Return to Transcripts main page


U.S. Official: Data Suggests Flight 370 Flew On For Hours

Aired March 13, 2014 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Next, breaking news. U.S. officials say there is evidence that Flight 370 may have been in the air for four more hours after its last communication. So where it is now?

Plus, most realistic and outlandish conspiracy theories out there and why some are calling this missing plane the biggest mystery in aviation history. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, we begin with breaking news. Senior American officials now saying the missing Malaysia Airlines plane may have flown for four to five hours after its last contact. Officials now believe the plane may have -- the radius obviously is very large, but it includes the Indian Ocean, which is the complete opposite direction of where the search was yesterday for the plane.

U.S. officials saying Malaysian authorities believed they have several quote/unquote "pings" of plane data, that data that was transmitted to satellites in the four to five hours after the last transponder signal. So they believe during that time, the plane could have flown, well, the last direction they had was that way, so if you extend that line straight, it could be in the Indian Ocean.

Obviously if it didn't fly that long, it could have turned as well like everything else in this mystery, no one is sure. The flight area, the search area and flight path of Flight 370 is literally still up in the air. We know that air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane around 1:30 a.m. That's actually one of the things not in dispute.

What we do not know is where it went next. Malaysian authorities at first said the plane U-turned, flying for about another area, that radar blip, but they later backed off this and said no, that didn't happen, but now it could be on the table again.

Chinese officials meantime released satellite pictures showing what might have been plane debris somewhere totally different as you can see over there sort of much closer to the actual flight path. But no evidence of debris has been found, that theory has now, for now at least been dismissed.

At this hour, the sun is rising in Southeast Asia, the search starting in the Indian Ocean, far west of plane's last communication and of its scheduled flight path. Chief national correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is in Washington, begins our coverage tonight. Jim, first of all, why has the search moved so dramatically?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's look, this pings as you described, two satellite from the plane are an important new clue and what investigators are doing are combining this clue with other previous clues to create a picture, which leads them in the direction of the Indian Ocean. One of those other key clues as you mentioned, the radar data that showed that plane it went north -- southwest.

The third one being, the fuel range of that plane, how much fuel did it have in its tanks at the time? They had about seven hours of fuel. Flew about two hours before the turn so it gives you four to five hours and that's what gives us that big ring, the range. And it's that combination of things that has them leading in this other direction.

And I'm told that the radar in particular is very important here because they've had some time to now study this radar data that came from the Malaysian Air Force and we've been reporting this for the last two or three days because -- I'm told by people that know this well. Reading radar and pings is more of an art than a science.

You need to get the brains in there to look at those pings, kind of distinguish them from any other background noise and get a sense of direction. They've had some time to do that. They combine that with the pings, the fuel ranges and that gives them an indication that they should be looking down in the Indian Ocean.

Trust me, I sympathize with you and our viewers because yesterday, we were talking about this other clue about the Chinese satellite photos. But that was not joined with anything else. This was seems, speaking to the officials that I speak to and Barbara Starr and others, seems to be more substantial because it's more than one piece of information leading that way.

BURNETT: All right, but I still have this question all about what these pings are showing. How do they know that the quote/unquote "pings" are from this plane, and what do they tell us about this plane? We know there's a turn. How do we know it didn't turn again? I mean, that radius of where it might is huge.

SCIUTTO: No question. Well, the first question first, the pings as we understand them give an indication that it's this type of plane and that it was in the general area where they believe the plane was based on other data particularly the radar data. Not like a transponder, which tells you it's not just a Boeing 777. It's MH370. It's identified that way. The pings don't identify it that way, but combined with the other information, that's what they get.

But you make a point too about the search area. That plane didn't necessarily have to travel on a straight line. It could have taken turns. That expands the piece of pie as we look at that circle as to how big the search area is. And Wolf Blitzer was speaking to a commander on the USS Kidd, a U.S. destroyer that's now heading towards the Indian Ocean. He said if the South China Sea was a chess board, we are looking at a football field now, a lot bigger area. It's going to take a long time.

BURNETT: Right. And that circle, of course, obviously, went on a straight line in the Indian Ocean, but that circle includes the Indian Ocean, the Himalayas. It's an incredibly huge surface area they are looking for. But pretty incredible as you say that this is much more substantial that these pings would indicate that they came from this plane. Jim Sciutto, thank you very much with the latest on this.

