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The Mystery of Flight 370

Aired March 17, 2014 - 22:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: This is a CNN Special Report, "The Mystery of Flight 370."

Good evening, everyone. I'm Don Lemon.

We're going to begin with breaking news from "The New York Times" tonight. They are reporting that the flight, Flight 370, turned to the west from its planned flight path at the direction of a computer system that was likely programmed by someone in the plane's cockpit, another piece of evidence that points to the involvement of the crew in the disappearance of the plane more than a week-and-a-half ago.

As far as we know right now, nobody on earth has heard anything from any of the 239 people on board since then. But there are so many questions. We have been hearing from you since it happened. And tonight, for the next hour, we're going to answer your questions, like, what are the odds the pilots are in this together? Why do you trust that Pakistan has no radar evidence of the plane? And what if the plane is in the hands of hijackers?

And I want to go right to our breaking news.

Here now with that is Michael Schmidt, one of the reporters on that story.

What are you reporting tonight, Michael?

MICHAEL SCHMIDT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": We are reporting that the first diversion that the plane made on its path was done -- was done by a computer system on the plane, and not done manually by anyone on the plane, for that matter.

What happened was is that someone on the plane put into the computer system that sits between the pilots a new direction for the plane to go in, and that is why the plane moved. We believe this is significant because the -- and investigators believe it's significant because what it does, it shows that whoever did this had some expertise in flying.

This was not just someone on the plane who grabbed the controls and moved it.

LEMON: This reinforces again the belief that this plane was deliberately diverted in some way and it was possibly by the captain or the co-pilot on the plane.

The last person to speak on that plane was the co-pilot reportedly saying "All right, good night."

My question to you, Michael, is, with so much information, and it's changing daily, how reliable is the information coming from the Malaysian government in your assessment?

SCHMIDT: Well, the Malaysian government has had a bit of problems with their credibility, because for the first week they didn't really say much.

And then they came out on Saturday and they did say that foul play -- they believe foul play was behind it. And then today they reversed something that they said on Sunday. In a sense, they didn't do any favors by not saying anything initially. And now when they say things, people are skeptical of them. We get drips and drabs of different things. We try and make as much sense of them as possible.

But in a story kill this, where there is so much we don't know, we are kind of left -- we're left in the dark on a lot of things.

LEMON: Michael Schmidt from "The New York Times" reporting the breaking news, Michael Schmidt, thank you very much.

I want to bring in now CNN's Jim Sciutto with some other latest developments now.

I understand, Jim, the United States has responded to or has reached out, we're hearing, to the Malaysians, the highest levels of our government, to offer help. What can you tell us about that?


Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel reached out to his Malaysian counterpart and really two headlines there, one saying that the U.S. remains committed to the search, willing to give the assets necessary, the planes and ships, to make the search.

But other point he made is the U.S. is re-tasking its ships and really more its airplanes to focus on the southern Indian Ocean, that southern part of that arc that we have been talking about down there. And it's been CNN's information that when you speak to U.S. officials, it's their focus, it's their feeling, their stronger feeling it's more likely the plane is in the Indian Ocean, rather than that path up north into Central Asia, where the possibility of maybe landing the plane.

And the focus of the U.S. search will be with the airplanes, particularly the P-8, Poseidon. It's a new airplane with tremendous surveillance ability, so that's where the U.S. stands now, and that's that's where the U.S. will focus is resources.

LEMON: What increased security alerts are we seeing tonight as a result of this case, Jim?

SCHMIDT: The one country that has done something is Israel. And it is requiring airliners flying towards Israel to identify themselves earlier than normal. You travel to Israel -- and I have been there a number of times. It's the country with the most strict security on the ground when you are flying airplanes, the most strict interrogations, questions, searches, et cetera, they have very, very strict procedures for airplanes approaching. Now they have added this additional measure here. They have got to identify themselves further on the chance that this plane has been hijacked for later use, perhaps in an attack.

The U.S. -- and I have spoken to people on Capitol Hill, including members of the House Intelligence Committee -- is the U.S. considering any measures? Because this conceivably exposes vulnerabilities here. It someone can commandeer a jet in Malaysia, it at least presents the possibility that can still happen here 13 years after 9/11.

