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Flight 370 Still Missing

Aired March 18, 2014 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, ANCHOR OF "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" SHOW: Next, breaking news in the investigation of missing Malaysian Airlines flight -- the United States asking the Malaysian government for more transparency. We also have new late details about how that flight actually did go off course. Plus we'll talk to a retired Malaysia Airlines pilot who flew the very same triple 7 that has now been missing for 12 days. He knows the pilots, he knows the crew and he thinks he knows who diverted the plane. And a new theory, the plane was trying to land on a military base used by the United States. What the White House is saying about that tonight. Let's go "OutFront."

And good evening everyone, I'm Erin Burnett "OutFront." Tonight I want to begin with the breaking news. The United States formally asking Malaysia for more transparency in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370. CNN has just learned that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called Malaysian minister of defense and encouraged the government to share what they know as soon as they know it. So far the investigation has been full of the Malaysian authorities withholding key information or releasing it, denying and causing more confusion. As for what we do know about the missing plane today, the whole act may have been carefully planned. We have just learned that the sharp left turn that the plane reportedly made was programmed into the plane's software. A law enforcement official tells CNN that the first key turn off the plane's scheduled route -- you see on your map there -- there was almost certainly programmed by somebody in the cockpit. So who was that somebody? U.S. officials citing Malaysian authorities say an initial search of personal computers and e-mail traffic from the 53-year-old pilot and 27-year- old co-pilot of the missing plane have found nothing so far to indicate that they planned the route change, and U.S. officials have now reviewed cockpit conversations between those two gentlemen and air traffic controllers and say that they heard nothing suspicious in those communications either.

As for the plane itself, the total area now being searched stands at 2.97 million square miles. As you can see by that circle on the screen, that is about the size of the entire continental United States. Also, today the Thai military said it was receiving normal data from the missing plane until 1:22 a.m., and that of course is a minute after the second of two communications. Things were turned off, six minutes later the Thai military detected another signal -- possibly the missing plane heading in the opposite direction. Now this data is now the second radar evidence that the plane did indeed turn off its scheduled route. Now, Jim Sciutto has been breaking all the details from Washington today, and Jim, a lot of people are watching saying well, gosh, the pilot and the co-pilot -- wasn't there a sophisticated flight simulator at the pilot's home and there was a lot of suspicion around that. But they have that back and they have a point of view on what was on it.

JIM SCIUTTO, CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: This is really important because the pilot and the co-pilot, as you say, had come under public suspicion here, and this shows that the police have done their homework. They've found no evidence -- not just in that flight simulator that the pilot had. For instance, no evidence that he practiced this turn to take it out into the Indian Ocean, but also their e-mails, their homes. There's no contact with extremist websites, no terror contacts and they'd already been run by, you know, terror watch lists. So that's important.

Now, on the other hand, more information today that it looks like that plane was under control when it made that turn. It raises other possibilities. Of course it could still have been an intentional act of the pilot, but it could have been under duress, it could've been someone else on that plane who had knowledge of how to fly and direct that plane or there could have been an event on the aircraft that required the pilots to take that turn, maybe to head home in reaction to something that happened on the plane. So, -- but it is important because as you say, you know, we've talked about the suspicion, but there is no evidence yet linking them to any terror link or any intentional taking over the plane.

BURNETT: And, Jim, you know all of this though when you add it together, I know -- and there are and we're going to talk about it later in the program -- there are people who still believe that there are mechanical ways that could explain what exactly happened here. But obviously a lot of people now believe it was deliberate, and we've heard back from authorities as well. So, where's the line between deliberate an act of terror?

SCIUTTO: It's a good question. I mean, let's talk about the act of terror just for a moment. I talked to intelligence officials and I bother them every day with this question, you know, as more information has come in about this being a deliberate act, and they still say we have no established link to terror but we're still keeping that open. But they also don't have other things that they normally have when there's been a terror attack -- chatter from extremist groups -- bragging about it in effect, right. Or talking about it with excitement. They don't have that. They've run all these names by terror watch lists, they have no previous association with terror. So, it's several things at this point that do not point to terror.

