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CNN SPECIAL REPORTS
Flight 370 Search Turns to Underwater Vehicle; Flight 370 Families Targeted by Scammers
Aired April 14, 2014 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: This is a CNN special report, "The Mystery of Flight 370." I'm Don Lemon. Good evening, everyone.
Breaking news tonight. The Bluefin-21, the Navy's underwater search vehicle, scoured part of the Indian Ocean for the first time today for about six hours. It was supposed to be underwater for 16 hours. But officials say the vehicle went deeper than its operating depth limit. So a built-in safety feature aborted the mission and returned it to the surface.
The data is gathered. It is now being extracted and analyzed before Bluefin is sent back into the water later on Tuesday, weather permitting, of course.
We also have intriguing questions tonight about the co-pilot's cell phone. A U.S. official tells CNN the phone was turned on and was searching for service around the time the plane vanished from radar. As the search goes on, there are still many more questions than answers.
You have been tweeting us your questions by the thousands, and we have top aviation and security experts standing by to answer them, like this one from Raymond: "With all this technology we have, why did they wait to deploy a Bluefin sub? Why now, 38 days later?"
Now I want to go right to CNN's reporters in the search zone.
Michael Holmes is in Perth. Joe Johns is in Kuala Lumpur.
I'm going to start with Michael Holmes in Perth.
On this first day of being deployed underwater, Bluefin-21 had to return to the surface many hours earlier than planned. What can you tell us about that, Michael?
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
Well, I suppose, Don, it speaks to what we don't know about the ocean floor there. As we have said before, we know more about the surface of the moon than the ocean floor in that part of the ocean. Now, the Bluefin-21 went down there. The best guess that they had was that the ocean floor might be 4,200 to 4,500 -- 4,400 meters down. Well, the Bluefin got to 4,500 meters down and that triggered an internal mechanism, a safety mechanism, if you will, in the Bluefin, which said, I'm too deep. I'm below my operating maximum. I got to go back to the surface.
It went back up to the surface, as you said, after only six hours of going along the bottom and starting to map that surface with its side- scan sonar, back to the top. They have been downloading the data. And they will be analyzing the data and as you pointed out, they going to be sending it back down soon.
It is, as we have reported all along, a very laborious process, about 15.5 square miles on each of these trips, but this one, as you said, cut short. One other interesting observation, Don, the ships that have been searching for debris on the surface, about 200 or 300, 400 miles to the west of where the Bluefin is operating, they all suddenly turned and headed south over the last 24 hours or so.
They had been operating in that one area, looking for the debris on the surface. They have now turned and headed south. We're trying to find out why. They are heading down roughly to the area where they were looking a week or two back, so an interesting development there, all of them heading south at about 14, 15 knots at the moment -- Don.
LEMON: Michael, speaking of possible debris, what about the latest on this slick that was spotted in the ocean? Is this something the crews will be focusing on as the search enters the next phase?
HOLMES: Yes, well, they have got to act on anything they find, Don. And they did see this slick.
They took a two-liter sample of it and they have sent it back to Perth to be analyzed. That's going to take a day or two or three, we're told. What they are going to try to work out is exactly what is the composition of that oil. Could it be matched to the engine oil, the type of engine oil that would have been in the engines of Malaysia Flight 370? Could be hydraulic fluid?
It's the sort of stuff that if there was wreckage on the bottom could leak out on its own accord, even all this time after the supposed crash. So, yes, they are looking into that, hopefully results in a day or two.
LEMON: All right, thank you, Michael Holmes.
To Joe Johns now.
About these reports, Joe, that the co-pilot's cell phone was on and picked up by a cell tower, what are the Malaysians saying about that?
JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the acting transport minister and defense minister was asked about that, and he gave what was effectively a nonanswer.
He said, on the one hand, as far as he knows, there was no cell call, which I think we knew, but he also said all of this is in the province of the police and other agencies and,in due time, that information will come out, though he doesn't want to speculate. So, taken altogether, it sounds like anything's possible.
Now, this has always sounded ever since it surfaced over the weekend in the newspapers here in Malaysia like some type of a digital handshake between the co-pilot's cell phone and a telecom tower. And I think our reporting in Washington with Pamela Brown sort of bears that out, Don.