And I'm told they are looking at some changes, including things as to what a pilot can do in the cockpit. For instance, could the pilot turn off the transponder? That is on the table now as a possible change going forward. Those are things they are looking at. No moves yet by the U.S., but I think you can be sure there will be a debate about new measures here as well.

LEMON: Jim, you have done so much to help us with this story. I want to stay with us and help us through the next hour.

I want to bring in CNN's Richard Quest. Also with me is Jeff Wise. He's the author of "Extreme Fear: The Science of Your Mind in Danger." And Mary Schiavo is a former inspector general of the Department of Transportation. She now represents the families of victims suffering from negligence of airlines, automotive, commercial, trucking, motor coach and rail companies. Also, Jeff Beatty is here. He's the only American to have served in all three of America's most elite counterterrorism organizations with Delta Force, the FBI and the CIA. Also, electronics and radar engineer David Stupples with me. Jim Tilmon as well, he's a CNN aviation analyst and a retired American Airlines pilot.

Thank you all.

This hour is for you, the viewer. You have so many questions you have been sending us and we hear you.

I want first to go to Robert Ray. This is Robert Ray 7425 at Twitter. He says -- @DonLemon -- "If the satellite track that plane for six to seven hours,why don't they know where it went down? Something does not make sense."

David Stupples, you're an electronics and radar engineer. Do you think the plane could have been tracked by satellite? Why?


The plane will be registering its satellite communications system with the satellite, but the communications satellite is at 23,000 miles up in space. It's geostationary. And it really can't find direction or find position of anything -- it will say it's there, but it would not be able to give a position. Richard Quest, Pakistan, Indian, Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia all have reported that they did not detect Flight 370 on their radar. How reliable is radar data coming out of that region?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We don't understand fully what the capabilities of those individual countries are.

Some people will tell you that in some of those countries the radar is metal and actually not very accurate. But if you are talking about India and Pakistan and their borders and their coastline, certainly for India, then, yes, there are certain areas where if those countries are saying they did not see anything, that has a fairly high degree of certainty.

Kazakstan has said quite clearly there is no evidence of anything breaching their Kazak airspace.

LEMON: Jim Sciutto, I want to get to you because I posed a very similar question in the beginning of this broadcast to "The New York Times" reporter about the information coming from the Malaysian government. Does the United States believe that we are getting briefed on all the information from the various countries involved have at this point?

SCIUTTO: I think the view is, it's getting better. Early on, there was some reluctance on the part of Malaysian authorities to share it. That wasn't just U.S. officials expressing it. You hear it and you still hear it from Chinese officials and other countries involved.

The feeling is it is getting better now, but I think there is a question out there, because as Kazakstan, Pakistan and others say there's no way that this plane passed through our airspace, there is a reluctance on the part of some of these countries to share the full extent of their capabilities, radar, satellite, et cetera, because you have a lot of disputes between these countries, rivalries there, border disputes.

Some of them have fought wars against each other, China and India, and the tensions are still there. So they don't want to make it exactly clear how far and how clearly their satellites see and how extensive and how well-monitored their radars are. That hasn't gone away. The sense is the Malaysians are sharing better with the U.S. The question is, is everybody sharing with everybody? And that's an open question.

LEMON: This is an important question I want to ask. I'm going to get back to our viewer questions.

This one, I'm going to pose it to Jeff Wise, because a lot of people tweeted about this scenario posted by Daryl B. Here's what Daryl B. said. He says: "Is it possible that MH370 could have shadowed SIA68 to avoid radar direction if it went north?"

I want to set the scenario here just so the viewers know what we're talking about. There is a theory that Flight 370 could have linked up with a Singapore Airlines flight around the time it disappeared and shadowed that plane on its route to avoid radar direction. Have you taken at that theory? First to Jeff and then I will get to you, Richard?

JEFF WISE, "SLATE": You know, we came across it at "Slate." We looked at it.

I feel it sounds like it is plausible. It matches up with the data you can find from these online flight trackers. But at this point, it sounds plausible. At this point though it seems to me like so much conjecture.

If I could touch just on what the first viewer asked, which was about the pinging, this is a really major point I think that has been largely overlooked. The satellite nav system was pinging, was checking in with the plane's sat/nav -- satcom system.

