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The Fate of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370; China Claims Pinger Signal Heard Under Water; Search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

Aired April 5, 2014 - 09:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Michael Smerconish. Breaking news this morning.

We have just learned from a Chinese news agency that a Chinese patrol ship searching for missing flight 370 heard a pulse signal in the south Indian Ocean. If it is in fact coming from the pinger on the missing plane's black box, it is just in the nick of time. Because we could be just days or evens hours before the batteries die.

And overnight, it was announced that a search of the hard drive belonging to the pilot revealed he had several alternate routes programmed into the simulator. It also appears that he researched what to do during flight emergencies. Keep in mind, these are also things that an experienced and professional pilot would do.

Later in the show, I'll talk with crisis management expert Lanny Davis whose firm has just begin discussions with the Malaysian government about possibly advising them on crisis management.

We have an expert panel (INAUDIBLE). CNN aviation analyst Peter Goles is a former managing director at the NTSB. Greg Stone is an oceanographer and chief scientist at Conservation International, a leading authority on the world's oceans. Lt. Col. Michael Kay is going to join us. He is a retired British military officer and of course, Richard Quest is a CNN aviation correspondent and host of "Quest Means Business." We also have Arnold Carr joining us. He is a worldwide sonar expert.

Gentlemen, you're the experts. I'm just paying close attention and hoping to apply a little bit of common sense. So let me begin by telling you what I see. I see a circumstance where and I should start by saying I sure hope it is true. I hope for these families that they are about to get some closure. However, this would mean that without finding debris, we have found a pinger and presumably a black box. That seems counterintuitive to me. It strikes me this is presumably the final day, day 30, in the life span of the battery.

Dare I say, it's the Chinese. Haven't we had conversations thus far in the process about their purported lack of sharing satellite imagery. When they did share the satellite imagery, it seemed that the image they shared was doctored, was blurry. Also, it would be just two hours prior to this news breaking, that the Malaysians would have had a press conference which I watched in my hotel room. They did not say anything about this.

At the minimum, it points to the dysfunction in terms of the sharing of information. And I have been told repeatedly by all the experts that the depth of the ocean poses challenges. And in order to find the pinger, you have to be right on top of it. I guess the response to my own skepticism is to say, maybe the Chinese had this information all along and weren't sharing it. Where am I wrong, Richard?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: You're not, frankly. You're not. If you talk to anybody this morning, they are all raising the same questions. Firstly, the timing looks interesting and I'm being charitable. Secondly, the nature of the release of the information is counter to everything that anybody ever involved in an investigation is involved with. Even if you wanted to avoid the Malaysians, you should have told the JACC in Perth first.

So the variety of circumstances, toppled with the fact of the satellite pictures three weeks ago raises the question and the skepticism. But here I will tell you, what I will say this, from our lips to god's ears, this should be true.

SMERCONISH: Absolutely.

QUEST: I mean that's the (INAUDIBLE) point about this. We hope it is true but the manner in which it is being done raises very fundamental questions.

SMERCONISH: And we don't want to give false hope. We don't to give false hopes to those families that have been tortured for a whole month.

QUEST: This is way up there in the league of giving false hope.

SMERCONISH: Arnold Carr, you're the sonar expert. We're so fortunate to have you today, what do you make of these developments?

ARNOLD CARR, SONAR EXPERT: I really hope it is but I fear it is not the case. It's backwards as far as finding the pinger. Even though it is a desperate time and we hope it is. But as you mentioned, you have to be right on top of it to find it. I fear that it is an interfering signal they might have picked up possibly from the ship or from some other source. That's maybe less likely.

I also think a key here is to verify it and you verify it by repeatingly going over the air and really isolating it down to a specific point. That may help. The frequency is right. 37.5. The circumstances are really questionable.

SMERCONISH: What else transmits at that frequency? What else might it be?