Now, it then brings up other theories that what might've caused a deliberate act that is not terror. Could it be an event on the plane, could it have been someone else on the plane that the pilots themselves weren't even aware of who caused them to take this -

BURNETT: Right. SCIUTTO: -- to take this decision? So, you know, listen, intel officials, they're still looking. This is what analysts do, they keep their minds open but, you know, every day that they don't find a symptom of that -- a sign of that --

BURNETT: Interesting.

SCIUTTO: -- it undermines that theory.

BURNETT: Certainly it does, of course these open questions about dry runs and their knowledge of chatter and where people are looking for it, but I -- but I know that's of course the big questions that you're working on every day. Thanks so much to Jim Sciutto who has been breaking the very latest on this. I want to go to Kyung Lah, now in Kuala Lumpur. She spoke today with an old friend of the missing plane's pilot, a man who also flew the very same plane missing tonight.


NIK HUZLAN, FORMER MALAYSIA AIRLINES CAPTAIN: I know for sure I flew this plane. Yes, many times.


HUZLAN: Yes, many times.

LAH: The missing 777. Captain Nik Huzlan says he flew the Boeing passenger jet for Malaysia Airlines where he was both a pilot and executive until he retired two years ago. The missing airline, says Huzlan, was one of the youngest planes in the fleet.

HUZLAN: And I know that plane is more solid than anything else in the world, you know? And for it to just disappear the way it is, lots of questions.

LAH: Having flown the 777?


LAH: Do you rule out catastrophic mechanical failure?

HUZLAN: If it is catastrophic mechanical failure, it wouldn't be flying silently. I would just disappear.

LAH: Instead, it flew for hours -- no distress calls. For our interview, Huzlan was in this hall outside what he called a war room for the military, the airline and the government. Huzlan is not an active participant in the investigation, but he says any777 pilot knows the wide-body jet can be turned. How difficult is it to take a plane -- this particular -- 777 off course?

HUZLAN: It is so easy. It is so easy. Any pilot can do this. It's just a keystroke. A stewardess can just turn a keystroke.

LAH: Does it take a pilot to turn a 777?

HUZLAN: You just need to know what inputs you need to get into the computer.

LAH: So is it possible then that it's not just the pilot (inaudible).

HUZLAN: Oh, definitely it is. It is, it is. It is very, very possible.

LAH: What Huzlan feels is improbable, that the plane's pilot, Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, was responsible. The two men began their piloting careers together more than 30 years ago. Captain Huzlan says Zaharie has been his usual self -- no warning signs, no odd behavior.

HUZLAN: The simplest formula in the whole show is to go straight the pilot, eventually which is to me a sad thing being a pilot myself. My own kind.

LAH: How much has this shaken pilots such as yourself who have flown --

HUZLAN: I'm just shocked. I'm just shocked.


BURNETT: Kyung, it's amazing to hear him talk there about that plane and how easy it was to turn it. There was a point where he was talking to you, he said, look, a stewardess could do this. I know he says he doesn't think his friend, the captain, was responsible. Does he think it was another crew member or a passenger?

LAH: Absolutely. He thinks it was someone on the plane, Erin, and immediately he's turning to someone perhaps the co-pilot or someone who had easy access to the cockpit. Because that's the most likely person who he's turning his attention to. Why? Because of cockpit procedures at Malaysia Airlines. It's so difficult to access the cockpit. He says standard operating procedure is the door is very thick as it is in the United States. You need a keypad entry and there's a camera. So he believes that it has to be someone who had access to the cockpit. It's also possible, he says, that this may be a hijacking. But he says that's a very small possibility given what he knows about Malaysia Airlines because he believes it would have to take a number of determined people to breach the cockpit and the pilot would still have four to five seconds to send some sort of distress signal.

