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CNN SPECIAL REPORTS
CNN Special Report: The Mystery of Flight 370; What's Next in Search for Flight 370?
Aired April 16, 2014 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: This is a CNN Special Report, "The Mystery of Flight 370." I'm Don Lemon.
And we begin with breaking news.
We are awaiting analysis of the data from today's Bluefin-21 search, the sub's mission complete. As soon as we know what the data shows, we will bring it to you.
We are also awaiting results from samples from an oil slick found in the search zone, tests under way to the tell if it is from Flight 370.
And the families of Flight 370's passengers have had enough.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're all bloody liars and you're lying to us again now.
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LEMON: That is one just anguished relative lashing out at a Malaysian official.
The families have released a list of 26 questions they want answered. I will talk with someone who knows just how they feel, a man who lost his sister in the crash of Air France Flight 447.
You have been tweeting your questions by the thousands and we have got top aviation and security experts standing by to answer them, like this one, about reports of the co-pilot's cell phone being on in the cockpit. "Is it possible the co-pilot was trying to lay bread crumbs by turning on his phone to make sure someone is aware of the plane's location?"
I want to turn now to CNN reporters in the search zone. Michael Holmes is in Perth. Nic Robertson is in Kuala Lumpur.
Michael, let's start with you, shall we?
At this point, one of most interesting leads is a sample from the oil slick in the search area. What's the status on the testing, Michael?
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
We have got to say it has taken a while, hasn't it, since the slick was first spotted, but you have to look at the logistics of this. The slick was about 1,600 kilometers, over 1,000 miles out to sea. What they had to do was move a navy vessel out towards the slick.
They then helicoptered from that area to that ship. The ship then went back toward the coast until it was close enough to helicopter it back to land. Quite a task. It is here. It's in Perth. It's being examined and we are expecting that analysis really at any time now in the next couple of hours. We're hoping to get a feedback on whether that is linked to Malaysian Flight 370 or whether it is not.
LEMON: Michael, Bluefin back after completing a full mission. The data is currently being analyzed, as we said, but how encouraged are searchers that the sub managed to complete a full mission this time?
HOLMES: They are. It was third time a charm, wasn't it? The first two were cut short.
But those who are operating the Bluefin-21, they say don't read too much in to the first two aborted missions or cut-short missions. They say what went wrong the first time was it was programmed to not go any deeper than 4,500 meters. So, when it hit that, it automatically came back up. It has now been reprogrammed. That was a software issue.
And the second time it was a little oil bleeding in. It wasn't a big deal. They brought that up. Unfortunately, the data from those two missions showed nothing of interest. As you said, we are awaiting data from the first full mission and we will see how it goes.
They have covered over the course of those three missions 34 square miles, 70-odd square -- 90-odd square kilometers of their search. It's a tiny amount of what they need to search. As we have said before, to cover that area could take six weeks. It could take two months.
LEMON: Michael Holmes in Perth, Michael, thank you very much.
Nic Robertson, we have learned the co-pilot's cell phone was on around the time the plane disappeared. U.S. officials also tell our Pamela Brown there could have been other passengers' cell phones that hit the tower. What are you hearing about any developments on this front?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We have asked those questions here, and we're not getting any answers. We're not even getting confirmation from Malaysian officials about the reports that we have and the confirmation from U.S. officials that the co- pilot's cell phone made a connection to the tower.
Officials here don't say anything. They don't deny it. And they certainly won't come on record and back it up and they are not at the moment giving any additional details. We know that there is potential if one cell phone had made connection to a cell phone tower, there was potential for any of the other phones belonging to the other 238 people on board to have made a connection, but nothing from Malaysian officials. And that's very difficult for the families not to get answers -- Don.
LEMON: Nic, some of the families today released a lot of questions that they have for officials. We will get in to this in a little -- into a little bit more detail a little bit later on.
But what kind of demands are they making of the authorities?
ROBERTSON: Yes, they have got 26 questions. A lot of them focus on the emergency location transmitter; 12 of those questions in fact focus on that. They want to know specifics, the frequency, were the devices tested prior to the flight? How many were on the plane? Were the crew trained to use them? Were they supposed to deploy, come into effect when they made contact with water?
