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Mystery of Flight 370

Aired April 11, 2014 - 21:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, THE LEAD HOST: Tonight the U.S. Navy is agreeing those signals on the water are almost certainly from block boxes from Flight 370. I'm Jake Tapper and this is The Lead.

The World Lead, the navy now echoing the Australians who say they are very confident they're closing in on the block boxes. Tonight the search zone tightens yet again. Smaller and smaller each day this week. Also time and again Malaysians officials have fumbled in their investigation. And the airline in question even lost black box data before. So if these recorders are found should somebody else maybe take crack in what's in them?

And directing the top two grossing movies of all time just one feather in James Cameron's cap. He's also an undersea adventurer with the coolest toys at this disposal. We'll ask him would he put any of them to use in the search for Flight 370?

Good evening everyone I'm Jake Tapper welcome to The Lead and it's a special prime time edition. In our world lead tonight and another positive sign of progress in the hunt for Flight 370, officials are ounce again tightening the search area way off of Australia's coast. It's not down to 16,000 square miles. That's about 2,000 square miles smaller than yesterday. In fact this is the 5th consecutive night we've been able to report on The Lead an incremental reduction in the search region. And if you think that means searchers are much closer to finding the block boxes well the U.S. Navy agrees with you.

Tonight the spokesman for the Navy's 7th fleet which is operating the pinger locator on that Australian Ship the Ocean Shield, he says he agrees with the Australian Prime Minister whom as our aviation correspondent Rene Marsh reports seems almost certain that the pings in the water are coming from the block boxes.


RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Another day of searching above and below water for signs of Flight 370 is now under way.

Forget cautious optimism. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is oozing confidence.

TONY ABBOTT, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: We have much narrowed down the search area and we are very confident that the signals that we are detecting are from the block box on MH370.

We are confident that we know the position of the block box Flight recorder to within some kilometers.

MARSH: His tone stronger and more upbeat compared to the careful wording two days ago from the man coordinating the search.

ANGUS HOUSTON, JOINT AGENCY COORDINATION CENTER CHIEF: I think that we're looking in the right area. But I'm not prepared to say, to confirm anything until such time as somebody light lies on the wreckage.

MARSH: But with rumors flying, the block boxes were located overnight Angus Houston released a statement saying, "There has been no major breakthrough in the search for MH370." Over the past week Ocean Shield detected four pings within about 15 miles of each other. Excitement over a possible 5th ping vanished overnight. The signal a sonobuoy picked up was not from the plane's block box.

ABBOTT: The signal from what -- we are very confident is the block box is starting to fade.

MARSH: It's now 35 days since the plane went missing five days beyond the batteries required shelf life.

ANISH PATEL, PRESIDENT, DUKANE SEACOM: We call it bonus time, the battery is going to start degrade. It sounds like we're in that period right now.

MARSH: As we prepare to enter week six, no wreckage, no debris, no tangible evidence, just four pulsing sounds fueling hope. Crews were once searching all over the Indian Ocean. Now they're looking for debris (inaudible) the size of New Hampshire and Vermont combined. Searching the ocean floor with an underwater vehicle could be days away.

The Chinese have move on from the area where one of their patrol boats picked up pinging sounds. They are now focused on the search area where crews are looking for debris on the surface. Rene Marsh CNN Washington


TAPPER: Searchers have to narrow down the search field as much as possible before or sending down that Bluefin 21 submersible, that underwater drone because that underwater craft has to move much slower and dive much deeper. Today fewer planes are going out for only, up to 10 of them in the air, 14 ships on the water. I want to get to Will Ripley standing by live in Perth Australia where another day has already gone in the search for Flight 370. Will the visual search area is not smaller than it's ever been. What's happening right now?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, you know, and that visual search so important Jake especially for the 370 families who keep saying time and time again they are not going to believe despite the confidence of the Prime Minister, of the search crews, they're not going to believe anything until they see a tangible piece of physical evidence that the plane is in fact in that area in the Indian Ocean some 1,400 miles Northwest in the coordination center where I'm standing right now. You know, what's happening out there today they're looking for debris and the weather is not cooperating as well as it has earlier this week.

We know that there are showers, visibilities, much shorter. About three miles or so in either direction and pretty low clouds. And there's also a swell about a meter you know, so several feet. So not the ideal conditions but the visual search continues on.

