Return to Transcripts main page

CNN SPECIAL REPORTS

The Mystery of Flight 370

Aired April 15, 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.

We begin with breaking news tonight. Bluefin-21, the Navy's underwater vehicle, is searching the floor of the Southern Indian Ocean at this very hour. It was sent down about 12 hours ago and is expected to remain in the water for another 12 hours or so, until about 10:00 a.m. Eastern time on Wednesday.

We have also learned this afternoon that engineers now believe they can program Bluefin to go deeper than originally planned. The probe's first mission on Monday was aborted about only six hours when it went below its current maximum depth limit. Bluefin did not find debris from Flight 370 on Monday.

And as the search goes on, there are still many more questions than answers. And you have been tweeting us your questions by the thousands, and we have got top aviation security experts standing by to answer them for you, like this great question: "What other assets exist beside the Bluefin that could be used to locate the wreckage?"

But we begin with more breaking news tonight, this time out of South Korea. That country's coast guard reports that a passenger ship carrying about 450 people is sinking off the southwestern coast.

A news agency in South Korea reports that 320 of the passengers are high school students on a field trip. The Coast Guard reports that 82 people have been rescued so far.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is at our bureau in Seoul.

Paula, what more can you tell us?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, there's some discrepancy in numbers at this point, which you can imagine as this is very early hours of this disaster.

It happened about two hours ago, we understand. This ship that was heading from the capital, Incheon, down to one of tourists islands, Jeju island, on the south coast of the country. It was about -- a distress signal about 9:00 in the morning.

We understand from the coast guard there were about 350 people on board. There's discrepancy in those numbers. They say at least 86 have been rescued at this point. And we just heard a live press conference from the chief of the coast guard and he said that said basically everybody on board was with ordered to jump off the ship and jump in to the waters.

You can see the pictures there. That's some serious listing from the ship. That was very quick. The sinking just happened over a couple of hours. It's not certain at this point what exactly has happened. But we were hearing reports from some of those on board the ship. They were saying they all had life jackets on. They were all ordered to jump in to the sea. We know the rescue operation is under way.

They have got helicopters are in the area. They have got other ships in the area as well trying to pick up those people in the water. According to the coast guard chief, he said it is about 10 degrees centigrade in the water at this point, so they can survive at least one hour in this water. It is springtime here and the water is not that warm. They want to get to the people just quickly as they can.

As far as we know, hundreds of these passengers were students. They were high school students. They were on their way to Jeju island on a field trip with some of their teachers -- Don.

LEMON: Paula Hancocks with our breaking news, a ship carrying about 450 people sinking off the southwestern coast. As soon as we get more information, we will check back in.

Now we want to go to the latest on the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

I want to turn now to CNN's reporters in the search zone, Michael Holmes in Perth, and Joe Johns in Kuala Lumpur.

Hello to you, gentlemen.

Michael, first, it turns out they didn't find any information of note in the data of the Bluefin that it brought back up yesterday. But it had to return hours before it finished its mission. Are they expecting more from Bluefin today?

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right.

Don, that aborted mission, it was cut short because the programming, basically software in the Bluefin told it if it got to 4,500 meters down it had to come back up. That's what it did. They are actually talking about reprogramming the software now to let it go down even deeper. It went about four square kilometers on the first trip, Don.

You remember that on a full 16 hours on the ocean floor, it would go about 15-and-a-half square miles. That's 40 square kilometers. On this journey, it did four square miles. When they got it up, they took up the data and found nothing of note. It is down there now and it has about another six hours or so on the bottom before it comes back up and they will have another look.

So far, nothing, but it is early on in this. One thing that they were heartened by, Don, was that it all seemed to work. The unit itself seemed to perform well, Don?

LEMON: Michael, given the limitations of searching with the Bluefin -- we have discussed many of them -- why can't they put more than one robo-sub down there?

HOLMES: It's a fair question, Don.

I think the answer is that there's not that many of these things around. It's obviously a highly technical piece of equipment. There are others around the world, but they are all in use at the moment. They are in great demand for oil and gas research, if you like, on the bottom of the ocean. They are all at work at the moment. This was the only one that was available.

They have got their eyes out for others as they become available, but this is one that they were able to bring in. They brought in it in on a 747 and got it out there on the Ocean Shield. That's the other thing, too. If you pulled in another one to help out, you need another ship that is equipped to be the mother ship, if you will, too. It is complicated thing, but a fair question, Don.

