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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Coping with the Loss; Comparing Flight 8501 and MH-370 Crashes; Finding the Causes of Accidents in Recent Airplane Crashes; Remembering People Killed in Flight 8501 Crash

Aired December 30, 2014 - 20:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, thank you for joining us.

Many new developments tonight in the crash of AirAsia flight 8501. The search effort back underway again today, growing and becoming a recovery operation. There was some concern growing into the days or weeks or months will go by before the wreckage was found or as in the case of Malaysia airlines flight 370, they would simply remain a mystery.

Today, though, that mystery ended and some very hard work began.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): With every flight over the debris field today, more pieces of wreckage were spotted. Each a potential clue about what happened to flight 8501. Life vests, luggage, airplane parts, and passengers' bodies. Some of the families saw these pictures on local media before being officially notified that human remains had been found. The shock was overwhelming. Many had still held on to hope these last two-and-a-half days.

MARIA EDANG WIRAMI, LOST FOUR FAMILY MEMBERS (through translator): I saw her name on the manifest and wondered if that was really my daughter's. First, I saw my son-in-law's name. I didn't tell my husband because I didn't want him to panic. It was only after I saw my daughter's name and my two granddaughters' names on the list that I told him.

COOPER: In her grief, she said she can accept what happens but she wants to know why the plane went down.

That search for answers happening right now in the Java sea. Crews are scrambling to locate primary wreckage in the AirAsia airbus 320. Fuselage, wings, the flight data and cockpit voice recorders. Debris was first located about midday local time by a military aircraft, 60 to 120 miles from the plane's last known position.

Crew members first saw what appeared to be the shadow of a plane in the water. Then spotting debris, believing what they think is an emergency exit door and some of the passengers. There's now a fleet of ships, military, and merchant, Indonesian and international on the scene looking for more wreckage as crews prepare to bring big pieces of the plane to the surface. The water here much shallower here than the flight 370 search area, but the mission is still daunting.

PETER GOELZ, FORMER NTSB MANAGING DIRECTOR: You're going to have a pretty massive diving operation that would include, you know, recovery chambers. It's going to take some time.

COOPER: Time to figure out what happened to the flight and time to identify the 162 men, women, and children who lost their lives on board.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And as we begin to learn more about some of those 162 people all who are now all presumed to have lost their lives, I want to go first to Surabaya where Andrew Stevens has been talking to family members.

Andrew, the next phase of the search, what happens now, what do we know about it?

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's still very much in most regards a search, Anderson. As you are saying in the report, the primary fuselage, that shadow that the Indonesian air force first saw yesterday, the shadow that looked like a plane which suggests the plane is on the bottom of the sea. They haven't been able to relocate that.

On top of that, we are being told conditions at the site are not good. There's heavy rain band sweeping through there. It's high winds and there are reasonably rough seas as well. So that is all going to prolong this search and until they start getting those key clues, the voice recorders, the cockpit, the black boxes, it's going to stretch out.

What will happen, though, as they collect more debris, as they collect bodies, they will be taken to a staging post, (INAUDIBLE) which is a city on Borneo just about 150 miles or so from the crash site.

The wreckage will stay there, the debris will stay there. The Indonesian equivalent of the NTSC will start work on the investigation there. They'll, of course, be joined by experts from airbus, from the engine makers. Most likely from the U.S. They will be looking for international expertise as they try to piece together what happened while the bodies themselves will return here to Surabaya for identification, for the pain, for the families continues. The identification process, Anderson, going to be a very, very difficult time for them.

COOPER: Andrew, do we know how many passengers have already been recovered?

STEVENS: Well, the official line is still three. And considered that this number hasn't changed in about 18 hours or so. We checked with the director of operations at the search coordination team in Jakarta and they are still saying three.

What the suggest is those conditions are pretty bad. They have been overnight and struggling to find further bodies. There may be a case that they may have taken more up and not reporting it yet. There have been wild swings as would be aware in the number of bodies that have been reportedly recovered, Anderson. But now, the official number remains frustratingly particularly for the families here at just three.

COOPER: And Andrew, is the belief of the majority of the people on board that flight are still inside the aircraft itself?

