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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Flight 370: Investigators Focus On Pilots Of Boeing 777; Still No Sign Of Missing Malaysian Jetliner: Theories Abound, Possible Motives Unclear; The Families Of The Missing Struggle With The Unknown

Aired March 17, 2014 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. More new developments tonight in the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. And just like everyone we brought you in the last 10 days since it vanished this both deepened the mystery but also lent credence that one seemed utterly out of this world.

The best evidence available now suggests the Boeing 777 flew into one of these two areas and was still being tracked by a satellite more than seven hours after takeoff. Now that's hours after the first officer's seemingly routine sign-off to Malaysian air traffic control, essentially just saying good night.

Hours after the plane's radar transponder signal vanished, hours after the electronic data recording system, ACARS, stopped sending data, hours after it possibly soared to high altitude then plunged 20,000 feet and then climbed again.

Now we learned today that in all those hours authorities say there is no evidence, none at all, of anyone trying to make any cell phone calls or send any texts or make transmissions at all from the airliner. The question is why not? Is it simply the plane was too high?

We also learned that other countries are planning for the possibility this plane landed somewhere and is being somehow prepared to be used as a weapon. Israeli Air Traffic Control went on higher alert today as a precaution which of course redoubles the scrutiny on who, if anyone, took control of the airliner.

Was the crew somehow up to no good? They were reportedly seen in a widely circulated YouTube video, the captain and first officer going through security at the airport in Kuala Lumpur.

New attention as well on who, if anyone, had access to the plane's below deck electronics bay. That's what it actually looks like. The panoramic view is from Hawkeye Media showing row after row of navigation and communication equipment including the ACAR system which either failed or was disabled.

And if it was the latter, if it was the latter, disabled by someone who knew which plug to pull, which system to take offline, which circuit breaker to turn off, first, though, because there are so many theories out there, so many conflicting reports from authorities in Malaysia and elsewhere, we try to want to start with what we actually know.

Jim Clancy in Kuala Lumpur joins us with that.

So, Jim, yesterday there was a lot of reporting that the pilots had turned off the ACAR system on purpose. That now has changed, right?

JIM CLANCY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It has changed. And you know it's -- you know, you talk about the facts. The facts change when that changes and this is why so many people have so many questions about this entire investigation.

We were led to believe that the last transmission, and it's true, the last transmission by the automated system that reports on the health of the airplane, ACARS, came at 1:07 a.m. and then all transmissions stopped and the pilot then -- or the co-pilot we know now, it was the co-pilot who said, "All right, good night," at 1:19.

Now this led people to believe that, you know, if he reported everything OK, even after this system was off, you know, this points a finger at the pilots. The prime minister believed it. Listen to Najib Razak on Friday as he describes this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NAJIB RAZAK, MALAYSIAN PRIME MINISTER: These movements are consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CLANCY: All right. Advance, we're at Monday now, and we hear from the CEO of Malaysia Airlines, well, maybe not, because while the last transmission was at 1:07, the ACAR system wasn't supposed to report back for another 30 minutes, 1:37, well after the time that the pilot said "All right, good night."

Listen to what the CEO had to say yesterday at the press conference.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AHMAD JAUHARI YAHYA, MALAYSIA AIRLINE CEO: The ACARS -- last ACARS transmission was 1:07. OK. We don't know when the ACARS was switched off after that. It was supposed to transmit 30 minutes from there another transmission, but that transmission did not come through. That was the very last transmission was 1:07.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CLANCY: OK. Didn't come through. But here's the point. The pilot said, "All right, good night" at 1:19. We know that the transponder went out at 1:21. We don't know that ACARS was still operational, we don't know that it had been switched off by the pilots. Everybody has been pointing a finger at the pilots, Anderson, because they thought they purposely turned that system off. Not true. It wasn't supposed to report. We don't know that right now. This opens up the possibility, the possibility once again of catastrophic failure. 1:19 the pilot says -- the co-pilot says, "All right, good night." Two minutes later, everything goes haywire. He's in a situation trying to control the aircraft. We know it was going up or down. We know that right then they tried to turn back. The transponder went off. ACARS never transmitted again. It's a different scenario, we're back to looking at catastrophic failure.

The one problem with that, Anderson, how does a plane that has a catastrophic failure go on to fly seven more hours?

There's also a window for the hijack theory but a very narrow one. This is going to be something that's going to debated all day today and well into the future -- Anderson.

COOPER: Jim, thanks very much.