LEMON: Joe, at this point, you know, the investigation is continuing, obviously, still nothing. How are the families there holding up at this point?
JOHNS: Well, it's really tough.
We did manage to speak to the wife of one of the crew members. And she said a variety of things. There's too much speculation. She doesn't know what to believe. There's not a shred of evidence. They keeping their fingers crossed, carrying on with their lives.
And then there's this quote that just sort of tugs at your heartstrings. She says: "My husband is a crew member, so deep down in my heard, in my mind, I believe he has just gone to work. He always used to travel for long periods for work. So, I'm not mourning. I'm not grieving. I'm taking this casually."
It certainly sounds like at least one family member and probably some others are still holding out hope that a miracle could happen, Don.
LEMON: All right, Joe Johns, thank you very much, Michael Holmes as well.
I want to check in now with CNN's Martin Savidge. At this moment, he is in a 777 flight simulator, along with flight instructor Mitchell Casado.
Martin, CNN is reporting tonight that the co-pilot's cell phone was on and made contact with a cell tower in Malaysia. You heard Joe Johns talking about it there. That was doing the time the plane disappeared from radar. What does this tell us, if anything?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, we have got to determine which time it disappeared from radar.
Remember, it was twice, once when the transponder went off and it disappeared off of we would call commercial aviation radar. Then there was the time it disappeared supposedly off of Malaysian military radar.
And it seems the second time there might be the most pertinent of what we're talking about. Mitchell is sort of simulating it now. We are over Penang. And that's the area where supposedly this cell tower was that intercepted this handshake, as it were.
We would send the plane down at a very steep angle, at a very sharp turn, and getting down to 5,000 feet or below, which is when you might expect that a cell tower connection could be made, so this all fits into what was reported earlier, a plane turning, veering off course, descending, and going over the area of Penang, the part of the northern peninsula of Malaysia.
So, it fits. The weird part is, Don, why was that phone on, because it goes against all the rules of the cockpit?
LEMON: So, I want to ask the pilot, Mitchell.
Mitchell, you know, is that unusual for a pilot to use their cell phone in the cockpit?
MITCHELL CASADO, PILOT TRAINER: Yes, it is, in flight anyway. You can obviously use it on the ground if you are still at the gate. But in flight, it's a big no-no, especially below 10,000 feet.
SAVIDGE: And just like the passengers. They observe the same thing. They are not supposed to have cell phones on at all during a flight.
SAVIDGE: Because, one, it could interfere, but most importantly, it takes their mind out of the job of flying the plane.
CASADO: That's right.
SAVIDGE: So, if you see it on, you have heard this report, what does it say to you?
CASADO: Abnormal. Abnormal situation.
SAVIDGE: Don, is it communication? We don't know.
LEMON: Yes. And we still don't know what is behind it. We will have to let this play out a little longer.
Thank you very much, Martin and Mitchell.
I want to bring in now my team of experts, first Jeff Wise, the author of "Extreme Fear: The Science of Your Mind in Danger," Mary Schiavo, a former inspector general of the Department of Transportation, now an attorney for victims of transportation accidents, David Soucie, author of "Why Planes Crash," and then Jim Tilmon, a retired American Airlines pilot, Brett Larson, CNN technology analyst, and Geoffrey Thomas, editor in chief of AirlineRatings.com.
Brett, I want to go to you about the question of the cell phone first, to Brett Larson.
We discussed this in the beginning about why 239 people on board. Those were the bulk of our Twitter questions coming in from viewers. And now only one phone on in the plane? Does that make sense?
BRETT LARSON, CNN TECHNOLOGY ANALYST: It doesn't make any sense at all, Don.
And a lot of the details that we have about this incident don't make a lot of sense. It seems highly suspect that just one cell phone would ping one of these towers, would make that handshake to say, hey, I'm trying to make a cell connection here, are you an available tower, which is the situation that we have.
And the other thing that we don't know here, Don, is, we don't know if this was an accidentally left on phone, if maybe he just forget to shut it off when they pushed back from the gate, when they took off. And there is information that we still need to get about that. And the cell companies could get that information for us.
They could say, yes, the last time we handed off his phone, it was when they were taking off from the airport, and then it never reappeared on the network until this time. That would suggest the phone was left on. But I'm not thinking that what is happened here.