BURNETT: All right, Kyung. Thank you very much. Pretty fascinating that the new details I think we should emphasize that Kyung had. Not only that he thought that they'd have four to five seconds on that jet to send that distress signal, but also her reporting on the door -- that it would have been barred with a keypad. As we told you, it was unclear yesterday whether that was the case on Malaysia Airlines and perhaps you could just come and go from the cockpit. But obviously it sounds like we're saying this plane it was much more difficult to access that cockpit. "OutFront" next, we're going to take you live inside a Boeing triple 7 simulator. What happens when someone in the cockpit suddenly changes the flight plan? That big question that Kyung raised -- that turn. Plus, the search area for the missing jet now nearly the size of the continental United States. We have to start asking a question here 12 days after that flight disappeared. Will it ever be found? And new theories on the disappearance of flight 370, including one that went all the way to the White House today.


BURNETT: And we have new details about how Malaysia Airlines flight 370 was put on the new course the night it disappeared, that preprogrammed change. A law enforcement official tells CNN the plane's route was reprogrammed by someone inside the cockpit. Now, it's very unclear as to exactly when that happened, but we do have some more information on that tonight. U.S. officials say an initial search of the pilot and co-pilot's personal computers and e-mail has so far found nothing to indicate they planned to change course. Martin Savidge is live at a triple 7 simulator with the pilot trainer, Mitchell Casado. And Martin, the latest reports we have -- news reports right now are that that reprogram of the route happened about 12 minutes before the last communication -- that "all right, good night" which, again, for those saying that this -- people in the cockpit -- knew what was going on, lends itself to that belief. How easy is it though for anyone to reprogram a flight with the cockpit you're in right now?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, AN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT FOR CNN BASED IN ATLANTA: Well we can show you that here in the simulator it's quite easy and it's another piece of the avionics gear to learn about. This time it is the FMS or the flight management system. It's here. There's also one up in the pilot's position and also one up forward here. Essentially it does a number of things that assist the pilot and co- pilot in flight, but let's think of it right now in the purpose of being a GPS -- a really good GPS. And it would be preprogrammed before the aircraft takes off with all the necessary information to get it from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, which of course that was the flight pan -- flight plan for 370. But once they're in the air, it could be changed. And Mitchell, show us just how easily that's done.

MITCHELL CASADO, COMMERCIAL PILOT AND INSTRUCTOR AT UFLY: Very easily, Martin. This white -- the magenta line here on the navigation display is depicting where the airplane is headed. This white triangle here is the airplane -- the apex of that triangle's the airplane. If I wanted to deviate from my course, I would of course have to know where I want to deviate, and if I knew that, I would just punch it into the computer here, using the keypad. OK, and it -- I'll just choose an airport here. So we'll just go punch in a few keystrokes. We've selected into the flight plan and now the computer's asking me with this white line here, do I want to deviate from this course and go this way?

SAVIDGE: It's telling you ahead of time.

CASADO: It's telling you ahead of time and that's something we would confirm with the other pilot -- two-crew communication, yes we want to do it, we go ahead and execute that, and now you can see the airplane deviating off its course and taking a new course.

SAVIDGE: Yes, you know, you could see by the movement of the fake son on the horizon there that we are turning. I should point out though, Erin, that, you know, it's not the steep bank, it's not like an emergency turn. If you're a passenger in the passenger compartment, I think you really wouldn't think much of it even though we've now deviated dramatically this plane off of its original course. We should point out there are legitimate reasons to do this. Just because you do it doesn't mean you're up to no good.

CASADO: Yes, I mean you got mechanical reasons, you have weather, could be a thunderstorm, a volcano erupts, you have a sick passenger, right and he needs to go to the hospital. Of course then you need to deviate.

SAVIDGE: So this could fit into the theory of an emergency in the cockpit and but it could've also fit into the theory of somebody who was up to no good.

BURNETT: You know, Martin, it's also interesting when you -- watching you and Mitchell type those in that you were picking an airport, right? A three-letter code an airport and rerouting. Is that the way it's normally done? Or in this case? I mean, so in other words, in this case is it most likely that they just said, OK, another airport, i.e., another formal destination? Or they could have -- is it possible you could've entered -- I don't know -- something more complicated than that? A series of different points that might explain its movement.

SAVIDGE: Well first of all it's not -- I mean you'd have to know what you were doing. I mean, I definitely wouldn't know how to do this.


SAVIDGE: But it's not just at an airport code. You could put in waypoints, right?