CARR: It doesn't really have to be at that frequency. The locator or whatever detection device they have can pick up other nearby frequencies. Sometimes 100 kilohertz which would be side-scan sonar or other sonar can interfere and if they are not used to reading and analyzing the signal, one could take it the wrong way. SMERCONISH: But Mr. Carr, unless the Chinese had information that led them in this direction, this would truly have to represent finding the needle in the haystack.

CARR: Indeed it is. You're looking for, you have to be on top of it because of the limited range of the pinger. And needle in the haystack maybe gratuitous in a way, much more difficult than that.

SMERCONISH: Peter Goles, you have been paying close attention now for a month. What do you make of the very latest developments?

PETER GOLES: I'm very skeptical along with everyone else. I mean the Chinese have not been good team players in this. Many have thought that they have been manipulating the situation. As Mr. Stone will tell you and as our other sonar experts will tell you, this is not easy business. You know, when I was at the NTSB, we had a number of open ocean searches. It's hard. Without good data, which we don't have in terms of radar, it is extraordinarily hard. And I'm skeptical.

SMERCONISH: Michael Kay, I know that the CEO of Malaysian Air said that these batteries had indeed been serviced because questions as to their life span but it would be at the end of the life span even if those batteries had been refreshed which refuels my cynicism.

LT. COL. MICHAEL KAY, RETIRED BRITISH MILITARY: Yes, this information is preemptive. It should be treated with extreme caution. It also places the air chief marshal host and the JCC in a difficult position. If I was their chief marshall, the next bit of information I would want to releasing is corroborated unequivocal evidence that links what we found to MH-370. I would not be prepared to go any further until we have that for the families' sake.

So what I would be looking to do now, all eyes are going to be on the JACC but really, even if we can corroborate the pulse, the 37.5 kilohertz frequency, if I was commanding the whole operation, I would want the submersibles down there and I would want the robots to physical check out the serial number on that black box to make sure that it was unequivocally linked to 370 before I came out and told the world that we had found something.

SMERCONISH: Greg Stone, you are the oceanographer in this mix. What should the response be at this moment?

GREG STONE, OCEANOGRAPHER: Well, I think that we need to treat this with some skepticism. Especially when I just learned that it was only one pulse. I mean, why just one pulse? There is a lot of high frequency sound in the ocean. After, I've listened to high frequency sound in my career. There is a lot of sources in that frequency range coming either as you pointed out earlier, it could be from the ship itself. It could be from certain marine animals that can make sounds in that range.

There is also, you know, there is no rules out in the open ocean. You can put gear and a lot of us do, oceanographers put gear on the sea floor with pingers to help us find it. We actually have systems where we can send a signal down to release the gear and float to the surface. So a private citizen or company can do the same thing.

So there's a lot of possibilities for sonar sources in my view out there and the fact that it was this one just detection, you know, I hope it is the pinger. We all do. But that is my view.

SMERCONISH: Cautiously optimistic, at a minimum, I think is the way we would sum up the sentiment of the entire group. Peter Goles, Greg Stone, Arnold Carr, Lt. Col. Michael Kay, and Richard Quest, thank you.

And please stand by. We'll come back to our panel of experts all hour long.

What's next for the families? Dealing with their grief and questions and has the emotional roller coaster added to potential litigation.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

SMERCONISH: Let's get back into this morning's breaking news.

China state news agency is reporting that a Chinese patrol ship has detected a pulse signal in the flight 370 search zone out of the southern Indian Ocean. Lt. Col. Michael (INAUDIBLE) is a retired British military officer, Richard Quest is CNN aviation correspondent and the host of "Quest Means Business."

So gentlemen, I woke up this morning, tuned in to CNN, I watched the press conference that the Malaysians were having. There were some developments but of course, no mention of any pinger sounds having been detected. I'm wrestling with the idea that perhaps there was a major discovery by the Chinese and yet it wasn't shared with the Malaysians just two hours prior. What am I missing, Richard?