And we know this happened at least four times. The Malaysian government made a big deal about releasing that data on Saturday morning and releasing this famous arc you have got on the wall behind you. That is a really huge piece of information, the most significant piece of information we have had so far. And yet why haven't they released the previous pings, because if we could see where those arcs lay earlier in its flight, it might -- maybe it wasn't because it's symmetrical so it's hard to know for sure, but it might give a huge clue as to where this thing is.

LEMON: Quickly, Richard, I want to get back to the viewer questions. Go ahead.

QUEST: On this point, sources close to Singapore Airlines have told me that they can find no evidence of this.

LEMON: That it shadowed.

QUEST: That it shadowed.

I believe aviation sources also say that they are not looking at it. They don't necessarily give it any credence.

LEMON: All right, good. Thank you for that.

This one, I will pose to Jeff Beatty. We will talk a little bit more about the satellite system. It from Shahed Jalal. And he says, "Pakistan confirmed they have nothing in their radar. Did we get similar confirmation from all countries on probable route?"

Mr. Beatty, do you know about that?

JEFF BEATTY, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICER: From what I understand, Don, we have not heard from anyone yet, and again we may not or we may not get complete information because people are going to be reluctant to share what their true capabilities are.

As you led into this, as Jim was talking in his lead-in, there are people who have had fights with each other in the past. They don't want to let others know what their capabilities are. But if I could add one quick thing, Jim -- I mean -- correction -- Don -- I see in what Mike Schmidt and what Jim reported, if I'm a family member, I see some encouragement here, because if you have programmed -- if you're the pilot and you have programmed something into the computer and the aircraft begins a turn, you don't need to fly another four or five hours to commit pilot suicide.

This kind of takes off the table a little bit in my mind one of those scenarios that probably families were most fearful of, so, some good news there. One can make an inference of some possible good news.

LEMON: Mary Schiavo, you want to follow up on that?


If the pilots are able to program in the waypoints, some more codes into the computer, they are still coherent. Whatever happened has not rendered the plane unflyable. They can still put things in the computer. It does -- again, I'm a skeptic. I want to see evidence and put together the pieces of the plane, but this does suggest they were coherent and knowingly did change the route of the plane.

LEMON: I want to go now -- this is from Kayla Auletto.

And she says: "Why do we trust that Pakistan has no radar evidence of the plane? Don't we remember them hiding OBL near a military base?"

Here's my question to you, David Stupples. If a plane is looking to fly under the radar in that part of the world, is it absolutely 100 percent necessary -- is it absolutely 100 percent sure that a plane cannot fly under radar in that part of the world? Is the radar detection in that part of the world that strong or is it weak enough to allow that?

STUPPLES: Well, I think you have to look at the radar range itself.

For instance, when the plane was first lost, the -- it was at the extreme end of the radar system from Malaysia. So, really, we are talking about 250 nautical miles. And the aircraft was at 35,000 feet.

Now, to fly under the radar, it will have to fly -- know the range of the radar, and then fly to the height for that range. So, as it's approaching, say, Pakistan, it's going to have to go lower and lower and lower. And as it goes over Pakistan, I doubt a plane of 200 tons could get under the radar.

LEMON: Jim Tilmon, if you stand by, I promise you I will get you in. We have a whole lot of show to get you.

But I want to quickly get this into Jim Sciutto, especially we have the breaking news that we saw at the top of the hour.

Jim, does the United States believe we are in a threat right now because of this, that we are vulnerable? SCIUTTO: Well, they don't, when you speak to U.S. officials. One reason they don't is because they have not established a terror link to this attack.

They're still open to that. They haven't ruled it out, but they haven't established that connection, so they are not then triggering the reactions we would see if there was a terror link there. But we do know that lawmakers and some that I have spoken with are beginning to look at possibilities to close some holes here.

Remember, when we have even a whiff of a plot out there -- you remember the toothpaste tube explosives or more refined shoe bombs, things we have been reporting on in just the last few weeks. When you have even just a whiff of a plot, you know, they start to make adjustments in security screenings, et cetera.

If this turns out to be a plane commandeered by terrorists or someone else to you, then that is not just a whiff of a plot. That's a successful, real, tangible thing. If that is confirmed, I think you can expect changes here. But it hasn't happened yet because they're still trying to figure out what happened with this plane.