And it could be mechanical failure, not something catastrophic, not suddenly instantaneous obviously as the plane did fly -- continue to fly. It could have been something that pilots were battling. That's another option.

As always, we've got experts in every aspect of this. David Gallo who co-led the search for Air France Flight 447, and he's with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, also Fran Townsend is here, former Homeland Security adviser, currently a member of the DHS and CIA External Advisory panels, and 777 captain, Les Abend joining us as well.

Les, let me bring it to you. You've been flying for nearly 30 years. As you look at this, given what we know, the transponder was off, as we said, that went off at two minutes after the last communication at 1:19. 1:21 the transponder goes off. We know the 1:37 a.m. ACARS system that was supposed to send a message did not send a message so that ACAR system last one was from 1:07.

You talk about this compartment below the cockpit, and we're looking at it right now, where the ACAR system is located and we've got this tour of it here.

Can you talk to us about what you think is the most likely to have happened here given the complexity of this whole system?

LES ABEND, 777 PILOT: Well, it's a good point, it is a complex system. And as pilots trained on this airplane, we don't know -- we know what the system does for us but to know every detail down there, I mean, I'm considered an expert. I don't know every detail. I don't know every box. I would really have to study some more engineering and schematics to really know what everything does down there.

COOPER: As a pilot, would you be able to turn off the ACARS system?

ABEND: I'd have to climb down there and figure out which one of these boxes would do it.

COOPER: So it's not something in a routine training that you would learn.

ABEND: Absolutely -- absolutely not. But as far as your question is concerned, I've always asserted that there was some type of mechanical issue that started, as we talked prior to our show time, that might have progressively gotten worse and worse where the pilots were trying to go to a checklist and determine what their problem was by troubleshooting it.

COOPER: The notion of catastrophic -- of catastrophic incident, that -- I mean, it depends on how you define catastrophic, but something instantaneous, something sudden, being blown out of the sky which is what a lot of people thought early on. That seems to have been ruled out if you believe the satellite data that this plane was flying around for hours afterward.

But there could be some sort of mechanical failure or fire on board, for instance, which gradually shut down systems or the pilots felt they had to shut down systems, correct?

ABEND: I mean, anything is up for grabs at this point. We can go back to TWA 800 where it was attributed to fuel pumps in one of the tanks because of dry tanks that ignited the vapors. That could be a possible scenario. I very much doubt it because these airplanes have been modified so that never occurs.

But, you know, when we talk about catastrophic failure, it progressively might have turned into that where they were trying to troubleshoot the system. If this started to slowly degrade all the avionics and the internal communication system and flight controls things would get pretty haywire. In addition there's an electronic checklist that's a tremendous system that we utilize actually with a touchpad screen to go through an abnormal situation.

If they were trying to find this and that screen went blank, now they have to refer to a standard -- let's call it a paper checklist. And now it's an abnormal on top of an abnormal and they've got a real tough situation on their hands. But once again, it's conjecture, I don't know. But I still assert from the very beginning that they were dealing with some sort of problem.

COOPER: Fran, you still think, you still look obviously at the terrorism angle or sabotage angle, some sort of human involvement here. The questions I've had, and we talked about this before the program, is if it did land somewhere, couldn't -- wouldn't somebody's cell phone on that plane once it was back on land, near you would assume some sort of radar installations, at least be able to be tracked or make some sort of -- unless all the phones were somehow taken?

FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Right. You've got to -- what does that scenario look like? What are the facts that you need for that to be so? You'd need a runway that's at least a mile long.

COOPER: Right. TOWNSEND: To be able to land it. You'd have to be able to hide it. Before you landed that aircraft, you would have to either have confiscated the cell phones of everybody on board, likely somebody would have secreted one or you would have had to have killed everybody on board before you landed that aircraft. Then you get it landed. You're going to need the -- presumably the assistance of a foreign government where you've landed this plane to help hide it.

And it's a big airplane. I mean, it's not going to be easy to hide it because there's satellite images. Everybody in the world is looking for it. So while people talk about is that possible, I think it's very unlikely. This plane, based on what we know now, flew for a number of hours after it disappeared. And so you've got to wonder, even if there was this mechanical failure, why would it be that that plane would have stayed in the air?

Why would the pilots have looked for the ability to put it down? Could they have been overcome? Could there have been fumes? Could there have been, you know, some medical issues?

COOPER: Les, do you buy that this plane was flying around? I mean, do you buy the satellite information, the radar information?