QUEST: You are not missing anything. That is exactly the point. Obviously everybody wants and hopes that this is true. But the nature and the difficulty of the task upon which they embarked to find the black box with the pinger at the last moment is so enormous. And then you got to say there are command and control structures in these investigations. You can't have people going rogue and announcing everything for this very reason, Michael.

This is exactly why you can't. Because if it is not true, then the families have had tremendous false hope raised.

SMERCONISH: And to his point, it speaks at a minimum to the dysfunction with which this investigation has been carried out.

KAY: Yes, if I was the air chief, I would be very cross and very frustrated at this point. Richard's point is absolute spot on in terms of the command and control. It has to go through a single point of dissemination. And as the JCC, if we're getting multiple uncorroborated reports coming from around the world, what may or may not have been picked up, you are absolutely spot on. It does not help the credibility. We know the credibility of this investigation from the outset has raised serious questions. People start to get a little bit more comfortable. The press conference that was held by the air chief marshal a couple of days, people were gain more confidence in the investigation. It was now starting to be drawn in. He had control of it. This is just basically knocked it back again. Which I think is disappointing.

SMERCONISH: And I think to what we're saying, again to state the obvious, we sure hope there is something to this. But what a setback it will be for the already lack of confidence that exists in this.

Let me bring in some other guests if I may. CNN aviation correspondent Richard Quest, a retired British military officer Lt. Gov. Michael Kay are sticking around. We will come back in just a couple of moments time.

The 239 people aboard flight 370 were sons, daughters, fathers and mothers. Nothing can fill the loss that their families now feel. But you can be sure litigation will soon follow. A Chicago law firm has already sent attorneys to hotels in Beijing, in Kuala Lumpur where the family members await any news about their loved ones.

Joining me now to talk about the legal side of the story, Daniel Rose, an attorney specializing in aviation cases and a former Navy pilot, also Danny Cevallos, CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney.

Daniel, let me begin with you. Will the United States be a forum for the litigation?

DANIEL ROSE, FORMER NAVY PILOT: That's a very complicated question, actually. Certainly as against Malaysia Airlines, any claims would be limited to a very discreet group of people. U.S. residents, people that purchased their tickets here or people intending to have the U.S. as a final destination.

However, there may possibly be claims against Boeing which doesn't have the same constraints as Malaysian Air. And obviously, if we find some information with this latest news about the pinger which eventually leads to the black box, we will have some of the best information to know exactly what happened and that will really tell us which way any possible litigation can go whether it can go against Malaysia or Boeing.

SMERCONISH: Danny Cevallos, is it critical to the culmination of the litigation that the plane be found?

DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: In a way, it sounds a little nefarious, but probably for the airline and Boeing, from a liability perspective, arguably it is better for them if this plane is never found, especially for Boeing. When it comes to liability, the Montreal Convention will effect recovery against the airline. But a products liability claim for a defect against Boeing will be virtually unlimited and if plaintiffs can get into the United States as a jurisdiction, then that is the best place for them to litigate. However, it will be exceedingly difficult for a plaintiff to meet their burden that a design or a manufacturing defect caused the crash if they don't have any evidence of an actual defect and it is only conjecture.

SMERCONISH: Attorneys Danny Cevallos and Daniel Rose, thank you for your contributor. More when we come back on the breaking news of Malaysian flight 370.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

SMERCONISH: We're following breaking news this morning in the search for missing Malaysia Airline flight 370. A Chinese news agency is saying that a Chinese patrol ship detected a pulse signal in the southern Indian Ocean. That is a brand new map that show the area where the pulse was detected.

We are told the pulse has the same frequency usually associated with flight data recorders. There is no confirmation yet that this is indeed coming from flight 370's black box. But if it is, they are just in time to locate it before the batteries die.

Let's bring back in our panel of experts, Greg Stone is an oceanographer and chief scientist at the Conservation International, that's a leading authority on the world's oceans. Richard Quest is a CNN aviation correspondent and host of "Quest Means Business" and Arnold Carr joins us. He is a worldwide sonar expert. Greg, let me start with you. How can they be sure that the sound is from a pinger?