To me, it seems as though the phone was in fact switched on. When you are at that, when you are at that below 10,000 to 12,000 feet range, you are going to be able to connect to a cell phone tower.
LEMON: All right.
Mary Schiavo, what conclusions do we draw from the co-pilot's cell phone being picked up? Was it accidental? Was it a last-ditch effort to seek help? And also maybe have we -- maybe we haven't got to the point in the investigation where if they have checked to see if other cell phones were trying to be reached by towers or were picking up signals. I'm not sure. What do we draw from this?
MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, the one absolute fact we can draw from it is that the Malaysian authorities are still continuing to string us along, to give us dribs and drabs of situation. And so we don't have reliable information about the cell phones and all the other questions we had about, what, no cell phone calls? And they said, yes, no cell phone calls, until now.
So, that's a fact. We know the investigation might have more information than they are letting out. But you can think of a lot of scenarios for this. You could fill up a bookshelf probably with different plots for novels, but you can also think of very benign reasons, which is, they had an event on the plane, something happened, they lost communications, and they were heading back to the airport and the pilot says to the co-pilot, get on your cell phone, because we can't go flying into Malaysia at night as an unidentified aircraft and see if we can't get some communications. I'm going to go down to 5,000 feet so we have a chance.
So, you can think of a benign one and then you can think of lots of nefarious ones too. It's a mystery without a final page.
LEMON: I want to go a pilot now, Jim Tilmon.
Jim, we sort of discussed this in the very beginning of this, about cell phones being on. Do pilots keep their cell phones on in the cockpit or ever use them in the cockpit? I would think yes.
JIM TILMON, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: The answer to that is yes, particularly sitting at the gate on the ground, when they're not involved in any other part of the flight operation.
But once the doors are shut and that sort of thing, the pilots that I know stow that found away, and it stays there until such time as they are back on the ground and chocked again. It's not a common thing, as far as I'm concerned, to have a cell phone conversation from the cockpit of an airplane in flight.
LEMON: Jeff Wise, a similar question I asked Brett Larson.
I have heard figures that say up to 30 percent of cell phones aren't turned off during flights. Do you buy that only one cell phone was on out of 239 people? And let me preface this by saying, you can leave your cell phone on now in the United States, but they ask you to put it in airplane mode.
I'm not sure what the rules are in Malaysia. But 30 percent of phones being on and then are not in airplane mode, what are the chances that just one was on?
JEFF WISE, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: It seems really unlikely. I have certainly done it. Who hasn't done it? Who hasn't got on a plane and then gotten off at the plane at the end and realized, oh, I left my phone on the whole time?
So, yes, it seems really unlikely, and the fact that it was only picked up by one cell phone tower? So, you know, the possibilities there seem rather strange. One thing it as interesting that happened today, apparently, the FAA itself here in the United States just today introduced a new policy that the flight attendants aren't allowed to use their cell phones in flight, which you would think they would have done already a long time ago. But I think it's just a coincidence that new policy came into effect today.
LEMON: David, to you now. What's your take on this? How important is this new piece of information, you think?
DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Well, I think it just speaks, as Mary said, back to the credibility of the Malaysian government and the way that they're running this operation.
But I wanted to point out I have done a lot of time in the cockpit, thousands of hours of observing and monitoring and understanding the processes and reporting to the FAA how pilots perform in the cockpit. And every single time, the pilots, in their checklist, it says turn off any electronic devices in the cockpit, any communication devices.
Some airlines word it differently, but basically it is in their checklist. So, the fact that someone -- at least when I was riding with them, they always -- even if the phones were in their bags, they would get them out. They would open them up, they would look at them, and make sure they are off. So, it's a process. It's a procedure that happens. I can't see that this was -- it's improbable to me, at least in American airways, that this would have been left on. But that doesn't mean anything. When the FAA inspector is sitting behind you, you do the job right. So, that's probably not a good sample size.
LEMON: Geoffrey, you don't necessarily believe that the plane had to be flying at a low altitude to pick up the cell phone signal. Why is that? And I would imagine it's because, if it's a clear night, sometimes, you can get a signal at a higher altitude. Right?
GEOFFREY THOMAS, EDITOR IN CHIEF, AIRLINERATINGS.COM: Look, indeed, Don.