ABEND: I don't know. I don't, not with all the information. It's just been -- it's been such fragmented and inaccurate data, or erroneous or something has been wrong with is. I'm not sure I'd buy, you know --

COOPER: It's incredibly frustrating to cover this for the families who are following this, because the information coming from the Malaysian authorities has been all over the map, literally on this. And, you know, they said one thing yesterday, they took it back the next day.

Dave, I mean, you helped in the Air France investigation, and we've talked about this before. But the importance of trying to really, you know, get on one page in terms of what information you are releasing from Malaysian authorities to, you know, to say one thing yesterday, a new thing the day before, it just adds to the confusion in all of this.

DAVID GALLO, CO-LED SEARCH FOR AIR FRANCE FLIGHT 447: It sure does, Anderson. And, you know, in the case of Air France 447, the BEA, their equivalent, French equivalent of the NTSB, was very careful with what information got out there onto the streets. Early on there was a lot of misinformation and speculation, but pretty soon it was focused on a couple of things, the last known position of the plane, the location of debris from that aircraft and then the identification of some search area that we were going to begin searching in.

But, you know, this is uncanny that the longer we seem to go, the more questions arise and the more difficult the job seems to be to locate that aircraft.

COOPER: Fran, from an intelligence standpoint, you know, all these scenarios, are these all things that investigators themselves sit down around a table and kind of work out and try to basically just map out all the different scenarios and where those scenarios take them in terms of questions?

TOWNSEND: That's right. For each scenario, what would you need to have happened, where could you -- where could you find the space, the length of a runway, where would you -- where would you look for those clues? Every passenger --

COOPER: So people talk about speculation or putting out scenarios, these are things that investigators themselves have to do to try to piece this together?

TOWNSEND: Absolutely. And they'll look at not only every passenger, every member of the ground crew, every engineer who touched that plane, and they'll look -- they'll try to find relationships between them. Are there any, whether they're social, professional? Were there last-minute changes to the crew? Were there last-minute additions or deletions in terms of cargo? What's the mechanical history of the plane? Very -- in a very detailed way.

One of the most surprising things is that the Malaysians talked about going to the home of the pilots on March 9th but then didn't say that they actually searched the home until the 15th. Sort of -- we're used to in the United States these -- both the search and the investigation running in parallel. So -- to expedite it. And so they seem to have lost some time. And it may be that it has overwhelming for them to coordinate the search and rescue operation because of so many countries participating, but it is -- it's time that's lost to the investigators.

COOPER: And, Les, just a couple of obvious questions which people have been tweeting me all day or asking me, cell phones on board that flight during the flight, it was too high for any cell phones to actually be working.

ABEND: Correct. The 9/11 scenario doesn't apply because those airplanes were very low, you know, comparatively. So you just -- you can't reach cell phone towers. And if you do, you're picking up many towers.

COOPER: Also for those who say, well, look, the pilot had a flight simulator at the house, do you know of a lot of pilots who have that? Is that anything that raises any --

ABEND: Actually I know of a couple that -- you know, I mean, they enjoy having a busman's holiday. My wife and I own an airplane together. We like -- I still enjoy flying airplanes. So, yes, he's got a simulator. Maybe it's cost prohibitive for him to actually have an airplane over in Malaysia but --

COOPER: So that in and of itself doesn't raise questions?

ABEND: No. Absolutely.

COOPER: All right. Les Abend, appreciate it. Fran Townsend, Dave Gallo, stick around, we're going to talk to you again in a minute. You can follow me on Twitter right now and talk about this @andersoncooper. Tweet us using #ac360. Any questions you have let me know. We're going to talk to a commander from the U.S. Navy Seventh Fleet about changes in the search where the U.S. is looking now. They've got very highly sophisticated information.

We're also going to run through some of the scenarios that investigators have been looking at in a 777 simulator. It's pretty much -- pretty much 100 percent identical to the real thing.

And later investigating not just the captain and first officer, really the entire crew and the people on the ground to see if anyone, and the passengers, had a motive for any kind of foul play.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, as we said at the top, the hunt for Flight 370 now covers millions of square miles in two directions, including a broad swath of South and Central Asia.

Commander William Marks is aboard the Seventh Fleet's command ship, USS Blue Ridge, he joins us by phone.

Commander Marks, the U.S. Navy has made adjustments in how American assets are being used in the search. What can you tell us about where things are and where things go from here?