And we have some more breaking news on this story because two U.S. officials are now telling ABC News that the two communications systems on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, that the pilots have control over were shut down and shut down separately. Obviously that could have significant implications for those talking about a sudden mechanical malfunction. Now that would not lead you in that direction.

A source tells ABC that the plane was taken down by a catastrophic failure, if this is true, this would mean it was some sort of deliberate act. The two communication systems are the data reporting system, which they believed was shutdown at 1:07 a.m. And the transponder, we've talked a lot about this, that is part of the plane that transmits location and altitude, which they say was then shutdown at 1:21 a.m.

Joining me now is John Nance, an aviation analyst for ABC's "World News." John, thank you very much. What is your interpretation of this, 1:07 a.m. for the first system, 1:21 a.m. for the second?

JOHN NANCE, AVIATION ANALYST, ABC WORLD NEWS: Well, this is beginning to come together, Erin, to say that this had to have been some sort of a deliberate act because the problem is that if you had a catastrophic failure that was even systematically shutting down the electrics and this is a very resilient airplane as far all the electrical systems are concerned.

You probably would not have that length of time between them. I mean, could we construct the scenario in which that might happened with a progressive fire or something? Yes, but it would be very, very far-out. Much more likely a human being was pulling circuit breakers at a sequential time.

BURNETT: And the transponder as you know we've all been talking a lot about this, right, was either turned off or not working. The plane then could have been flying for four to five hours. What do you make of that now given this new reporting that you have been reporting at ABC about these two sequential turnoffs of the communication systems?

NANCE: Well, we've had so many course reversals on this so to speak, no pun intended, but I mean, so many facts have become questionable. It's beginning to have a very slow movement in the direction of yes, they were going off to the southwest. Yes, we do have information about this sequential turnoff. It's hard to come up with any conclusions at this point.

But when you postulate that somebody was pulling circuit breakers. That has to be somebody who knows what they were doing and that bodes well for the idea that there was a pilot doing that. Maybe not one of the aircraft's pilots or the one of the two that were assigned to that flight, but somebody who knew what they were doing.

BURNETT: So that's what I wanted to ask you because, you know, being able to turn those two systems off and I know there are some redundancies. I'm curious, first of all, how many redundancies there are additionally to that, could this have been a hijacking? No matter who did it, they need to have real pilot experience?

NANCE: Yes, I think so although there is another tantalizing clue, if it is in fact accurate that they were below. They were between 29,000 and 30,000 feet an hour and 10 minutes later. Now a seasoned pilot is not going to be wobbling around at different altitudes. They are going to pick one altitude and stay on that altitude.

So, what would they be doing down there? Again, this thing gets curiouser and curiouser. The range now as was pointed out by Jim is just staggering. I mean, this could be anywhere from Northern Australia all the way up to the Himalayas. Why would somebody this if in fact it was overtly act?

BURNETT: A lot of people are saying, John, they are going to think now back to 9/11. Terrorists that went through training and learned certain things, right? They may have learned where these communication systems were. This latest reporting turns out to be true, right. They wouldn't have had extensive experience flying a plane. So, could this be people with just some training, but not a lot of training?

NANCE: That's a possibility. The other possibility harks back to two things that we're really terrifying to all of us in commercial aviation, one was the Egypt Air accident, which was no accident. The co-pilot killed everybody aboard and Silk Air, a number of years back, which was the 737 that the captain killed the co-pilot and dove it into the water.

Hopefully nothing like that is going on here, but then again we have this tantalizing situation where have a sequential turnoff of systems that very likely was done by a human being and as I say, somebody that knew what they were doing. And controlled the aircraft, if in fact it went off to the southwest.

BURNETT: All right, and it sounds like what you're saying, I mean, someone would have done that. So you are looking it intentional whether that's terrorism, whether that's hijacking, whether that's suicide. What is your view, John, in terms of the veracity of this reporting? That there was a sequential turnoff at 1:07 and then again at 1:21 given that so we've had so many facts have come out and turned out not to be true?

NANCE: Erin, that's exactly right. We need to take everything with a huge grain of salt until we either find a wreckage or we have a phone call from somebody saying we've got hostages, I mean, that's a far out situation that actually we would hope for. We got live people --

BURNETT: Do you think it's possible?