And I would echo some points of some of your other guests. The thing about this flight computer, the story in "The New York Times," is that it does begin to eliminate a couple of other possibilities, as other guests have made the point, sudden incapacitation of the crew or system failure or fire on board because it would take some presence of mind and skill to do that, plus the idea you just had some yahoo walk in the cockpit door and just try to commandeer the plane, so a significant development.

LEMON: Jim Sciutto, thank you very much.

Everybody else, stick with us. Jim Tilmon, as I said, I promise I will get you in. I want to talk more about this in a few minutes.

But when we come right back, I want you to know that what do we know about the pilots of Flight 370 or any pilots, as a matter of fact?

We're also keeping your answers and keep sending your questions and we will try to answer them for you. Tweet us at #370QS or #370QS.


LEMON: Nobody who has ever flown on a plane wants to believe that the pilot and the co-pilot aren't doing everything they can to keep the every passenger safe. But are we just flying on blind faith?

Rosa Flores has put together everything we know and don't know about the pilot and co-pilot of Flight 370 and what airlines do to check flight crews; backgrounds.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Anxiety erupting, the search growing. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our priority has always been to find the aircraft.

FLORES: And new clues surfacing, like the surveillance video of the pilots, as the focus on the cockpit of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 intensifies.

The homes of Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah and co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid searched this weekend by authorities. They seized this flight simulator featured in this YouTube video posted by the 53-year-old pilot raising questions and feeding theories about what exactly it was used for.

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: You can compare one flight to another flight as far as your own performance to see if you have improved as far as the ability to maintain altitude or the ability to stay on the glide slope during descent, things like that. You have like a rating on that, so it's possible, yes, that the flights that he had been taking on his flight simulator would be recorded on that flight simulator system.

FLORES: Also on tape, surveillance video posted on YouTube showing the captain and first officer going through airport security.

CNN cannot independently confirm the authenticity or the date of the video. The captain's family posting this tribute online, describing him as loving, generous and supportive.

Neighbors of the 27-year-old co-pilot also talking, saying his community is praying and maintaining hope. But there are troubling photos from the co-pilot's past, like this from 2011 showing him and two teenaged passengers in the cockpit during a flight from Thailand to Malaysia.

JONTI ROOS, CLAIMS CO-PILOT INVITED HER INTO COCKPIT: I was pretty surprised by it. But I thought that the fact that they were doing it must mean that it's something that happened quite often. I didn't realize how much against regulation it was.

SOUCIE: I was shocked to see those pictures. It was in flight, as I understand. It was during the flight. And I can't imagine breaching the cockpit door for anyone other than the flight crew.

FLORES: Passengers put their lives in a pilot's hands, most of the time not knowing a single thing about them. Many now wondering, who is looking at the flight crew? Malaysia Airlines say pilots are screened, undergoing psychological tests, which could be tightened in the future.

AHMAD JAUHARI YAHYA, CEO, MALAYSIA AIRLINES: Going forward, we will obviously look into all this.

FLORES: In this country, David Soucie, author of "Why Planes Crash," says oversight of pilots' mental health is left to an honor system.

SOUCIE: There is no one that does an evaluation, an independent evaluation, unless the pilot himself says, I have got issues. To me, that just seems backwards. It just doesn't seem like that's a very effective way of understanding and monitoring the psychological wellness of an individual, particularly someone who is in charge of that many lives.

FLORES: In the case of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, 239 lives in the hands of a flight crew now under scrutiny.


LEMON: Rosa Flores is here now.

Rosa, we got a lot of tweets today about screening of pilots. Here is what tweet Sparkachino (ph) says. He asks, "How can airlines not conduct periodic psychological tests or even check-ins on pilots after they're hired. Couldn't hurt."

What did you learn about that?

FLORES: Well, I asked David Soucie about that. And here's how he put it. He said, do these pilots get physicals every year? Yes, they do. The sigh psychology part of it, he says, can be improved. He says, right now, it's up to the pilot to come forward and say, I have a mental health issue. I need help. I'm depressed, et cetera.