LEMON: Michael Holmes in Perth.

I want to go now to Joe Johns in Kuala Lumpur.

Joe, the Malaysian cabinet has agreed to set up an international investigation team to specifically look in to the Flight 370 case. Joe, what is this investigative committee supposed to do?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it sounds roughly similar to the commissions that the get started in Washington when there's a disaster, perhaps like the space shuttle commission, the 9/11 Commission, Don.

It's acceptance of the fact that Malaysia has questions that need to be answered in a thoughtful way, I think, about MH370. This investigative committee will be looking at airworthiness, maintenance records, flight recorders, human factors, medical concerns, weather, survival factors, all of the things that could explain how a jumbo jet could seemingly vanish without a trace with hundreds of people on board, Don.

LEMON: Joe, the Malaysian defense minister who's also the acting transportation minister made some comments that raised a lot of eyebrows today. Let's take a listen to it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HISHAMMUDDIN HUSSEIN, MALAYSIAN TRANSPORT MINISTER: We did not go through the Twin Tower incident. Our Ministry of Defense was not attacked like Pentagon was. Putrajaya was not attacked. But we need to consider that as a possible future threat and that needs to be addressed. And the SOPs that is with the air force might have to be re-looked at.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, Joe, give us the context behind this. What are we to make of his comments? Why is he bringing up 9/11?

JOHNS: Well, those remarks were made at this huge defense services expo here in Kuala Lumpur.

We went over there yesterday, people from all over the world, including some U.S. military. And his point is that Malaysia needs to upgrade its capabilities, including surveillance and space and underwater, though it does sound like he's saying the air defenses here are just not great. There are a lot of considerations right now for Malaysia relating to MH370, Don.

LEMON: All right, Joe Johns, thank you very much.

Time now for my team of experts, Jeff Wise, the author of "Extreme Fear: The Science of Your Mind in Danger," Mary Schiavo, former inspector general of the Department of Transportation, now an attorney for victims of transportation accidents, David Soucie, author of "Why Planes Crash," Jim Tilmon, a retired American Airlines pilot, Les Abend, a captain who flies a Boeing 777, Geoffrey Thomas, editor in chief of AirlineRatings.com.

Hello to all of you.

Geoffrey, to you first in Perth. How is the weather changing there in Perth? Is it becoming a factor in the search?

GEOFFREY THOMAS, EDITOR IN CHIEF, AIRLINERATINGS.COM: Don, not at this stage.

The weather out in the search area -- this is the current search area -- is varying, showers, occasional showers, visibility about five miles to 10 miles, depending on the day. There's the occasional, just occasional front coming through. At this stage of the season, it's only getting the tip of the front, the top of the fronts.

In a few months' time, of course, the weather will turn a lot worse. But for the time being, it's OK for searching for debris.

LEMON: Geoffrey, yesterday, we reported the New Zealand search team had taken some debris and some photographs from the search area. Those were being analyzed. What more do we know about that?

THOMAS: Don, you are absolutely right.

At this stage, we haven't been told. We are waiting for another press conference. Nothing has been advised as of yet. But we are certainly waiting for that analysis. And of course we are waiting for the analysis of the oil that was picked up off the water about three miles downwind and down sea of where they are searching for the black boxes. So there's two tantalizing pieces of evidence, if you like, that we are hanging on, waiting for some confirmation either way. LEMON: All right.

Mary Schiavo here in the United States, do you think the Bluefin will ultimately be able to get the job done, despite some of the setbacks in its mission so far?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, I do, particularly since today we learned that they think they can reprogram it and get it to dive at least a little deeper. It can work in a little deeper water.

But if not, or if they need more, I think we also heard from another spokesperson today from that company. I think there are eight worldwide. So if they need to get more to divide and conquer, get the job done faster and then of course they can move to the other kinds of vehicles, such as a Remora or the Alvin -- I forget -- it's called the Sea Dragon.

They have a lot of other things they can call in. I think they will call them in if they feel that they have to have them. For now, it's doing the job.

LEMON: Jeff Wise, the Bluefin did exactly what it is programmed to do, which is to come back up if it exceeds its approximately 15,000-foot maximum depth limit. But what happens if the plane is beyond that depth? Because don't they design these submersibles to go a little bit further than their capabilities?

JEFF WISE, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Sure. They have a certain margin built in, so that it doesn't go right to the edge of its capability and then implode.