If they sank in the water, were they supposed to float to the surface? They have got lots and lots of questions. They also want to know about the flight logbook. They want to be given access to that. They want to know the serial number of the black boxes and they want to know what type of data can be extracted from the black boxes and they even want a phone number for the pilot.
But what we are being told by Malaysian officials is that they will tell the families whatever they can. But as we saw in Beijing yesterday, this teleconference between Malaysian officials here in Kuala Lumpur and the families in Beijing that technically didn't go very well, after an hour, the families got very frustrated, accusations of a cover-up by Malaysian government.
The families are feeling very frustrated. The longer it goes, the more questions they are coming up with. These questions, we have to say, are very detailed, but they're very specific and they're really trying to focus on what's keeping their hopes alive. Their family members may still be alive. So, they are really trying to focus and drill down on any detail that might shed light on that still, Don.
LEMON: Nic Robertson in Kuala Lumpur, Nic, thank you very much for your reporting.
I want to bring in now my team of experts, Jeff Wise, the author of "Extreme Fear: The Science of Your Mind in Danger," Mary Schiavo, former inspector general of the Department of Transportation, now an attorney for victims of transportation accidents, Paul Ginsberg, forensic audio and black box recordings expert, Jim Tilmon, a retired American Airlines pilot, aviation attorney Arthur Rosenberg, and Geoffrey Thomas, editor in chief of AirlineRatings.com.
Geoffrey, since we have you there in Perth, I want to ask you this. We are expecting the results of that oil sample some time soon. What is the status on that?
GEOFFREY THOMAS, EDITOR IN CHIEF, AIRLINERATINGS.COM: Yes, Don. We are.
In fact, the oil came ashore and delivered down to Perth yesterday. We understand it is about a 24-hour period for analysis. That analysis, we understand, started yesterday afternoon. We are hoping that by about lunchtime today, possibly 12:00 today, 12:00 midnight where you folks are, that we will get some sort of guidance as to whether this is oil from the plane, either engine oil or hydraulic oil, or whether in fact it is something else that has been just thrown overboard by a passing ship.
But there seemed to be a high level of confidence that this was not the usual marine oil. This was something different. There seems to be a little bit of a level of confidence that this might be, might be the first piece of debris, if you like, that we find from 370.
LEMON: But I want to get your thoughts on this, Geoffrey. underwater recovery expert David Mearns told Australian government -- quote -- "I think essentially they have found the wreckage site." And he's been on this show with us before. You have spoken with him. We all have. Why are he and so many other officials so confident about this?
THOMAS: Well, David Mearns is probably one of the best and most respected wreck hunters in the world, along with people like Mr. Ballard.
But David Mearns, he found the Bismarck again. He found the HMS Hood, the British battle cruiser in the Denmark Strait. He found HMS Sydney off the West Australian coast. He's very experienced with the sort of forensic clues that you will get.
He's combining those Inmarsat satellite pings, those handshakes. That refined data that was refined seven times and they sent the Ocean Shield out to that very spot and, guess what, they get four very strong pings. For him, for a wreck hunter, that is proof positive.
And I think the prime minister, Tony Abbott, was probably about to say something similar last week, when he stepped back a little bit and said just, we are very confident. There is a very high level of confidence that they are onto the final resting place of 370.
Hello now to Mary Schiavo.
Mary, the pings that are thought to be from the black box have likely gone dead. Did we get enough information from those to warrant this kind of confidence?
MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, actually, ordinarily, you would want to have a lot more for a greater extended period of time.
But I think the confidence comes from the fact they had just four handshakes and then a partial fifth from the satellites. And that last one, as they sent the Ocean Shield and they sent their assets right there and, boom, first day, they got the ping. I think that was a big confidence-builder that let them know they are in the right place, that the handshakes from the satellite directed them in the right direction.
I think that's probably the confidence is that they seem to be in the right place and their clues so far are panning out. That is my take on why they were confident about where they are.
LEMON: Mr. Ginsberg, there have been questions about the role that the HMS Echo nuclear submarine was playing in the search. The U.S. Navy has confirmed the Echo is searching the depth of the ocean floor in the area of the second ping detected on Saturday, April 5, for 13 minutes.