TAPPER: Will what the mood of the search teams, is there any fatigue setting in?

RIPLEY: If there is search fatigue Jake they're not outwardly showing it. You know, time and time again we've asked the flight crews when we've gone up and flown with them, how does it feel to go out there day after day and now here is day 36 in Perth and yet find nothing, to comeback empty handed. And what we're told is that they view each day finding nothing is a step forward because they can mark off one area, move on the next and, you know, as we've seen they just continually keep refining the size of the search zone, become smaller hoping that they're going to come upon something.

TAPPER: Let's bring in our panel, Van Gurley, former navy oceanographer and Sr. Manager of Matron Scientific Solutions. David Soucie, CNN safety analyst and author of the book "Why Planes Crash?" And of course our own Miles O'Brien, CNN aviation analyst.

Van I want to start with you, given the size of this new search area it keeps getting smaller. What kind of timeline are we looking for to find the black boxes if in fact this area is as accurate?

VAN GURLEY, SR. MANAGER, MATRON SCIENTIFIC SOLUTIONS: Well Jake the issue two-fold, one is getting the size of the box about right. And then two really knowing what the bottom looks like there because that has a big factor on how fast they can use the Bluefin, how close they can get it to the bottom, how much overlap between things called the line spacing. So a normal planing figure with a vehicle like that is about 20 square miles a day of operations and so right now, it looks like based on the pings we've had, you know, you're looking at a search area between 600 and 750 square miles if they can refine it, that will be even better.

And you can operate everyday, weather is going to come in and really slow things down. So we're still probably looking at a month, maybe two months on the outset given the size of the box right now. But again if there's anymore information and they can shrink it down, that helps immensely.

TAPPER: Wouldn't they theoretically Miles bring in more than one Bluefin 21 wouldn't they bring in a few to help do this, or are they so rare and expensive?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: I don't think there any tactical reason why not, I just think it's a matter how many of these exist, I mean Van can back me up on that, and there's one on site right now, that's all they have. GURLEY: Yeah, the problem is not just, you know, putting more on the water, you know, there's of course ship requirements, there's operator requirements and you can't get them too close because they have a lot of internal communications with the ship and so you don't want them interfering with each other. So it's not as a matter of just double -- putting two and now reduce the search rate to half the size from before.

TAPPER: And Miles, what kind of timeline do you think we're looking on assuming that these pings are ...

O'BRIEN: I think Van is right on the money we're talking months and then just having -- gotten to the point where we know where things are. Then you have to get them which involves a whole another class vehicle, these remotely operated vehicles which are tethered to the ships go down and actually have the ability to reach in and grab the boxes if they're still in the aircraft or on the sea floor whatever the case maybe. So the amount of time that's going to take before these block boxes are on the surface and analyze, I mean it seems highly unlikely it's going to happen before winter.

TAPPER: Wow. David what is it about these four signals that make the Australian Prime Minister and now Commander Marks of the U.S. Navy so confident that they're in the right area.

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: You know, I'm a little perplexed to be honest with you because with Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston the other night I was so pleased with the fact that he stuck to the investigation 101 which is that you give the facts and you don't give speculation. And you don't -- he's not a CNN analyst. He shouldn't be talking about what his opinions are or how he feels about things. What we do in an investigation is you say what the facts are. It's unfair to the families and other people to say, so therefore I believe this, or feel like this. That's really unprofessional. It's what got the Malaysians into so much trouble.

So to hear this from the Prime Minister today after a full day of no additional advancements, no new information, that doesn't add credibility. It takes away credibility. All it does is take away the faith, the small faith that the families had in the government at this point. So I'm just a little concerned and confused about this sudden confidence that it's from that airplane and it is the pinger. You know, I believe that it is, I'm confident that it is but I'm not the Prime Minister.

TAPPER: Right.

SOUCIE: So that bothers me a little bit, it really does.

TAPPER: Van let's talk again about the Bluefin 21, the next phase doing -- that they stopped hearing pings after maybe a few more days of that, they send in the Bluefin 21. The technology is -- even if it's very advanced it's incredibly challenging. It's cold. It's pitch black. Different levels of salination (ph), explain how it will work. GURLEY: So the biggest issue down there when you're operating at these depths is the sheer amount of pressure. The weight of that ocean above you is pressing down. So at these depths we're talking about pressures on a vehicle approaching three tons per square inch. And so that's why the engineering has to be really rock solid. And that's why these instruments take a lot of care and fitting so you keep them, keep these vehicles operating.