STONE: Well, that, I mean, we clearly need more information. I would like to see what kind of hydrophone which is the kind of instrument you hear these things on. They're an underwater microphone essentially. See what kind of hydrophone they were using, usually there's some kind of a readout that you can look at and our sonar expert here is probably better equipped to actually look at that.

But you have to keep in mind there is a lot of sources, potential sources, in the world's oceans for that frequency range. Especially if it was only heard once. I've spent a lot of time looking for sounds in the ocean. I can't tell you how many times I thought I heard something. Or actually you don't hear it. This is above our hearing range. OK. We can only hear to 20 kilohertz if you are lucky.

So this is above what we can hear. So actually you are looking at a readout of the data. It usually shows up as a little blip in that frequency range. So I spent a lot of time looking for sounds and (INAUDIBLE) you think you see it. But it is not until it is repeated and you understand the whole system that you can be sure.

SMERCONISH: What sort of things in the ocean would cause a false positive? You know, scenario that you have described. What have you learned in the past it wasn't what I thought it was. It was actually this.

STONE: Well, again, I'm speaking kind of blind because we don't have any details here. But there's a lot of high frequency sound in waves. There are certain fish that can make sounds in that range. Moving mammals can make sounds in that range. Marine mammals can make sound in that range. And then we mentioned earlier that there is potential for lost or currently used oceanographic gear that's down there, pinging away because we use pings to locate our oceanographic gear all the time.

So those are some of the things that come to my mind. But again, those could be canceled out if we had more information.

SMERCONISH: Let me ask Arnold Carr, because you are a sonar expert. What might be triggering this if not the black box?

CARR: It could very well be something ship board. A depth sounder. Especially longer range, you need a lower frequency that could be down to about 50 kilohertz, which would be within the range of what that hydrophone or the device they are using receives. It could just interfere with that signal. The other thing as was just previously said, fishermen do use pingers, at least in the Atlantic, I'm not sure so much in the Indian Ocean, to try to ward off other mammals from nets, (INAUDIBLE).

So there are other sources, (INAUDIBLE) to a vessel. If another vessel is close by to this vessel, it could be emitting noises, too, that would certainly interfere. There is a whole host of problems. What you really need is to focus in on it and verify the frequency and verify the specific area its at.

SMERCONISH: Richard, I keep coming back to the fact that this is presumably the final day of battery life. There has been no debris. Nothing washed ashore. All of a sudden, comes the report from the Chinese.

QUEST: It is mind boggling, frankly. But there is not much anybody can do about this because the huge sympathy that goes to the Chinese because the largest number of victims on board the aircraft are Chinese nationals. In any case, the Malaysians are not about to tell the Chinese off for the way they decided to announce this.

The Australians who are in charge of the rescue operation as they are, (INAUDIBLE) Houston may be (INAUDIBLE) feathers this morning in Perth at the way that this being leaked or announced. But again, he is not exactly going to ring up Beijing and say stop it. So you've got to see the huge, look, politics comes later. But unfortunately, it seems politics and geo political strategies maybe playing into this.

SMERCONISH: And I've been wondering all along whether there's been a fair sharing of information by all of the national security interests that are involved in the search.

QUEST: They shared as much as they could, but not as much as they should. We have had nothing from the Indonesians. We haven't seen the U.S. satellite pictures, by the way. The Japanese wouldn't hand over their satellite pictures. They just gave the data. It is only the Malaysians (INAUDIBLE) publicly and never said national security put to one side. We'll give what is necessary, everybody else, for understandable reasons, has basically said we will give you what you need, but no more.

SMERCONISH: Just enough. Thank you, Greg Stone, Arnold Carr and Richard Quest. We continue to follow the breaking news of the Chinese ship that has detected a pinger signal. Our panel of experts returns as this new information continues to stream in.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

SMERCONISH: Let's gets right back into this morning's breaking news. China's state news agency is reporting that a Chinese patrol ship has detected a pulse signal in the Flight 370 search zone out of the Southern Indian Ocean.

