that was on the plane and should a miracle be required then that's what here we're hoping for.

COOPER: Peter, for you, how do you get through these days? Do you follow sort of every twist and turn in the media? Do you only hear from Malaysian Airlines? How do you deal with this?

PETER WEEKS: Well, I follow everything in the media. I haven't dealt with any officials directly. But that's because we have elected to have Sara deal directly with Malaysian Airlines. As far as I understand from her, there's been no official communication from any governmental figures in Malaysia. The information that we get is no better than what's in the media.

And I think that's the same speculation that you see all over the internet, all over the television, the various theories. You spend 24 hours a day thinking about it really, every waking moment. And even in the few moments of sleep that you get, first thing you do, first thing I do is go straight on the internet in the morning and see if there's any update. And every day for 12 days now or 13 it might be there's no solid information about anything.

COOPER: Well, Sara and Peter, again I'm so sorry for what you're going through. And I wish you strength in the days ahead. I wish you the best.

SARA WEEKS: Thank you.

PETER WEEKS: Thank you very much.

COOPER: On 360 we really want to try to remember those who are missing and honor them. You can find out more about Sara and Peter's brother, Paul, and the other flight 370 passengers on our web site,

Up next a surprise announcement in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial plus a possible new lead in the search for Madeline McCann ahead.


COOPER: I'm joined by Susan Hendricks who has a 360 Bulletin -- Susan.

SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, tensions on the rise in Crimea after hundreds of pro-Russian activists stormed Ukraine's naval base in Sevastopol today. Some Ukrainian naval personnel were detained as well including the navy chief. Ukrainian authorities demanded their prompt release.

In South Africa, the prosecution in Oscar Pistorius' murder trial says it expects to rest early next week. Today, it was granted an adjournment until Monday. The Olympian known as the "Blade Runner" is charged in the shooting death of his girlfriend. Pistorius has pleaded not guilty.

Could the disappearance of British toddler, Madeline McCann finally be linked to sexual assault of other girls? It may be. McCann vanished nearly seven years ago in Portugal while on vacation with her family. Police are now searching for a man accused of attacking other children in Portugal.

COOPER: All right, Susan, thanks very much. That does it for us. We'll see you again at 11 p.m. Eastern tonight for another edition of 360. I hope you join us. Make sure you set your DVR so you never miss 360. "PIERS MORGAN LIVE" starts now.