STEVENS: Again, that seems that appears to be the working assumption. But to be honest, Anderson, we get more from aviation experts, people who have been sort of been analyzing the debris field, the conditions surrounding the plane when it last lost contact avoiding the storm. Officials themselves are not saying anything about that, but it would appear to be the case that most of the passengers are likely, and I stress this obviously not confirmed, but are likely to remain in the main fuselage of that plane which comes back to the shadow. They've got to find that shutter. It was described as a skeleton of the plane they saw and until they find that, they really can't say.

COOPER: All right. Andrew Stevens, I appreciate the report. Thank you.

A lot to talk about tonight, not just the logistics of the recovery operations which could be as we said formidable, but also the answers it may provide when it comes to determining what brought down the aircraft.

CNN analyst David Gallo is with us. He co-led the search for the wreckage in the last major disaster involving the airbus going down in the ocean, the search for Air France flight 447 that went down on a flight from Rio to Paris. Also joining us, aviation correspondent Richard Quest and David Soucie, CNN's safety analyst and author of most recently of a new book, "Malaysia airlines flight 370, why it disappeared and only a matter of time before this happens again."

David, walk us through how you go about an operation like this? Do you first have to map the wreckage that is on the sea floor as it is? I mean, isn't considered a crime scene?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: It's a lot like peeling an onion apart and then putting the onion back together from the inside out. And the onion in this case is the surface of the water. At the surface of the water, you have clues. You have pieces of debris. That is step one. Those get all mapped and then drift analysis.

The next level down is the next level of sea, below that. So you might go down 50 feet or so. See if there is any floating debris there and keep going down, and mapping it as it goes down, (INAUDIBLE) of clues as to face on the weight of what we find underneath as to how the drift went and how pieces of the aircraft moved.

COOPER: And David Gallo, I mean, is there a priority put on the recovery or the remains of the passengers? How does that -- where does that go? DAVID GALLO, CNN ANALYST: Positively, Anderson. I mean, that's the

number one thing. There's a couple of processes right off the bat, but they're both related once recovering those bodies and getting back to the loved ones. And then the second part is recovering the bits of the plane, the debris from the plane. All of them provide clues about what the drift pattern was and is. So -- but the bodies are number one both on the surface and also when we get to the wreckage below the surface as well.

COOPER: And obviously, Richard, the black boxes are something very important that they -- what exactly would they tell investigators?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Everything. They will, the cockpit voice recorder will tell you what exactly what the pilots are saying to each other as they negotiated whatever trouble they found in the cockpit and the flight data recorder would have all the parameters of the engines, the inputs that were made.

It will tell you whether the left handle, the right hand seat made the input. And what you do is, you put them on a time line, basically. To put it simplified, you put it all on a timeline. So you got the voice, you got the data, you got the weather and you can literally recreate that flight moment by moment. Those pieces, the data from the cockpit voice recorder, particularly the data recorder, that is going to tell us what happened. No doubt.

COOPER: David Gallo, how complex, I mean given that the water is relatively shallow, I mean, it is not the depths of the area of Malaysia flight 370 has been looked for and has been look for, how complex is the underwater part of this operation?

GALLO: Well, it could be, depending on the currents which I'm told are fairly mild but I'm not, I'm told they are. And the visibility when we get to the point of being able to identify things, especially with divers in the water, that could be complicated too. With shallow water, you got a lot more sediment from the surrounding land masses and the currents are higher. So visibility might be a bit less. So not a cake walk but a bit easier than the deep water stuff.

COOPER: And David, I mean, setting up underwater chambers. What does that entail?

SOUCIE: Well, that is about is maintaining the environment of which the aircraft is in especially with the cockpit voice recorders and the data recorders. They are data devices. They have little integrated circuits and chips just like any other laptop, for example. So when the piece is down there, you've got to maintain that environment. Bring it up because if you let it dry, if you don't properly clean it, you've got salt and debris that gets in there. And salt can damage those components. So it has to be rinsed out with completely clear and de-ionized water so it's clear and clean. Then and only then can you start getting the data off.

COOPER: Does the amount of debris on the surface, does that tell you anything? SOUCIE: It does to me right now. And here's what was difficult for

me to understand before. They said at first, it was only six miles away from the last point that they knew where it was which would indicate to me a deep hard flat stall. In other words, it didn't go very far to come down and it would have indicated to me that it was a hard impact. Now they're talking about over 60 miles.

COOPER: Right.