That was considered the most promising ping because of its sound quality. Paul, what do you know, if anything, about that?
PAUL GINSBERG, FORENSIC AUDIO EXPERT: I know they have been searching in this 17-mile radius area, where we expect that amplitudes would be different because of different reflections and currents and so on and so forth. Again, we have talked more about the salinity and the temperature creating in effect sound walls off which to bounce the signals.
And, hopefully, we have got a shot because, if the amplitude is strong, we should be close to it.
LEMON: You know, Jim, we are still awaiting the information from the Bluefin's first full mission after some setbacks. Does it seem that the Bluefin is capable of doing the job now?
JIM TILMON, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Oh, I think there's no question of whether or not it is capable.
And it's a matter now for reading what it is doing and giving ourselves enough time to analyze it properly and exercise a lot of patience.
LEMON: Arthur Rosenberg, they are searching in an area that has a tremendous amount of ocean trash. Could we see a similar dynamic that we saw in the aerial search, some promising leads, possible debris detected that turn out to be just trash? Do we need to be cautious even if there are results from the Bluefin?
ARTHUR ROSENBERG, AVIATION LAWYER: Yes, I think you have to delineate between what's floating on top of the water and what's going on under the water.
This thing with this Bluefin, I think, is this. I don't think that's enough of an asset to cover officially and effectively the area we have to cover. Kind of reminds me if you were in a World Series and fielding the field with half of your team. There are other assets which they can use, like the Orion, which is a towed side-scanning sonar, which are a hell of a lot cheaper than the Bluefin and would certainly speed things up and make this wreckage location a lot more efficient.
LEMON: But someone has to pay for those assets. And as you can see now that they are scaling back the aerial search. I'm sure partially it's because there's money involved in this.
Mary, am I wrong? To get all those assets out there, that is going to incur a lot of expense. SCHIAVO: It is going to incur a lot of expense and the expense will be bore by the countries. We saw it firsthand in TWA 800. Several of -- the FBI, the NTSB, there just weren't budgets for that huge of a scale of an effort. That was about $45 million to $50 million.
So there was talk they were going to present the bill to TWA and its insurers and the insurers said, no, thanks. It's not for us to pay. So there's a real question about who pays for this and right now each nation is bearing their own expense, even though there is a very large policy.
LEMON: Jeff Wise, as you watch all of this, do you think the Bluefin is up to the challenge and do you agree with Arthur Rosenberg that we need more assets out there?
JEFF WISE, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: It is certainly encouraging that they managed to get on the third day all the way through the end of its mission. That's a good sign.
Maybe it was just some teething pains to start out. It is theoretically capable of operating at these depths. It certainly has on paper the capability. There was some talk that maybe this one was a reconditioned model, maybe it was purchased off of a used car lot or something and was not up to snuff.
But I think this is encouraging. Soon, hopefully we will hear the results. Maybe we will even get some data that seems to indicate the wreckage is there. We really have to -- it would be premature to jump on the Bluefin right now and say that it's not up to the task. I think we really have to see what comes out hopefully in a few hours.
LEMON: All right, stay with me, everyone.
If the plane is buried in silt or sand on the ocean floor, will the Bluefin be able to find it? We are going to take a closer look right after this.
LEMON: Breaking news tonight.
We are awaiting analysis from the Bluefin-21, the data there after its successful mission. We will bring that to you just as soon as it comes in.
The success of this search is largely riding on that Bluefin and its sonar, one unmanned sub searching in the dark miles below the ocean surface.
Stephanie Elam went out on the water to try to answer a question for us.
Stephanie, if the plane is on the bottom of the ocean and possibly buried in silt, how challenging is that for this equipment?
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don, we're out here on a boat so you can see exactly how this technology works.
And I want to introduce you James Coleman. He's a senior hydrographer with Teledyne Reson.
Just the Indian Ocean, we have heard so much about how rough it is to work there. Can you put it into perspective for us?
JAMES COLEMAN, TELEDYNE RESON: Well, from the sonar perspective, it is actually a good environment, because it is very, very deep.