We're bringing you back our panel of experts, CNN aviation analyst Peter Goelz, is former managing director of NTSB, Greg Stone is an oceanographer and chief scientist at Conservation International, a leading authority on the world's ocean. Lt. Col. Michael Kay is a retired British military officer, and Richard Quest is a CNN aviation correspondent and host of "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS." Arnold Carr is also with us. He is a worldwide sonar expert.

As the day began, Peter Goelz, the Malaysians had a press conference. And they were questioned yet again as to whether they'd release the satellite data that led them to conclude that this is the proper search area and they said that they wouldn't.

They were also asked if they would release the audio recordings of the communication with the air traffic controllers. And that answer, too, was no.

From an investigatory standpoint, why wouldn't they release that information?

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, at this point there really is no good reason unless there is something on the tapes that -- particularly the tower tapes which, you know, contribute to identifying it as a criminal event. They might have heard the door opening during one of the -- the communications. They might have heard another voice in the cockpit.

If that's the case, they need to be more specific about it. But the Malaysians have mishandled this investigation from day one when they choose not to follow the standard ICAO Annex 13 protocols which govern international aviation investigations. They got behind the eight ball, they have been criticized then rightly so, and they have a complete lack of trust from the family members and from the media.

SMERCONISH: Gentlemen, maybe it's a bad analogy but I've been thinking about the Boston bombing. I'm reading a book that's just come out about how the case was put together. And in that instance, the public's health was solicited. You remember the issue of whether those composite photographs should have been released and the image is caught on the tapes.

And in similar circumstance I'm wondering wouldn't it benefit if the public could hear that audio, maybe family members would hear distress in some of the voices and read tea leaves in a way that investigators who didn't know the pilots wouldn't be able to do.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: You never release the audio. It's been released in previous -- cases where it's been recorded by organizations like Live ATC.


QUEST: You release the transcript. The NTSB doesn't release the actual audio tapes. It's -- tapes of dead people. They are never released. If you go back to Asiana, it wasn't the actual transcript. It was released -- the tape was released by Live ATC, a private organization shortly after. But the NTSB didn't release the formal transcript until six months after.

SMERCONISH: You've investigated air catastrophes. Does this make sense to you?

LT. COL. MICHAEL KAY, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Yes, absolutely it does. What we're trying to remove in any piece of this investigation is misinterpretation. And if you release the audio, it just opens up a whole plethora of misinterpretation --

SMERCONISH: But respectfully if you don't you've got family members thinking that everybody is being held at Diego Garcia.

QUEST: The duty of the investigators, criminal, it's safety in aviation and it is to get to the bottom of what happened. You don't create -- you don't serve that duty by creating a firestorm of releasing something so incendiary as the actual voices of the pilots involved.

SMERCONISH: Greg Stone, a question for you if I might, hopefully today's lead is legitimate, pan out, and we get closure. But if not, at some point, I have to believe cost becomes a factor. Who's going to foot the bill for this going on in perpetuity?

GREG STONE, CHIEF SCIENTIST, CONSERVATION INTERNATIONAL: Well, that's something that I've wondered because I'm familiar with the cost of searching the ocean and doing this deep sea work and it is very expensive. And, you know, my view is that is this pulse does not turn out to be the location -- I hope it is but if it doesn't turn up to be the location and we're back to square one, so to speak, which is the shifting search area it seems all the time, you know, could we find it?

The answer is if resources were unlimited, yes, we could. Because we have the 21st century ability to sense and map the bottom of the ocean in greater detail. It turns out we have better maps of mars than we do of the bottom of our own ocean. And we can send submersibles down there. I have been in there myself. I visited that part of the ocean. If we just put all of our assets and search the Indian Ocean for a year or two, we'd find it.