But it has its limits. It can't go infinitely deep. And the ocean does get quite a bit deeper than it does at this particular spot. So, in the event that it is much deeper than what it has been operating at today, then they are going to have to call in other pieces of equipment that can go in deeper. And fortunately these things do exist.

LEMON: David Soucie, do you think that we may see some manned subs down there eventually, something like the Alvin, a manned research submarine?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Yes, I think eventually we will once we are into the retrieval phrase.

But right now we are talking about some submarines for replacing or complementing the search, and the only one that is really capable of that, from I understand from Woods Hole, is the REMUS, which has sonar and also has some photography capabilities. So, that is what I would expect to see next if they don't see anything with the Bluefin.

LEMON: Les Abend, another clue is that oil slick that we talked about. You and I were there for the press conference when they announced it. Two liters were collected and on their way back to mainland for testing now. Will they be able to determine if that oil is specific to this plane?

LES ABEND, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: My understanding is absolutely. It is a very specific fluid that is either from the engines themselves.

There's about 20 quarts in each engine. There's a lot of hydraulic fluid. Yes, they should be able to make a real easy analysis of where the origination of that fluid is.

LEMON: All right.

Jim Tilmon, hopefully, we get some sort of confirmation that this oil slick is related to this plane or not. But are you still concerned that we aren't looking in the right place?

JIM TILMON, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Yes, I am.

I'm hoping with you that the oil slick will prove to be something worthwhile, as well as some of the other evidence that has been reported over the last few days. We will just have to wait and see and I will be waiting and I will be seeing.

LEMON: All right.

Now, stick with me, everyone. When we come right back, a legendary ocean mystery. The Titanic sank exactly 102 years ago today. What did scientists learn in the search for that great ship and how can those lessons be applied to the search for Flight 370?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: I'm Don Lemon.

Our breaking news once again: The underwater search vehicle Bluefin is scouring part of the floor of the Southern Indian Ocean right now, searching for signs of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

Vehicles like the Bluefin are one of the best tools in a deep sea search. They were even used in the hunt for the Titanic.

Here's CNN's Jean Casarez.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If the search for Flight 370 seems like a mystery after almost six weeks of hunting in a vast stretch of ocean, think back to another ill-fated voyage, one that ended 102 years ago.

The Titanic set sail on April 10, 1912. It was the largest passenger ship in the world and cost the modern-day equivalent of $400 million.

Parks Stephenson served as the technical adviser to James Cameron, director of the blockbuster movie "Titanic." PARKS STEPHENSON, TECHNICAL ADVISER: Really, Titanic was a well- built ship. She was manned by competent crews. And they were obeying all the rules of the time.

CASAREZ: Four days later, the Titanic struck an iceberg and its fate was sealed. More than 1,500 people perished.

(on camera): For almost 75 years, the sunken luxury liner remained on the seafloor, and the mystery grew of the Titanic grew perpetuated by myths and theories. But, in 1985, searchers finally realized why the wreckage had eluded them.

(voice-over): The reported location of the ship's SOS transmission turned out to be wrong by 13 miles. The wreckage was finally found, split in half, resting over 12,000 feet below the ocean surface.

Still, compared to the search for Flight 370, the Titanic expeditions were at an advantage.

STEPHENSON: In this case, we don't even have a reported distress position, and the ocean is just as deep here, or deeper, than it is at Titanic.

CASAREZ: Much about the two effort, says Stephenson, is similar, including the search often underwater search vehicles.

STEPHENSON: The most recent expedition to Titanic in 2010 used technology that is almost virtually identical to what they are using in the search for the Malaysian airliner today.

CASAREZ: If the wreckage of the plane is found, the next step is analyzing it. A lesson learned from the Titanic is not to jump to conclusions.

STEPHENSON: There have been a lot of investigations of why Titanic sank. Was it a design flaw, was the steel brittle, were the rivets weak? They always try and point fingers at it. And if you look at each thing in isolation, you really can disprove it.

CASAREZ: And the way to solve the mystery this time, he says, is the same.

STEPHENSON: If we can find the wreckage, as we did find the wreckage to Titanic, then we can reverse-engineer and figure out what happened. As with Titanic, the wreck will have the last word.

CASAREZ: Jean Casarez, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: All right, Jean. We appreciate that.

You know, 102 years ago later, what happened to the mighty Titanic still fascinates people around the world. I'm joined now by Jules Jaffe. He's a research oceanographer with the Marine Physical Laboratory at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. He was part of the team that found Titanic at the bottom of the North Atlantic.