You want to get that sonar down deep, away from the surface noise and such. But the complexity is the depth and the little amount that we know about it. To get that sonar down deep, You have to put it on the AUV. That AUV has to have navigation. It has to have control settings, communications and dive all the way down 2.5 miles down. That's what is really complex.
ELAM: OK. Let's go in and take a look at what the data looks like that they are likely getting from a side-scan sonar.
COLEMAN: This is an example of side-scan sonar data, the sensors here in the middle putting sound out to either side. It travels through the water, hits the seafloor and then continues to go.
And based on that, you are able to build an image of what is on the bottom. We just passed over a pipeline.
ELAM: Does that mean then if there is something that is covered now in silt -- it's been a few weeks since this plane disappeared. If it is down there, does that mean they won't be able to find it with sonar?
COLEMAN: If it is truly buried, then, no, you will not be able to find it.
But more than likely, the only thing that will bury it is the impact, and that impact is going to leave a crater that you can see or some portion of it that is still exposed. Once it has hit the seafloor, there is not likely to be further burial.
ELAM: So, with that in mind, Don, it could be somewhat covered but overall there should still be clues if they are in the right area.
LEMON: Stephanie Elam, thank you very much.
Joining me is Tim Weller program manager with Phoenix International Holdings. Also with me, Sylvia Earle, oceanographer and explorer with National Geographic.
Hello both of you.
Sylvia, I will start with you.
You have led more than 100 expeditions, 7,000 hours underwater. What kind of results do you expect from the search of the seafloor? SYLVIA EARLE, OCEANOGRAPHER: Well, it is a challenging task, for sure, with so much area to cover and with limited capability. The Bluefin is a capable system, but it just has a lot of area to cover. And there aren't many systems out there that can do this job.
LEMON: Tim, you know, your company purchased a Bluefin-21. So you know quite a bit about this. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this technology?
TIM WELLER, PHOENIX INTERNATIONAL HOLDINGS: Well, one of the primary advantages is the system is not connected to the ship.
If you are in really rough weather, the AUV is close to the bottom, and it's unaffected by the ship's motion, riding over the big wave. With the towed system, there's a direct connection to the tow fish. As the ship travels over big waves, that motion will be translated back to the tow fish.
In this search, the vehicle is disconnected. The quality of the data should be very good.
LEMON: OK. Good.
I hear you agree with him, Sylvia?
EARLE: I am, yes.
If you are looking from high above, you get less resolution than when you are close to the subject. And, again, there aren't many systems that can go as deep as is required to get good resolution. The autonomous systems are fairly new technology. When they found the Titanic, autonomous underwater systems of this sort simply did not exist.
There aren't many even now. That's part of the problem. If there were 20 of them out there, perhaps it would be more realistic to get, find what they are looking for in a shorter period of time.
LEMON: Interesting. But what about the question we had our Stephanie Elam look into, Tim? Can the Bluefin detect plane wreckage if it were buried in silt at the bottom of the ocean?
WELLER: Well, having done many searches for airplane wreckage, helicopters and such, typically, you don't find the wreckages covered with silt, simply because they are so far away from the rough weather.
Like, if it crashes into a shallow area, there's a lot of high current. Then you would see some -- possibly some silt covering debris. But when you get a wreck that's that deep, you are not going to see any silt, and the sonar would be a very effective tool for finding it.
LEMON: The Navy tells CNN that the Bluefin can be reprogrammed to go as deep as 5,000 meters. Is that pushing the limit, Tim? What are the risks of pushing the depth limit?
WELLER: Well, they test these pressure housings of the vehicles to a specific depth rating.
And when you go past that depth rating you are going into what they call a safety factor that really is there to protect the technology. If they go too deep, the one atmosphere housings would implode and you lose the tool that you are trying to use to search for, search the debris. If at all possible, you don't go past that depth rating. And just you want to keep the equipment safe to continue the search.
LEMON: And so then it is lost forever then. So, that defeats the purpose.
Sylvia, what about a manned underwater vehicle? China has the Sea Dragon. It can go to 7,000 meters underwater. Most of the passengers on board were Chinese. Why isn't the Sea Dragon out there is the question?
EARLE: Well, once the target is found, deploying manned systems and remotely-operated tethered vehicles to actually recover equipment makes sense.