CASADO: Absolutely.

SAVIDGE: I mean, you could -- points in the sky or predetermined --

CASADO: All this white triangles here are all waypoints, and that's just a small sample of all the waypoints around the airplane. And he could pick any of those to deviate to any of those.

SAVIDGE: And eventually, I mean, you could put in enough to plan an entire route to go a long way.

CASADO: Yes, you can connect them until you get to an airport. Yes, absolutely.

BURNETT: So is anyone (inaudible) alerted when you change the direction -- outside the cockpit? CASADO: Well, if you -- if you're just punching in the keystrokes, no one is going to be alerted. But they will notice if you're in a radar environment and you're being painted on a radar, they're going to notice you turning off course and they'll challenge that. If you're not in a radar environment, then they're not going to know.

BURNETT: All right, Mitchell thank you very much and Martin thank you. We're going to be back with both of you in just a few moments as we go through some of these key theories now that are surfacing on what happened in missing flight 370. But joining me now is CNN aviation analyst Mary Schiavo. And Mary, look, thank you very much for taking the time. So you know when we're watching that -- that simulation here, the change in direction. Right now news reports tonight are indicating that flight 370 -- that change in direction, that change in the programming -- was made 12 minutes -- at least 12 minutes, I should put that qualifier on there -- before someone in the cockpit said, "All right, good night," which was the last known communication with the ground. As we've already reported, there was nothing suspect in the communications between the pilots and what was happening on the ground, but we now know that 12 minutes before that finish, this flight changed direction. What does that say to you?

MARY SCHIAVO, FORMER INSPECTOR GENERAL, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION: Well that's pretty significant because in that last communication, that was their opportunity to tell someone that something was wrong -- they had an intruder in the cockpit. There is a code that most airlines have -- a verbal code if you can't put in the hijack code in your transponder, there are words that you can say verbally to give a clue that you've been hijacked. There are -- you certainly would have let somebody know if you had smoke in the cockpit, problems with your controls. You can say -- there are two different kinds of emergencies -- a pan-pan which means we're in trouble -- we don't think we're going to crash but we're in trouble. And then there's in a full alarm emergency, they could have declared an emergency. So there's a lot of communications you would expect to hear if you're in trouble in those 12 minutes. But there's also the possibility, as people have suggested, that that wasn't the co-pilots voice. But people at the airlines have identified that as the co- pilot. The pilot not flying usually handles radios.

BURNETT: And so, you know, in your view do you think that then they were -- I mean if that was the only one and we don't know, again, at that point who was talking, but there could have just been one person in the cockpit at that time. It could've been the co-pilot.

SCHIAVO: There could have been. There could have been just one person in the cockpit, but, you know, in that particular part of the flight where you're flying, changing routes, going to connect with, you know, with new air traffic controller, etc., it would be typical to have both in there -


SCHIAVO: -- usually no the long hauls. Oh, and by the way, if one leaves then the other one has to put on oxygen. That's typical if you're up at the flight level, you don't -- or required, not typical -- you don't just have one in the cockpit without your oxygen. So there are a lot of things that would have to take place if there was just one there. And , you know again, if the timing is correct --


SCHIAVO: -- now, we've had changes in timing every day on this information. But if it's correct, it is rather -- it was rather -- odd that there wasn't any kind of emergency declared that would make you, you know, suspect that maybe someone else is in the cockpit if you don't suspect the pilots being up to something.

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

I should point you, you know, you heard what we reported earlier, four to five seconds Kyung Lah was saying, that's what you would need to indicate there's a problem. We are now, you know, this latest report out there would indicate there were 12 plus minutes of time to do so.

Next, the search area for missing flight 370 is now the size of the continental United States. twenty-five countries are hunting and still, nothing.

Plus, the newest conspiracy theories. What the White House had to say today.


BURNETT: So where is Malaysia air flight 370? Twelve days after the passenger jet disappeared with 239 on board, there is still absolutely no sign of the missing plane. And every day, there are different reports of a fisherman there or a person there that happened to see it. They all come up empty.