Thank you for joining us, Jules.

You were involved in that search for the Titanic. Do you think investigators are going about this search for Flight 370 in the right manner?

JULES JAFFE, SCRIPPS INSTITUTION OF OCEANOGRAPHY: Thanks, for inviting me, Don, first of all.

Yes, I think so. I mean, Titanic did not have a pinger on it that we could listen and be guaranteed within a few miles of the wreck in order to know where it was. And given the fact that this is a sort of standard search procedure that the U.S. Navy uses for its military planes and things like that, I really can't see any other options.

LEMON: Do you -- so you think they are searching in the right area, Jules?

JAFFE: Well, if they heard the pinger, the answer is yes.

I spent a bit of time looking into the specifications of the manufacturer of the pinger. And they say, well, you can hear us within two miles. And then you go to the manufacturer of the towed pinger locator, and they say, we can hear a pinger within two miles. And then you realize you are in two-and-a-half miles, towing a pinger locator at almost a mile down.

So, you got to be within a couple of miles of that, of the pinger in order to locate it. Now, the question is, is the wreck near the pinger locator? Certainly, the box is there. And so, yes, I think we are within a couple of miles. That two-and-a-half-hour transmission that they received seems like really good news in terms of trying to locate this thing.

LEMON: All right, let's talk about Flight 447, a similar air incident. Les take a look at two pictures from Air France 447.

This is a look at the debris field. And this is a clear picture of the engine on the ocean floor. Can we eventually expect the same type of pictures when 370 is found?

JAFFE: Yes, so that's a great question.

I think one thing that an oceanographer will tell you, like myself, is the ocean could be different anywhere. But I think the global feeling is that the deep ocean is actually very clear. All the stuff we see that comes down somehow gets re-mineralized by the organisms in the ocean, and our experience is pretty much that the deep ocean is pretty clear.

It would certainly be easy for the teams that are out there to figure out how clear the ocean is. And given that scenario, I think very much so. Given the camera systems, we should be able to see optical images just like the ones that you are seeing now from 447.

LEMON: That was my next question. Can the Bluefin give images similar to those from 447?

JAFFE: I do believe that there's not a big difference between the Bluefin and REMUSes. And so given the scenario that the Bluefin does have a camera and lights on it, there's no reason why it can't.

LEMON: Why it shouldn't.

All right, let's talk a little bit more about the Bluefin creating a map of the ocean floor. Is it possible that the wreckage could be mistaken for boulders or possibly rolling hills?

JAFFE: Yes, so this is a great question which again challenges our knowledge of the environment.

Now, as you probably know from the stories we have been hearing and learning, we are using an acoustic system. That means we send a sound out and it reflects off the seafloor and we listen to the reflection. And then by compositing successful reflections, we create an image.

Now, we know that these are rolling hills, and that's actually the best news I have heard all week. And the other thing is, is there is a lot of silt down there.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Why is that the best news? Why is that the best news that you have heard all week?

JAFFE: Because the rolling hills -- you would be much better -- you would be much worse off if you were in canyons and valleys and if you have sort of all kinds of crevices and big boulders around.

So rolling hills is not a bad place for a sonar. It is a matter of figure and ground. We want to see the figure from the ground. If it is just rolling hills and if the actual sediment is absorbing the sound to some extent, things that are sitting on top of it, reflective things like manmade components of jets and other metallic objects, in principle, should give us some specular reflections, which would allow us to see the difference between the manmade objects and the rolling hills.

LEMON: Do you think that we may see some manned underwater vehicles go down at some point? That would be if, I would imagine, the Bluefin-21 doesn't locate anything.

JAFFE: Personally, from all that I have known in doing oceanography now for 30 years, I think the worst thing to do would be to send a manned vehicle down.

I think everything we have learned is that, if you look at the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, they were actually able to fix that with what we call an ROV, a remote operational vehicle. We have lots of experience with deploying remote operational vehicles that will have tools on them, that can cut, that can hold wrenches.

They can do things. They can certainly bring black boxes up. And they can work 24/7. If you are an Alvin, you don't have that much time on the bottom. You are much better off with these remote tools, in my estimation.

LEMON: Because there's not enough time in a manned vehicle, right, you believe, a submersible?

(CROSSTALK)

JAFFE: Yes.

As I described to Carol Costello last week, when I first started working with Ballard 30 years ago, what he said, it is a long elevator ride. You got three or four hours on target, and it's a long elevator ride back up.