But to deploy the Sea Dragon or any of the other deep submersibles that exist -- and there aren't many in the world that can go as much as two-and-a-half or three miles, a very small fleet of deep manned and deep robotic systems. But they are most useful once you have found what you are looking for. They really have a very limited area and they move much more slowly than the Bluefin.
Bluefin seems relatively slow compared to, say, an aircraft or a ship on the surface, but much faster than sending a manned system down, where you really don't know what you are looking for. Even if you have -- and they would have sonar, but, see, the Bluefin, and there are several other pieces of equipment that are designed to do this survey and imaging with sound, but -- and having -- and there is a place -- I love the place -- for manned systems and the robot, but first you have to find the equipment.
LEMON: All right, Sylvia.
Sylvia and Tim, thank you very much. Appreciate you joining us here on CNN this evening.
Coming up, after well over a month, it is very likely that the black box batteries are dead and we have heard our last ping. So, do searchers need a plan B?
We will be right back with a look at that next.
LEMON: I'm Don Lemon.
Our breaking news tonight, the data from Bluefin-21's first full mission is being analyzed right now, along with samples from the oil slick in the area. We will bring that information to you just as soon as we have it.
Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott telling "The Wall Street Journal" the best leads will be exhausted in about a week.
So, where does the search go from here?
CNN's Jean Casarez has more.
JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The sea has gone silent. More than a week after the last ping was heard, black box batteries are likely dead. With no evidence in hand, searchers for Flight 370 are considering their next moves.
ROB MCCALLUM, CNN ANALYST: We may not have all the clues, and we may have overlooked something.
CASAREZ: Australian officials say they will scale back the air search soon.
ANGUS HOUSTON, JOINT AGENCY COORDINATION CHIEF: The chances of any floating material being recovered have greatly diminished.
CASAREZ: But undersea recovery efforts may expand, if necessary, experts say, extending parts of the search area.
ROB MCCALLUM, OCEAN SEARCH SPECIALIST: I think that will involve retracing that initial arc of the suspected flight path, and that will require some very broad-scale sonar tools.
CASAREZ: Sonar even more powerful than the Bluefin-21 that can dive deeper and create even wider images of the ocean's bottom. It is still the best tool searchers have at their disposal.
MCCALLUM: Until we actually locate some debris with sonar, there's no point in bringing in remote-operated vehicles or manned submersibles. So sonar is going to be the tool of choice for the foreseeable future.
CASAREZ: It could be weeks, months or even years before debris from Flight 370 turns up.
MCCALLUM: My experience is that something always is found. Whether something is seen from a passing ship, something is spotted on a beach somewhere, along western Australia, there's always a clue that is unearthed somewhere along the way.
CASAREZ: The only option not on the table says McCallum, is to stop looking all together.
MCCALLUM: The entire aviation industry is underpinned by this drive for safety. And so until we know what happened to MH-370, we won't know how we can avoid this kind of tragedy in the future.
LEMON: That is Jean Casarez reporting. Thank you, Jean.
I'm back now with my panel of experts. To Geoffrey Thomas in Perth now. You know, Prime Minister Tony Abbott told the "Wall Street Journal" that authorities would need to regroup and rethink their entire approach if they exhaust their leads this week and the Bluefin fails to locate MH-370 under water. What are they saying would happen next?
GEOFFREY THOMAS: I'm more guided by Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, who cautioned us last week that this could be a long search. It will take us two months, approximately, to actually search the area of interest.
So, I think three days in the underwater search, I think we should be guided by Angus Houston. A very measured man, very cautious man. He's done this before. And we're only on mission number three for Bluefin-21. I think we've got a little way to go before we start looking at Plan B.
LEMON: He has been very calm, very direct and he doesn't overhype anything.
Paul, is the reality that sonar is pretty much the only useful tool at this stage in the investigation?
GINSBERG: Well, I think so. It's also the safest. And as some of you, the other panel has already said, why risk someone getting into trouble before we know where we're going. And mind you, we're looking for a nickel, somewhere with on the Yankees stadium playing field in the dark. So we've got to find that first.