NANCE: You know, it's possible, it's not probable, but then again, this whole thing isn't probable. That's the problem so we have to be careful. I think everybody has been careful not grasping too far of straws, but reporting what we have, and putting all those caveats on it, and that's what we got to do. This could change within 20 minutes.

BURNETT: All right, John, thank you very much. A pretty incredible take on it and as we said, there could be a very significant development in this story. That latest reporting again from ABC.

Still to come, if Flight 370 was actually in the air for hours longer than first reported, what caused the pilots to end communication with airline authorities? We're actually going to show you a plane and go through where each of these pieces of communication are so you understand exactly what possibly we are talking about.

Plus the conspiracy theories of what happened to Flight 370. You just heard John Nance talk about he thinks the hostage is situation is far out there, but not completely impossible. Our experts are going to break down what is realistic and what is absurd.

And potential new headaches for investigators, if that plane is in the water, just how difficult will a recovery be. We'll show you a massive plane that was pulled out of the water. We'll be back.


BURNETT: All right, more of our breaking news tonight. We have two different pieces of breaking developments on the Malaysia Air 370 situation. One that it may have been flying for four to five hours after authorities last got the transponder reading from the Boeing 777. And two, ABC Tonight reporting that two communication systems were shut off not simultaneously, one at 1:07 a.m. that's the reporting system, officials reporting to ABC World News.

The second the transponder, which as we reported transmits the location and the altitude, was shutdown at 1:21 a.m. obviously raising very directly the possibility that that was done on purpose. As you just heard from aviation expert, John Nance, he says he doesn't think that anybody that didn't have an experience as a pilot would know how to do those two things.

Malaysia Air Flight 370 had 239 people on board, disappeared six days ago about an hour after it took off from Kuala Lumpur on its scheduled path to Beijing.

Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT tonight. Now Tom, with this latest reporting from ABC, on this possible shutting down of data communications and then the transponder, 1:07 a.m. and then 1:21 a.m. You've been looking at these communication systems. Where are they are? How this would have happened? What can you tell us?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can tell you this, Erin. I've known John Nance for a long, long time. He is a colleague of mine from years ago and the most important thing he said in all of that was take all of this with a grain of salt. Airplanes like this are floating communication stations. It took off, traveled for around an hour and then vanished with no information whatever.

At least that's what we are led to believe for six days now, a little bit more before we started getting all these new reports and there are so many ways in which it could communicate. That's why this is so puzzling to say it didn't communicate anyway, but suddenly it did.

Let's bring out a model here and talk about what can happen with a plane like this. I want to start with the most basic thing, Erin. That is the radio system. When you talk about a plane like this, right up in the cockpit, there is a basic radio system. Pilots use it all the time. They used it on this right before the plane went silent.

If they had a catastrophic fire, if they had a depressurization even their oxygen mask in the cockpit have microphones in them that they can easily key and send a distress signal so that's one way they can communicate and yet that system went dark.

Beyond that, we'll talk about transponders a lot. If you look at the avionics bay underneath the nose of the plane, that's where the transponders are. The transponders are in a sense a talking radar. The radar pings the plane from the ground and say, there's a plane up there.

The transponders in a sense answer by saying, yes, and this plane is Malaysian air, we're headed here. This is our location. That is what the transponder is all about. We know from all we've heard so far the transponders were turned off, but we don't really know why, which turns this around now to look at the back of the plane.

Because if you talk about what's in the tail of these planes, this is where you find the voice and data recorders. In the back, they collect a tremendous amount of information. They tell you the angle of the plane, what all the settings are. Everything that's going on in this plane is being recorded there.

They are also recording not just voices in the cockpit but any noises in the cockpit, which are analyzed endlessly wherever there is any kind of incident. The problem with these, Erin, though is that they don't transmit. They only help when you once an incident has happened and you collected them either from an intact airline or from wreckage. But the whole point, a lot of communication going on here -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Tom Foreman. They're valuable to get a sense of where everything is. I want to bring John Nance back in, the aviation analyst for ABC's "World News."

John, let me ask you, to Tom's point, talking about this communication systems and how it could be if indeed was saw one turned off at 1:07 a.m. and the other at 1:21 a.m. He talked about fire in the cockpit or a sudden depressurization incident, you know, sort of like what happened with the Gulf here in United States where the plane just kept flying on and people died in the plane because there was no pressure.

Could either one of those situations account for this latest reporting, which would be a turnoff, you know, about 15 minutes apart of two of the key communication systems?