But, you know, that's going to be very expensive. Malaysia doesn't have that kind of money. Australia, the United States, the international community. I mean, I think these are some of the questions that arise in my mind is how you're going to fund a longer term effort if we don't have any clues that lead us through a trail to that site.

SMERCONISH: Arnold Carr, you are our sonar expert. What concerns do you have as to the feasibility of the costs being paid going forward?

ARNOLD CARR, SONAR EXPERT: Well, by ICAO, that's the International Civilian Aviation Organization, which is a global thing, Malaysia is responsible because this aircraft is presumed to have gone down in international waters. I share Greg's point of view. This is going to be -- it has been costly. It will be so much more costly if even this turns out to be correct. That it is a pinger signal from the aircraft.

But to get into the next phase which would be to really delineate the area or the debris area or on the bottom and then focus in on the black boxes, the recorders, it's going to be extremely expensive and it could be long term.

SMERCONISH: Peter Goelz, Greg Stone, Arnold Carr, Lt. Col. Michael Kay, and Richard Quest, please stand by.

If you're Malaysia Airlines, how do you restore trust in your company again? You may have to call my next guest.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

SMERCONISH: What would you do if you ran Malaysia Airlines? Would you hire a crisis manage team to rehabilitate what many are saying now is a tarnished image? Just this morning the Malaysian Transportation minister again protested that any allegations that the government had something to do with the flight's disappearance were untrue.

Lanny Davis is a crisis management expert whose firm is in negotiations or discussions with the Malaysian government for possible representation advising them how to handle this crisis. He's also the former special counsel to President Clinton and author of "Crisis Tales: Five Rules for Coping with Crises in Business, Politics and Life."

Lanny, you've had a very impressive list of clients of individuals who've gotten jammed up and needed help with communication strategy. I mentioned President Clinton, Penn State University, Martha Stewart, Daniel Snyder, the owner of the Red Skins. And your mantra has always been tell it early, tell it all, and tell it yourself. How does that apply to this case? LANNY DAVIS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL COUNSEL: Well, it applies to every case except where you're putting somebody in jail and then you need criminal lawyer advice. So in this situation, without disclosing anything that I've said to a possible client relationship with the Malaysian government, there's two general rules that really are almost universal. And it's part of that mantra that I wrote as a subtitle to my White House book.

One, transparency and communication is elemental in the starting point. In this case, the tick tock of exactly what happened, what was learned, how they found out and laying out the time table is essential.

And number two, the families. Going to human reaction, human grief, human need for communication, for personal communication delivery and empathy. That would be my number two rule. And again these are general rules, I'm not revealing specific advice that I've given.

SMERCONISH: I respect that. I know your firm Levick is conversations but not formally retained at the moment. And I respect that.

DAVIS: Correct.

SMERCONISH: Are there circumstances where, you know, the horse has already left the barn? I mean, we're a month into this now. Would it even be possible to restore credibility?

DAVIS: Yes, part of that is acknowledging that maybe things weren't done so well in explaining how difficult it is. There is a sort of can't win situation when families are grieving and they want answers and you don't have answers. You can't win that. You simply have to reach out to them and stay with them one-on-one.

The Chinese government has behaved fairly oddly. It's been extremely critical of the Malaysian government, yet it's not very transparent itself. Of all countries in the world who shouldn't be preaching about transparency it's the Chinese government. Now is the time to forget all of those rivalries and have a collection of government regarding the cost of looking for this plane.

It seems to me that every government with any individual on that plane should be financing this search and the international community as well.

SMERCONISH: I'm so glad that you brought up the Chinese because look, where we are today. The day began with an early morning, our time, press conference by the Malaysians, essentially saying that there were no significant new developments and then two hours later, comes the report that the Chinese may have heard the ping sound.

How do you control that intangible if you are, Lanny Davis, in a case like this and do you involve the government? Do you try and get the United States government to rattle the cages of these nations to play fair and swap information? DAVIS: Yes, you must reach out government to government. Part of what I do is not just media, but it's politics and government. You have the Malaysian government, the Chinese government, the U.S. government, the international community, could get together and try to plan together.