True confession -- true confession time, I left my cell phone on flying between Perth and Melbourne on the east coast. And I got a text message at 35,000 feet. And it was a very rude awakening and quickly turned it off, but, yes, at 35,000 feet, I got a signal.
So, certainly, at a lower altitude, more chance of picking up a signal. But, certainly, at a higher altitude, personal experience, yes, you can pick up a signal.
LEMON: All right, stick with me, everybody.
When we come right back, a new chapter in the search for Flight 370, underwater search with the Bluefin-21. What will the data reveal?
LEMON: Back now with our breaking news.
The underwater search vehicle Bluefin-21 collected raw data for six hours today in the Indian Ocean, before it exceeded its maximum depth and returned to the surface early.
That data is now being extracted and analyzed. And my team of experts is back me to talk more about that.
Geoffrey Thomas in Perth, the breaking news tonight that the Bluefin- 21 had to abandon its mission early, what more can you tell us about that?
THOMAS: Look, interesting, Don.
It had been alluded to that if the bottom was lower -- if the surface of the ocean bed was lower than 45,000 meters, they were going to have to look at other means of mapping the bottom. And that means a remote submersible.
And that will have to be sourced from the United States. And we understand that that equipment has been on standby for some time. And it may well be that it is flown out in the next day or so. And this is one of those robotic vehicles that can go well below 4,500 meters, usually with robotic arms, floodlights, that sort of thing.
LEMON: OK, Geoffrey, you in Perth again. The New Zealand searchers did spot some potential debris. What are you hearing about that?
THOMAS: Yes, they have.
And in fact we understand it has been photographed and we also understand it may have been picked up. We're not sure about that. But it is being analyzed at the moment. And we are yet to hear a definitive yes or no as to whether it's related to MH370. Hopefully, we might know something within the next 24 hours on that.
Now to Jeff Wise here in New York.
You know, that Bluefin, it had to come up before it finished the job today, as you said, six hours instead of 16 hours, because it exceeded its depth. Are searchers relying you think too heavily one piece of technology in this part of the search, Jeff?
WISE: You know, when the -- they used a similar technology to find Air France 447 back in 2011.
And at that time, they had three of these devices working a search pattern together. It's not entirely clear to me, now that we're now several years later, why there are not more such submersibles available. It understand these vehicles do exist. It would seem that this would be a fairly high-priority task for them to be set upon.
You know, hopefully, if we don't get results soon, maybe they will be able to find more such devices to search the area.
LEMON: Hey, David Soucie, I want to ask you because we have moved into this next phase now. But the information that we have got about the pings, is that really the best information that we have to date, and do you think the batteries are completely depleted now?
SOUCIE: Yes, I'm certain the batteries are gone now. And, fortunately, I think we got some very reliable data with having a two- hour stretch of pings, solid pings.
Now, something interesting that they said this evening on the report back from the towed pinger locator captain, what he said was that they are picking their best location based on the variances in the pings that they received along that two-mile track. So, they weren't just solid pings, like they're equidistant from the pinger.
These were pings that were some louder and some softer. That can give you some clues, but in that water, those pings are bouncing all over the place. It's like hearing an echo in a canyon up in the mountain or a gunshot in the canyon up in the mountains. It's really hard to figure out. Some places, it's louder. Some places, it's not. It doesn't necessarily give you a clue as to where the gunshot came from.
LEMON: Yes. Mary, I want to off-script a little bit, because I just remembered I didn't have you here last night with that late-night press conference from Angus Houston, where he said -- and some of us were a little bit surprised by it -- he said, listen, we haven't seen anything in the water, the visual searches. And we're basically going to call that off within the next couple days and then get everyone together to try to figure out what happens next.
Does this appear to be early on to be stopping the visual and air searches or is this right on target?
SCHIAVO: Well, you know, I think it seems maybe a little early on.
But the debris would be so far scattered that it's six of one, half- dozen of the other whether they would have any possibility of finding anything else. But that coupled with the statements about they thought they had the wreckage and that they were going to send the one submersible down to the best possible area, and it was an area where they had gotten the pings, the pings had gotten louder as they passed over a certain area, and then they got softer again, so they were thinking that they were literally right on top of it.