Twenty-five countries are now looking for the Boeing 777. But the search area is now three million square miles. It's an almost impossible cap. As we said, that is about the size of the entire continental United States.

Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT tonight with the latest details on the search.

I mean, Tom, I guess when you think about it that way, you realize and the continental United States has areas that look different. I mean, this is just sea glinting up at you from the sun. I mean, so hard.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is 24 times as large as the air France search area. And that took two years to find the plane.

So, let's take a look at what's being considered. They have a lot of resources. I don't know if they have enough, but they have as much as they can get right now. Remember, the plane took off here from Kuala Lumpur, flew less for than an hour and then vanished without a trace. And look at the huge fleet they have out there looking for this right now.

Among other things, they have close to 60 aircraft at work including these. This is a P8 Poseidon from the U.S. Navy. This plane can fly many, many hundreds of miles every day searching the ocean surface for any sign of anything. It's a state-of-the-art submarine hunter. So, it can spot a tiny per scope. It can certainly spot debris if it's out there.

In addition, they have around 40 ships from various countries that are out there. Not only scanning the surface of the water with people looking at all hours, but also scanning beneath the water with various imaging devices to help them close in on a target. Still, it's a lot of territory. So, that's not really enough. They need bigger more hi-tech help than all of that. One of the things they have relied on in the process has been the satellites that we've heard so much about.

Satellites matter because they're giving data that allowed them to establish those two big arcs where they this might be the southern arc and the northern arc of this travel with the idea that maybe, maybe the plane is somewhere out along one of these arcs.

And that brings up an interesting point, Erin. One of the things the Malaysians say they're getting the most help on is analysis of all this data. This isn't just a matter of going out there and digging, digging, digging, digging and looking, looking, looking, looking. It's a matter of looking at what you already have and saying does this give me a clue where to look next -- Erin.

BURNETT: So, how do they decide where to look next, Tom or frankly, I guess this is the question, when an area is, quote unquote, "done"?

FOREMAN: Yes. What they're doing basically is a form of do the mathematics it's called Baysian (ph) theory, very popular among some people. Baysian (ph) theory basically is a matter of adjusting your probabilities of where something might be based on every new bit of evidence. That's what has led them, for example to, identify this spot about 2,000 miles off the coast of Australia.

It's not terribly big compared to the whole search area but it's getting a lot of the attention right now because they put in all this information about the probability that the plane headed south, the probability that the plane headed south, the probability that it made it this far, the probability that it didn't land somewhere or that it was under the control of somebody else.

Once they get here though, Erin, still a big challenge. Even if they found debris there, they go have to go two miles down on a mutinous ocean floor amid currents. It is an enormous, enormous challenge even if they get past step one and they're still looking for step one, Erin.

BURNETT: All right, Tom, thank you very much. Pretty amazing. As you said, two years to find the air France plane. And as you may recall, it was very quick when they found first the life jackets and realized this was the sight. Even knowing that, two years to find it.

Next the mother of a child aboard flight 370 desperate for answers, why she thinks he's being used as a political pawn.

Plus is it possible the plane was headed towards a secret military base? The White House was asked about that theory today.


BURNETT: Developing news in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet.

A law enforcement official telling CNN tonight that the missing jet's first turn to the west was almost certainly preprogrammed by somebody in the cockpit. Now, before you jump to conclusions there, that could have been a pilot, that could have been a co-pilot, or it could have been someone else who came into the cockpit and took it over. All of this is spawning countless conspiracy theories about what happened to the jet, and one theory points to a U.S. military base on the island Diego Garcia in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

Jay Carney was actually asked about it today, and here's what he said.


REPORTER: Some news reports saying that the missing flight could have landed in the U.S. military base, Diego Garcia, in the center of Indian Ocean. Do you rule in that or rule out that?



BURNETT: Jay did not look like he actually wanted to smile there but at the end he did. Look, these theories are out there. But, you know, a lot of them are gaining traction with each passing day.

OUTFRONT to talk about it and the other theories are Richard Quest, Jeff Wise, a private pilot and aviation journalist, Robert Goyer, a land and sea pilot and aviation journalist, and Jim Tilmon, a CNN aviation analyst.

