Return to Transcripts main page
CNN SPECIAL REPORTS
The Mystery of Flight 370
Aired April 3, 2014 - 23:00 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.
And we have breaking news tonight. We are awaiting a news conference on the hunt for the missing plane right now. We're going to take you there live the moment that press conference starts.
Meanwhile, planes are in the air searching the southern Indian Ocean for traces of flight 370. Ten military aircraft, four civilian jets and nine ships are crisscrossing an area about 84,000 square miles northwest of Perth. One of those ships, HMF Echo is conducting what's being called a specific search. We'll have more on that in just a moment. And another ship, Australia's Ocean Shield, has a U.S. Navy pinger locater on board.
But tonight, there are still 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 throughout this hour.
Like this one from Patricia Howl. Why haven't anyone debris washed up anywhere if it crashed? It's been a month.
As we await that news conference, we want to get to CNN's reporters. In the region, Nic Robertson is in Kuala Lumpur, Will Ripley off the ship of the thunder off the coast of Fremantle, Australia.
I'm going to start with you Will.
Will, you're on a boast off the coast of Australia. What are the conditions like for today's search?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Don. Yes, we just left the port o Fremantle. We're heading out to get out into Rottnest Island to get out in the open water to see what conditions like just offshore.
Here, it's sunny and clear. But we're being told in the search area right now, daytime in Australia, conditions are described as fair. We have clouds that are about 1,000 feet above the surface, which means the search planes have to get below that to get a good look at any possible objects or debris that they're searching for on the ocean floor.
Sea conditions, when it is fair, fair means it's pretty choppy at times. You were talking about, you know, the seas go down to a depth of, you know, 16,000 feet in some areas and the waves can get high as well, Don.
LEMON: So the weather conditions are expected to cooperate at least for the moment, Will?
RIPLEY: At least for the moment, described as fair so not ideal. Visibility, you're talking about a six-mile visibility with relatively, you know, with a thousand feet -- clouds of a thousand feet. It is high enough that the planes can get down and get a decent view. Six miles, that's pretty decent. It's not perfect but it is certainly not as bad as what we've seen at times during the search.
LEMON: All right, Will Ripley, stand by. We will rely on you throughout the evening here on CNN.
I want to bring in CNN's Matthew Chance now. He is in Perth.
Matthew, we're now 28 days into this search. And an announcement is expected from search teams any minute now. What are you hearing from Perth?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're hearing that it's not so much going to be a big announcement. It is more going to be a briefing by the head of the joint agency coordination center, the JAC as it's called here. Angus (ph), he stands a former or the retired edgy marshal in the Royal Australian air force. This is being essentially the first briefing that he will have given since he came to the job a week ago.
And so, it's significant in that sense. We don't know exactly what he's going to say. Our understanding at this point though, is that still, no debris has yet been found in that search area, which is some thousand miles, remember, off the coast of Australia. There is a huge sort of international team engaged in scouring those waters f the South Indian Ocean, a thousand miles off the coast of Australia. You mentioned there is 10 military planes involved in the skies, four civilian planes, as well, one of them providing air traffic control services. The other three are spotter planes like the military planes as well.
So a big international effort in the air and on the sea as well with various descriptions from various countries, all using sophisticated equipment to try and locate the pinger from the black box flight recorders. At the same moment, we believe they have not located any debris from that Malaysian airliner.
LEMON: All right, Matthew, stand by.
I want to go now to Nic Robertson.
Listen, Nic. Malaysian initials held another briefing for families of flight 370 passengers today and we how hear officials won't even confirm whether the plane crashed. Tell us about that meeting.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. One of the family members came out of that meeting. He said it was three hours long. It was incredibly painful.
What these families are looking for in many ways here is a sense of sort of closure on the information. The government cannot or it doesn't appear able to provide them with that. They've been unsatisfied with the details they've heard so far. And as we are hearing, with no debris being discovered so far, it appears government officials here are just absolutely unwilling to say, what to many people seems obvious, that the plane is beyond coming back. And this is what is frustrating the families.
So the government wouldn't even say that whether it had crashed on land, what precisely what had happened to it. So these families are just left hanging. I was at a memorial service last night, prayers, if you will, held at a school. There was a husband there. His wife was a passenger on the plane. He also is wondering what's happened. But his expectations of finding out something from that government briefing was so low, he didn't even bother going. He went to a memorial service instead to seek solace rather than a lack of answers which was only going to frustrate him -- Don.