LEMON: Right. Right.

JAFFE: The great thing about these remote vehicles is, they're 24/7.

I mean, 24 -- let's say it comes back. We will maintenance it. Six hours later, it does another 24 hours.

LEMON: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

JAFFE: You can't do that in a manned vehicle.

LEMON: I want to ask you another question about Titanic, since you helped, but just quickly.

JAFFE: Sure.

LEMON: Do you think that they will find 370?

JAFFE: Absolutely.

I think so. I really do. I really think they are going to find it. I think we have a good locus for it. I think the sonar pinger was giving us a good radius of search. And I can't imagine that all this debris is not going to light up a sonar. So, I think, in the next week, hopefully, we will find it.

LEMON: OK.

Ultimately, though, the bulk of the Titanic wreckage was left in its final resting place on the ocean floor. Do you think the more time passes, the more likely that the same choice could be made about 370? JAFFE: Well, there was a huge commercial interest in bringing the Titanic back.

People had dreamed of having amusement parks with Titanic sitting in it. It is really hard to bring back stuff, big things from the ocean, the bottom of the ocean. And I think that a good visual survey over a period of maybe a week or two would give us a lot of information, coupled with the flight recorders, to really make some conclusions about what happened.

LEMON: Jules Jaffe, fascinating. I really appreciate you coming on. Thank you, sir.

JAFFE: My pleasure. Thanks for inviting me.

LEMON: OK.

When we come right back: A top Malaysian government official makes a rather eye-opening statement about who should control the black boxes if they are found. I will ask my team of experts about it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Top Malaysian government official had this to say today about Flight 370's black boxes. That it matters less which country takes control of them; that it's more important to find out the truth.

Back now with me, my team of experts. First to David Soucie. David, what do you make of what the Malaysian minister said about the black boxes? Do you agree with that, that they are arguably the most important part of this investigation?

SOUCIE: There's no doubt in my mind that they are. And the fact that he felt it doesn't matter -- he just wants the truth. Well, to get to the truth, you have to take care to get there. It just is indicative of the kind of careless communication that we've gotten from the Malaysian government during this time. But again, they're not experienced at it. I can see why his intent is good. I can see what he's saying. He's trying to get at the truth. I understand that.

But if you look at how Angus Houston is handling the situation, it's much different. There's no opinion; there's no conjecture; there's no conclusions. It's the facts.

LEMON: Yes. Just the facts. Geoffrey in Perth, officials did said that the aerial search for debris is winding down. And it's hard to imagine that they would conclude this search without finding any debris at all. Is that possible?

THOMAS: Well, it's an interesting comment, actually, Don. Because while they did say -- you're absolutely right, they did say it would wind down over the next few days, in actual fact, they designated a new area they were revisiting which they last looked at the end of March. They have new drift and current information, new analysis. And that's where they're now searching, which is some 600 miles southwest of where they had been looking for debris. And so it's basically due west of Perth. And it's about 1,500 miles southwest of Perth. So there's no sign at this stage of that wind-back. Lots of airplanes in the air today.

LEMON: Les Abend, are you concerned that the visual search may be ending too soon?

ABEND: Yes. You know, it seems to me that it's getting expensive. But yes, I'm concerned about that. I mean, we all have experience with the fact that anytime we have an impact or an accident of this nature that in the ocean we have some sort of debris as a everybody pretty much knows.

But, you know, from a military expert in accident investigation he said don't be surprised to be surprised. So...

LEMON: Yes. Mary, the Malaysian cabinet agreed to set up an international investigation to look in to anything that may have played a role in the plane's disappearance like airworthiness, operation, human factors. Is this premature without the black boxes or a step in the right direction, do you believe?

SCHIAVO: Oh, no. This is something they should be and must be doing, particularly under the ICAO treaties and the rules and regulations that set forth accident investigations. The NTSB does this and sets up many different committees, each of dealing with a separate aspect of investigation. And each one does part of the investigation and issues a report and recommendations. And those are very important.

So if they don't have a committee addressing a certain area, then there's no hope of getting some findings and some, more importantly, recommendations for improvements in the future.

So this is what they need to be doing. This is what they have to be doing and at least this way they're ready, then, to address the evidence when the evidence is parsed out.

LEMON: But Mary, how much faith will you have -- and I would imagine other investigators like you, on your level -- when you have an inquiry headed by the Malaysians at this point?