SOUCIE: So if we're over 60 miles or maybe it was 60, I think, kilometers, but at any rate, so that's enough space, it is enough time from 36,000 feet to recover from a stall and then glide out. If it was a deep stall, it would not be 60 miles from where it was. It would not be. So I'm suspecting at this point that there is a possibility that that aircraft landed and a more flat controlled manner than what we had originally thought.

COOPER: And that's something, Richard, the amount of debris on the surface begins to tell you.

QUEST: Yes. I mean, you know, that would be a completely remarkable event. I mean, you know, we are working on the premise so far that the aircraft went into a deep stall and frankly, bluntly, fell out of the sky. If you now start the premise (ph) and saying, well, how come the plane's last known was here but it actually ended up there? Then you are looking at some form of gliding, some form of forward motion. The plane didn't literally just stop in the sky. Now, that is a complete, but we're speculating.

COOPER: Well, David -- I mean, David Gallo, in terms of that's why it's so critical to get this debris, not only the black box recorders but the actual debris itself, that will tell the story of what sort of impacted the with the water.

GALLO: Certainly, there will be a lot of clues in the debris field and amongst the bodies, sadly, you know. And I don't think we have enough information yet. I think we are, you know, just the idea that there were only three bodies and a few bit of debris makes no sense to me whatsoever. Because normally, you would at least see a trail of something going off into the distance, even though it may not be big pieces, there would be something. I'm just assuming we don't have enough information yet to understand what is going on. But the clues will be there, Anderson, for sure.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, David Soucie, I remember during the Malaysia plane that were shot down over Eastern Ukraine. We talked a lot about how you could tell a lot from the wreckage based on what sort of projectiles and things. Is it similar with the plane hitting water, that based on how metal was bent, you can tell?

SOUCIE: It is very similar. And the only thing that makes it more complicated is the fact that after those in May 17th, we knew where all those parts were. You can see it from the satellite pictures. These are moving. It's a constantly moving picture and that's what makes it really super challenging. But to make sure that we understand too that data is so important,

even the data we are getting now and when you think it's six miles, it changes the way we view it. And investigators are facing this every day, every minute, there's something changing for them as well and they're changing the search based on that.

QUEST: But I'm just going to, you know, take issue but advance that. If you look at 447, they had a considerable amount of debris, the big pieces. So they knew how the plane got into the water. They knew the forces. But they didn't know what had happened in the cockpit. And they were unable -- I'm looking at the size of the things they recovered. But they were unable to know why it fell out of the sky. And the only way they will ever find that out is with the (INAUDIBLE).

COOPER: We are going to have a quick break. We are going to much more on precisely what 8501 recovery efforts going to look like. David Gallo, recovery expert. David Mearns lend us their expertise.

Later, questions not easy to answer. How do family members ever come to terms with a loss like this? We're joined by someone who lost a partner on flight 370 and a woman whose fiance perished on TWA flight 800 and now helps other families going through a similar phase.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: An update now. Six bodies have now been recovered including one flight attendant on board the aircraft. And searchers back on the scene tonight and divers already in the water. And almost certainly will turn into a mass recovery effort is beginning to take shape off the coast of Indonesia.

This time, it is happening in water as deep as a ten story building. It's been done in water much deeper than that, of course, and will be done again in such depths once the wreckage from Malaysia airline flight 370 is located if it ever is.

No matter where it happens though, it is always dangerous and difficult work. And more on that right now from our Randi Kaye.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is what it looks like trying to recover an airplane in the ocean. You're watching a U.S. Navy salvage team gather pieces of TWA flight 800 which went off New York in 1996. Here, divers are maneuvering among pieces of the twisted wreckage.

CAPT. CHIP MCCORD, RETIRED NAVY: The U.S. Navy actually has recovered an intact helicopter from about 17,000 feet. They have the capability, they've done this before.

KAYE: Retired Navy captain Chip McCord involved in at least 50 salvage operations including TWA 800 and Swiss Air flight 111 which crashed in 1998 off the coast in Nova Scotia.

The underwater vehicles are equipped with lights and cameras. They are also outfitted with sonar to scout for debris. They're steered by two operators on board the ship above who use instant feedback from the salvage vehicle's cameras to direct the robotic arms.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They can hover. They can move left, right, forward, and back. And go to where they need very carefully, hover over a piece and pick it up if they need to.