LEMON: Sounds like many of the families are losing hope and that is really sad.
All right, guys, stand by. We'll get back to you. Again, we're awaiting that news conference. And as we wait on tonight's news conference, I want to go to Geoffrey Thomas. He is the editor and chief of airlineratings.com.
Hello Geoffrey. You know, we have two major ships, the British HMS Echo, the Australian Ocean Shield, as well as a nuclear submarine scanning the ocean floor. All are in the search area. And just as we are being told in that operational announcement is coming. This search, is it ramping up?
GEOFFREY THOMAS, EDITOR IN-CHIEF, AIRLINERATING.COM: Sorry, Don, I didn't quite hear that last question.
LEMON: So does it mean that these apparatus that they are announcing, these two ships plus a submarine, plus this operational announcement is coming, is this search ramping up even more?
THOMAS: I think the search may ramp up each more, as we've been told. There is now 14 airplanes out in the search area, nine -- ten ships out there, including a nuclear submarine. My understanding is it is going to be ramped up somewhat more. Exactly how much, we don't know at this time.
LEMON: The Malaysian government said 17 countries, Geoffrey, in the area have come forward to say that they haven't found the plane, but not Indonesia. Is it significant that we haven't heard from Indonesia?
THOMAS: That's a very, very interesting question. I've asked the question of our officials, even off the record. And they simply say to me, I can't even talk about it. And these are folks that I know really, really well. They usually give me stuff off the record, but this time, no comment. We can't talk about it.
So there is some real sensitivities going on here. And I have to say at the same time, I've also asked about the Australian (INAUDIBLE) over the horizon radar, why didn't we pick it up? Again, I get, we can't discuss it. So it's a very interesting situation where clearly we're not being told everything they know. It could be good for military secret reasons.
LEMON: I need to get to the press conference that is starting now in Australia. Let's take a listen.
ANGUS HOUSTON, AIR CHIEF MARSHAL: Good morning. We seem to have a full house. And I'm delighted to have the opportunity to come and talk to you about the ongoing search for MH-370.
Let me just first introduce the people who will as assisting me and you this morning. On my left, I have commodore Peter Leavy. He commands the joint task force (INAUDIBLE), on my right, Mr. Scott Constabul from the Australian maritime safety authority and Mr. Bob Armstrong from the Australian transport safety bureau. Over on the left, we have captain Matthews, who is from the U.S. Navy and is an expert on the underwater detection equipment. I don't intend to involve him in the press conference, but if anybody wants some technical detail about that equipment, he's available for one on one interviews after this press conference.
Now from now on, I intend to hold regular media briefings in regard to the missing Malaysian airlines flight MH-370 in this location.
Let me start with today's search. Up to 10 military planes, four civil jets and nine ships will assist in today's search. Australian maritime safety authority has determined a search area of about 217,000 square kilometers. And that area is 1,700 kilometers northwest of Perth.
Today's search area will focus on three areas within the same broad vicinity. The first aircraft departed for the search area at 6:00 western standard time this morning. A total of 26 state emergency service volunteers from Western Australia, New South Wales and Victoria were workers air observers on three of the civil aircraft. The other civil aircraft will operate as a communications relay.
The weather forecast for today's search is fair with visibility at about 10 kilometers and a cloud base between 1,000 and 2,000 feet.
The royal Australian Navy and royal Navy have today commenced a subsurface search for missions for the black box pinger for Malaysians airlines flight MH-370. Using the towed pinger locater from the United States Navy, on the Australian defense vessel Ocean Shield and a similar capability on HMS Echo, the two ships will search a single 240 kilometer track converging on each other. And of course, if you want to get into more detail about that, I have the commodore to assist me and will take any questions on that subject.
The Australian (INAUDIBLE) class frigate has been tasked to assist with the search for the missing aircraft. HMS' path will take approximately four days to reach the search area. And of course, as I mentioned yesterday, the Malaysian frigate will arrive in the search area at 1800 tomorrow.
As you're aware, the Malaysian Prime Minister Najib visited Western Australia yesterday. I briefed him in relation to the establishment of the coordination center. Prime Minister Najib announced that Australia has accepted Malaysia's invitation to participate as an accredited representative in the investigation, and we will continue to work closely together to draw up a comprehensive formal agreement.