He says that's not the way to do it. Who in their right mind would just come forward and say, yes, I need help, I can't fly a plane when it puts their career and their financial future in jeopardy, Don?

LEMON: Rosa Flores, thank you very much for that.

I want to hear what my experts have to think now. Richard Quest is CNN's aviation correspondent. He is here. Rafi Ron is the former director of security for Tel Aviv Ben-Gurion Airport. And Evy Poumpouras is a former Secret Service agent.

Richard, I want to start with you. You said you can speak endless about what she was reporting on.

QUEST: Yes, in terms of all pilots go through recurrent training every six months, as you were just hearing.

The airlines are very aware, particularly, for example, in the recession that we have just been through, extra stresses, marital problems, anything like that. There is an entire structure of reporting anonymously. And one pilot, one very senior pilot at an airline who is responsible for the training and the management of pilots, put it this way to me.

He says, we tell pilots they can come to us if they have got a problem. If they have a psychological issue, they won't lose their license permanently, but they will be medically unfit, but they know at least they will have a paycheck.

LEMON: Rafi, you were the director of security in Tel Aviv's Ben- Gurion Airport. How are pilots and flight crews screened there?

RAFI RON, CEO, NEW AGE SECURITY SOLUTIONS: Well, you have to divide it into two categories.

One category is your own pilots. In the case of Israel, it is Israeli pilots flying Israeli carriers. And the other category are foreign pilots that they bring airplanes into your territory and your airports.

While, on the first category, you can take decisions, you can develop a policy and implement it, the second category is almost impossible to touch. And most of the problems usually occur in the second category, because the first category of your own pilots is regularly monitored. There's a strong background and environment that would indicate issues that may develop.

And if somebody is either suffering from mental issues, or, not necessarily the case of Israel, but in other countries, goes through a radicalization process, and may become a threat, as long as is it in your own territory, you have your intelligence, you have your access to people in the pilots' environment.

But when it comes to foreign pilots, you have zero. And you have to rely on whatever you are being told by the country that owns that carrier.

LEMON: Yes. The standards aren't the same all over.

Evy, I want to read a question to you and then we will answer it. It says -- this one is from Jen Durham. And Jen says: "Can pilots choose their own co-pilots? What are the real odds the pilots are in this together? #Flight370."

Evy, can you answer that?

EVY POUMPOURAS, FORMER U.S. SECRET SERVICE AGENT: Well, I think in this particular situation, from what we know, the two pilots did not ask to fly together. They didn't ask to be with each other.

Can they ask to be with one another? Yes. But I do want to touch a little bit on the psychometric testing, what we're just talking about, the psychological of pilots. In law enforcement, for example, in local law enforcement, they actually give psychometric testing to someone before they give them a badge and a gun.

Common standardized one is the MMPI-2. That's the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. This exam is given to people to see mentally if there's any psychological issues or personality issues or mental issues. And this is something we may see now coming for pilots.

There's a Wechsler scale also. There's the Rorschach, the inkblots that we all know. These are tests that they should give to pilots and certain people with certain positions where they are responsible for people's lives, as are law enforcement, before they put them in a position to fly a plane or give them a badge or a gun.

I think it's very dangerous that we do not do a psychological test of certain individuals before they enter a certain profession. Who is going to come up to you and say, you know what, I got problems, don't give me the job? Or that person may not even know they have problems.

LEMON: Right. Thank you, Evy. Thank you, Rafi.

Richard Quest, stay with us.

When we come back, I want to talk about some of the other theories out there. Some of them may not be as crazy as they sound. And don't forget, we are answering your questions tonight. Tweet us using #370QS.


LEMON: So with all of the worldwide attention to this story, it is hard to believe this is only the beginning. But how will this end? Will we ever get any answers.

Back with me now is CNN aviation correspondent Richard Quest; also Jeff Wise, Mary Schiavo, Jeff Beatty, Davie Stupples and Jim Tilmon.

Jim, my first question to you. I promised I'd get you in. I said we have a whole lot of show. This is from Advanced Security on Twitter. Here's what they're saying: "Is it possible someone stole the plane to use later on or in a terror attack and they wanted us to all believe it crashed in the ocean," Jim Tilmon?

JIM TILMON: Yes, that's possible. But there's so many possibilities. I mean, we just have to put this on a long list. Yes. That is possible. I'll just say that much about it.