CDR. WILLIAM J. MARKS, ABOARD USS BLUE RIDGE: Our destroyer, the USS Kidd and its helicopters has over the last couple of day moved north from the Strait of Malacca into the Andaman Sea, about as far north as you can get by the southern tip of Burma there. Essentially we have covered that entire area. We are pretty certain there is nothing there.

And when you're looking at expanding into the rest of the Indian Ocean, both for the Bay of Bengal and then south, that is such an incredibly huge area, using a destroyer really is our best asset.

What we wanted to do was to get our best asset able to be used the most, which is our P-3 and our P-8. So what we're doing is sending a P-8, that's the P-8 Poseidon, down to Perth, Australia. Now we're going to have coverage to the south out of Australia and coverage to the northern part of the Indian Ocean with our P-3. So both of those (INAUDIBLE), long-range patrol aircraft are going to give us the best chance to search and find anything. Much longer range than having a ship out there. So that's what we're doing, repositioning.

Just to give you a reminder of how their range is, they'll fly out 1,000, 1200 nautical miles and then have about four hours on station time to continue their search before having to come back so that's a big extension of our search area.

COOPER: How much optimism do you and the crew have? I mean, I know obviously you're going to stay on the job until you're ordered otherwise. At some point, especially this far into the disappearance with no debris, is it -- I mean, is it frustrating? MARKS: Well, it's hard. You know, the first 72 hours we consider that a search for survivors, and so obviously we're well past that now. But, you know, we think of it this way. For all this -- the families, every person on that plane had a family associated with them and friends associated with them. And we know if it was us, we'd want the U.S. Navy out here looking.

COOPER: Are there enough assets in this region? I mean do you feel -- obviously there's, you know, a lot of countries involved in this. Is it pretty well covered? Do you feel like more assets would help? Or is that -- was that almost diminishing returns?

MARKS: Well, it depends how far south and into the Indian Ocean you look. I mean I can tell you the Indian Ocean goes so far, there probably isn't enough ships and aircraft in the world to search every inch of it. So, you know, if you take a map of the United States, superimpose that stretching from the north to the south Indian Ocean, it's kind of like saying, all right, I want to find a person somewhere between New York and California. I just don't know where they are. So that's the challenge here.

COOPER: It's extraordinary when you put it like that.

Commander Marks, I appreciate you being on, thank you. Good luck to all of you out there searching. Thank you.

And the search continues. Now unless you're a commercial airline pilot, it is hard to visualize what might have gone on inside the cockpit of Flight 370.

CNN's Martin Savidge is back inside a Boeing 777 flight simulator tonight to walk us through some of the latest details from our reporting.

CNN's Richard Quest also joins us, spent time with Malaysia Airlines before this incident.

Martin, you've been taking a closer look at the maintenance information system known by the acronym ACARS. Tell us more about it.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. Yes, this is one of those things that up until now the average flying public knew nothing about but of course any pilot at least on an aircraft like this would know. ACARS. Think of it as kind of an alternative way to communicate outside of the traditional radio systems.

I can access it here if I look at this screen and pull it up. Here I've got a simple menu. It's possible here to maneuver a mouse. A pilot could send a text message to the ground or the ground could send a text message to them. This is good when the aircraft is far out at sea and maybe radio communication can be spotty.

Another way to access the system, same ACARS, but this is a different backup unit, is to go in through this -- what do I call this Mitchell again?

MITCHELL CASADO, PILOT TRAINER, 777 COCKPIT SIMULATOR: A control display unit.

SAVIDGE: Control display unit. I hit this, you can see ACARS comes up. I punch this. I can get into the system this way. There's actually one here, one here, one here. That's three. With this there's four systems that are all part of ACARS. So four backups, if you will.

I can get into the menu and begin to shut things off. Think of like your iPhone where you turn off the Wi-Fi, maybe turn off the Bluetooth, eventually maybe turn off the cellular. But that phone is still communicating even with that shutdown with the main telephone system. I can degrade the system. I can't shut it down. To do that, I've got to go somewhere into the electronics bay. I've got to be more of an electrical engineer.

Lastly, the transponder. We've heard a lot about that. This I can turn off very simply. One, two, three. It's off. We're now invisible to radar, at least identifying us from the ground. Two main systems, but very different how you shut them down.

COOPER: Martin, and maybe this is more of a question for your pilot there, Mitchell Casado, but why is it possible -- because I've gotten this question a lot from viewers. Why is it possible to even shut down the transponder? Why can pilots have that ability?