And perhaps they were very optimistic. And they called off the search for the debris because they clearly signaled that they thought they had it and they had a pretty good location. Rather than mapping the whole area around it, they were going to zero in right on the best spot that they thought.
So I say maybe they were just a little overly optimistic and thought they would go down and they would be right on top of it. But who isn't? Who doesn't want to find it right away? So, you know, reality might be setting in.
LEMON: I wonder if it's going to change things now that they possibly may have spotted some debris there.
Jim Tilmon, you have been a big proponent of the visual search for debris, despite the lack of leads. Are you disappointed that authorities will be tapering the search off within the next two or three days, especially given the fact, as we said, New Zealand searchers are trying to identify some of the debris that they may have picked up?
TILMON: Yes, I am disappointed, because I think we still need that element if we can get it.
Let's face it. If we had the subsurface going on for whatever length of time it takes -- let's say it takes another month or so -- and we still had the above-surface sightings going on, if we can get some sightings that will pay out to be, sure enough, parts of that airplane, that's going to be huge, if for no other reason than the fact that it's going to bring everybody back on board mentally and emotionally and everything else to believe that, hey, we are in the right place, we have got the right ideas and now we're on the right track.
I think that's a very important element in this whole business.
LEMON: Technology expert Brett Larson, we're glad you're here because you can talk about this. Much of this information driving the search area came from satellite data.
LEMON: What do you think about the quality of the information now at hand for searchers?
LARSON: You know, I think it's good.
But I think, given where we are in terms of technology as a nation and as a world slowly, I think it could be a whole lot better. I know this was a big, popular discuss in the beginning of this incident.
I think the imagery that they have is good. I think it's obviously coming from some of the best satellites that we have overhead watching down on us. I think the mathematical calculations that we're able to glean from that information coming off of the airplane is also very good.
But I do think again it could be a lot better. And I think, as is always the case with any airline incident, it does always push us a little further along to better whatever it is we are putting in the air.
LEMON: All right, Geoffrey Thomas, thank you.
Everybody else, stay with me.
When we come right back: why oceanographers are paying close attention to the search for Flight 370, the other mysteries that could be solved by the search.
LEMON: I'm Don Lemon. Breaking news. For the first time today officials for Flight 370 deployed Bluefin-21, an underwater search vehicle. During the six-hour search it exceeded its maximum depth and had to return to the surface. The Bluefin is the lone underwater search vessel in one of the least explored parts of our planet. And scientists who study the ocean are paying careful attention.
Here's CNN's Jean Casarez.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANGUS HOUSTON, JOINT AGENCY COORDINATION CHIEF: This is an area that is new to man.
JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With no pings since last Tuesday, the search heads straight down to the ocean floor with what is known as an AUV, the autonomous underwater vehicle, Bluefin- 21. And to say this is uncharted territory is putting it mildly.
HOUSTON: On the sort of imagery I've seen, it's not sharply mountainous or anything. It's more flat and almost rolling.
CASAREZ: Side-scan sonar will produce a high-resolution, three- dimensional map. While searchers are hoping to spot evidence of Flight 370, oceanographers want to take this chance to learn as much as they can about this part of the ocean.
ARNOLD GORDON, PROFESSOR OF OCEANOGRAPHY: We know so little that we will learn something about the sea floor there, its morphology. The hills and valleys and how rough it is.
CASAREZ: Arnold Gordon is a professor of oceanography at Columbia University.
(on camera): On a personal note, do you find yourself glued to the television, reading articles, seeing what the latest is?
GORDON: I'm curious. What's it going to tell us? The attention on this area is just fascinating. So yes, I'm glued to the television and to the stories that are coming out about this.
CASAREZ (voice-over): Oceanographers are on site offering their knowledge of the deep and potentially benefitting scientifically from a multimillion-dollar operation with an unprecedented focus on an otherwise overlooked part of the ocean.
GORDON: We're talking about millions of dollars to do this work. And obviously, if one wanted to do this from a scientific perspective, we would not get the funding.
CASAREZ: One potential obstacle for those looking for the plane -- deep layers of silt at the bottom of the Indian Ocean -- could yield valuable new information for oceanographers.
GORDON: You can learn where it came from, what's the source of the sediment in that area. You learn something about the ocean bottom currents that move the sediment around.