LEMON: Jeff Beatty, could this airplane or airline have been taken for another purpose? Speaking to what the -- what the other tweeter said? Is that -- is that why no one is taking responsibility, and their mission isn't complete yet, possibly?

BEATTY: Well, that certainly is one of the possibilities. You know, there's about three other scenarios that I'd like to just highlight.

One of them could be a high-value cargo. The aircraft might have been taken for a high-value cargo. Now, that cargo could possibly be people, high-value people that are onboard the aircraft or that cargo could possibly be something of great value in the hold.

The second one is in the past we've actually had aircraft become the venue for murder. I know of three cases where, for example, Manuel Noriega got rid of his predecessor, Omar Torrijos, that way. We had Pablo Escobar take down Avianca 203, killing a presidential candidate from Colombia on that attack.

And we had Egypt Air go down at the hand of one of the crew members, killing 30 Egyptian officers on board, including two general officers.

So it could be high-value cargo. It could be murder, and finally, you know, there's always ransom. We had a connection between the pilot, who is a strong supporter of Anwar Ibrahim, who's the major opposition leader in Malaysia. And Ibrahim was just arrested right before this flight. Perhaps the pilot felt that, in the past people have taken aircraft and held them for ransom for release of prisoners. That's what happened in Mogadishu, a number of scenarios.

So there are -- there are many possibilities still out there. And each piece of additional evidence starts to take some of them and make them less likely. Like, the pilot suicide now is a little less likely than it was a couple of days ago.

LEMON: This idea of A hijacking or some sort of terror. I want to stick with it, and I want to go to Mary Schiavo. This one is from Beverly, Mary. She says, "Are the authorities looking at the possible scenarios, should the plane be intact and in the hands of hijackers?" Mary Schiavo.

SCHIAVO: Well, I certainly hope that they're looking at that. Because there were so many lessons learned in the investigations after September 11.

But one thing that was clear in the investigation following September 11, and that was the plot, the hints, the clues it was imagined and imaginable. We had a lot of intelligence, and as soon as 9/11 happened, evidence started pouring in. I got two key pieces of evidence in plain brown envelopes, delivered to my office anonymously. I mean, just everyone wanted to help.

And here we don't have that, which is disconcerting. So the authorities -- you know, governments around the world really have to dig deep, because there doesn't seem to be any information forthcoming. And I called it an eerie silence right now.

LEMON: Jeff Wise, this is -- this one is from Bianca Milo. "This is just a thought, and it may be out of the blue, but could it be possible that the plane is in North Korea?"

Wise: The quick answer to that is no. If we give credence to this report coming out of the Malaysian prime minister on Saturday, we know pretty well where it is. It's either in the north or in the south along these two arcs. North Korea is not one of those two places.

I know, we know very little what happened, but we do know a few things pretty confidently. So I -- you know, of all the scenarios that still exist, North Korea is not one of them.

LEMON: David Stupples, I want to do the same thing for you. When you're talking about North Korea, since you're a radar expert, is that a possibility?

STUPPLES: I don't think so, because of the arcs you've given before. The aircraft was turning -- turned west and flying over the northern part of Malaysia. If you believe that information, then that's the way it was flying.

I think if it was flying up the other way, then it would certainly have been spotted by Vietnamese radars on its flight to North Korea.

LEMON: Stand by, everyone. Coming up, a Boeing 777 vanishes. In today's day and age, in this technological age, is this even possible? What do you think most of the questions are about? They're about cell phones. Richard Quest has made me very aware of that. I'm aware of it from reading your questions. We're going to take your questions and try to answer them coming up and make sure you tweet us using the hashtag "360Qs."


LEMON: Back with me now are experts Richard Quest, Jeff Wise, Mary Schiavo, Jeff Beatty, David Stupples and Jim Tilmon.

OK. So what do you think all the questions -- pretty much -- not every question but a of the questions have been about? Technology and about cell phones. Let me read one real quick, and then we'll start up.

So here's what Cindy Cole says. She said, "What have you been told about the absence of MH370 cell phone contact. No photos, texts, calls, that is incredible."

QUEST: The issue raised with the cell phone questions come down to the two distinct, very distinct.