KAYE: Remember Air France flight 447 which crashed in the Atlantic Ocean in 2009? Two years later, an unmanned underwater vehicle found the debris 13,000 feet beneath the surface. The engines were pulled from the ocean floor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it's small like the black boxes, you can put a little basket from the ROV in the arms from the ROV can put it in the basket.

But the remote underwater vehicles can only carry about 4,000 pounds, so anything heavier like a large piece of the fuselage will have to be attached to a cable and pulled to the surface bay crane on the ship.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, I want to talk more about what goes on in a recovery mission like this. Back with us again, Dave Gallo, as you know, spearheaded the Air France flight 447 recovery and David Mearns who has built a quarter century career recovering wreckage from the ocean floor.

David Mearns, let me start with you. Search teams was talking about using divers to locate the plane rather than remote vehicles. How would that change the strategy and timeline of recovery in this case?

DAVID MEARNS, DEEP WATER SEARCH AND RESCUE EXPERT: Well, everything should be a lot simpler here because it's much shallower water. And you can put multiple crews of diver in the water. And at the same time, if the ship is large enough and the support vessel can have enough space for them, you can keep working and keep working. So I don't see, other than the fact that they may not work during night time hours,. I don't see that there is going to be much difference here. The biggest benefit here, this is such shallow water. And working in deep water is far more -- it's much more slower. This will be faster because it's so shallow.

COOPER: And David Gallo, I mean, when you find the pieces on the surface of the sea, I mean, do you instantly bring them up? Do you photograph them there? Do you try to measure the distances? How do you actually work a scene like this?

GALLO: Well, at Woods Hole Oceanographic where I am from, it's a research organization. So unless a scientist, a forensic scientist or archaeologist want a piece, we don't touch it. And we, many times spent to titanic, never touch the piece of the ship wreck.

But in some cases we have been involved where there has been recovery and with good engineers and the right kinds of tools, you can lift it up. We're always very careful first to document that spot, even with Air France. I think we took about 150,000 still images, high quality still images, mosaic them all together so the investigators had a complete almost Google eye view of the wreck site and they can pick and choose what they want in the recovery.

COOPER: And David Mearns, are there some you have to use robots for no matter how shallow the water is?

MEARNS: No. And robots are not really ideal for working in extremely shallow water. We're talking possibly 20 meters here and so some jobs they can do. But really, in this sort of water depth, you know, divers would be able to do the basically the entire recovery. Obviously, they're going to be using cranes to assist them with them but the same thing you'd be doing with ROVs.

So the divers can handle the body retrieval a lot more carefully. They can be very effective for searching for the black boxes using handheld pinger locators that a diver uses. And they will be able to map this site similar to the way Dave had mentioned, not with visual but with multi-B echo sounder. So the entire site is mapped out.

We still don't know yet whether we're talking about small concentrated debris field or one that's more spread out. But if it's small and concentrated, it may only be 200 meters by 400 meters. So a multi-B echo sounder can map that and centimeter type resolution before anybody touches anything and then you'll go in and start dealing with bodies in the black boxes.

COOPER: Extraordinarily difficult task for both emotionally and obviously physically for all of these searchers and obviously the families waiting as well.

David Mearns, thank you. David Gallo.

Up next, the grieving families. What they are facing now and in the coming weeks and months ahead. Some sight from the leader of support group, a woman who lost her fiance on TWA flight 800 and the life partner of American who vanished along Malaysia Airlines flight 370 also joins us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Discovery of bodies and debris confirmed the absolute worst happened to AirAsia flight 8501. The search for more victims and the wreckage continues right at this hour. Crews hoping to find the main cabin of the aircraft. All of this horrible blow obviously for the families of the 162 people who were on the plane. Many of them kids. The families did hold out hope for days and now they are grieving.

Joining me now, Sarah Bajc, partner American Philip Woods was on Malaysia airlines flight 370. The 777 hasn't been found nearly ten months after it vanishes.

Also with us tonight is Heidi Snow. She lost her fiance in the crash of TWA flight 800 in 1996 off the coast of Long Island, New York. She shares her story in the book, surviving sudden loss, sharing with those who live with. And she's the founder of Aircraft casualty emotional support service, also known as access. They helped in many airplane disasters and right now assisting families at this AirAsia flight.