All right. Gentlemen, thanks very much for doing this.

Let me start with you, Jeff, because this issue of the Diego Garcia.

All right. Obviously, this is something that's been pretty much been dismissed as one of those, you know, water cooler conversations. But there was a reason this one came occupy, right?

JEFF WISE, AVIATION JOURNALIST: Well, there was, and apparently, investigators went to the captain's house. They looked at his flight simulator. There's been a lot of speculation about why this fellow had a flight simulator. Was it suspicious?


WISE: And, in fact, they went in there and looked into the computer files. And lo and behold, there was Diego Garcia logged into his -- you know, among the places he visited. So logical conclusion perhaps, maybe he wasn't to Diego Garcia. Unfortunately, Diego Garcia is not in those areas that we've now determined it must have been that morning. What's more, they've checked Diego Garcia and it wasn't there. So, that one seems to --

BURNETT: Right. We would have known it was there, obviously, as Richard was saying during the commercial.

Robert, you know, a lot of people -- this spawns the other set of theories which is, well, could someone have shot this plane down and don't want to admit it?

ROBERT GOYER, AVIATION JOURNALIST: Yes, that's very unlike. The whole reason for launching a terrorist attack like that is to claim credit for it. There's no reason to do it if you don't.

BURNETT: Right. That's a fair point.

Now, Richard, I get to you, because, you know, I saw this. The tabloids of England, they are ripe with ideas.



QUEST: Go on. I'm not pleased to be doing this because there are so many theories that need to be scotched.

BURNETT: Which is -- that's why we're calling this theory busters. I mean, the goal here is, I mean, look, if you believe one of these, go ahead, be my guest. But I don't expect you will, at least most of them. But here -- world's first cyber hijack, which, by the way, there are some people whom legitimately believe. Did al Qaeda hijack the missing plane? Lost plane feels (ph) of a 9/11 style plot.

Let me start with the cyber hijack, because I'm curious what you think about this one. Is it possible for someone to hack into the main computer network on a plane?

QUEST: Virtually impossible. There are a couple ways you get to the computer and reprogram it. And they are high technical. And from my understanding, from those I've spoken to, just about impossible.

Yes, there are coms links that allow the ops center for the airline to upload information into the computers and there are maintenance avenues into it. But for anybody else, it's just about impossible.

BURNETT: Jim, what do you think about that? When you talk about a dry run and cyber warfare, one of the most terrifying things would be for someone who had the ability to hack into multiple airplanes.

JIM TILMON, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, there are lots of theories. I think that's one of the worst. I don't have any feeling at all that that could happen.

BURNETT: Sounds like his audio wasn't work. Was it just me? Did the viewers hear it? You heard it?



Well, he scoffed at it. I heard you both laughing.

QUEST: It's one of the worst theories. He said.

BURNETT: All right. Let's move on the al Qaeda one. Did al Qaeda hijack the missing plane? This is one a lot of people believe, Jeff.

How difficult would it be for terrorists given what we now know is that there were no communications from this cockpit to the ground that indicated anything was wrong. But there was also no communication between these pilots to themselves or anyone else that indicated they had intent to do anything.

WISE: Well, al Qaeda has said we wished we had thought of it and we didn't.

But it just doesn't jibe. I mean, there's ways that a pilot can signal that the airline is being hijacked without a hijacker knowing it.

BURNETT: Right, the codes, right? And none of those happened.

What about, though, the theory, Richard, that a lot of people have, which is that they wanted to take this jet, commandeer it for some sort of a future attack. Whether that was to lead it up immediately with some sort of radioactive material and fly it over a city.

QUEST: No, no, it's time to have a reality check.

WISE: I believe this one actually.

QUEST: It's time for you to have a reality check.

WISE: Each should have a reality check.

QUEST: How are you going to land a plane, refuel it, get it back into the air and get it to your ultimate destination without somebody spotting or knowing about it?

WISE: OK, listen, we don't know what their intention was. This is where you and I disagree. You still think it's an accident. I think that -- listen, the Malaysian investigators have concluded this was an intentional act, this was a deliberate plan carefully executed meticulously planned.