I think there is some sympathy for the Chinese government who are hearing from their constituents in this terrible family grief that they are hearing. But there should be diplomacy at work here to cooperate. There should have been an immediate transmission to the Malaysian government by the Chinese in real time as soon as they heard that ping, if they heard that ping. In other words this isn't a time for national rivalries and a crisis manager needs to have a multiple of disciplines -- diplomacy, political, media, legal.

All of those things need to be brought to bear to tell the full story not only to their own people and to the families, but to the -- the global community that is quite involved and interested and empathetic with what the families are going through.

SMERCONISH: Tell it early, tell it all, tell it yourself.

Lanny Davis, thank you so much.

DAVIS: Thank you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: We may have to wait to learn the truth about Flight 370, but could we just have received a big clue? When we come back, more on the signal picked up by a Chinese patrol ship in the Indian Ocean.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

SMERCONISH: We return now to our coverage of the missing Malaysia plane. There are renewed reports this morning that a Chinese ship searching for missing Malaysia Flight MH-370 in the Southern Indian Ocean has picked up a pulse signal. It has a frequency of 37.5 kilohertz. The same as those emitted by black boxes. It's not confirmed whether this is from Flight 370. But take a listen to what a reporter on that Chinese vessel just said.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This afternoon, the rescuers have heard the ping signal every second. And the signals lasted for one minute and a half. One and a half minutes. However, the rescuers say that this comes a signal of this frequent is not exclusive for the plane black box. So there is a possibility that this kind of signal is from other equipment. So at this moment, they are still cannot confirm the signals are from the missing plane.


SMERCONISH: Let's bring in CNN aviation analyst, Mary Schiavo.

Mary, does this new pulse bring hope for the families, false hope? What's your interpretation?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Michael, I think it brings hope. Granted other things can make this kind of signal but there are two hallmarks here. One is the megahertz, the 37.5 selected because it's -- you know, it's not the same as an engine harmonic or things like that. And then the repetition of the signal. Every second or almost every second.

The only thing that is disconcerting is they only had it for a minute or a minute and a half. If they were on top of the black box, it should have just kept going. But I think it's very encouraging. And I think the hallmarks are that are -- that it is of some kind of a locator beacon. And since there's nothing else in the area, I'm not so convinced it is oceanographic work or fishing lanes or shipping lanes, rather.

So I think very encouraging and something that they should be racing there to find out and they are.

SMERCONISH: Let me be the skeptic. No debris having been found. Final day. This is day 30 of the battery life. I have to say this and you have a book on your shelf right behind you. It's the Chinese. And you know, maybe they haven't been forthcoming with all the information. And the development today came just two hours after a Malaysian press conference where the Malaysians didn't know anything. It makes me skeptical.

SCHIAVO: Well, me, too, but then again, as just as you said it, it's the Chinese. Now they agreed and everyone agreed to participate in the joint task force with the Australians and want to hope that they've been forthcoming with Angus Houston. However, by participating in the task force they didn't agree to show them all of the -- you know, all of the tools and weapons that were in their cupboards.

And so it's clear that if they picked up this ping and they picked up this ping on the ship without a towed ping or locator, they're not dragging one behind, they obviously have additional equipment that they haven't disclosed and good equipment. So at this point the world will be irritated or at least the joint task force and Malaysia might be irritated that they leaked the news but we also heard that they did tell the task force that they had it.

But they can't very well chastise them because instead they're going to need them to stay on top of that signal. So I'm cautiously optimistic as everyone has been saying this morning. But there's not a lot, you know, it's not a whale, for example, it's not ocean life. And there's nothing else there. So by process of elimination, there's a good chance it's a pinger.

SMERCONISH: Mary Schiavo, thank you. Maybe an interpretation is that the Chinese knew a lot more than they've been at least publicly sharing. We'll find out.