Sarah, you know, first of all, it is nice to have you on the program again. I'm sorry it's under these circumstances. You know, I talked a lot in the wake of Malaysia 370. And when I hear about this crash, I thought of you and I wondered what went through your mind when you first heard about this plane.

SARAH BAJC, PARTNER OF PHILLIP WOODS: Deja vu. This is the third time the families of MH 370 have had to live through the crisis of emotional rollercoaster that you go through when you get news like this. I mean, even though it's a different plane, we can so empathize at the deepest level of what these families are going through. It's like reliving it all over again.

COOPER: Heidi, I mean, you helped so many families with situations like this. What are the next few days going to look like for these families?

HEIDI SNOW, FOUNDER, AIRCRAFT CASUALTY EMOTIONAL SUPPORT SERVICES: For working with families over the years and from own experience of being at the bereavement site following flight 800, this is the time everybody is gathering all the information and the DNA samples. It's a really difficult time to go through that process. Not really busy and as the days go on, it is going to get harder and harder as the reality sets in.

And I still remember being at the site and similar to what I've been seeing on TV, basically, there's families who are wailing. There are families with their heads down and completely quiet. And then, there are families who are just so busy trying to help other family members. And then there was -- there are those people who are just talking about their love(INAUDIBLE) with the hopes of bringing them back and keeping them alive.

I think that is when there are no remaining, it is so hard to actually accept that they are gone. And even at the very beginning, even when you do get remains, it is still unbelievable. This is such a time of disbelief. They said bye to their loved ones with an expected meeting time in the future and to not have that there, I remember that personally. It's so difficult and just so unimaginable. And it's just so hard to come to terms with that, that they're truly gone.

COOPER: Sarah, when you look at how this investigation is being handled, how the families are being, you know, responded to by the authorities in Indonesia, I'm wondering what you see versus what you saw with Malaysia 370.

BAJC: Well, I know it sounds like a strange word to use but I don't know another one. But I'm envious. Right? I've seen how responsive the airlines have been and how the families have been handled so carefully and the, you know the quick response even in initiating the search and rescue operations. It's so different from what we experienced with MH-370.

COOPER: Heidi, does it help for family members to be together in this time? I mean I'm not talking about within a family, but for families who don't know each other who just happen to have loved ones who are on this plane, does it help to be in the same location?

HEIDI SNOW, FIANCEE KILLED ON TWA FLIGHT 800: Yeah. I found it very helpful. I guess for me, one of the hardest things was that transition. And other families say it too. If you're all together at the grief site. You're gathering information. You're very busy. And then oftentimes, a lot of these families are going to go home without any remains because it's a long process. But it's characteristic of all air disasters. It's going to take a long time to recover all those bodies and to actually figure out what happened here. If they ever do figure that out. And so it's definitely one of the hardest things is when that site is just down and you've got to go home. And oftentimes, you don't have any kind of evidence that they were actually on board. And I remember leaving my site and of course, his name was on the manifest but I still held hope that somehow he swam to shore somehow and maybe show up at the door. Because I just had nothing to hold on to. And similar to Sarah, I know she's going through that for months and months. And it's really difficult to actually be able to move forward when you don't have anything to really confirm that they were really on board. And just holding out hope is something I did for a really long time.

COOPER: And Sarah, you must relate to that as well.

BAJC: Absolutely. And not only the hope that people may still be alive, but the need to find the truth of what happened. You know, to this date, we really don't have any factual confirmation of what happened to MH 370. It's still a complete mystery.

COOPER: Well, Heidi and Sarah, I appreciate your strength and willing to talk with us about this and what other families are going through. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

SNOW: Thank you.

COOPER: Just ahead, investigators have not stopped looking, obviously, for flight 370 we were just talking about. They are still combing the southern Indian Ocean. Why it remains such a tough mystery despite all the efforts to try to solve that, that's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Just before the break, I talked to Sarah Bajc whose partner was a passenger on Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. And the last few days have obviously brought back a flood of emotions for her. It's been almost ten months since the plane vanished without a trace. And tonight investigators are really - seems no closer as far as we noticed solving the mystery of what happened to the Boeing 777. The contrast with AirAsia Flight 5801 could not be starker. Here's Alina Machado.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For two days, search and rescue crews have scoured the Java Sea for any sign of the missing AirAsia flight. Days of uncertainty and anguish for families waiting on any word of their loved ones, but the wait seems to be over. Parts of the missing plane were spotted in the water on Tuesday morning. Anywhere from 60 to 124 miles from its last known position, giving at least some answers about the doomed flight. Answers families of MH-370 still don't have. It's been nearly ten months since that plane vanished in midair on its way to Beijing from Malaysia.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: We still have yet to see anything floating on the surface subsequent to the loss of MH-370, which is just frankly mind boggling. No one can really understand, even when you look at ocean currents and the drift patterns. Surely something should have washed up by now.