LEMON: Arthur, investigators continue to look into signs that the co- pilot's cell phone was turned on in the cockpit. And we have a tweet about this. This is from Bob. He says, "Is it possible that the co- pilot was trying to lay bread crumbs by turning his phone on to make someone aware of the plane's location?"
ROSENBERG: Yes, well, the issue with bread crumbs is some of them lead to the cheese and others don't. In this case, I'm of the mind that the cell phone hand shake with the cell phone tower when they overflew Pyongyang is actually very important. I analyze that in the context of the accident sequence. Beginning at 1:07 with the ACARS reporting. At 1:19 you have the final communication, "Good night. Malaysia 370." Two minutes later, transponders off. We're invisible.
We turn around and fly across the Malay Peninsula. Also, importantly, the captain finally, we know, was reported as communicating, which means the co-pilot was flying.
Now we have a co-pilot's cell phone handshake with the cell phone tower, a cell phone that should have been off. When you look at it in that context, I think it leads you to at least consider that the co- pilot or someone with his cell phone was reaching out.
But of course, there are a lot of unanswered questions, 238 other people on board. Someone else's cell phone surely made the same contact. I think it is very significant.
LEMON: Remember, we were here until 1 a.m. Sunday in to Monday morning. And they were saying they were scaling back. There have 12 aircraft that are involved in this search, despite officials saying that they plan to scale back the aerial search very soon. It doesn't sound like they are winding down that search yet, does it?
TILMON: No. They keep talking about it, but nothing seems to change a great deal, and we see them going out yet another day. So I think they must have something in mind. Maybe something we don't know about?
LEMON: Well, could be true. Jeff Wise, as the search continues, one possibility is that civilian contractors could take a larger role and the military effort recede somewhat. If that happens, would that change the search, you think?
WISE: Well, I mean, as long as the resources continue to be committed, the search will continue. It really boils down to what information the authorities have, how confident they are that this investment of resources and material will yield results. And I think a lot of that will depend on what we find.
As the prime minister said, I think the next week will be crucial. Because there is a fairly limited area on the surface that -- I'm sorry, on the seabed that corresponds to those pings. Remember, the towed pinger locater only had a range of about one or two miles, so it should be fairly compact.
I think what the prime minister said is probably quite accurate. In the next week, we'll know where these resources should really be allocated.
LEMON: Mary, I have a quick question for you that's, you know, up your alley. How long will authorities continue with this active search operation? And will they stop at some point and have to make a decision on weighing the cost of a search -- of a search like this?
SCHIAVO: Oh, absolutely. They'll have to do that. And I do think they'll stop the above-the-water search very soon.
But they're going to have to do that for a couple of reasons. One is just practical. They've got all these different ships and people and man power out there. They're going to get tired, in addition to getting expensive. And they're going to have to direct their resources to the places where they're really going to matter.
And then then they'll have to broach the subject with the airline and the airline's insurer about how much of the rescue and recovery they are willing to pay for. And there have been cases where there have actually been suits filed over that.
LEMON: Wow. OK. When we come right back, my team of experts will answer your questions.
LEMON: I'm Don Lemon. We have breaking news. The Bluefin-21 AUV completed a full mission in the search area for Flight 370. It has searched approximately 90 square kilometers, and the data from its latest mission is being analyzed.
The oil sample collected by Ocean Shield has arrived in Perth and is being analyzed, as well. We'll bring you the results just as soon as they become available.
I'm back now with my panel of experts to answer your questions. Jeff Wise, we have a question from Susan. Susan says, "Why not take one search plane and retrace the plane's flight path. Maybe they would spot something. You know you retrace your own steps when you lose something. Just a thought."
Jeff, it's a kind of commonsense approach. Would that be at all helpful, recreating the path of the plane and matching it with the data that we have?
WISE: Well, that's a great idea. There's just one missing piece of data, and that is how fast was the plane flying? You see, what we have are these arcs, these famous northern and southern arcs. Those aren't actually the path that the plane flew. Those represent the range of possible locations where it ended up at 8:11 a.m. that morning.
So how it got to that range of final positions is the big unknown. And the faster it went, the more southerly that route would have taken it. If you recall, when the surface search started weeks ago, it was way to the south. And then gradually they moved it further north, testing out the possible different speeds that the plane was flying.