HOUSTON: We're actually gathering information about the search environment all the time. And that's factored into the analysis.
CASAREZ: While so much about Flight 370 is shrouded in mystery, scientists hope to gain knowledge for the future.
LEMON: That was Jean Casarez reporting there. Thank you, Jean.
I'm joined now by Sylvia Earle, oceanographer and explorer in residence at the National Geographic Society.
Sylvia, good to talk to you again. We spoke earlier, and I want to ask you again, in your experience, have you ever seen this kind of focus both from officials and the general public on the deep sea and the ocean floor?
SYLVIA EARLE, OCEANOGRAPHER: Well, certain other events come to mind, such as the sinking of the Titanic and the ultimate discovery and knowledge that came from it. You know, the Titanic was a little bit less deep than where this aircraft is thought to go down.
Two and a half miles the average depth of the ocean. You know, two and a half miles is not great in any other direction, going up or this way, but in the ocean it's still, you know, less is known about that than the -- than what we know of other parts of the solar system.
LEMON: And you know, that was 1912 when it sank. It is 102 years ago tonight, as a matter of fact. It hit the iceberg tomorrow, then it sank. And it's interesting because it went down in 1912. I think the wreckage was found in 1985. So it took some time. Obviously, the technology is better.
But here's my question, compared to other ocean areas, how much do we know about the depth and the complexity of the southern Indian Ocean? Probably not that much, right?
EARLE: No. You know, only about 5 percent of the ocean has been mapped with the same degree of accuracy that we have for the moon or Mars or even Jupiter. And the southern Indian Ocean is part of the least explored, least known parts of the planet.
Some people think the earth is well-explored. Actually, the greatest era of exploration is just beginning. Because we're just beginning to have the right equipment to be able to explore the deep part of the ocean. And most of the ocean is the average depth of two and a half miles, and this aircraft is thought to be in water a bit deeper than that.
And just imagine being in an airplane, three -- or two and a half or three miles up in the sky, and then trying to operate at a point on the land below. That's what these ships basically are challenged with, trying to imagine what is three miles below, when you can't see what's there.
So this is very exciting, tricky, challenging business. We have technology that can take us to the moon, but we still have trouble getting to the deep sea.
LEMON: Yes. I was just going to say, most of our planet has yet to be explored...
EARLE: That's right.
LEMON: ... not because we don't really know that much about the deep, as they say.
Sylvia, I want to read this question. This is from one of our viewers. His name is Brandon. And he said, "If the plane wreckage of MH-370 is found, how will it be pulled off the ocean floor?" How challenging is that process and how will that happen?
EARLE: To recover the equipment is going to be possible using remotely operated systems such as were used with the recovery of the Air France vehicle. The oil and gas industry has a number of these remotely operated systems, but they don't go as deep as where this aircraft is thought to be. There are a few pieces, in fact -- of equipment that is built here in California by deep ocean exploration and research that goes to 6,000 meters. So that's able to go deeper. And the Oceanographic Institution has equipment that can go deep. You see the 6,000-meter system. The University of Hawaii owns this particular piece of equipment, and a private company called Cologic (ph) is also equipped with equipment.
So there aren't many such pieces of gear available. But there are some. And they can be deployed from ships of opportunity. And once the aircraft is discovered, then comes the difficult challenge of actually positioning yourself three miles above and lowering the equipment below. But it is feasible. It has been done.
LEMON: But it's very challenging.
Thank you. And I love that you're so calm, and I love how you just explain it so plainly. Thank you, Sylvia Earle. We appreciate you here on CNN.
When we come right back, my team of experts will answer your questions.
LEMON: Searchers tonight awaiting tests on oil samples found in the MH-370 search area. Also, awaiting the first set of data from the Bluefin-21 underwater vehicle.
My team of experts back with me now answering you questions, your tweets.
Our first for David Soucie. This one is from Nick Murphy. David, Nick Murphy says, "What would be the purpose of flying this plane through several course changes until it ran out of fuel?"
SOUCIE: If I knew that I'd know a lot more than I do now. You know, there's just -- I can't imagine what purpose it would be. I did come up with something recently when Les Abend and I were talking. We started thinking what would be the purpose of flying that channel around? What if it was to avoid the airplane crashing into a populated area? I'm not sure that we've really discussed that too much, because we went right to the nefarious intent, assuming that it was avoiding radar.