SCHIAVO: It all depends on how transparent it is. If they have participants -- for example, the committee that will look at the black box information, they've already said that they can't do it. So that leaves four nations that can. They probably will have all four help: Australia, U.K., France and the United States.

So if it is a transparent investigation and truly -- what they call the open-party system meaning Boeing, Malaysian air is a party. The various governments helping on the search in the black boxes will be parties. As long as it's open transparent, then you can have some trust in the system. You know, it's -- that's what's going to be the key to having people believe it and having it have a useful product, something that we truly can use to improve aviation safety and security.

LEMON: Mm-hm. Jeff Wise, we're also learning that the FAA announced that all planes will have GPS tracking technology by 2020. Sounds like a big headline. But would it have prevented anything from Flight 370 -- for Flight 370?

WISE: Right. So this new -- this new air traffic control system called next gen, the key technology behind it is called ADSB. And as you pointed out, this involves planes that are carrying GPS equipment. They're determining their own position by satellite, and then through ground-based radio transmitters, are able to communicate that information to air traffic controllers.

So it's a very sophisticated advanced system. It will go a long way towards improving air safety in the United States.

Will it -- would it have changed the situation with MH-370. No. Why? Because MH-370 already had ADSB on board. In fact, if you had gone to a -- one of these airline tracking Web sites in the aftermath of the incident, you would have been able to see where MH-370 went before that fated turn to the west.

The system was turned off. So as it's currently envisaged, this system could not have prevented MH-370's disappearance, because it was turned off. It can be turned off. Maybe in the future they'll rejigger it in such a way that it can't be turned off, but it was, in fact, in place already.

LEMON: Jim Tilmon, it's going to be hard to figure this out without the pilot and the co-pilot, figuring out what happened to them. Are we any closer?

TILMON: No, I don't think so. As a matter of fact, I think there's even more fog in the air. As we get these little bits and pieces of information about what the Malaysians are releasing to us that they know or think they know about what the pilot conduct was all about.

LEMON: All right.

TILMON: So no.

LEMON: All right. When we come back, my panel of experts will answer your questions.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: My team of experts are back now answering your tweets. First this is to Les. Les, let's take a look at this tweet from Radio Tweaking. It says, "The question should not be what new technology to track planes but what procedures to be enforced when tracking is turned off." This kind of goes to what Jeff Wise was just talking about, Les.

ABEND: Well, let's get a little clarification on ADSB. The ADSB is a tracking system that is emanated from the plane up to the satellite. The satellite sends it to a ground station, and then sends it to a radar system which is what next gen basically is. I'm simplifying it. But this is used on the North Atlantic.

The reason the ADSB wasn't -- it was functional. I agree with Jeff on that. But the reason it didn't perform was because you have to have a participating air traffic control in the entire system. So I don't believe that they participated.

As far as turning it off, it's not the transponder that turns it off. What turns it off is a function on the triple-7, anyhow, of the flight management computer. Then it can be turned off.

But next gen is going to the United States, because we're participating in next gen. With these other countries, Europe is participating. Other countries are, and I'm not familiar with the Far East. But that's why this system failed with Malaysia 370.

LEMON: David Soucie.

SOUCIE: Yes. I was -- I actually was on the team that wrote the OMB-300, which is the funding document that goes to Congress for next gen. If you want to go to know more about next gen, you need to talk to me, not somebody who doesn't understand what ADSB is.

ADSB 1, which is sending the signal out, which was -- is exactly what, and Les, I'm not going after you here. I'm talking about what Jeff was saying either. Because Jeff, Les and I are on key with this.

But ADSB 1, which is sending the signal out, I agree. That would have nothing to do, and that's what this aircraft was equipped with.

ADSB 2, which is much different, it not only sends to the satellite and the ground systems; it also sends to every other aircraft within the system. So when that happens, when an aircraft turns it off, even if they turn the switch off, immediately every other aircraft who might even have any kind of interaction with that aircraft would get a signal, and it would say somebody just turned it off. Because that's the weak leak in the system. It's designed within the system.

And yes, it may not have prevented the accident. I agree with that. But I'll tell you what, everybody would have known where that airplane went.

LEMON: Jeff Wise, you want to respond?

WISE: Well, no, I defer to David Soucie if he disagrees with what I said. I defer to him. And I think I would clarify that the -- that the satellite use of the system is to determine the location of the plane, which is then transmitted, at least in the current incarnation, via ground-based radar, radio transmitters. So that's why, when -- once the plane was more than about 150 miles off the coast, then you start to get that lapse in coverage.