The potential legal battle between the families of the 239 souls aboard Malaysia Flight 370, the Malaysian government and Boeing could be one for the ages. And my next guest has a very special perspective on that matter.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

SMERCONISH: All hour we've been telling you that a Chinese ship helping in the search for Flight 370 says it's detected a pulse signal in the Indian Ocean. But there's still no confirmation that the sound is linked to the missing airliner.

Joining me now Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, author of "Taking the Stand: My Life and the Law."

Thanks so much for being here. So you've written this memoir, 50 years at Harvard. Now you're retiring and of all things there's a story in this book about you being aboard a plane that was expected to crash.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, PROFESSOR, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: Yes, I was 41 years old. I had just taken my oldest son to college in Colorado. We get 10,000, 11,000 feet in the air and the pilot comes on and says we have a serious, serious problem. Who knows how to do disaster control? Told us we'd have to have a very dangerous landing. Asked for volunteers. I changed my seat and sat next to a pregnant woman to help her out.

I wrote notes to all of my children. Put it in my own whole little black box, my shaving kit, hoping it would survive. Everybody around was praying. I was writing and trying to figure out exit strategies. You know, it all ended up fine. A few people were hurt but nobody seriously injured.

But those moments when you're thinking, he gave us about an hour because he said he had to dump all the fuel before he tried the emergency landing.


DERSHOWITZ: It was really terrifying.

SMERCONISH: So you have a special perspective as you watch these events unfold and thinking of those families without any resolution.

DERSHOWITZ: Yes. I mean, my heart goes out to them. I don't know whether I'm rooting for the pingers to find the plane or not. I mean, there's always the hope the family may have that maybe there was a hijacking. Probably not. But closure is very important. In my case I was lucky. Closure ended very well.

I tell you, it made me rethink my life dramatically and I write about how it was the midpoint in my life and really made me appreciate every single day after that. When the pilot landed the plane he came out totally sweating and said, now you can begin the rest of your life, folks.

SMERCONISH: Are there Atheists in foxholes? (LAUGHTER)

DERSHOWITZ: Well, I didn't pray. I discovered that for me the answer was not up there. I had to figure out what to do on the airplane. I didn't want to be an agnostic. I just discovered that I was an agnostic on that airplane because it just didn't naturally come to me to pray.

SMERCONISH: Professor, we have a minute left between us. Speak to me about the litigation that's soon to unfold relative to this flight.

DERSHOWITZ: Well, you know, as I write in my book, "Taking the Stand," sometimes there are cases without legal ramifications. You need a court that's (INAUDIBLE), that is you need the body of evidence to prove what happened. If they don't find the plane, it's going to be speculation. And speculation doesn't give rise to lawsuits. I mean, you can be critical of the Malaysian government but I'm not sure what they did was in any way legally relevant.

We'll have to find out. If we never know what happened to this plane, there will be lawsuits. But they very well may not be successful.

SMERCONISH: Fifty years in Harvard. One employer. One employer.

DERSHOWITZ: What a boring life.

SMERCONISH: Yes. I know you too well. I know there are plenty of other things to come. But I would love to hear that last lecture that you will deliver at the Harvard Law School.

Professor Alan Dershowitz, "Taking the Stand: My Life and the Law," thanks so much for being here.

DERSHOWITZ: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: So before we go, here's a recap of what we know this morning about the missing Malaysian airliner. Searchers have a possible new lead, China's state news agency is reporting a Chinese patrol ship aiding in the search has heard a pulse signal in the Southern Indian Ocean. The sound is usually emitted by flight data recorders. But authorities say they can't say for sure if this signal is coming from the vanished aircraft.

Meanwhile 13 planes and at least 11 ships are scouring the ocean in a race against time. And Malaysian authorities are vowing to continue the search to find the missing plane.

Thanks so much for joining me. I'll see you back here next week. Breaking news coverage of missing Malaysia Flight 370 continues right now.