CASADO: The only reason that we have an off switch, Anderson, is when we're on the ground. So after you're on the ground, you land, you taxi off the runway, you're no longer a factor for any traffic so there's no point in you being on the radar screen, you turn it off and save the air traffic controllers the hassle of trying to de-clutter the screen and figure out what's relevant and what's not.

SAVIDGE: But never in the air.

CASADO: Never in the air.

SAVIDGE: Never you can turn it off in the air. Only once on the ground and the flight is over.

COOPER: Richard, the fact that the ACARS was not functioning, again, we don't know why, what does that tell you?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: What it tells me is that either it was disabled and degraded or something so dramatic happened that it -- that it literally cut it off. But here's the problem with that theory. I can advance any theory any which way and backwards, and eventually, you know, you can come back to the same problem.

If there had been a fire or if something had failed on the plane or anything like that, the ACARS would have noticed it and would have reported it. That's the problem with the mechanical theory. It would have had to have been instant. It would have had to have literally disabled -- a good question for the captain there, isn't that one of the issues, though, when we look at the mechanical problems that may have happened in the electronics bay or elsewhere on the aircraft, it would have had to have hit ACARS before ACARS could have reported it? CASADO: Yes, absolutely right, Richard. It would have to have been a catastrophic instantaneous failure because even if a few seconds went by where the ACARS system was able to communicate with the ground, it would have let them know that something was happening. It would have had to have been just a snap, boom, and it's over.

COOPER: But, Mitchell, aren't there different -- just to confuse things all the more. Aren't there different levels of ACARS that airlines can subscribe to and that Malaysia didn't subscribe to kind of the more advanced one? Am I correct in that?

SAVIDGE: We talked about this, didn't we?

CASADO: That's right, we did. We talked about this, Martin. And Anderson, that's absolutely correct. Some airlines -- actually most airlines in the world, if I'm not mistaken, the Malaysia Airlines is the only one that I know of that doesn't do this, subscribe to a system whereby the information that they send to satellites and vice versa is more robust. It's protected more and there's more information passed.

You have to pay for that. It's like an iPhone. Again, 16 gigs, 32 gigs, 64 gigs. You want better performance, maybe a little bit faster, you upgrade to the 5s, you get 64 gigs. You know, you pay for it, but it's better performance and that's the same with the ACARS so --

SAVIDGE: So that would be coming back to haunt them now because they didn't have that more sophisticated data.

CASADO: And if they did, it would have made the search a little easier because there would have been more information, perhaps easier to find, and we would have found it by now. Yes.

QUEST: One of the important things is, if there had been a fire, if there had been something failing, ACARS would have reported it. We saw this in 447. The first indication of something wrong was 24 ACARS messages. And it was basic -- it was fundamental things. A light went on, ACARS told the ground. A flag came up on the pilot's display, ACARS told the ground.

Anything that happens in that cockpit where they are at the moment, Martin, ACARS will tell the ground.

COOPER: So even though they weren't subscribing to the more advanced system they still --

QUESTION: Absolutely. You're talking about a very basic level of ACARS that would have told Malaysian Airlines, hang on, that -- you know, there's a warning for you.

COOPER: And yet -- and again this -- and you bring up a really interesting point, Richard, which is no matter what theory or -- that investigators go down, there's something that kind of ultimately brings you back. Because then you just say, OK, well, if it was something catastrophic or something very fast that overwhelmed the ACARS, well, then how come the plane was still flying around for hours if in fact the radar information is correct.

QUEST: And that's exactly the conundrum in this case. That's why, as the minister said, this is no ordinary -- no normal investigation. This is why the CEO of Malaysia Airlines said this is unprecedented. This is why we're talking about it at such great length because nobody can come up with a scenario that makes sense with the facts that we know so far.

COOPER: Richard, it's good to have you on. Martin Savidge as well. I want to thank Mitchell Casado as well, a pilot, for your expertise. Thank you.

So you can always find out more about the story at CNN.com.

Just ahead, investigators, they've turned their focus as we mentioned before on the two pilots of the flight, the co-pilot, searching their homes, combing through their paths. We're going to take a look at what they are looking for and what they have found, if anything, so far.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back. A lot of the focus of the investigation of Flight 370 is on the crew and passengers. Authorities have searched both pilots' homes. They're scouring their backgrounds for clues that might suggest a problem or an issue. A flight simulator in the captain's home is being searched for any red flags. Kyung Lah has the latest tonight from Kuala Lumpur.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The investigation continues to zero in on the two men in the cockpit. In particular, the most skilled pilot, the captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah. So passionate about flying that he's what's known as a home simmer. He built his own flight simulator, as seen in this YouTube video. And he talked about it online, writing on a flight simulator chat site, looking for buddies to share this passion.