MACHADO: As weeks have turned into months, the search area for MH-370 has shifted farther and farther away from the plane's last known radar contact and into the deep waters of the Indian Ocean.

O'BRIEN: It's not even a needle in a hay stack. We don't even know where the haystack is, really.

MACHADO: And the question of what happened to MH-370 still unanswered, still surrounded by speculation.

The plane continued to fly for hours after losing contact. So, did the plane suffer a mechanical failure or was its disappearance the result of a deliberate act?

O'BRIEN: Almost every time you go down this path through some sort of catastrophic mechanical event, it's you - when you add on this seven hour flight afterward, it's very difficult. There's nothing that has been logical or based on any sort of historical precedent in the case of MH-370. You just have to throw out the books. It's never happened before. We hope it will never happen again.

MACHADO: Australia is leading the search effort for MH 370. Crews continue to use high-tech equipment as they scour the southern Indian Ocean. The search is costly and it will take time to find answers, answers that will hopefully come much sooner with the AirAsia flight as recovery crews continue to pick up the pieces of the plane. Alina Machado, CNN, Miami.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Back with our Richard Quest and David Soucie. Joining us also is aviation analyst and private pilot, Miles O'Brien. It is, Richard, amazing, when you think about that it's been ten months and still it seems like there's, we're no closer to finding out what happened to 370.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN ANCHOR: No, and that's the unique nature on the circumstances of this particular incident. From the very moment that we were told two or three or four days after, that this plane was not where it was supposed to be in the South China Sea. From the very moment that happened, nothing about 370 has been normal.

COOPER: Is it - Miles, is there a chance that anything from 370 might never be found?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, I hope we'll never stop looking. I think that's probably safe to say that the search will continue, but it's such a big ocean and it's so deep and it's uncharted and the information we have as we know was based on the communication satellite, not designed to give us tracking information. It was brilliant engineering that even were able to figure out that it might be in the southern Indian Ocean, but it's such a wide swath of area where it could be within that realm that it's going to take an awfully long time. Of course, it could also happen tomorrow.

COOPER: David, I mean I think that's one of the things. People still find it stunning to believe that a plane can just disappear like this.

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: And that doesn't just happen either. It took a long time for this culture to allow that to happen. The regulatory culture, both internationally and the United States and Europe, Indonesia. The culture of the fact that we have to have a stable environment for aviation. That stable environment is it's a plus, but it's a minus. It's a plus in that it has to have the stable environment so that we don't make changes too quickly and cause safety hazards, but it also has to be flexible and that's what we've lost. The ability to be responsive to the needs.

COOPER: But Richard, when Miles says, you know, he hopes we never stop looking, is that reality? I mean people ultimately ....

QUEST: They will continue looking, but it will be different levels of intensity. Now, at the moment, there's quite still an intense search going on. They're still looking at whether - at the refined data of where they believe and they shifted a few ...

COOPER: They're still out in the ocean with underwater sonar.

QUEST: Absolutely, completely. Completely. Absolutely. And they are still mapping even bigger areas and they say that they will have finished this part of the search in, say, another six to eight months- time. They haven't found out anything then. That's when they have got to go back ...

COOPER: But there have been aircraft that have disappeared and nothing found of them.

SOUCIE: There have been, but that was long enough ago that the technology is far different now for searching. The technology of what's on the aircraft is not that much different than what happened when we lost aircraft before within the last decade and a little sooner than that. So that's where we need to focus our efforts, we need to move past the fact that the search is doing what it's doing. But you can't just sit there, you can't just sit there and wait for something to happen. We still have to take action and move forward.

COOPER: Miles, what do you think the issue with the search is? Is it simply just the lack of data that we have on where the plane last was? And the huge swath of ocean that it potentially could have reached?