SOUCIE: But that's not next gen.

LEMON: OK. Geoffrey Thomas -- thank you guys for responding to that. I know that you're very passionate about it, and we appreciate the clarification.

I want Geoffrey Thomas to answer this tweet. It's from Ken. Ken said, "What has become of the high-tech British nuke sub reported to be in the area?" Mr. Thomas?

THOMAS: That's a great question, Don. Absolutely brilliant question. And to which I have no answer. I've asked many times here, on the record, off the record, and I'm simply told WE -- you will never know. It Is top secret. So you know, one has to assume that it's playing a very important role in this search. Exactly what that capability is, apparently, we're not going to be told.

LEMON: All right. Stick with me, everybody. When we come right back, a closer look at one thing that has been revealed by this search. All of the trash floating around in the world's oceans and the negative impact it may have.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: The search for Flight 370 has put a spotlight on all of the garbage floating around in the world's oceans. While that trash has impacted the search with many initially promising leads turning into disappointing dead ends, it may have even been -- have more significance consequences. The story tonight from CNN's Stephanie Elam.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNA CUMMINS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, FIVE GYRES: Our oceans are littered in trash. And it's unfortunate that it's taken this human tragedy to highlight it.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As search teams scour the Indian Ocean for debris from Malaysia Air Flight 370, the world is getting a good look at the trash conditions of our oceans. Several times, objects floating in the water, thought to be from the missing triple-7 jet, turned out to be junk.

CUMMINS: These are all examples of the kind of toxic pollution that we find out in our oceans.

ELAM: Anna Cummins is the executive director for Five Gyres Institute, which aims to end plastic pollution in the oceans. CUMMINS: Roughly 80 to 90 percent of the debris in our oceans is plastic. And the worst of it is that people don't realize that this is not just unsightly. This plastic pollution is actually getting into the food chain and may ultimately be affecting our health.

ELAM (on camera): It is affecting the animals.

CUMMINS: Absolutely. Roughly 660 species today -- and that is a conservative estimate -- are affected by plastic. They either get tangled in it or they ingest it. It's everyday products. It's bottles. It's bags. It's forks. It's utensils. It's a lot of single-use disposables and packaging. And what's really insidious about it is that plastic in the oceans doesn't disappear. It acts like a sponge for contaminants.

ELAM (voice-over): In the Pacific Ocean alone, NOAA says patches of garbage swirl between California and Hawaii.

(on camera): There are international laws that prohibit dumping plastics in the ocean. The problem is enforcement. Countries need to do a better job of cracking down on pollution. And then there's another issue: the vast ocean waters are just very difficult to police.

CUMMINS: What we've seen in the last five years is an explosion in awareness.

All over the world people are realizing that we just cannot afford the convenience of single-use plastics, and companies need to start taking responsibility for what happens to their products after they leave the consumer's hands.

ELAM: As for the plane at the heart of this sad mystery, what impact will it have on the ocean? Tom Anthony is head of the Aviation Safety and Security Program at the University of Southern California.

(on camera): If it broke up, that debris field on the bottom of the sea floor would be massive.

TOM ANTHONY, AVIATION SAFETY AND SECURITY PROGRAM, USC: You're absolutely right. The wreckage field could be spread over an extremely large distance.

ELAM: Yet as ocean pollution goes, the affect would be minimal.

CUMMINS: The debris from this missing plane is literally a drop in the bucket. Roughly 80 percent of the plastic pollution we find out in our oceans starts on land. It's as simple as the debris that we see right here in the sand.

The oceans are vast. So this single tragedy of the missing airplane is not going to really make a dent in ocean pollution.

ELAM: But perhaps the sight of all that junk will make people think before they throw it away.

Stephanie Elam, CNN, Santa Monica, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Thanks, Stephanie, for that report.

I am joined now by Erik Van Sebille, an oceanographer at the University of New South Wales in Australia. He joins us via Skype tonight.

Erik, thank you for joining us. You're an expert in this particular part of the Indian Ocean. And you have been -- have you been surprised by the amount of ocean debris found, versus a lack of debris found from the plane?

ERIK VAN SEBILLE: No, not at all. We've known for a very long time that, especially the recent search area, the new search area that they're looking at now, that there's a lot of debris there, because it's close to what we call the garbage patch, and that's where all the plastic in the ocean kind of accumulates. There's five of them in each basin, and there's one in the Indian Ocean.