NANCE: The depressurization doesn't make any sense with respect to a shutdown over that amount of time with those two radios. The other part might and the problem is of course, what you might in the way of a depressurization that is going to not permit the pilots to get oxygen. The oxygen system has to be compromised is highly unlikely.

They're supposed to check it before every flight. It's very robust. That would indicate that not only did they have a depressurization. They did not have oxygen in the cockpit, but they would have been starting an emergency descent in most cases. It's not impossible, but it doesn't line up with the rest of the facts. Fire? Yes, possibly, but then how does the airplane fly on, then?

BURNETT: Right. Right, which is of course the key question and I want to emphasize to our viewers that at least our understanding at this point is that this information we have about how long it flew on is all coming from Malaysian authorities. U.S. government is saying that it makes sense, but it's all coming from Malaysian authorities who have access to the raw of data.

John, how many systems are there? Tom is going through, there's the transponder. There is the radio. There all these systems on the plane. If this report is, you know, you had two key systems, data and transponder turned off within 15 minutes of each other. How many others are there or are those really the only two that really matters for communicating with the ground?

NANCE: Well, you have the VHF radios that you talk to air traffic control. You have the satellite telemetry, which is really what we are discussing and the ACARS system, which is used to get transmitted information back and forth by digital. And in some cases, high- frequency radios. I don't know if they were on. I would assume that they had a few. That's for the old fashion method of communication.

You've got a cabin full of passengers with cell phones and probably at least a half a dozen satellite phones back there that you could call far if you had to. You might not get out with a cellphone, but a satellite phone would be usable in the air and from there, it's -- you've got to look at the electrical system. As I said earlier, every engine, it has two generators, one of which can power the whole airplane.

You've got a generator in the tail, which if energized has two generators either one of which can power the airplane. Then you've a battery and if everything else fails, you have a ram air turbin that pops out and gives you enough rotating Welcome to windmill energy to be able to power the basic emergency instruments in the cockpit.

So I mean, it's hard to run out of energy in one of these airplanes and that's what you have to do be totally dark.

BURNETT: And to remain totally dark to the point that may -- and I don't want to emphasize this too much because I know highly improbable is the least of the caveats before I say this. But if people on this plane are alive. There is some of a hostage situation or something like as incredibly unlikely that situation may be, this adds to the unlikeliness of it. There are few places on this planet that they couldn't communicate from the plane.

NANCE: It add to the unlikely nature of it unless somebody had intended to collect all the phones. I mean, I could put all my fiction writer out there. I've written many novels, and I couldn't come up with a stranger situation. Even if we find the wreckage of the airplane in some place in one of the oceans, this is still unprecedented in every possible way. I've seen anything like it in my career.

BURNETT: That's a pretty incredible thing to say and the crucial question of intent as well. All right, thanks very much. Appreciate it, John.

NANCE: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: We have Tom Foreman here. I want to bring you back in. What about this, as you heard John talking about this? He's never seen anything like this in his entire career. Even if it's found on the flight path, this is unprecedented.

FOREMAN: Yes, absolutely. And I want to show you one thing. The ACARS system, he mentioned it. This is where it would operate from. We've heard a lot of talk about the engines on this plane and the idea of the engines were transmitting information to the company. That would be going through the ACARS system. And we had been led for days to believe the ACARS system is not functioning. But now, tiny, tiny blips. Not complete information. All we know is that the plane disappeared. And if there was any communication, it was very scant. And you have to wonder if that's just an anomaly.

BURNETT: Right, but just a very crucial point and of course, as you pointed out, John pointed out, interpreting these sorts of signals is an art, not a science. It's not like, this is Flight 370, look at me. Thanks very much to Tom.

Still to come, the U.S. Navy searching a ship into the Indian Ocean to search for Flight 370. We'll talk to an official on one of those ships.

Plus, the question is, will Flight 370 ever be found?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There have been planes in the past that have completely disappeared.




BURNETT: It's morning in Malaysia now. American ships are changing course to hunt in the newest search zone for Malaysia Air 370. Joining me on the phone is Commander William Marks of the U.S. Navy Seventh Fleet. He is aboard the USS Blue Ridge. Thank you very for taking the time, sir, to joins us and keep us and our viewers around the world updated on the situation. The USS Kidd which I know is part of your fleet, the Seventh Fleet, is en route. Where exactly is it now, where is it going?