O'BRIEN: Yeah. I mean, it really is remarkable when you look at the sort of reverse engineering that was done just to get us to that point. The Inmarsat engineers were able to figure this out using these concepts which are, you know, fairly esoteric. Doppler shift, basically a satellite moving away from the aircraft determining that it was headed to the south. But the fact that in this day and age it had to happen is extraordinary and it's just another reminder, and AirAsia should be a reminder for us as well, as well as Air France 447 that there should be some sort of way of number one, making it possible to turn a transponder off. There will be a good thing. There's no reason to turn them off in an aircraft. Pilots get all upset about this, but they shouldn't. And also there should be some, there is something anomalous on an aircraft, there should be some way that it start sending up a stream, a stream of electronic smoke signals saying there's trouble here folks. Whether either the crew initiates it or some anomalous activity on the plane or for that matter, if the dispatcher on the ground hasn't heard from it. We should be able to see what's going on and see what's going into that black box in real time. There's no reason that shouldn't happen.

COOPER: Richard.

QUEST: Miles is putting his finger on a nerve in the industry. These issues have been around for many years. The tracking of aircraft. The real time data streaming, how much will be streamed. This latest track - is well, bogged down in international bureaucracy.

COOPER: And the technology exists, it's really a question of money and also international pressure.

QUEST: Not even money. Will. Will.

COOPER: Will.

QUEST: Specifically wanting to do it, but it's ...

SOUCIE: But the people wanting to put it on the airplane, the people wanting to regulate it. What's wrong with making a regulation? ICAO says, hey, you go study it. They did. They went and studied it and then they give it back to ICAO and what's ICAO doing with it?

QUEST: No, they go to meet in February.

SOUCIE: Oh, great.

QUEST: February, for safety summit.

COOPER: But the -- it's interesting to me. Who pays for the search that is continuing to go on for 370?

QUEST: It's done in tripod: Australia, China and Malaysia. They have agreed to the financing of it. So far, it's heading towards 100 million, 60, $70 million. But remember, the plane cost $200 million.

COOPER: Right. QUEST: So we're still sort of, you know.

COOPER: Richard Quest, I appreciate it. Miles O'Brien, David Soucie. Thank you.

Up next, the search is on for AirAsia black boxes. What clues they may hold when they are recovered, we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: The divers are searching for number of things. Of course, the passengers, the wreckage of AirAsia Flight 8501, they'll also be searching for the black boxes. They hold the flight data and cockpit voice recorders, they can tell investigators an awful lot, even after a crash into deep waters. Once again, here is Randi Kaye.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In July 2000, Air France Flight 4590, the concord jet, takes off from Paris. This terrifying video shows the plane on fire as it left the runway.

The control tower radios the pilots, "4590, you have strong flames behind you. Moments later, they crash into a hotel killing all 109 on board. The plane's black boxes are recovered.

FRANCOIS BROUSSE, COMMINICATIONS DIRECOR, AIR FRANCE (through translator): Both boxes are in good state, to be decrypted. We have to understand what the data mean.

KAYE: The cockpit voice recorder unveiled the pilot's last words. The copilot tells the captain to land at a nearby airport. His response, too late. The black boxes also reveal a catastrophic fire in one engine and a loss of power in another. Air France flight 447 caught in a powerful storm and rolling to the right. It is June 2009, a flight from Rio to Paris. 228 people on board. The plane begins to fall 10,000 feet per minute and crashes into the Atlantic belly first killing everyone.

PAUL-LOUIS ARSLANIAN, FORMER HEAD OF FRANCE'S ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION AGENCY: This is the beginning. This is what we are looking for. In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

KAYE: Two years later, they find the black boxes deep in the ocean. Before the recovery, it was thought the plane speed sensors were to blame. But the black boxes reveal the pilots were at fault. A transcript from the cockpit voice recorders shows confusion in the cockpit.

"We still have engines. What the hell is happening," one copilot asks. Another copilot says climb, climb, climb, then the captain, no, no, no, don't climb. In February 2009, Colgan Air flight 3407 also stalls and disappears off radar.

CONTROLLER: Colgan 3407, Buffalo.

PILOT: Colgan 3407, now approach.

CONTROLLER: Delta 1998, look off your right side about five miles for a dash (INAUDIBLE). It should be 2300. Do you see anything there?