So what will happen is they program and of course, you say, we want to go look in this little post (inaudible) at the ocean, they program and then it takes about two hours for it to descend down from the surface down to the ocean bottom, you don't do anything fast. And then it just starts moving a lawn over a small patch of the ocean.


GURLEY: Using side scan sonar, it takes very high resolution pictures. Then it has to come back up another two hours get retrieved and then all of the data's downloaded. Then and only then that the analyst gets to see what the Bluefin was seeing. And it could take another day before they are able to screen all those tapes. It's going to go really slow.

TAPPER: Painstaking process, Miles before we take a break, I want to ask you about this Routers report, the air traffic controllers and military officials assumed that when Flight 370 fell the radar that it turned back to an airport in Malaysia because of mechanical trouble. That was their assumption, if that's true, did they follow the proper protocol? It sounds like ...

O'BRIEN: No, this is -- the tragedy of this report Jake and that -- nobody has said it's not true, the tragedy of this report is that if people have done what they were supposed to do, we wouldn't even be talking about this today. There was narrow window there to stop this whole thing from happening. Had air traffic control acted in a timely way and said, you know, we've got a lost aircraft, notified the military in a timely way. And if they put a few airplanes in the air and they've got airplanes there to intercept this aircraft, we would not be talking about this right now.

This is one of the big tragedies of the story that's coming to life because the civilian air traffic control apparatus and the military component in Malaysia apparently were communicating very well with other. And there was some dysfunction that night and maybe inaptitude.

TAPPER: And just to clarify because I want to make sure ...

O'BRIEN: Yeah.

TAPPER: ... that there's no misunderstandings out there. You're talking about finding the location of the crash site, not ...

O'BRIEN: No I am talking about getting that airplane after it turned around. In the minutes after it turned around ...


O'BRIEN: ... if they had intercepted that airplane we would not be talking about this crash right now.

TAPPER: Intercepted it and scared it to the ground or whatever.

O'BRIEN: Well at least tracked it and then, you know, begun the process of figuring out what's going on. But if you've got fighters right beside it, a lot of things changed something.

TAPPER: Wow, OK. Strong statement gentlemen. Sit tight, we have a lot more to talk coming up. The next step in the search for the missing plane, when will investigator start looking underwater and what will the U.S. role be in that search? Plus hunker down listening day and night for any sound of the missing plane, how the team trained to hear the block boxes able to pinpoint one little ping while the ocean plays all these tricks on their ears? That's coming up.


TAPPER: Welcome back to The Lead, continuing our world lead and the search for Flight 370. In just days more underwater equipment could be deployed to try to find those block boxes. We've mentioned some of them before such as the towed pinger locator you've heard of. The Bluefin-21, that underwater drone. But what else might be used, what do they all do anyway? Let's bring in Tom Foreman who's at the magic wall for some clarity. Tom a lot of equipment to go through, help us understand what's what here.

TOM FOREMAN, BROADCAST JOURNALIST: Well the first thing they're trying to do Jake is to clear off all the other equipment. They don't want a bunch of ships and things out here interfering with sounds as they bring in things like the towed pinger locator, we've talked about it a lot. This is the device that has recorded all four of this pings that we cared about so far that have been considered accurate. Beyond that though they have other possibilities, for example they've been -- they've been deploying sonobouys, these are actually designed to detect submarines, they've been modified to try to pick up pings down here.

One was heard but then discounted by authorities, it's not really what they're looking for, they don't think. Once it gets past this though then you'll be talking about things like deploying this robotic torpedo-like device called the Bluefin-21. This will not be listening for this. This will instead be creating a sonic map of the ocean floor here looking for actual big pieces that might be part of this plane. Beyond that if they get to this point they might send down something like the Alvin which could actually carry a person down here with lights to look around, see if they could put eyes on some kind of wreckage down there.

And ultimately when you reach the recovery part they might bring in something like the Remora 6000 which is actually robot that can collect pieces. Jake this is what was used in the Air France crash, we got some of the debris at the ocean floor there. Jake? TAPPER: And Tom one of the pieces of equipment you've just described the Sonobuoy had picked up that 5th ping that authorities now say is unlikely to be connected to the Flight 370 black boxes how would it picked up a false positive?