COMMANDER WILLIAM MARKS, ABOARD THE USS BLUE RIDGE (via telephone): We send the Kidd from the Gulf of Thailand to the Strait of Morocco. Just to the west of Malaysia.

BURNETT: And does have the USS Kidd, does it have a specific destination, Commander or is it going to be sailing essentially just looking for debris?

MARKS: We do have a search sector, that's in in close coordination with the government of Malaysia. I should point out, we are bringing in a P-8 Poseidon, that is our newest patrol aircraft. We are bringing that into the area today.

Our P-3 flew throughout the night last night. The P-3 will be here today. Those are the -- the P-8 is the game changer. That can fly 1,000 miles if needed into the Indian Ocean using its advanced circuit search radar to cover much, much more area.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much, Commander. We appreciate your taking the time to give us an update.

As USS -- as he said, heading through right now to the Straits of Malacca into the Indian Ocean. The search is expanding for Flight 370.

Officials now believe the plane could have flown for those four or five hours after its last communication with the ground, that they're pairing that belief together with something the Malaysian government said early on and had been backtracked from which is exactly what you see there. That at the site of its last contact with the ground, it then changed direction. That's where you're getting that pointing arrow into that wide sphere. It's completely off-base from its scheduled route into the Indian Ocean.

Is it possible that this vanished plane will never be found? That is a real question six days after it went missing. And in fact that has happened with dozens of planes of all sizes over the years.

Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Frustration mounts as the search continues for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. But look back through aviation history, and there are other mysteries that linger for months, years, even decades.

(On camera): There have been planes in the past that have completely disappeared.


LAH (voice-over): Carroll Gray is an aviation historian. He says the most storied and enduring mystery is the disappearance of Amelia Earhart. She vanished in her twin engine mono plane over the Pacific Ocean in 1937. She attempted to fly around the globe.

GRAY: There's still no concrete evidence as to what happened.

LAH: Her mystery, unsolved.

(On camera): For a passenger plane like that to disappear, that's not unprecedented either.

GRAY: No. And one that comes to mind is the British South American Airways.

LAH (voice-over): Two British South American Airways jets and their 51 passengers disappeared in the infamous Bermuda Triangle in the 1940s. Also that decade five American bombers on a training mission vanished in the Bermuda. Even the search plane went missing. All without a trace and still unsolved. Then there's this. The Flying Tiger Line.

GRAY: And it went off in 1952 near Guam, the Flying Tiger Line went off the radar. Gone, disappeared.

LAH (on camera): No wreckage.


LAH (voice-over): It was 1962. The U.S. military flight with more than 90 people on board. Unsolved. The crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 was so mysterious that Hollywood depicted a tale in the movie "Alive." In 1972 the 45 passengers crashed in the Andes Mountain. Survivors resorted to cannibalism to stay alive until they were found. This mystery, solved after 72 days.

(On camera): What are historians and bloggers saying right now about this modern mystery?

GRAY: That this is a very weird event. It's a very strange event that doesn't lend itself to the normal sets of explanations.

LAH: As a historian, how gripping is this for you?

GRAY: It's phenomenally gripping. People are gripped by mysteries. Things that are unsolved just sort of grab people. And especially when you have the common experience of flying.

LAH (voice-over): And that's why this historian says today's mystery must be solved. GRAY: When you get on a plane the next time, are you going to wonder a little whether or not you're going to disappear? That's why it's so urgent that some satisfactory explanation happen fairly soon.


LAH: You may notice that many of these examples date back from the '50s, '60s, and '70s. And there's a reason for that because modern aviation and aircraft is extremely safe especially the 777.

That's why there's so much hope, Erin, that the wreckage will be found and there will be answers which could have an impact on engineering as well as procedure -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much to you, Kyung.

And joining me is commercial airline pilot Captain Les Abend and former airline captain, Mark Weiss. Both of you have flown the 777.


BURNETT: So you know this plane intimately.

Let me start with what Kyung Lah is reporting. Talking most of these missing planes are back in the '50s, '60s, and '70s. This hasn't happened in a long time. Do either of you think that we're not going to find this plane?

ABEND: Absolutely. We'll find.


ABEND: We'll find it. Yes.

BURNETT: We're going to find it.

ABEND: Yes. We found the Titanic.

WEISS: It's just going to take some time.