Curiously the Captain Zaharie also posted a series of do-it-yourself videos like how to repair an ice maker. Malaysian investigators are now combing through every part of the pilot's home and his life. This YouTube video shows him as a loving father of three. He was also active in Malaysia's volatile politics.

Captain Zaharie was a public supporter of opposition party leader and a thorn in the ruling party's side. A political party in control for over 50 years. Zaharie attended Anwar's pro-democracy rallies and meetings, even wore a "democracy is dead" t-shirt denouncing the one- party rule in Malaysia. For the first time Anwar tells CNN that he did in fact know the pilot of the missing plane.

(on camera): Can you describe how you know the pilot?

ANWAR IBRAHIM, OPPOSITION PARTY LEADER: He has attended some of the party meetings, and I confirm only afterwards whether he is a member of the party.

LAH (voice-over): Why is that important? Because just hours before Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 took off, a court of appeals ordered Anwar to prison on charges of sodomy, reversing the not guilty decision of a lower court. Anwar says the sentence is a political vendetta. Local press now asking did Zaharie purposely down the plane to make a political statement.

LAH (on camera): Is it possible that a supporter of yours would be willing to take this step in order to make a political statement on the global stage?

IBRAHIM: It cannot be conjecture. It's grossly unfair to him and his family. I'm open to a full investigation. They can investigate. There was nothing of that sort.

LAH (voice-over): Anwar says his political opponents are feeding that narrative to reporters.

IBRAHIM: In order to deflect their own failure, their own incompetence, they now choose to attack me.

LAH (on camera): Just to throw off the scent?

IBRAHIM: Yes. I think there's a desperation of the government, of the ruling leadership, for the manner they managed the whole crisis, contradictory statements, poor management of the crisis.

LAH (voice-over): But so far there is no evidence to tie the plane's disappearance to the pilot or his politics. We could not reach the Malaysian government for comment on this.

HISHAMMUDDIN HUSSEIN, MALAYSIAN ACTING MINISTER OF TRANSPORTATION: The fact that no distress signals, no ransom notes, there are no parties claiming to be responsible, there's always hope.

LAH: The transport minister did acknowledge that the captain and co- pilot did not ask to fly together, and that investigators are looking into pilot suicide as a possible cause. Officials also say it was the co-pilot, not the captain, who gave the plane's last verbal message, "all right, good night."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Kyung Lah joins us now from Kuala Lumpur. It's not just the pilot and co-pilot, also a passenger on board that flight that's also getting some attention, right?

LAH: The person you're talking about is 29-year-old aviation engineer, Khairul Amri. He is someone that they are taking a keen interest on, but they say come on, he is not involved. Open the doors, investigate. He is confident his son had nothing to do with this, his father telling us his son was heading to Beijing, Anderson, because he works for a private jet company and was going to repair a plane there and bring it back to Malaysia. COOPER: I've seen a lot of reports about the pilot's family left the day before. I don't know if that's been confirmed. Has it? And do we know if police have talked to the family?

LAH: We do know that the police have talked to the family. We know that the pilot's family has not been at the house recently. We don't -- we're not really able to confirm whether or not they left the day before this flight happened. Those little details, there's a lot of inconsistent reporting in the press. As you know from watching what's happened this last week, the authorities have also not really been consistent in exactly the whereabouts of the pilot's family.

COOPER: All right, appreciate you looking into that and also as Kyung said, there has been a lot of -- today there was another report, local media report we are not even mentioning because it's now basically been knocked down. So there's a lot of misreporting, particularly in some local papers that we're simply avoiding.

I want to bring in retired American Airlines, Captain Jim Tilmon. Jim, thanks for being with us. This idea about pilot suicide, does that make any sense to you? I mean, it's what you're trying to do -- if that's what you're trying to do, why try to hide the plane? Why turn off the data system, the transponder, why fly around for however long it flew around for?

JIM TILMON, RETIRED COMMERCIAL PILOT: If that's what you're going to do, you might as well right after takeoff hit the drink, just dive right into the water. I think that's a far-fetched idea, way off the mark.

COOPER: The flight simulator at the pilot's home, does that raise any red flags for you as an experienced pilot?