Let me tell you a little bit more about that. Under the Chicago convention, the accident investigation into the disappearance of MH- 370 is the responsibility of Malaysia. However, to support its investigation, Malaysia requested that Australia lead the search for the missing aircraft and participate in the investigation as an accredited representative.
An accredited representative is a full participant in the investigation so that additional skills and expertise can be provided to the investigation team. Australia agreed both to lead the search and as an accredited representative to provide all necessary support to the Malaysian investigation. The United States, the United Kingdom, and China are also accredited representatives.
An Australian team of four senior investigators is currently in Kuala Lumpur with backgrounds in aircraft operations, aircraft maintenance, air nautical engineering, and human factors. This team also ensures that relevant investigation information, such as the complex calculations of the aircraft's likely flight path is fed into the search strategies and the tasking of search aircraft and ships.
Senior officials of Malaysia and Australia are currently drawing up a comprehensive agreement regarding Australia's role in the search and the broader investigation. This agreement will set out such matters as the critical decision points in the search, the handling of accident victims, the custody and analysis of the aircraft wreckage and the down loading of information from any flight recorders that may be recovered.
Yesterday, I advised that based on the continuing flow of information, the search area was adjusted to move the area a little bit further north. There is nothing unusual about this. Day by day, the Australian transport safety bureau continues to refine the area where the aircraft may have entered the water. Based on continuing ground breaking and multidisciplinary technical analysis of the satellite communications and aircraft performance past from the international air crash investigative team. I might add these experts -- the leading experts in the field in the world today. This means the search area will be adjusted on a semi regular basis.
I would also like to let you know that yesterday I had the opportunity to meet with the CEO of Malaysian Airlines. We had a very constructive meeting. And I am pleased with the way arrangements are progressing. The west Australian government is also working to ensure all the necessary arrangements to support the families are being put into place. The west Australian premier Colin Barnett has conveyed to me the importance he places on hosting the families and the very good assistance that he intends to provide to them when they arrive in Perth.
On Monday, I was asked a question at the press conference as to which ships are carrying helicopters. Let me just provide you with those details now.
HMS success has a helicopter embarked. The Malaysian frigate has a super lynx 300 helicopter embarked. The people's liberation army Navy has deployed six military ships in the search area. One is a landing helicopter dock that has up to six helicopters embarked. The Chinese polar supply vessel has an embarked helicopter.
That concludes my introductory remarks. We're now ready to take any questions that you might have. Yes?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Did you get any information from Malaysia about the case has been turned into a criminal investigation? (INAUDIBLE)
HOUSTON: We are focused very much on the search for the downed aircraft, and to make all the necessary arrangements to facilitate that search and what might follow the search when the aircraft is followed.
I've seen the reporting from Malaysia about criminal investigations. But it's not relevant to the work that we have to do here in Australia at the moment in regard to the search and recovery operation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Is this a criminal case or not criminal? Any information on the direction of the investigation?
HOUSTON: I might suggest that I think that's an avenue that you should perhaps pursue with the authorities in Malaysia, because they are the ones who are looking at this -- these aspects of investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Thank you forgiving those helicopter numbers, we appreciate that. In terms of getting to that 240 kilometers, why is the towed pinger locater being launched in that area specifically? I know the HMS Echo is also involved (INAUDIBLE).
HOUSTON: Well, that area has been picked because on the basis of the analysis, and as you know, it's on the basis that the six hours of pings. We have the exchange between the satellite and the aircraft on an hourly basis. And then there was an additional ping where we think the aircraft might have run out of fuel. On that and on an incredible amount of work that's gone on in terms of how the aircraft might have been flown, how it might have performed, a lot of simulation work by various people. The best area of highest probability as to where the aircraft might have entered the water is the area where the underwater search will commence. And obviously, that's what must be done, and it's on the basis of data that only arrived very recently, and it's the best data that is available. So it's calculated data. As you know, the last known position of the aircraft was up near the Malacca straits and we're in an area many thousands of kilometers south of that position.
So I think it's important that we let that proceed and hopefully, hopefully the calculations are putting us into about the right area.
Do you want to add anything to that? Yes, Paul?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: We heard the term ground breaking news several times in this investigation. That suggests ground is being broken on this. Can you give us a bit more detail what ground is being broken?