FOREMAN: Well there are a lot of different ways. It could pick up something out there that we just don't know is there. But there's another possibility that can confuse the issue for all of these listening devices. Out in the ocean, about a half mile down is something called the sound fixing and ranging layer. It is basically a naturally occurring layer of water where sound moves less quickly than it does elsewhere in the water. Sound underwater is about four times as fast as it does in the air. So when it's traveling up through this sort of water and it hits that slower layer, it can bend and be forced to some place where you don't expect to see it.

Likewise, in some cases, it might come up and hit that layer and actually starts bouncing between the top and bottom of this layer and wind up many miles from where it should be. So whether that has anything to do with the Sonobuoy, the truth is there are a lot of anomalies out there Jake that can change the way you hear things. And give you very false senses of where it's coming from.

TAPPER: Tom Foreman thanks. The U.S. Navy has provided two of those assets to the search the towed pinger locator and of course Bluefin-21 that everyone is chomping at the bit for them to use. But what else could the U.S. provide in the underwater search if asked. Let's bring in Mike Dean he's the U.S. Navy's Deputy Director for Salvage and Diving. Mr. Dean thanks so much for being here ...


TAPPER: ... this evening. So if the Malaysians or the Australians were to request more underwater equipment from the U.S. Navy what could you offer that they don't already have?

DEAN: So the normal spread for this after you complete a search and you define a boundary of the debris field is then to move to recovery, once you get into recovery, that set of equipment would be, things like a towed Side Scan Sonar set that can operate at that depth. And as well as a remotely operated vehicle for actually picking the pieces up or ribbing pieces to remove from the bottom.

TAPPER: Explain what those two things are, this towed sides ...

DEAN: So a Towed sides scan sonar is much like the Bluefin-21. The only difference is it's going to be towed behind a vessel. It will give you a real time display of what the sonar is seeing and what the video could be seeing in photographs as well.

TAPPER: And what's the second thing that...

DEAN: And the second is the remotely operated vehicle. That's vehicle that have manipulators and we can lower that down and can actually go through wreckage and look for the black boxes and if we find them it'll grab them and actually give them, bring them to the surface.

TAPPER: Now the pings were first heard over the weekend, they're being analyzed now. The navy is playing a role in that obviously. At what point will the navy be able to say definitively yes, these are from black boxes or no, they're not.

DEAN: I don't think you can ever definitively say that these are from black boxes, the fact that we have signals. Those signals the frequency is a little bit lower than we would expect to see. And we have no other objective evidence. All we have is some sound signals, and until we actually get aside, scan down there and see debris on the ocean floor. I don't believe that just from the towed pinger locator results alone that we can say with 100 percent confidence that we know that we're in the right location.

TAPPER: Have you ever seen with all your decades of experience in this anything else that it could be?

DEAN: No and that's what's got us wondering just what the signal is. But at the same we've also done searches where we had no signals. So it's not uncommon if a beacon is damaged or destroyed and you wind up resorting to a sonar search to locate the wreckage.

TAPPER: Right now the search area has been narrowed to several thousands square miles. What is the optimal size before the Bluefin- 21 is deployed, the underwater drone? At what point, how small would you like that search area to get?

DEAN: In an ideal search, if we're getting a steady signal from a pinger, we would continue to use the TPL until we narrow that search area to where we were confident we could triangulate to that beacon within a couple a hundred yards.

TAPPER: A couple of hundred yards?

DEAN: A couple of hundred yards.

TAPPER: And right now they are at a few thousand square miles.

DEAN: Exactly.

TAPPER: So if we're far from optimal right now.

DEAN: Again, the TPL is the tool that tells you where to begin your search.

TAPPER: Begin the search.

DEAN: And then at that point you would begin side scan operation and move out to define what the boundary of the wreckage is.

TAPPER: Is there a potential role for the private sector in all of these when the navy pulls back?

DEAN: Sure there is, I mean many of these vehicles are available on the private sector. Phoenix International who's working for us now has a commercial sector as well. That does this kind of work. So there are vehicles that can operate at this depth. There's a number of them as well as side scan sonar because they can operate this.

TAPPER: Just to reiterate Commander Marks from the U.S. Navy 7th fleet, he said that he shared the optimism expressed earlier by the Australian Prime Minister that these four pings are coming from the pinger locator. This might just be a mater of style but you don't sound like you share that optimism.