KAYE: The plane's speed drops dangerously low. It begins to dive in heavy snow. The pilot overcorrects, a fatal mistake.

WALLY WARNER, CHIEF TEST PILOT, BOMBARDIER: Obviously, the initial reaction to the stall warning was incorrect.

KAYE: The jet crashes into a home in Buffalo, New York, killing all 49 people on board.

MARGIE BRANDQUIST, PLANE CRASH VICTIM'S SISTER: We put our lives in the hands of people that we assume that the FAA is and the airlines are properly training.

KAYE: Both black boxes, the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder divulge panic in the cockpit as the plane tumbles towards the ground. Pilot Marvin Renslow blurts out "Jesus Christ," and "We're down." First officer Rebecca Shaw starts to say something but is cut short by her own scream.

KAYE: The black boxes also reveal the airplane pitched and rolled and this horrifying fact. The pilots were joking around as the plane slowed in the final minutes before a tragedy struck. Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And back with us now is David Soucie. I mean earlier, Richard Quest was saying, the black boxes tell us everything. They don't really say everything. There are some things that are left out. What are the most important things that we learn?

SOUCIE: Well, the most important thing is if we back up to what an aircraft accident is, it's a massive tangled web of the riddles, and what the black boxes do, there is almost immediately an investigation, it organizes, it structures those riddles and it provides the answers to every one of those riddles.

COOPER: All right, David Soucie. I appreciate your being with us.

Just ahead, 162 lives now presumed to be lost. Each person who was on board flight 8501, each of them has a story and leaves behind a trail of heartbreak as their loved ones wait for word. We remember the victims ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: AirAsia flight 8501 was carrying 162 people. 155 of them were passengers, seven were crew members. Today, world shifted forever for their loved ones when the first bodies were recovered from the Java Sea. And we are starting to learn more about the men, the women, the children who boarded the airbus on Sunday. As you'd expect at this time a year, many were traveling for the holidays. Families on vacation looking forward to making new memories. Rosa Flores reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jayden Ardi, his parents and two sisters were on board AirAsia flight 8501. His sister, Michelle, sent this picture of the wing of the plane to a friend via snap chat. The caption, "Bye, Surabaya" and this picture of her sister Marianne inside the plane. Her school principal says the family was headed to Singapore to celebrate the New Year.

YULIA WANG, PRINCIPAL, SURABAYA CAMBRIDGE SCHOOL: It's hard to believe that it's really happened to my students. We are still finding hope in god.

FLORES: Choi Chi-man traveled to Singapore with his two-year old daughter Zoey. The British Energy executive is described on Linked-In as an excellent team leader and strategic planner.

LOUISE SIDHARTA, FIANCE WAS ON AIRASIA FLIGHT 8501: My fiance and his family was on that plane.

FLORES: Louis Sidharta was soon to marry Alain Oktavianus Siaun from the Indonesian province of Malang. He was on the ill-fated flight and joined one last vacation with family before tying the knot.

LOUISE SIDHARTA, FIANCE WAS ON AIRASIA FLIGHT 8501: It was supposed to be their last vacation before us got married. It was supposed to be his last vacation with his family.

FLORES: Kevin Alexander Soetjipto was the Monash University student, traveling with the sister and another family member. The Australian university releasing a statement saying in part, we are deeply saddened to learn this news in relation to one of our valued student community.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Winden Susie Lawati (ph) said she wasn't worried when she heard a plane went missing, because her brother didn't flight AirAsia until his name, Oei Jimmy Sentosa Winata and the names of his wife and two children appeared in the manifest.

Pilot captain Iriyanto was a former Indonesian Air Force F 16 pilot and a family man. His daughter saying in a tweet, quote, "Dad, please come home. I still need you. Please return dad. Dad, come home, dad. You have to come home." His wife, still in disbelief.

RR. WIDIYA SUKATI PUTRI, WIFE OF CAPTAIN IRIYANTO (through translator): I would like to know where my husband is. I wish my husband was found immediately. I hope as his wife, he'll be back well and alive. The children still need a father. I still also need a guidance from my husband.

FLORES: Hope begins to fade as the families of 162 people come to terms with the grim reality. Only a miracle could save their loved ones. Rosa Flores, CNN New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: So far we believe six bodies have been recovered. Well, see you again at 11 p.m. Eastern, "The 360" special "All the Best, All the Worst 2014" starts now.