But if that aircraft, you know, to go to Souvan (ph), which is the maintenance base coming around there to Souvan (ph), and realize there was a problem. He may have been trying to avoid land.
LEMON: OK. Interesting, Jim Tilmon, this one is from Jerry. Jerry says, "Would it be possible for the pilot to shut off one engine to save fuel and still maintain altitude?"
TILMON: I think it's possible, but I don't think it makes a lot of sense. I mean, I keep trying to apply logic to scenarios all about. That one just doesn't have a whole lot of logic involved.
LEMON: Jeff Wise, this is a tweet from Eric. Eric says, "If pilot or whoever disable ACARS and transponders, et cetera, et cetera, how hard would it be for them to disable / disconnect black boxes?"
WISE: Well, that's something we've talked about, actually, quite a while ago, and it seems like they, indeed, could have turned off the black boxes. So yes, if and when we find these flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder, there might not be anything on them.
LEMON: Mary Schiavo, this is from David. And Davis says, "Why don't pingers ping a unique code in Morse instead of a common single ping?" I would imagine then we would know for sure. You'd say, well, it's doing this Morse code. Nothing else does that. That's a good question.
SCHIAVO: That is a good question. It's a very good point, because the pingers we have, they're like they are because of a federal regulation. The federal regulation only requires certain things: that they ping for 30 days and may be good down to 20,000 feet. But they could require a unique code, and it would just take a federal regulation. Good suggestion. Good point.
LEMON: All right. This one is for Sylvia Earle. And it's a very sobering question, by the way. And it's from Terry McDonald. "Would they recover human remains from this depth?"
EARLE: Quite possibly. They certainly would be preserved in that cold, dark realm. But -- and with the manipulators on the recovery equipment, it's possible to pick things up, and there's precedent for -- for that in previous kinds of operations.
But first job is finding where the aircraft really is. And that's a big challenge.
LEMON: All right. Brett Larson. Let's take a look at this tweet. It's from Bob Wilson. Bob says, "If airlines had to fully repay the cost of locating and retrieval, would they invest in the technology to locate faster?"
LARSON: Absolutely. Airlines don't do anything until they are pressed to spend more money. And in a situation like this, I think a lot of the technology that we've seen over the past couple of weeks that could have prevented a lot these problems that we're having now in this very, very expensive search, the most expensive in history, would definitely be something that they would -- that they would invest in.
LEMON: We have another tweet. This one is from Rich, and it's about the cell phone. And it says, "Possible Malaysian government only releasing co-pilot cell-phone info to convince the public their theory of foul play is accurate?"
LARSON: I mean, it's -- if you want to go down the conspiracy theory routes that is definitely something to do. I will agree I find it very unusual that it took them this long to give out information like this. It is not like we send meter maids out to cell towers to pull sheets off of a dot matrix printer and go, "Oh, yes that's the -- that's the cell phone that came by the tower." So this is -- the technology happens instantaneously. This isn't something that should have taken this long.
LEMON: All right. Sylvia Earle, thank you very much. Appreciate you and everyone else. Please stick around.
When we come right back, reports that scammers are targeting the families of those who were aboard Flight 370.
LEMON: I'm Don Lemon. Breaking news tonight. Searchers focusing on a visual search area on the Indian Ocean while experts analyze data collected from the Bluefin-21 underwater vehicle.
And of course, no one wants to know what happened more than the families of those on board the airliner. But now they may have to deal with another issue; fears that scammers may target them.
My experts are back with me now, and joining us is Floyd Wisner, who represented the families of another air disaster, the crash of Air France Flight 447.
Floyd, thank you for joining us. Particularly, it's important that we keep focus on these families and keep, you know, challenging the government and the authorities and scammers there in the area. You're a leading international aviation attorney, and you have seen reports that scammers are targeting the families of Flight 370. What exactly is the scam? I saw one where attorneys were seeking people to come to a certain place this weekend.
FLOYD WISNER, ATTORNEY: Yes, that's one thing, but these scammers apparently may not even be lawyers, thank goodness. They're -- apparently, they are targeting families, asking for administrative charges up front if they get them a settlement with the airline. No experienced aviation counselor is ever going to ask for administrative charges up front. That's just not done. People need to be very careful about that, consult experienced counsel before they do anything.