On the one hand why have we received no information from anybody. And, secondly, why can't you use cell phone technology to find?

Oh, and there's a third one. Some people are calling cell phones, and they are ringing. The family and friends are calling cell phones, and it's not going to voice mail. It is ringing. And these are cornerstone issues of what questions are being asked.

LEMON: Mary Schiavo, we have talked about this, and as I told our viewers at the beginning of this program, we have been following this step-by-step, minute by minute, because we are on air reporting it. But not every viewer is doing that, and not every viewer is paying close attention to every single detail.

We are getting a lot of questions about cell phones and the families holding out hope and people holding out hope because the cell phones are ringing that means these folks are still alive and they are well.

SCHIAVO: Yes. The first question is why not the calls from the plane, calls to and from the plane? And that's because this plane was not equipped with the most modern equipment to have on board wi-fi and cell phone service. So that means the cellphones would have to rely upon going near a tower.

Now, the did plane pass back over Malaysia, and that was a possibility. But you know, it would have had to hit a tower just like anyone else driving around on the ground or being lucky to get a tower.

And then actually some phone company officials have said that the cell phone ringing was not indicative that the phone was still working but merely that is simply ringing through to the area or the switching station to go ahead and meet the cell phone. It didn't mean the cell phone itself was working. LEMON: OK. Jim Tilmon, this is for you. We're going to switch subjects a little bit here. And this something -- this is your expertise. This is from Jon Parker. Jon Parker says, "Could pilot depressurize plane to cause passengers to pass out?" Jim?

TILMON: Yes. It can deprive the cabin of oxygen. And they don't have to do it for a very long time, because you just cannot survive but just a matter of minutes without oxygen. You go into kind of a high (UNINTELLIGIBLE) sleep. The pilots can put on a full face mask and they can indeed breathe 100 percent oxygen for a while. It's far- fetched and awful to think of but it is possible.

LEMON: It is. So we heard that the possibility of the plane had gone up to 45,000 feet. If it could do that with the weight and, you know, with the equipment that it had on board. But the question is, wouldn't the oxygen masks be deployed automatically if that were to happen in the cabin, Jim Tilmon, or could they control that from the cockpit and the pilots only have the masks and the passengers don't?

TILMON: Well, I think the masks would drop automatically. They do when you go through a certain altitude in the cabin. They automatically drop.

But the thing is, though, you have a tiny canister in each one of those overhead bins, and they are your oxygen generators. They only run for a relatively short length of time. That's why the protocol is if you have an oxygen problem you immediately go into a descent to get down to breathable oxygen, so that the passengers are going to be all right. And that's a pretty good drop. That's a controlled dive to about 14,000 feet.

LEMON: OK, Jim. This one is for Jeff Wise. This is from Herbert Okam. He says, "Is there any possibility of the plane being completely intact at the bottom of the ocean with no floating debris?

WISE: Well, so if it was in one piece that would mean that the pilot had come in in a very Sullenberg kind of did a gentle sort of Sullenberger kind of landing. You do that on the Hudson or wherever it is, in one piece.

The problem with that is that you'd get the life rafts which are equipped with emergency beacons.

So you know, in a way it's either that or you do a high-speed sort of supersonic descent where the thing just breaks into a million pieces. And maybe you know, if you go with leave no trace, you're better off like that. That leaves millions of tiny pieces floating around. It's hard to imagine a scenario in which -- in which you ditch or crash in the ocean and there isn't some -- some trace left.

LEMON: OK. Everybody stick around. Richard and I have come up with this. You would not believe how many questions we're getting. I'm getting -- I certainly have got hundreds, if not thousands during this broadcast.

So what we're going to do next. We're going to call it the lightning round. I'm just going to go through my Twitter feed. Richard's going to go through his, and we're going to ask the questions that you're sending us to our experts here. Make sure you hashtag it, 370QS, 370 Q. We'll be right back.


LEMON: We're asking and answering some of your tough questions tonight about the missing Flight 370. Back with me are experts Richard Quest, Jim Tilmon, Jeff Wise, Mary Schiavo, Jeff Beatty and David Stupples.

And panel, really quick answers, because I want to get as many in as possible. This one is from -- this is from Dave O. And I think it's a very interesting question. Is it possible that MH370 went west towards Africa, in particular, Somalia."