DEAN: I'm going to be a little bit more reserved on that until we actually see something on a video or on a sonar trace. I'm not confident that we have enough evidence to save it for certainty, any certainty that we're in the right area.

TAPPER: Michael Dean, the Deputy Director for Salvage and Diving for the U.S. Navy thank you so much. I appreciate your coming in. When we come back, staying focused in, staying awake, how those listening for the black box pings are able to recognize the one sound they want to hear in an ocean full of noise.

And later he brought the Titanic back to life on the big screen and plunged to the very bottom of the ocean in real life.

Well talk to Director James Cameron about the search for flight 370 and the unknowns of the sea floor.


TAPPER: Welcome back to The Lead I'm Jake Tapper continuing our world lead. The search for flight 370, it has been over a month since contact was lost with that jumbo jet. And any hopes of salvaging the black box is hinged on just a few pairs of ears. Technicians aboard the ocean shield ship who are listening for pings but getting mostly maddening silence. Our Brian Todd is taking a look at their critical mission.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're hanging on what they're hearing. The hopes of finding the black boxes from Malaysia Airlines flight 370 rest on a few anonymous technicians hunkered down inside a control bunker on the ocean shield.

DEAN: Day and night, you know, there is no break. They're pretty much on all the time and what they do is so important to us.

TODD: We went behind the scenes at Phoenix international, the company that made the towed pinger locator that's scouring the search are for black box pings. Phoenix has nine people on the ocean shield. Among them, sonar tech's task with looking at monitors, listening and listening some more.

PAUL NELSON, PROJECT MANAGER, PHOENIX INTERNATIONAL: So you'll sit for days at a time listening to nothing. And then you might hear a chirp but you don't hear another one. So until you can duplicate it and run it back at different angles only till then are you positive you have it.

TODD: And even then, experts say, sound in the ocean can play so many tricks on your ears.

DEAN: Several people are going to look at the signal and see different things. Because all we're really recording is sound energy.

TODD: False positives from fishing and research equipment left in the area. From debris and thermal conditions from the vessel itself can also play tricks on the tech's. Phoenix's operators onboard the ocean shield are good at weaving out false positives. They do it by carefully monitoring the specific frequencies and the repetition rate. And in up centers like this one on board they're highly trained to be disciplined and to discriminate to black out any other potential sounds.

Paul Nelson who worked to search for Air France flight 447, describes the sonar tech's work as meticulous, tedious, time-devouring.

NELSON: There's two ships that work 12 hour shifts. So the first crew will work from mid night to noon and the next team will work noon to midnight. You're monitoring the weather, you're watching what's coming as far as weather, you're monitoring the sea's and you're sitting in front of the screen hoping and praying that you're going to hear something.

TODD: Is it driving a little stir crazy?

NELSON: I really look forward to the meal time. That breaks up the monotony.

TODD: Some of these techs have been doing this for more than 30 years, decades of often thankless dedication just to find that one breakthrough pattern of blips.

NELSON: Everybody is so focused on this task on hand. That once you know you have it, it's a tremendous feeling. It's, that's the high.

TODD: When signals are detected and confirmed, it's reported up the chain of command. Top officials make the announcements and the techs simply go back to work with us still not knowing their names. Brian Todd, CNN, Largo, Maryland.


TAPPER: When we come back assuming those black box are found, should Malaysia defer to the United States when it comes to analyzing the data our panel will weigh in. Also, how complicated will the underwater search for flight 370 be once it does to get started? We'll look at the rules that will determine which country takes the lead. That's ahead on The Lead.


TAPPER: Welcome back to The Lead, continuing our world lead while much of the recent focus of the investigation in the Flight 370 disappearance has been on finding the black boxes. There is another important aspect to consider. Once they are found assuming they are found, who get's them? CNN senior correspondent Joe Johns has more on that from Kuala Lumpur.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, take at 190.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Over two dozen countries have been involved in the search for the missing plane. Any hope of unrevealing the mystery and the fate of its 239 passenger and crew rest in two boxes, the flight and data recorders.

ABBOTT: We have very much narrowed down the search area. And we are very confident that the signals that we are detecting are from the black box on MH370.

JOHNS: If they find them the question remains, who gets the black boxes and who will lead the investigation to uncover what really happened to flight 370. Typically following a crash the country of origin for the airliner in this case Malaysia is tasked with taking charge of the investigation. But Malaysian authorities have already asked for help.