QUEST: I believe there's a spectrum, and on the one end, you have terrorist activity and on the other end, you have the mechanical fault.

WISE: Are they mutually exclusive? QUEST: They are mutually exclusive. Yes. I'm saying there's a spectrum of possibility in this, but I do not think you go to that next level of suggesting they landed the plane. Look, I may be wrong by tee time tomorrow. I do not think it's credible.

BURNETT: All right. Was it Robert or Jim who was trying to jump in on that? Go ahead.

GOYER: I was trying to jump in on that.

BURNETT: Yes, go ahead.

GOYER: Yes, the whole idea that the plane was stolen in order to use it as a weapon of mass destruction is patently absurd. Why would you choose to fly an airplane many thousands of miles, an airplane that was full of people that everyone was going to be looking at when you could very easily hijack a plane right near where you wanted to do the attack and do it right before the attack so that there wouldn't be any kind of response? It doesn't make any logistical sense.

BURNETT: That's interesting you put it that way. Look, we polled our viewers, 46 percent of them actually believe in that story, that it was stolen for a later terrorist attack. So, we're curious to see what our viewers make of what you all are saying.

But I guess my question, Robert, would be maybe they needed to test it. I mean, people would say, they wanted to bring it to an area that was friendly to them as opposed to close to a major city where it would can more difficult. I'm just -- I'm playing here to the theory.


GOYER: It's a fair question. It's a fair question, but the problem then becomes where do they put the airplane? How do they secret it away?

We have such great satellite coverage over much of the subcontinent, the Middle East. It would be -- I think just practically impossible to hide it the airplane from us.

QUEST: There's one point that we do need to make I think. The more incredulous the possibilities with due respect to yourself, but the more incredulous or more outlandish some of these things, the more damaging it becomes to finding the plane, to the credibility of what's going on, because you've got to the sort of stay within the realms of terrorism, of hijacking, of mechanical fault.

What's possible? What's likely? What's realistic? But the moment you start looking on islands for planes, and again I could be wrong by tomorrow.

BURNETT: Well, I think part of that is the human spirit. Nobody wants to -- you know, everyone wants to cling to the chard of hope, even though obviously a plane this could have landed we would have been aware of it.

WISE: This whole thing is so unlikely. The whole thing is unlikely. We've never seen anything like this before. Never before.

BURNETT: Jim, a final word to you, and we're going to talk about the mechanical ones in just a moment. But I want to, Jim, first give you a chance. Do you think that there's any chance this could have been a dry run for something? Even though there was no chatter? Would a would-be terrorist have been smart enough to not provide that chatter advance of this?

TILMON: No, I don't know that they would or would not. I'll simply say that the longer this thing goes, the less possibility that it was a terrorist situation.

The terrorists are smart enough to know if they have an advantage to use, they ought to use it and get it done. One of the great advantages they would have had with this is an airplane full of people, people from all over the world, different nationalities. How do you shoot that down?

BURNETT: All right. Well, gentlemen, thank you.

We're going to keep talking about this because as Richard I think aptly put it, you've got the spectrum and over here some of the more outlandish ideas. And over here, you have a mechanical failure or some sort of catastrophic event. One expert believes there was a fire aboard Flight 370, and that even with all these things that seem to add up to a hijacking, that mechanical error adds up. We're going to talk about that.

Plus, why a heartbroken and angry mother took Malaysia Airlines to task today.


BURNETT: All right. We're going to back in our flight simulator in just a moment.

But, first, I want to check in with Anderson with a look what's coming up on "AC360" -- Anderson.


Yes, we're working on new details about the last moments before all communications were lost with Flight 370. As with many developments in the investigation, new details raise even more questions. We'll talk it over with our panel of experts.

We'll also continue to dig on the theory that someone went down into a space like this, into the plane's belly to disable the communication system. Former aircraft mechanic and National Transportation Safety Board member John Goglia shows us what it's like inside. You'll be surprised how easy it is to turn off that ACARS system.