I never thought that we would see lower than some of these attorneys who are trolling the hallways making false promises to people. But apparently, we have.
LEMON: Yes. It's disgusting. What's your advice to those families, Floyd?
WISNER: My advice is do not do anything without seeking experienced aviation counsel's help. That's the thing to do. They're going to be presented not only with the scammers but the insurers at some point are going to be approaching them, asking them to sign releases in exchange for payments of compensation. They need to be very careful about that, about who they release and what the scope of it is. LEMON: Mary, out to you. This is, you know -- this is what you do. You're an attorney for victims and families in transportation accidents. Is there something that law enforcement can do to help protect these families? I don't know what the laws are in Malaysia, but is there anything they can do to help protect them?
SCHIAVO: Well, yes, there are laws in the United States, and they apply to all United States attorneys, no matter where you happen to be. And they say in a nutshell that you can't solicit families for 45 days following a crash.
And then there are also rules about how you can advertise it. You have to be very honest, et cetera.
And when you go to other parts of the world, in some places, there simply aren't any protective laws for people. China has a family assistance act similar to ours, but it does not have the solicitation provision in it.
But I do understand that there are -- is a Chinese family group and that the government is trying to encourage them to do what Floyd said and what I would say, to take your time.
I once crunched the numbers and averaged what aviation cases take and the average -- not a long one -- the average aviation case takes 3.5 years. So they need to understand that they have time and should take their time. They need to handle their personal and family affairs first.
LEMON: Good advice.
Floyd, you have spoken to some of the families of passengers who are forming a family association. What are you hearing from these families?
WISNER: Well, they are forming associations, particularly the Chinese, and the others are, as well. But there are a number of them, Don, that still do not want to even address this issue yet. They are hopeful that some wreckage will be found, that some answers will be found; perhaps even their loved ones will be found alive. So they're just not ready, in large part, to address this issue yet.
LEMON: David, when these sorts of accidents happen internationally and across international borders, does it make the entire process more difficult for families?
SOUCIE: Well, of course it does, especially because you've got a mix of all types of different countries. But as Mary pointed out a while ago, there were only three or four Americans on board. So most of the legal issue won't be carried out here in the United States. It will be carried out over there.
LEMON: All right. We'll be right back with final thoughts from my experts.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: My experts are back, and we have got some final thoughts for you.
OK, experts. Tonight marks the 102nd anniversary of the Titanic striking an iceberg and sinking in the north Atlantic. It was a shocking event that gripped the globe, much like this missing flight. It took decades to solve the mystery of its final resting place. Are these comparisons -- are there comparisons to be made between these two tragedies -- Jeff?
WISE: Yes, I mean, I think it blew people's minds back then. I think this one has blown people's minds right now. It's a whole new paradigm.
LEMON: Yes. Jim Tilmon.
TILMON: Let's not give up. Remember, it took two years or more to finish the French aircraft. Let's take the time and get it right.
LEMON: Mary, what do you think? Are there comparisons? It was 1912. It's been 102 years. Listen, there wasn't a continuous search, but it did take them -- still take them a long time with a number, I think it was two or three different long explorations.
SCHIAVO: Not one but two parallels. One, the search took forever, because they had no way to find it, as we have now black boxes. But our black boxes need to be streaming black boxes.
And the second parallel was it took them even after that time to find out the true cause, which was a mechanical and substandard steel.
LARSON: I agree with Mary on that. I think we thought our technology was the best it could be with the Titanic, and it was unsinkable. And I think we often think our technology protects us and keeps us safe in places where it is not keeping us safe or protecting us.
WISNER: Doesn't seem like we've learned much since the Titanic sank. Not much improvement since Air France.
LEMON: David Soucie.
SOUCIE: We still can't fathom the unimaginable. And that's where we need to work.
LEMON: With the unimaginable. And also, we need to learn more, as we said. Obviously, we need to improve black boxes and technology and we need to -- certainly need to learn more about the ocean and about the deep and especially the ocean floor.
Thank you guys for joining us. We really appreciate your expertise, all my guests and all my analysts and experts here.
That's it for us tonight. "AC 360" starts right now.