KHALID ABU BAKAR MALAYSIA'S INSPECTOR GENERAL OF POLICE: We don't have the expert to open up the black box and to analyze what are the contents of the data's, the voice data, and the flight data. We have to get expert to do it for us.

JOHNS: The U. S. National Transportation Safety Board and the British Air Accident Investigation Branch as well as Austrian authorities. Each had capabilities with sophisticated labs and technicians. But an international working group of experts has also been suggested. If they are found, decoding the black boxes could be complicated. The boxes are built to withstand extreme conditions including fire and heat damage. But depending on the circumstances of the crash, memory chips extracted from the data recorders could still be damaged and might require cleaning until the raw data begins to paint a picture of what happened.

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: We still don't know what -- what condition they're in. And they've been sitting at the bottom of the ocean under extreme pressure for, you know, weeks perhaps months by the time -- time we get them up. The water could have caused some deterioration of the circuitry. You just need to be careful when you first download it because if you screw it up, you may lose vital data.

JOHNS: And time is now a viscous enemy.

HOUSTON: The batteries are starting to fade and there's a consequence. The signal is becoming weaker.


JOHNS: Even if authorities retrieve those black boxes there is yet another worry. Many cockpit voice recorders run on a loop. And a lot of critical information and audio could be erased even before the investigators get to listen to it. Jake?

TAPPER: Joe Johns Kuala Lumpur thank you. Let's bring back our panel of experts to discuss this. David Soucie as we heard in that piece. Finding the boxes of course does not guarantee that they can pull the data. What are some of the difficulties investigators could face pulling it?

SOUCIE: Well, a lot of the problems that we've seen before is just in the circuitry board itself. Because the way that they're aligned together those little circuit board IC's that you see on there. As it's removed if it's stuck to something or anything, it really is not that difficult to crack these connections between. That's not fatal though because that can be repaired and the information is still in the integrated circuit. So it is -- it is a careful slow process but it can be done.

It's the -- it's the handling of the salt water to dry that's the biggest issue because you -- the salt water will start to crystallize as it dries. So you've got to make sure that you got really good rinds on everything. Because it gets into everything and it can start cracking apart pieces and affect the data as well.

TAPPER: Miles, I want to give you something Joe just said at the end there about the fact that because of a loop, it's possible that even if these boxes are found, even if they are recovered, even if the data is restored and recovered, it might not tell us anything?

O'BRIEN: Well, the cockpit voice recorder captures the last two hours. The last two hours. So think about this flight and what might have been happening at the last two hours. It might very well be silence. Maybe there's a statement there. Maybe there is some sign of a struggle. I suspect it's nothing. And then the flight data recorder itself which measures more than 80 parameters of flight, you know, you name it on what the aircraft is doing. That -- that will tell you if there was a malfunction or a bomb or a sabotage or something. Or if the flight -- the plane was perfectly fine. It won't tell you much about who might have done a deliberate act. There's no black box for human being is there?

TAPPER: You're scaring me Miles. Van, so they haven't detected any pings since Tuesday. It is possible we don't know but it is possible that the batteries are dead? I even dare say it's likely that the batteries are dead. Even if that's true, can the sonar technology being used still be effective because the zone, the search zone has shrunk so much.

GURLEY: Absolutely. Again the whole purpose of the pingers is to get you into the right ballpark. The next set of gear that goes in the water in the Bluefin or other side scan sonar doesn't use the pinger signal at all. It's actually taking a picture of the ocean bottom using sound or optics, so you see what is down there. You have to remember that there are many crashes in -- in the ocean where we never have a pinger or the pinger has completely failed. Air France 447, pingers never heard but that was found. This can do it if it -- if the plane is there, the equipment they have unseen will see it. TAPPER: David, regardless of which country ends up with the black boxes there is still issue of who's going to pay for all of these. How ultimately are these going to get sorted out?

SOUCE: Well, in this scenario, we've got a billion dollars of insurance for accidental or sudden loss and we don't know that yet. We don't know if it was accidental. We know all of a sudden but we probably don't know that it was accidental yet. So the insurance would be obligated to pay for that.