HOUSTON: Well, I think ATSB are probably the people -- the best place. But let me start, before this aircraft disappeared, everything was turned off. The only thing that was available to the investigators and the searchers was the pings, which were an exchange between the Inmarsat satellite and the aircraft. Those pings occurred on an hourly basis. There was no indication of air speed, no indication of altitude, very little other data other than that.
Now, what has happened since then is the analysts have taken that data. They've developed it. They've taken the -- I suppose the calculations into consideration. They've looked at how the aircraft might have performed, the likely flight path, the speed of which it might have been flown, the altitude at which it might have been flown. And all of that has been used to try and determine where the aircraft might have entered the water.
And of course, the other thing that you must weigh into this is how much fuel was aboard the aircraft and so on. So it's very complex and we have had the world's best experts this area analyze the data. And over a period of time, that data has been refined.
I think we've probably got to the end of the process of analysis and my expectation is that, you know, we're into a situation where the data we've got is the data we've got. And we'll proceed on the basis of that.
Now, what is so different about this search is that most times, everything I've ever been involved in, you usually have a really good starting point, which is not too distant from the area of search. In this particular case, the last known position is several thousand kilometers north of the likely search area. So we're moving into an area we've never been before, and may I say, I think this ground breaking analytical work has been simply extraordinary. And it gives us, I think, some hope that we will eventually find the aircraft in the area that we're searching.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) HOUSTON: Well, I might come back to you in a future media conference, because it's a lot of money and I wouldn't be able to put a definitive estimate to you at this stage. But perhaps we can have a look at that and come back at a later stage.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Not even how much Australia is spending?
HOUSTON: Well, I think at a future conference I might be able to give you some indicator of how much --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)
HOUSTON: We've got the towed pinger on the Australian vessel with U.S. navy equipment, the towed pinger. But HMS Echo, the British ship, also has some fairly sophisticated underwater search gear. And we've got a couple other devices that can assist with the search which can be dropped from the air. And in terms of towed pingers, I don't think we would be able to get another one in a hurry. These are in very scarce supply. And at this stage, there are no plans to bring another one in.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: So how much time do you think you have before the battery boxes die out?
HOUSTON: Well, on best advice, the locater beacon will last about a month before it ceases its transmissions. So we're now getting pretty close to the time when it might expire.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Are we getting close to the point where a surface search is becoming futile and we need to purely rely on an underwater search?
HOUSTON: No, not at all. And let me just say that, you know, this is a vast area. A vast area, an area that's quite remote. And you know, we'll continue to surface search for a good deal more time, because the break -- if we find a piece of wreckage on the surface or some evidence on the surface that the aircraft went into the water nearby, that gives us a much better data to start the underwater search than we've currently got. I mean, the data we've got is the best available on the evidence that's available right now. But if we were to find debris on the surface, that enables us to perhaps, with the calculation of the ocean drift and all the rest of it, we might be able to come up with a much more definitive data with which to start the underwater search. Continue the underwater search.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)
HOUSTON: Sorry, the?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)
HOUSTON: Yes. I think there's still a very good possibility of finding something on the surface. There is lots of things in aircraft that float. I mean, in previous searches, life jackets have appeared (INAUDIBLE). In fact, one of the most famous investigations of all time, when the British jet disappeared over the Mediterranean, the key piece of evidence there was a life jacket.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)
HOUSTON: Well, you can still search under water, even if the locater beacon has ceased transmitting. This is where the surface search is so important, because if we find something on the surface, that's going to narrow the search area substantially. Instead of searching over an area the size of Ireland, we might be able to get into an area the size of the metropolitan area of Perth, for example. And when you come to the underwater devices; that's going to help immensely.
Now, bear in mind, there are other devices on board Ocean Shield. There's a vehicle on Ocean Shield that can be put down into the water and it can go around in very deep water for 24 hours to search the ocean floor. And that sort of equipment has proven to be very, very effective in previous searches for aircraft under water. For example, the air France aircraft that was lost several years ago.
Do you want to say anything about that, Scott?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can, if you wish.
HOUSTON: Yes, please.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: The Australian government is not putting a time period on the search effort -- (INAUDIBLE)
HOUSTON: Well, the prime minister said only yesterday that we would continue the search as long as there is any hope of finding the aircraft. Now, I would suggest to you that we have not searched everywhere where the aircraft might have gone. I mean, we're concentrating in an area that has been developed as a consequence of the analysis that I talked about earlier on. So we've still got a long way to go in terms of the searching.