So it's a great idea. Unfortunately, we just don't know what the route was.
LEMON: OK. Mary Schiavo now, a question from Rose. "Is the Australian search team getting any advice from experts who helped with previous search rescues?" I mean, Mary, fill us in on the coordination here and how it relates to previous searches.
SCHIAVO: Yes, actually they are. We know for a fact that NTSB, Boeing, they've consulted the French authorities with the VEA (ph). The Malaysians actually went to the U.K. and talked to people in the U.K.. including ACAO (ph). So -- and that's pretty much the big four aviation nations. I guess the only one they haven't talked to yet is Transport Canada.
But those are the nations that have the big capabilities on accident investigation, reconstruction, you know, analyzing black-box data, et cetera. And so they all seem to be involved. So there's coordination.
LEMON: OK. Arthur, I want to present this question to you. This is from Clovis. It says, "Why doesn't the press press authorities to get access to the secret information?" I mean, how do families of these kinds of air tragedies view the role of the press here? ROSENBERG: Well, I think -- I think the press in this case is doing an absolutely spectacular job of digging, trying to get ferret out all the information. But the press has very limited ability to get the Malaysian authorities to release information.
If this were in the United States, for example, the NTSB would have already released a preliminary statement. The press would be involved. We'd have some basic factual information about this airplane, the general rule being if it was discoverable before the crash, you can get it after the crash.
But our hands are kind of tied, given that we're dealing with Malaysia. And the concept of the free press in Malaysia is really very different from what it is in the United States.
LEMON: Well, Malaysia doesn't really have a free and open press. And that's why the family members are happy that we're there to press authorities to get more answers.
Jim, here's a question that needs an answer. It's about the Boeing 777, the triple seven. "It is one of the most reliable airplanes ever built with computer-mediated controls. What -- what if this technology or tech has failed?" I mean, do you believe that this, you know, can stem from a problem from this airplane, something or is it something else entirely?
TILMON: Obviously, I don't know exactly what happened, but I'm going to tell you, I would be shocked to find that there was anything wrong with that airplane.
I mean, the Boeing people know how to build an airplane. And this one, I think, has served extremely well over the past decade. I can't imagine how all of a sudden something would be so catastrophic and so completely devastating to the conduct of that flight that the airplane was at fault. I think that's the last place I want to look.
LEMON: All right. Geoffrey Thomas, you know, this one is from Tammy. "Since most of the passengers were Chinese, why isn't China using their unmanned search vehicle rather than the U.S.?" I mean, should we expect more involvement from the Chinese?
THOMAS: We do have a lot of involvement from the Chinese, but the Malaysians are running the search under the ACAO (ph) rules, and they have asked Australia to lead the search in the southern sector, which we're doing.
But of course we're doing it with the help of the Chinese, with the help of the United States and the British. I mean, we are getting the very, very best minds and expertise we possibly can.
This is really an international effort. And certainly the Chinese here, the Chinese ships here, there's about six of them and their aircraft. And I think, if necessary, we will bring down that Chinese submersible, if it's required.
But I still think the best course of action is with Bluefin-21 for the time being, because that's a proven platform. It found Air France 447. And I really do believe they are taking the right course of action at this stage.
LEMON: All right. Geoffrey Thomas, thank you.
Everyone else, stay with me. We'll be right back. Defiance is in our bones.
LEMON: Welcome back, everyone. Breaking news here on CNN. Some of the families of the passengers on Flight 370 have released a list of 26 questions they want Malaysian officials to answer. This as frustrations boil over in Beijing, as families accuse those officials of being "bloody liars."
I want to bring in my team of experts now to talk about this.
Mary, today some of the families released a list of questions that they sent to Malaysian authorities, including requesting the logbook, air-traffic control audio and personal contact information for Inmarsat. Why do the families want to explore these specifics, you think?
SCHIAVO: That's what families after accidents do. They want to know every detail. Think pour over it and become experts. For example, if they just want to pull up a similar accident. Say they want to pull up the Asiana accident, which is another triple-7, the one in San Francisco, they could go on the NTSB Web site, and they would find this kind of detail released this the public docket.