TILMON: Normally it wouldn't because I do know that there are guys that like to have a simulator so that if they're going to fly into an unfamiliar airport, they can practice and be very, very comfortable when they do fly in there. But I am a little bit concerned about the sophistication of the one he had and that sort of thing.

You know, had this incident not taken place, it probably wouldn't have meant anything, but it does mean something now because whoever it is that is flying this airplane through all these machinations is a skilled pilot, very, very skilled, very, very experienced, and you've got to wonder if it's very, very practiced.

COOPER: Obviously that's something investigators have now in their possession and are going to be looking at to see what they can learn from that flight simulator. Jim, stay with us, we're going to stake a short break. We are going to have more on how the flight could have flown for so many hours undetected. How is that possible?

Plus how the families of the missing are coping. We'll talk to a grief counselor who spent time with some of them. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Captain Tilmon, Jim Tilmon alluded to it before the break, if anyone took over the plane, what was or still is their end game and how, if it was a hijacking, did they evade detection. Tom Foreman has several leading scenarios investigators are looking at and he joins us now -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson. They are leading scenarios and they're all bad. Let's bring in the map and talk about what we know. Remember points of reference here. We know a week and a half ago the plane took off from Kuala Lumpur, flew less than an hour and vanished off the coast here headed toward Vietnam. And everything else since then has been conjecture. All of these search areas, everything based on just ideas of what might have happened, including the latest idea from that satellite suggesting that maybe there's an arc to the north or an arc to the south upon which signals were received from this plane.

So how could it have landed if it headed to the south? Where could it have gone? Are there possibilities out there? Yes, there are airports at Banda Aceh or maybe in Western Australia or Christmas Island out there. It's not easily done, though, and partially because of the requirements of this airplane. It's got to have 4,000 feet of runway minimum if it's going to land safely somewhere, 6,000 to take off. It's got to have some kind of support services.

Any place out here that has an airport to handle it in all this water is also going to have people. Maybe only a couple of hundred, but those people all would have to be part of this or be quiet or else somebody hears about it. So the southern route is not very promising. So let's talk about the idea of northern route and what may or may not be involved with that.

If you look at the idea that it flew north somehow off this line or along this line, look at the places it's passing. Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Tajikistan, Kirgizstan, could there be holes in radar there and incomplete coverage, people not paying a lot of attention? Sure there could be. Could there be countries that don't want to tell much about what they know because of their own national security? Absolutely.

But all of them? Would all of them do that and could it get out that way? It doesn't look that likely. So then you're left with even more surprising ideas or confusing ideas. One of which is very popular for people to talk about right now, which is the idea that this plane managed to essentially go into a stealth mode, by flying in the shadow, the radar shadow of another jet. So some jet out here is flying with all of its systems turned on, normal commercial flight, and it's flying on radar fully watched by everyone.

This one has nothing turned on so it can't be seen by radar and also can't be seen by this plane, because it's flying slightly behind it. It's not tracked in any way, shape or form. And together they come together and form like one dot on the radar signal. Officials have been asked about this possibility and they have said, yes, I guess it's possible. You need an incredibly skilled pilot to pull it off. Even then, the dot would probably be bigger or more intense than usual and could attract the attention of a radar operator somewhere.

But Anderson, when people try to figure out beyond what we know that initial flight into all this conjecture how it could have happened, theories like this have to be considered, no matter how outlandish, simply because here we are a week and a half later and we just don't know.

COOPER: And these are certainly things that investigators from every country who's involved in this are certainly looking at and trying to play out the many steps of what it would entail. Tom, appreciate it.

I want to bring in John Hansman, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT. Also back with us is airline pilot, Jim Tilmon. Professor Hansman, of all the theories out there about what happened, at this point which seem most plausible to you?

JOHN HANSMAN, PROFESSOR OF AERONAUTICS AND ASTRONAUTICS, MIT: Well, we've got to keep everything on the table, but a couple days ago everybody rejected the catastrophic failure idea and now it's pack on the table and that's credible. The original turn-back was towards the closest available airport, so that makes sense. So the initial part actually makes sense, some sort of catastrophic problem.

COOPER: When you say catastrophic, you don't mean instantaneous, you mean mechanical issues on board that the pilot had time to try to make that turn to try to find the closest airport.

HANSMAN: Sure. Yes, some sort of progressive problem like smoke in the cockpit if you had an electrical fire in the avionics bay or something like that, he would have turned to the nearest airport which would have made sense. Under that hypothesis if they became incapacitated or if there was a flight control problem. If there was a flight control problem, they still would have had the radio, so it's hard to figure out.