I mean, when you're searching these vast areas of ocean, it takes a lot of time, a lot of effort, and depending on the weather conditions, it's incredibly difficult to do a visual search. For example, if you're looking for white objects in the water with white caps everywhere, it's very, very difficult. And I've been in circumstances myself where there were people, survivors of a ship going down or a boat going down, where I would not have been able to find the people in the water because it was just white caps everywhere, without the assistance of marker buoys with smoke that had been dropped in the water. And it was actually the marker buoys that I was able to use to get the reference on the people who were in the water, because I couldn't pick them up.
There was so much to excite the eye. These are the conditions, some of the conditions, that our people have been doing the search have sometimes had to deal with, much easier to do a visual search if you've got good weather and flat seas.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: In terms of the underwater search, exactly which equipment is going to be deployed today?
HOUSTON: The towed pinger has been deployed today on ocean shield. The search is currently ongoing. And of course, it's not just Ocean Shield that's doing the search with the towed pinger, but HMS Echo, the British oceanographic ship, which is coming on a converging course over to 40 kilometer track. And it has good equipment for finding things on the floor of the ocean.
So those two ships are working together. I'm not familiar with all the equipment that the British ship has. But I know the pinger that we've got is very effective. And if you want to know more about the pinger, I suggest you have a chat to captain Matthews one on one after this conference.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)
HOUSTON: We have got a fact sheet that we're going to put out on the use of satellites and the issues around satellite imagery. Fundamentally, I think what we've discovered is that there was an awful lot of debris in the ocean that came from other activities, fishing activities primarily, which was floating around in the area where the satellites were flying over.
And as you know, initially we were sort of looking for big pieces of wreckage. One of the things about the air France search was they found the plane. So we're looking for something big, and unfortunately all the leads we got from the satellites turned out to be other things other than wreckage from the aircraft.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: So you're no longer looking for these big pieces?
HOUSTON: No. We use everything that we can to basically try and find the aircraft and wreckage in the ocean which is you've got to use everything that's available and the satellites continue to be a source of information. But thus far, they haven't found anything that can be connected to MH-370.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Are you confident that you have all the intelligence information that you need to conduct this search? Have you gotten everything that you need from all the countries involved, including Indonesia?
HOUSTON: Absolutely. The cooperation, I've never seen cooperation as effective as what we're seeing at the moment. Eight nations out there working as one team with a common purpose because we need to find this downed aircraft and we need to do everything necessary to get closure on this particular matter.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Does that include information that would normally be classified from countries like Indonesia?
HOUSTON: Well, the information we're getting is giving us a lot of good evidence. I mentioned earlier on the work the investigative team is doing. That's actually the most crucial material or the most crucial evidence that's being presented. You know, the Indonesians have been helpful. Everybody has been helpful. Everybody wants to find that downed aircraft. And I don't think anybody is withholding anything in terms of what needs to be done to do the job.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: And on a technical point, do you see the search area being narrowed at all in the next few days? Can you see it reducing by 50 percent over the next few days?
HOUSTON: I would not make a prediction, because the search area will be adjusted as required on the basis of the evidence that becomes available. I might add, that's what happens on every search and recovery, search and rescue operation. You start with a bigger area. And then when you get evidence and you start to be able to refine the search area to a smaller and smaller area and eventually you find the target, whatever that happens to be.
One more question, and then I'm going to depart.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)
HOUSTON: You know, there are many similarities, but I would state categorically it's different, because the wreckage from the air France aircraft was found within 24 hours of the aircraft being lost. There were two separate debris fields 80 kilometers apart, and of course, two bodies were also found.
Now, this particular set of circumstances we've gone almost a month and have found absolutely nothing. The other thing that's quite different about this, airliners fly air routes. So if you lose an aircraft, you -- the first thing you to do is have a search along the air route. And usually that will get you the evidence you need to enable the rest of your search operations. And indeed that's what happened in the air France circumstances.
One more question, and that's it. Yes?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Does Australia have all the access to the investigation data from Malaysia as well as the other countries and can it release this information or who has the right to release this information? (INAUDIBLE)
HOUSTON: Look. I mentioned the -- when I talked about the investigation, I mentioned the nations that were involved in the investigation. We are getting all the information from that team (INAUDIBLE) based in Kuala Lumpur. They also have internet or computer links to all other agencies in the world who might be able to help in these circumstances, including Boeing, Rolls-Royce, everybody who might be able to help us and Malaysia in particular, determine what might have happened here.