BURNETT: All right. So even if it is in the Indian Ocean and the bleeping, the pinging stops right near the three-mile distance, you still think this is going to be --

WEISS: Politically I think there's so much pressure on everybody. The search is not going to stop until something is found.

BURNETT: All right. So let's talk about the latest reporting that we have. There's two key pieces as we've been saying. One that this plane possibly Malaysian authorities are saying it but U.S. authorities are confirming to our national security reporter that they believe that this is legitimate, that it flew for four to five hours after losing contact with the ground.

And the other -- the latest "ABC News World" report that there were two separate moments at which communication systems were set off. One at 7:00 a.m., one at 1:21 a.m. That's the latest. So let's start with that.

You guys know this plane intimately and you were just saying, you'd have to look at the manual to even know where to go to turn some of that off. So you don't think that's realistic.

ABEND: What it came down to what was described earlier with cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder that the control and the circuit break, those are directly below the galley and behind the cockpit as I mentioned to you earlier. So you would have to remove the galley carpet, keep people from coming back. And then go down a set of stairs, a very short set of stairs, to find all that equipment.

It really can't be shut off in-flight. But that's after the fact equipment. That equipment is utilized only after a catastrophe, after an accident. There's much more electronic equipments down below in what we call the E&E, the electronics department -- compartment. So --

BURNETT: So, Mark, you know, when you and I were talking earlier this week, you were talking about how you thought hijacking was a realistic possibility. Now that we have this other reporting, and by the way, I want to emphasize, this reporting that keeps coming in, you know, often some of these things end up proving to be incorrect or only partially correct. So I want to emphasize it. We don't yet know if this is being the case. This is just the latest of what someone is saying.

Do -- would this change your view as to whether this had been a purposeful act?

WEISS: No. I still think it's a purposeful act.


WEISS: You know, we don't know -- first of all we don't know who is in the cockpit. We don't know the condition of the pilot or pilots.


WEISS: We don't know -- we found out earlier that the first officer at one point had actually let other people, none -- people who are not allowed into the cockpit to get into the cockpit.

BURNETT: Right. On earlier flights. Absolutely.

WEISS: Absolutely. So that leads to a lot of speculation. You know, that airplane was on a flight path, on a predetermined flight path. That flight plan had been set when the aircraft was on the ground in Kuala Lumpur. It had been agreed to and that was a flight that -- the track that that little aircraft was on. If in fact that aircraft turned off that path, that had to be a deliberate act.

BURNETT: All right. So you think this was deliberate. I don't think you agree.


BURNETT: All right. Why? What's your take?

ABEND: Well, I'm very skeptical about that. And from the standpoint of it really had to be a deliberate act, it had to be a consortium of people that got involved with this. This is not -- I don't see it being -- you know, a 9/11 scenario. This really would have taken some engineering. And let's go with Mark's theory. Where are they going with the airplane? You know, if they -- if they actually did turn off -- and there's two transponders, by the way. It's not just one. So they would have had a -- one fails, you have another one. But --

BURNETT: Right. The redundancies.

ABEND: There is a -- Boeing has incredible redundancies on their airplane. But where would they have gone with this plane? For what purpose? You know, where the disappearance --

BURNETT: Now what's your theory on that? Do you fall into the --

WEISS: Political motives. Political motives don't necessarily have to have an end where that airplane would have ended up. Taking it off -- really, if you think about the outcome of what's going on right now, that in itself is an end that may have justify their means.

BURNETT: There's also the theory that this was a test in a sense. Would you buy that at all? That the goal wasn't actually this plane. It was to test certain things and see if certain things work elsewhere.

ABEND: I'd love to be --

BURNETT: And Mary Schiavo has put that out there.

ABEND: OK. I'd love to be proven wrong on that one. But I --


ABEND: I mean, I'm really -- I really have -- I really think that there was some sort of emergency situation that they were dealing with and may not -- may not have dealt with it appropriately or may have been overwhelming.


ABEND: It just -- and for the plan, very skeptical about four to five hours that airplane had flown past that one point.

BURNETT: And of course now the U.S. is saying that they support what the Malaysian government is saying, but Malaysia had backed off of that. So to your point, that also -- there's questions about that. But before we go, you're both pilots of this plane. A lot of people watching, people are afraid of flying.

Which is -- does this make you afraid as a pilot that something like this could happen in that cockpit?