So they have examples to go by, and when they see the rest of the world getting treated one way and their accident getting treated another, they feel that something is wrong, and there's some reason they're not being given this information.
But every -- you know, every crash is like this. The families want every detail, every piece of information, and they become powerful allies. And if there's going to be change for safety, they're the ones that can do it. They're actually very helpful.
LEMON: Arthur, you know, you work with these cases. You're an attorney. You know, many of these questions are highly technical ones about the emergency locater transmitter, the black boxes. Do families just want to know as many details possible -- as they possibly can, as Mary said? And how would this information help them?
ROSENBERGER: Well, I think these families are trying to make sense of seeming insanity. Like the ELTs, for example. It's perplexing. There were no ELT signals that we know of. There's an ELT in the front of the plane. It senses the acceleration. If the plane hit the water. In the rear of the plane, it's triggered by salt water. All the life preservers have ELTs, and yet there's none.
I think these people are searching and grasping at any information they can get their hands on, and my hat's off to them. I think what the Malaysian authorities failed to do early on is establish credibility with the families and they continue to linger and part of the impetus for a lot of this information that these people are looking for.
LEMON: Geoff, you know, the families asked if officials are certain that areas that have previously been searched were searched thoroughly and don't need to be investigated again. That's a pretty good question. I mean, they're just making sure.
THOMAS: Well, absolutely. I mean, it has been such an emotional roller coaster for me, personally, and I think for a lot of us that have been covering this story.
Imagine if you additionally have a loved one whose fate you don't know the answer to. And, you know, it's so perplexing. Huge areas of the ocean now have been searched. It's not like land where if something comes to rest, it will stay there. Something could -- you could search an area, and there's nothing there. But then the current could bring something there. Something could rise up from below. It's a moving target, and you know, if you're looking for closure it's so frustrating, I'm sure.
LEMON: Yes. Absolutely. Jim, were you surprised by the technical nature of many of these questions the families have for authorities?
TILMON: Not a bit. I've got to tell you, I have great respect for the families and for their decorum and the fact that they have held up as well as they have. And I have a great deal of confidence that they are thinking through this entire affair. They've done tremendous research on their own. As Mary has said, they're going to become experts before this thing is over.
LEMON: Paul, should these families expect to receive an answer, or some -- on these technical questions, the pieces of information, are they best kept secret at this stage in the investigation, do you think?
ROSENBERGER: Well, as Mary has said previously, usually the air-to- ground transmission recordings are not generally released during an investigation. They do come out from other third parties who monitor the frequencies and release them.
But things like the ELT frequency, that's well known. It's universal. It's public information. I don't know what they are going to do with it, but certainly that's easy to answer.
LEMON: All right. Thank you very much. Standby, everyone when we come back one more question and it is a big one. What has all of this revealed about the limits of our technology? That's next.
LEMON: We have time for an answer to one more question. And Paul, I'm going to start with you. This is from Carlos. It says, "How come NASA can see lakes under surface of planets and moons remotely but we can't find a plane here. Using right technology?" I mean, what has the search revealed about the limits of our technology, Paul?
GINSBERG: Well, in fact, yes, there are limits. We have different amounts of resolution at different depths. We have changing situations where on most moons I believe they're dry and nothing is changing. And we're obscured by a number of miles of water.
GINSBERG: It's different.
LEMON: Mary, we have gotten to a point where we think that we're invincible. We can solve everything; we can see everything. And this is revealing that maybe not so much.
SCHIAVO: Well, maybe not so much, but I think that -- that regular people, like the families can't understand why -- and they use the analogy that their cell phone has more tracking technology than this plane, possibly at the bottom of the ocean. But I think it comes down to demand. We've all demanded that technology. Now we have to demand that technology in our airplanes.
LEMON: You're quite right. I have about 10 seconds left.
Jeff Wise, have we reached the limits of our technology? Five seconds, really.
WISE: Can't forget: the people who did this didn't want to be found. They eluded our technology.
LEMON: If someone did, in fact, want to do it.
Thank you very much, all of you. I appreciate you. I'm Don Lemon. That's it for us tonight. "AC 360" starts right now.