So, you know, there's no problem with the supply of information. And ladies and gentlemen, I just will tell you, we are giving you everything that we have available. And we will continue to do so. You have my commitment to that. We will engage you with regular briefings, as long as this search continues and indeed if we find something beyond that because clearly it's very important that we all know what's going on.
So with those words, I will leave you to it and if anybody wants to engage Captain Matthews, I must insist it be one on one. You should see Andrea and she will arrange it for you.
Thank you very much.
LEMON: That's the end of that briefing. Now, you heard Angus Houston who is the chief coordinator of the joint agency coordination center. The underwater search for the black box has begun. You hear him saying list, we are committed to this. It will take as long as possible, as long as it takes, we are committed to the search and to finding something. He also said they haven't searched every single area, and there's still a possibility that something could show up on the surface and that would be the best indication as where to look underwater. They have calculated the area of the highest probability, searching there with the U.S. provided towed pinger locater and the British ship HMS Echo. And he says the search still has a very long way to go.
I want to bring in now Geoffrey Thomas who is the editor in-chief of airlineratings.com.
You know, Geoffrey, he answered my question to you when I said, is this an indication that the search efforts are ramping up, and certainly it appears that they are.
THOMAS: Look, indeed. Another frigate from Australian and also a Malaysian ship as well. And this is the first time we have been aware that HMS Echo can also track for those beacons underwater as well.
So, you know, indeed, there is more assets coming. We know that there are more wedge tile aircraft from the Australian air force coming across to act as air traffic control platform as well to help coordinate the search.
So indeed, as the prime minister of Australia has said, as the air marshal Angus Houston has said, now it is going to be lift. So chance on this, we're in here for the long haul. And they're very confident that if it can be found, the team that's now assembled can find it.
LEMON: He said they're searching a vast area and this will take some time. Any search that is this large will take some time.
Geoffrey, stay with me. When we come right back, I want to get to my team of experts to react to tonight's news conference. That is the sub-surface search. It has begun. They are out there tonight looking for pings from the black box.
We'll be right back right after a short break.
LEMON: I'm Don Lemon.
Breaking news from Perth, Australia, the subsurface search has begun using the U.S. navy's pinger locator.
I want to bring in now my team of experts. Geoffrey Thomas, editor in-chief of airlinerratings.com, Jeff Wise, the author of "extreme period of Science of your mind endanger," Mary Schiavo, former inspector general of the department of transportation, she is at now an attorney for victims of transportation accidents, Les Abend is a 777 captain, lieutenant colonel Michael Kay, a former advisor to the UK ministry of defense and Jim Tilmon, a retired American airlines pilot and aviation attorney. Steven Marks joins us as well. He represented the families of Air France 447.
I want to go to you, first, David Soucie. Did this press conference, with the head of this search, Angus Houston, make you optimistic -- no Soucie. What about you, Michael Kay? Did this make you optimistic about this search effort?
MICHAEL KAY, FORMER ADVISOR TO THE UK MILITARY OF DEFENSE: Hi, Don. Yes. In one respect, I am cautiously optimistic with this. I think the air chief marshal had an upbeat tone to his presentation.
This is the first time we've actually been told about a specific distance, 240 kilometer tracks that are going to be track by ping locators. That is the most refined analysis we have received so far in this search. So that's the good news. The bad news is that it's still based, in part, on assumptions -- speed, height, fuel, endurance. So with that becomes a level of inaccuracy.
I would also say that this depends on the ship's getting out there in time before the GPS batteries run out and stop picking. Because if they stop pinging, these ping locaters are effectively rendered useless. So I would yes, cautiously optimistic, but there are still big facts at play which means that as the air chief marshal said, we should be also focusing on the air search.
In my view, the most likelihood of finding anything to do with MH 370 in that area would be from the aircraft in the air and not ping locaters.
LEMON: OK Mary, here is what he said. This stood out to me (INAUDIBLE). He very said the data we have is the data -- or the data we've got is the data we've got. He says usually in most times, often times, you have a really good starting point. But this one is different. What stuck out to you with that statement?
MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, that's the statement of the whole press conference that stuck out to me, because he was very -- I thought very honest and straightforward that they're doing the best they can. But it was clear that they didn't expect to get additional refinement in the data. The cautious optimism part came in that they're dealing with what they have and throwing all that they have at the data but that's all they have. And that is why they are throwing the ships and the pinger locators and the submarines. And they are throwing all they have got at the data, but that is all they have in terms of data.