What really doesn't make sense on that, though, was if they did become incapacitated and the airplane was flying along, it would normally continue in the direction it was going because it would have been programmed either in the flight management computer or just in heading hold mode to track that heading.

So the fact that it appears that it turned either to the north or to the south doesn't really jive with that theory. There is still the idea of a hijack of some sort, either an intruder or the crew. You know, that's sort of where we are. We're looking for enough data to make a reasonable conclusion.

COOPER: Jim Tilmon, how accurate do you think this radar information is that has been released? Do you believe -- because a lot of it is not clear-cut this was the plane, it's interpreting information that they were getting.

TILMON: Well, I don't mean to say bad things about people, but I really don't trust any of that. I mean, I keep getting all of these crazy stories about what the radar was picking up and what it wasn't picking up. Do you have radar contact or not? And I also wonder -- you know, I've been critical of air traffic control since this thing started. Where were they? Why aren't they asking this airplane to squawk I.D. So we can identify them. Why aren't they asking what are your intentions? Why aren't they creating the conversation?

COOPER: An airline flying over land you would think would raise those types of communications from air traffic controllers. We've got to leave it there. Jim Tilmon, John Hansman, thank you very much.

Up next, I'm going to talk to a grief counselor who has been talking to the families of the missing. Imagine, as closely as people have been following this, what it is like for them with this constantly shifting information from Malaysian authorities. We'll hear from him ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: So many people have personal links to Flight 370 and for them the past ten days have been excruciating. Grief Counselor Paul Yin joins us from Beijing. You've been talking to some of the families who have loved ones about this flight. The not knowing and the conflicting information for them must be just devastating.

PAUL YIN, GRIEF COUNSELOR: Absolutely. I think it's the most unusual situation here. I worked with the families and victim of the Asiana crash last year in San Francisco and that was difficult. But the experience I got from that is really of very little use today because grief counseling or any kind of recovery from this has to have a starting point. And the starting point is knowing -- having a verdict of what happened. And without a starting point, every day people's emotion go up and down from hope to despair. Basically they're going hour by hour, not day by day.

COOPER: Sometimes minute by minute, I imagine. What -- are many of the families that you've talked to --

YIN: Absolutely.

COOPER: -- holding on to hope that their loved ones are still alive? That's clearly got to be -- given all the conflicting information that has to be something that they are very seriously considering?

YIN: Well, actually perhaps more so than you think because when they -- when the word came out that we're basically considering hijacking as the most possible scenario, there was many of the families almost euphoria because that means they could still be alive. And I heard cheers. And their response is so, I think, out of what we consider to be the normal response because they are trying to hold on to any little bit of hope, and they are enlarging it in their mind. And I even have someone say to me, say, when my son come home, I'll take you out to dinner.

COOPER: Paul, I appreciate you being on. Again, thank you for what you are doing in all of this and all the counselors who are working with these families. Again, it's an unthinkable situation.

Up next tonight, the latest from Crimea where people are celebrating and the rest of the world is having cold war flashbacks. We'll take a look at what's happening ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Quick check of some headlines, Poppy Harlow is here with the 360 Bulletin -- Poppy.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Anderson. Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree recognizing Crimea as a sovereign state after its vote over the weekend to break away from Ukraine. Pro-Russian demonstrators have taken to the streets in celebration. The United States and the E.U. have denounced the vote and slapped sanctions on several officials from Russia and Ukraine. A Putin aide calls the sanctions a, quote, "great honor."

At the Oscar Pistorius murder trial, a gun dealer told the court today the Olympian knew South African gun safety laws restricting the use of force. Pistorius said he accidentally killed his girlfriend, model, Reeva Steenkamp, after mistaking her for an intruder. Prosecutors believe he intentionally killed her after an argument.

Meantime a law enforcement official says it appears that fashion designer, Loren Scott, committed suicide at her New York apartment this morning. The 49-year-old was Mick Jagger's girlfriend for more than a decade.

Also this morning anchors at KTLA took cover under their desks when a 4.4 magnitude earthquake shook the Los Angeles area this morning. No reports of major injuries or damage, but quite a scare there, Anderson. They recovered, though, I would say, quite well.

COOPER: Poppy, thanks very much. We're going to have more throughout the night in the missing Malaysia Airlines flight. We are going to be back at 11:00 Eastern for another edition of 360.

"PIERS MORGAN LIVE" starts now.