ABEND: Absolutely not. Boeing makes an incredible product. And they have such redundancy. And the communication is redundancy in it of itself. Absolutely not.

WEISS: It's a solid platform. It's a well-performing aircraft. I'd get on one tomorrow, and I'd put my family on it tomorrow.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much to both of you. We appreciate it.

Les and Mark, as we said, both pilots for the 777 with two very different views of how that plane -- what happened to that plane.

Well, up next, if Flight 370 is actually under water tonight, how hard would that recovery be? We're going to show you what a 747 pulled from the ocean actually look like after a crash and recovery. That's next.


BURNETT: And now let's check in with Anderson with a look at what's coming up in just a few minutes on "AC360."

Hey, Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, AC 360: Hey, Erin. Yes, ahead on the program tonight, we are tracking the very latest on the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. There are a lot of theories for what happened to the plane. At this point, investigators say all possibilities remain on the table. We've assembled a team of experts, a former NTSB board member to a terrorism expert, to try to lay out the various scenarios based on where the evidence is right now.

Plus, the pictures dominated coverage last night, later turned out not to be the wreckage. It raises more questions. If a plane does crash, how feasible is it to find a debris? We'll take a look at what actually floats and what doesn't to get a sense of what searchers are really dealing with and as we've done each night, we're going to take a closer look at those who are missing and their families waiting for answers.

We want you to know about the people on board that flight. Who they were? Where they're from? How they all came to be on that flight at that time? It is more than just a missing plane. We're talking about missing fathers and mothers, sons and daughters. All that and more at the top of the hour -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right, Anderson. Thank you.

And our coverage continues of Malaysia Airlines. Right now the search area is extending west into the Indian Ocean and then it could get even bigger than that.

Think about this. The circle of work could have flown if indeed it did over that four to five-hour period as anywhere from the Himalayas to the southern Indian Ocean. This ship, according to U.S. officials, comes after new information suggests the mystery flight did make that turn and remain in the air.

Again, this is the evidence as we have it right now. We are not sure at all whether this will end up being the final case. But if the plane did go down in the water, recovering the wreckage will be a very difficult task. It took almost two weeks to discover the black boxes after TWA Flight 800 crash right off the coast in 1996 when they knew exactly where it was. It was four years before the investigation was complete.

Suzanne Malveaux is OUTFRONT.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Finding the aircraft is just the beginning.

TOM HAUETER, FORMER DIRECTOR, NTSB OFFICE OF AVIATION SAFETY: For the investigator, first thing to do is get back those recorders because, especially if an airplane is a 777. There's a huge amount of data in the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder. Get those back and then we can see -- what we need to do next. But, you know, time is of the essence.

MALVEAUX: Tom Haueter knows. He investigated the crash of TWA Flight 800, which exploded 12 and a half minutes after takeoff from New York's JFK Airport. His job began at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. U.S. Navy and other divers spent more than 1600 hours scouring for clues.

HAUETER: In TWA 800 we found pieces from just forward to the center of the wing. Then we found the nose of the aircraft. And then we found the wings and the tail, the engines and everything else further down the flight path.

MALVEAUX: Investigators believe that the breakup began with an explosion of the plane's central wing fuel tank. Likely from a short circuit. The aircraft broke apart, erupting into a fireball before plunging into the ocean. The evidence was piece together from a debris field of 75 square miles. Thousands of fragments tangled among a web of wires and airplane skin.

HAUETER: We map the bottom, you start recovering things. You get back, seat cushions, victim remains, and what you do is x-ray everything. Because you're looking for an explosion. You're looking for fast particles that may have been captured by a seat cushion or a body.

MALVEAUX: Among the debris, evidence of the 230 people lost on board. As painful as it is to think about, Haueter says that recovered bodies could provide critical clues about a flight's final moments.

HAUETER: If you take a look at all the information. Is there burning on the bodies beforehand? We'll get autopsies. There's tracheas showing that there's fire on board. MALVEAUX: Lifting the wreckage out of the water and reconstructing it was critical to debunking various conspiracy theories. Many witnesses of the crash reported seeing a streak of light in the air before the plane went down. Fueling theories that the aircraft was taken down by a missile. Haueter says that piecing the Boeing 747 together was necessary to get the full picture.

HAUETER: This door is badly burned. But the structure around it is actually unscathed. We take a look at everything we have here and what we couldn't find anywhere in TWA was any evidence of being hit from a missile from the outside.