LEMON: Steven Marks, you have a couple of legal questions after this press conference?
STEVEN MARKS, AVIATION ATTORNEY: Well sure, I have some legal and some factual information I would like to know. First, the question about which Mary just talked about, which is the data. Are they referring to the data that has been filtered or interpreted by the Malaysian government and Boeing, or do they have access to the raw data? That is a concern, because when the gentleman said during the press conference that the equipment, everything was turned off.
That bothers me because that assumes that the equipment was intentionally turned off as opposed to not working. When you start coming to conclusions and working backwards to try and support your conclusions, that's a very dangerous investigation. I feel like this whole investigation has been infected with that kind of process.
LEMON: Yes. And I don't want to put words into his mouth, but what he sounded like he was saying were the calculations made by Inmarsat and he said the best minds as to where this plane may have entered the ocean. That sounds like the information that they are referring to.
We'll talk a little bit more about that after very quick break.
More analysis on the press conference just held in Perth by the man in-charge of this search. We're back in just a few minutes.
LEMON: I'm Don Lemon.
Our breaking news tonight, the underwater search for flight 370 has begun using the Navy's pinger locater to try to find the black boxes.
Now, I want to bring in Bill Schofield, an Australian scientist who has worked on black boxes. He joins us via Skype and also David Soucie, author of "Why planes crash."
First to you, Bill. You helped create the whole concept of flight data recorders. Given the challenges of the search, do you think that we'll ever find these black boxes?
BILL SCHOFIELD, AUSTRALIAN SCIENTIST: Well, I feel a more confident listening to my colleague Angus Houston. Then I must say a few days ago when they were talking about larger areas, I thought that it would be quite remarkable if they found this black box.
You've got to remember the Air France aircraft that went in, we knew where it was within a couple of days. It still took something on the order of two years to find the black box. So even when we find the wreckage, which they will do, we then have got quite a job to find the black box because as I understand it, at least, originally the reports were that the water was very deep. They were quite in fee calm at the deep water (INAUDIBLE). So I don't know whether the new search area is that deep, but it's hard to search at those depths. You make very special equipment for the (INAUDIBLE). So if they do find it, I think it will be remarkable.
LEMON: So David Soucie, if it has been submerged, what is the chance that the beacon is still sending out pings? Let's take a listen to the sound and we'll talk.
(AUDIO CLIP PLAYING)
LEMON: How likely are they to hear that, David?
DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Well, I'll tell you what. That sound you're hearing, Don, is just a simulation of what's heard. That's not really what the pinger locater hears. It's a loud sound, the pinger locater, and it can be sensitive down to a very long distance. We talk about it being one mile. Well, that's the minimum it could ever be. It's designed to be up to three miles. It's the blocking of other things around it.
But I wanted to talk about what we heard tonight. Don, we've been talking about the ebbs and flows --
LEMON: And quickly, David.
Why don't we talk about that after break? And I want to get your information.
SOUCIE: I would love to say about it. I'm really excited about.
LEMON: Yes. I want to discuss the black box with you. But I do want to discuss what happened in that press conference with all of my guests. So Bill, David, stick around. We'll be back after a very quick break.
LEMON: Back to Bill Schofield who helped create the black boxes and David Soucie, an expert in aviation as well.
David, you were saying that you're really excited about the information that came out of this.
SOUCIE: I really am. You know, doing a lot of investigations myself, as we've been talking about for weeks, there's ebbs, there is flows. We have to take the bad with the good. This is beyond a flow. This is a milestone. And let me tell you why I think that.
We've got so much equipment out there now. We have the echo out there. We have got the tireless (ph) out there. We have the towed pinger locaters out there. Everything that's out there right now is 24-hour service. These things are going to be going 24 hours. Before we were limited because we had to take two or three hours to get out there, at least, then, we'd only have a few hours to search and comeback. We are limited by daylight, limited by -- these things work at night, they are working all the time. And in fact, team pinger locators are pinging right now, if it is within any them are close, they are starting to look for it. They are starting to move forward. You can hear -- you can hear his statements about working together. It is amazing the energy in investigation, how it changes at this point.
SOUCIE: A lot of this thing going on and I'm glad to see it coming together.
LEMON: Thank you very much.