I'm going to ask that one to -- let's ask it to our radar expert, David Sieples (ph).

STUPPLES: I don't think it had enough fuel to reach Somalia, and it certainly would have been tracked over Indonesia, so we'd have known it was going that direction.

LEMON: Jim Tilmon, could a passenger with a laptop hack into the cockpit computer?

TILMON: No. I don't think so.

LEMON: Very simple. What do you have there?

QUEST: A question for Mary here. From Sarah: "Could the disappearance of flight 370 be government related?"

SCHIAVO: Well, a hostile government possibly, yes. They would have means.

LEMON: Jeff Wise, "Did they search the flight path or did they automatically think it went across the world?" That is from Thomas Tompkins.

WISE: I don't understand the question.

LEMON: Yes. What are the possibilities that this is a black hole? There is someone saying that. And there are conspiracy theories about that.

"You forget that Myanmar is in the reach of 370, and isn't different from North Korea. You never know, it could have landed there." Mary Schiavo?

SCHIAVO: Well, we don't have a lot of pings to go on. So if it's near the flight path, yes, it's possible. We have just a few data points.

LEMON: Jeff Beatty, "I would say that they are hijacked, and if they're on board, the family would have come to meet with the rest of the family, the other people" -- they're talking about the pilot's family. Because there were reports that the pilot's family had moved out of the home. But they would have gone to meet with them already. Does that even weigh on this investigation?

BEATTY: I don't think so. But if this was an elaborate hijacking operation, I think there's an opportunity to put forward a major reward program. I haven't heard much about that. Somebody knows what happened, let's see if we can't give them to come forward with a reward...

LEMON: I think this is a very interesting question. Because people have been asking why are you asking about the passengers. It's disrespectful. Why aren't we looking at the flight crew or even -- why are we looking at the flight crew and passengers? Mary.

SCHIAVO: Well, because we look at past history and in past history that's where some of -- most of the threats have come, either from a flight crew, passengers in 9/11. In 19th of 19, there were passengers that went through security.

QUEST: Jim Tilmon question here from Michael Bollison (ph). "Is it possible to lose all flight controls and have the 777 take over on the last program vectors?" Basically, if things went wrong, would the plane just automatically default to its last flight?

TILMON: Kind of yes and no. I mean, it's not like the airplane has a brain of its own. If it was programmed for a certain kind of heading and altitude and sort of thing, and then nobody put in a new input it would just continue that until it ran out of fuel. But I think that's really way out. That's far-fetched. I'm sorry.

LEMON: All right. Thank you very much. We'll be right back. Don't go anywhere. Still taking some of your questions.


LEMON: Back now. Richard Quest, Jeff Wise, Mary Schiavo, Jeff Beatty, David Stupples and Jim Tilmon.

OK, this one is from Sabi (ph), and she says, "How is it possible for a plane to simply vanish? Seems like a magician's trick to me." I agree with her, Mary Schiavo.

SCHIAVO: Actually, when planes cross the ocean they often vanish. We depend upon primary radar. And when the radar doesn't cover it, they vanish.

LEMON: Jeff Beatty.

BEATTY: Well, it's a big ocean, and I would have to say that if it went down in the ocean, they may not find it for a long time, if ever. Hopefully, it went down someplace on land. We've got a much better chance there.

LEMON: Jim Tilmon. TILMON: I agree with the last person, that the chances of finding anything at the bottom of the Indian sea are pretty slim. It's pretty deep. And I pray that they're all right.

LEMON: I have a very quick question: "Why was Malaysian air chosen for Richard Quest's story a few weeks ago?"

QUEST: It's simple. That was the part of the world that we were filming in, and it was an airline that had had some issues about -- and restructuring. And we wanted to get on film with them.

LEMON: And you happened to fly with that co-pilot?

QUEST: Pure luck. Pure luck. I was in Kuala Lumpur, and that's why we went there.

What we have got tonight in sheer numbers of tweets shows the huge interest on this.

LEMON: I've got to run. I want to thank all of my guests tonight. I appreciate you joining us. We'll see you here soon on CNN. I'm Don Lemon. "AC 360" starts right now.