Now interestingly enough Australia, United States whoever it is could ask for money parts of that billion dollars to reimburse them for this recovery that is covered by the insurance. Now as far as how much of that is sent to families versus how much the recovery effort that usually ends up in court and could end up being a long drawn out court battle. But it does get spread out among the participating countries in the search after it's determined how much the families get for their reasonable settlement.

TAPPER: Miles, the Malaysian Government, I'll be charitable. This has been a very difficult thing for them and they haven't always had the technology that they need in the expertise and the wherewithal. So if the U.S. recovers, the U.S. and the Australians recover these black boxes, are they obligated to give them to the Malaysians? Or can the U.S. and the Australians keep them saying well they won't say this but they don't trust them and they actually have the knowledge of how to get that data and figure out what happens.

O'BRIEN: I think that's going to be a moot issue. I'm pretty sure that the Malaysians will not exercise any desire to take those black boxes and frankly see if they can monkey around with it to make it work. I mean this requires, you know, we've been talking about the amount of expertise and its involvement in this. There's only a few places in the world where they do this effectively safely and have experience doing it NTSP here in Washington one of the places.

And Australia also has a very sophisticated lab that can do this. I can't imagine the Malaysians insisting they take those black boxes and with no expertise opening them up.

TAPPER: I suppose that you've heard them in the piece in Joe's piece, they say they don't have the expertise. Thank you so much for our panel David Soucie, Miles O'Brien, Van Gurley I appreciate it.

Coming up on The Lead he's a Hollywood icon who has personally explored the deepest depths of the ocean. Director James Cameron coming up next, he tells me what it's like going nearly seven miles underwater as we discuss the search for Flight 370.


TAPPER: Welcome to the special prime time edition of The Lead I'm Jake Tapper and the world news. He's been a titan of the box office for decades. So when filmmaker and environmentalist James Cameron decided he wanted to create a series about climate change, it was only fitting that he would inject it with all the drama and suspense of one his signature blockbusters. That new series is years of living dangerously.

And it's at the premier of this Sunday on Show time, Cameron says the project was not an easy sell to Hollywood but just as he has tackled so many other productions, he lined up enough talents including Matt Damon, Jessica Alba, Arnold Schwarzenegger and President Obama to try to bring these compelling stories to the screen. Not about futuristic cyborgs destroying the planet but us.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's responsible for destructive characters now seared into our collective consciousness such as in aliens.

SIGOURNEY WEAVER: Get away from her you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Or the Terminator.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's directed the two highest-grossing films of all time Avatar and Titanic.

LEONARDO DICAPRIO: I'm the king of the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Having won three academy awards, James Cameron has reigned as Box Office Royalty for decades. But far from Hollywood's walk of fame the Director indulges in another passion.

JAMES CAMERON: Now I'm home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Underwater exploration.

JAMES CAMERON, FILMMAKER AND ENVIRONMENTALIST: I want to get down there and look around and image of is this 3D camera's in bring it all back so people can see what's there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course Cameron has made his mark on this industry as well. Logging more than 70 deep sea dives. Nearly half of them to site of his big screen inspiration the Titanic. Cameron has now spent more time on the Titanic than the Captain who perished with the ship. From blockbuster dives to blockbuster films, James Cameron has been a pioneer exploring and creating worlds beyond imagination.

His latest project aims to save the world we know. For years the activist has been vocal about harm being done to the environment.

CAMERON: Climate change is real and we need to do something about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now he and his Hollywood friends are teaming for years of living dangerously, a nine part show time documentary about man-made climate change and the damage it is causing. Not in the future but now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The time is now.


TAPPER: Academy award winning film maker, environmentalist and deep explorer James Cameron joins me now from his Manhattan beat production Studio Mr. Cameron, as always great to see you. We're going to start with one quick question not about your show and then turn to the show. But I have to ask you're a deep sea explorer.


TAPPER: You took the Deep Sea Challenger to the deepest known point on earth in a record breaking solo dive almost 7 miles below the surface and filmed it all in three day. Obviously investigators are now looking for an airplane that could be three miles below the sea. Give us some idea and insight about what happens that far down.

CAMERON: Well you've got three miles down you get a tremendous amount of pressure. That's the sort of depth of the Titanic wreck and the Bismarck wreck. So any vehicle that can go down there and operate has to be built to withstand these incredible external forces. Plus you get three miles of water that you have to communicate through and radio frequencies won't go through water. So you're communicating by sound primarily or maybe by fiber optic cable. It's a very, very difficult regime to work in.