So everything that has been thrown in the ocean, somewhere over the last 50 years around the Indian Ocean, and it's still floating, is somewhere in this garbage patch.

LEMON: Yes, and in those gyres, those spinning gyres there. How -- how do those patches form, and is it possible at all, Erik, to clean them up?

VAN SEBILLE: Well, they form essentially because the water, the movement of the water is not two-dimensional. The water doesn't stay at the surface. The effect is kind of like a roller-coaster ride with places where water sinks and other places where it upwells.

Now what happens is that the plastic is too buoyant; it just keeps on floating. So as the water sinks, which happens in these areas that we call garbage patches, the plastic stays behind.

And in the meantime, more and more plastic is being carried into the regions by new water that sinks then. So it's kind of like this -- this internal move with the plastic more and more accumulating.

LEMON: Yes.

VAN SEBILLE: About whether it's possible to clean it up, I am extremely skeptical about that. And really because of three reasons.

First of all, what we now see with this plane and search for this plane, is just how hard it is to work on the ocean. How hard it is to get ships out there, how big the ocean is. How much energy it takes. So I don't think it's really worth it in terms of energy.

Secondly, most of the plastic that does most harm, as was said in the report just before, is THE small plastic. It's the plastic that gets into the food chain, that gets into the fish. And if you want to sieve out that small plastic, you're going to inevitably also going to sieve out all the fish, all the plankton, everything you care for. So you end up with a dead ocean in that one.

And thirdly and I think most importantly, is that a lot of people have the wrong idea about what the garbage patches are. People think they are islands of plastic. That is not true at all. Even the highest amount of plastic that we see, that we actually measured is maybe one piece of plastic every ten square feet or so. So even though there is a lot of plastic, it is very, very sparse. It's very much extended over huge areas, thousands of miles.

LEMON: So the best way to stop it is to, on the surface, to be aware of it and stop dumping stuff in the ocean if we can avoid it.

And what about below the surface in the area that they are searching? What types of debris can be found on the ocean floor, Erik?

VAN SEBILLE: Well, to be honest, we just don't know. Just like we don't know where this plane is, we don't know enough about the ocean floor and what kind of debris there is.

And really, there's only one study that came out last year out of Monterey Bay Aquarium on the West Coast, which was a really good study. They -- they went back to all the footage that they had from their underwater submarine, the AUV, and they looked at all this footage and just tried to see how much there was with. And a staggering amount of plastic. Much more than anybody anticipated. Plastic bags, tires, even whole refrigerators down there on the bottom of the ocean.

But this was close to the continental shelf. So this was relatively close to Monterey Bay itself off the West Coast. Once you get into the open ocean, there is just absolutely no data on how much plastic there is in the ocean floor.

LEMON: Erik Van Sebille, please stand by. When we come right back, the final thoughts from my experts.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: My panel of experts back with me now for their final thoughts. Here's my question: what do you believe will yield more useful information to help solve the mystery, the black boxes, the plane's debris or the criminal investigation by the Malaysians? First you, Mary.

SCHIAVO: Flight data recorder. That's the No. 1 thing.

LEMON: Les Abend.

ABEND: I agree with Mary. I think at this point the flight data recorder.

LEMON: Jim Tilmon.

TILMON: I agree with that, and I just hope that there's something there. LEMON: Jeff Wise.

WISE: I hate to be boring, but I'm going to have to side with everybody else. I think that the mystery -- the answer to the mystery is there in that black box.

LEMON: And what about David Soucie?

SOUCIE: Let's make it unanimous.

LEMON: It's unanimous. And I didn't even have to rush you guys or not speak to one of you. So you all believe that all of the clues will come from the black boxes, everything that we need to know from those black boxes and not necessarily from the wreckage or from investigating the pilots?

SCHIAVO: Right.

WISE: Well, if I can jump in here, I mean, we hope that the answers will be there. We don't know. And definitely it's going to be interesting to see the wreckage. I mean, whatever answers aren't in the black box, investigators are going to have to look at that wreckage, you know, pull it up off the seabed, if necessary, to look at the key components and see how they're affected by the crash.

LEMON: All right. Thank you, everyone.

Remember, the Bluefin-21 comes up tomorrow. They're hoping to get that new information back from the Bluefin. Let's hope it is working properly this time so it can stay down the entire 12 hours.

That's it for us tonight. I'm Don Lemon. "AC 360" starts right now.