MALVEAUX: Hey, Erin, if the Malaysian flight did crash in the water, the recovery effort would face very tough challenges. We're talking about divers could face harrowing conditions from the rough seas, sharks, decompression illness, and those currents could carry debris with critical evidence getting lost.

So investigators told me, they say, while they might get 99 percent of the evidence, they're not going to get it all. And that of course could fill questions and speculations that always come with a mysterious crash -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Suzanne, thank you very much.

Pretty incredible when you see what's (INAUDIBLE) show with that 747. What is at stake here.

OUTFRONT next, the breaking news in Philadelphia. A U.S. Airways plane has just blown a tire on takeoff. That breaking report coming in. We'll have that next.


BURNETT: And we have more breaking news tonight. A frightening moment in Philadelphia International Airport. You are looking right now at a live picture of a U.S. Airways plane. Its landing gear collapsed in the middle of takeoff. Obviously a very dangerous situation. And these are live pictures.

Our Rosa Flores is following the story.

And, Rosa, what happened?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, like you mentioned some very tense moments at Philadelphia International Airport.

Here's what we know from authorities. U.S. Airways Flight 1702 was headed to Ft. Lauderdale from Philadelphia. And an airline spokesperson tells CNN the tire of the Airbus A-320 blew on takeoff.

Now we're getting some conflicting reports here because the Philadelphia airport tweeted out that nose gear of the plane collapsed. We're also getting that same information from the FAA that reportedly there was some nose gear collapse. But we do know that 149 passengers were on board. They were evacuated onto the runway. No injuries are reported at this hour. And authorities do say that the aircraft is not on fire which you can see there live from these live pictures that we have.

Now, the latest, Erin, from the airport, the airport has reopened but one runway is still closed. And of course, the FAA is investigating.

BURNETT: All right, Rosa, thank you very much. Pretty miraculous, though, when you look at those pictures and you think about how that fuel tank would have been full that there was no fire and that all those passengers were evacuated safely.

Still to come, Pope Francis celebrating a major milestone today. And Jeanne Moos has that story next.


BURNETT: It has been a year since Francis was named pope. It's been a record setting and trend setting time and Jeanne Moos has the story.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Almost from the moment the smoke announced a new Pope --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks white.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks white.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kind of dark, kind of light.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's white smoke.

MOOS: Pope Francis was smoking hot. Poking, kissing, patting, making a heart sign out of a helicopter window.

He touched people and he let people touch him. Even play with his skull cap. From a papal mini me dressed like the Pope to the 6-year- old who played peek-a-boo with Pope Francis on stage at the Vatican. Kissed the Pope's cross and wouldn't be lured away even by candy. When the Pope left his thrown, the kid occupied it.

Pope Francis was willing to clown around with newlyweds who volunteer for a charity that brings clown therapy to sick children. From silly to soothing, this photo became iconic. The Pope embracing a man with a genetic condition that left growths all over his body. 53-year-old Vinicio Riva described the hug.

VINICIO RIVA, HUGGED BY POPE FRANCIS (Through Translator): I quivered. I felt a great warmth.

MOOS: You'd expect the Pope to end up on the cover of "TIME" as person of the year. But "Rolling Stone" with a tag line "The Times They are a Changing"?

(On camera): The Pope, he's just like us. We're not talking the voice of God. We're talking voice mail.

(Voice-over): Imagine getting a voice mail saying it's Pope Francis. When Spanish nuns didn't answer his New Year's Eve call, left a message asking -- what are the nuns doing that they can't answer? The answer was praying.

The Pope's image spread in what's probably the first papal group selfie. He beheld his own image made out of chocolate by students at a chocolate making academy.

(On camera): Good lord. The Pope even accidentally dropped an F bomb.

(Voice-over): At a Vatican public blessing, he misspoke in Italian then corrected it.

(On camera): I never ever thought I'd have to bleep the Pope.

(Voice-over): In his first year, not only did Pope Francis wash and kiss the feet of others, he also had his own legs hugged.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BURNETT: That's just fantastic. All right. Be sure to tune in tonight, by the way, at 10:00 Eastern. CNN's new series "CHICAGOLAND" focuses on the challenges in Chicago to improving its situation. That is again at 10:00 Eastern right here on CNN.

Thanks for watching. Anderson starts now.