TAPPER: And one thing this story does tell, it's something that you talked about all the time which is how little we know about our own ocean? Do you think that society should be devoting more energy and resources to studying deep sea topography?

CAMERON: I think we need to know more about the oceans and kind of real time. We need to know more about what's happening in the water column and that feeds into, you know, climate modeling and all the other stuff. The ocean is a vast volume. You know, the land, you know, we can see the surface of the land from orbit. You can Google just about any spot on the surface of the land but the ocean has depth, you know, three miles down to seven miles.

And so it's this huge volume, full of life, full of, you know, chemical interactions and that's where the carbon is going. That's where the temperature is being controlled, all of those things.

TAPPER: So let's talk about your series. Everyone from Harrison Ford to former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to Jessica Alba is part of this series. Why do think it takes that kind of star power to make the public pay attention to climate change?

CAMERON: I think that's exactly you got to think. I think a lot of people have so many worries with the economy the way it is. They just don't want to think about this, it's like one more thing. There's enough kind of denial out there on the airwaves that they can kind of shut it out of their minds like wow, I'll wait until people make up their minds about his whether this is a real problem or not.

And I think it takes people that you can relate to, that you feel familiar with because you've seen them your whole lives maybe, telling you that this is something that you got to pay attention to. And, you know, so we tried to design the show in such a way that it will draw you in with human stories that are compelling, not a lot of charts and graphs and that sort of thing.

TAPPER: And that's right. This is a series about lives, individual lives being transformed.


TAPPER: By climate change from droughts in Texas to raging wildfires out west to the after effects of the Superstorm Sandy. I have to say, you're not alone but you certainly paint a dire picture of what is to come if climate change isn't addressed more seriously. Do you think that climate change is reversible? Do you think that our opinion leaders and our decision-makers can do anything about this?

CAMERON: Oh I think we can do a lot about it. Yes, absolutely. I mean, we got to put a tax on carbon and cut emissions and all of those things and shift more to alternate energy but, yes, we can make a big difference. The difference will be the difference between, you know, the people that live in poverty or are displaced by rising sea levels or don't have enough to eat because of crop failures because of droughts.

And everything that we do now will make a huge difference in 10, 20, 30 years on people's lives around the world and not just in poor countries but right here. I think that's one of the things that's shocking about the shows to see how Americans right now are being affected by climate change. This is not something in the future.

TAPPER: James Cameron, thank you so much. Years of living dangerously premiers Sunday, April 13th on Showtime. We wish you the best of luck with it.

CAMERON: OK, thanks Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up a hero firefighter who could not stop thinking about the victims you save, long after the flames were out. Her story, coming up next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to The Lead. I'm Jack Tapper. The buried lead now losing your home in a fire is devastating and for pet owners finding help for the four-legged members of the family simply adds to the burden and that's where today's CNN hero comes in.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was a firefighter in Philly for seven years. You get through a fire scene and the firefighters are there to put out the fire. The Salvation Army and the Red Cross assist the people once the fire is out but there just wasn't anyone there to help the other part of the family.

I would see how upset the people were about their animals, you know, where is my pet and then where is it going to go. These are the people's children. They've just lost everything they shouldn't then be forced to lose their pets as well.

We have a dog displaced by a fire, a Chihuahua. I'm headed to the scene now. We respond 24/7, 365 days a year. We do to protect what the Red Cross does for its people. Now we went to the basement, you know, he's all hiding behind something. Once the fire is under control, we are able to look for the animals and bring them out.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Red Paw headquarters needs my help.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This helped closed to a thousand animals should send it at my house and the owner said she was pregnant, everything that their animal needs ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey buddy, are you hungry?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... we'll handle for free for them.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When we reunite the families, it's a good thing. It's like the void has now been filled.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey, Chocolate. Welcome home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My hopes is that, is to a fresh start that they can move forward together.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nina and Nena are home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If they are feeling through such a sad thing. It's so good to have a happy ending.


TAPPER: Each week, we honor a new CNN hero and everyday a person making a difference. Do you know someone who deserves this recognition? Well, tell us about them in

That's it for The Lead. I'm Jake Tapper. We'll see you back on Monday at 4:00 P.M Eastern at CNN Special Report. The Oscar Pistorius trial starts in 60 seconds. Have a good weekend.