We'll also talk with Sara Bajc. Her partner Philip Wood is one of three Americans who are on Flight 370. We'll get her perspective on the flow of information and how she's holding up with all this changing information day by day. That's all at the top of the hour -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Anderson, we'll look forward to seeing you in just a few minutes.

And now, back to the theories about exactly what we're hearing. Some of the conspiracy theories.

Martin Savidge is now here again with the 777 flight simulator. Richard Quest, Jeff Wise, aviation reporter for "Slate", also with us.

All right. Martin, pilot with 20 years experience, suggested in "Wire Magazine" that there was a fire. And a lot of people say, how would that be possible because we would have heard something on the ground? But he said a veteran pilot would be taught to find the nearest airport that hadn't risen to a mass level of crisis. They might have turned that plane and started to turn dramatically left to try to head back to Kuala Lumpur. He says the loss of the transponder makes perfect sense in a fire.

You're in the simulator. Does that add up?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I mean, certain aspects of it, yes, definitely do add up. I was covering the Value Jet crash, so I know the catastrophic effects of a fire on an airliner. But, you know, the most likely way the crew is going to become aware of a fire, just like in your home, just like in your office, there is a fire alarm system, a fire detection system. In fact, we can test it for you here.

You know, it's a series of bells that go off. It's a series of lights that begin to illuminate whether indicating it's a fire in the engine, if it's a fire that's down in cargo hold, if it's the APU, if it's down in the wheel well. So, any number of compartments are immediately identified.

I mean, if it's in the engines, what do you do, Mitchell?

MITCHELL CASADO, FLIGHT SIMULATOR INSTRUCTOR: We have these levers. We can discharge foam, anti -- fire retardant.

SAVIDGE: Say it's the cargo hold or the wheel well.

CASADO: They have automatic systems, as well.

SAVIDGE: Automatically. It's not like you have to make it go?

CASADO: Yes, exactly. Yes.

SAVIDGE: So I mean, then, if you're starting to talk about something maybe back in the passenger cabin, attendances with fire extinguishers. Right here in this cabin, same thing. Fire extinguisher is gong to be nearby. That's how you would deal with it.

BURNETT: Right, you've been trying to jump.

QUEST: Yes, because the problem with the theory of the fire is this -- this is from Air France 4467. And what happened when that he incident happened on air France, 24 automatic messages came out automatically.

BURNETT: From the plane.

QUEST: From the plane via the ACAR system.

If we asked the pilot there if there was a fire in that wheel well or on that plane or in that cargo, and that flight deck lit up like a Christmas tree with warning lights, the ACAR system if it wasn't disabled would have sent one of those warnings, wouldn't it?

CASADO: Absolutely correct. Yes, it would have. And who knows, maybe it did and for all we know, right?

SAVIDGE: It is possible that somehow it got incapacitated. I think Richard's right that the ACARS system was functioning we think at that time and it would be sensing things as subtle as temperature changes in the areas where these fires could be started. So, yes, in theory that would be reporting something which apparently was not received.


WISE: Yes, there's an even worse problem with this theory, which is that the idea is that this is an attempt to kind of salvage the idea that there was an accident, not an intentional act. The idea being that they got disoriented, they pulled their Nav equipment and made this head together left. They were heading for this island.

The problem is that once they -- and then they became incapacitated, unconscious, and went towards Langkawi and beyond it and they went off into the ocean. The problem is after they turned, went to a waypoint, turned. Again at another way point.

Very meticulously following these airways and so at no point were they headed towards the southern ocean, which is where it was supposedly this would take --


QUEST: I have one more problem with this theory, in which one pilot sent to me.

There were several other airports after the initial turn in over the South China Sea, before Langkawi, that they could have gotten to.

BURNETT: All right. Very quickly, favorite theory, Richard.

QUEST: Oh, no, I'm not going down that road.

BURNETT: All right. Jeff will.

WISE: Yes, my favorite theory, I don't know but it has something to do with an intentional act -- they have a plane, they have passengers, they have more than 150 Chinese nationals. Muslims, something involving grievances. BURNETT: Some part of that will probably be right. Some part of it.

WISE: He doesn't think so.

QUEST: I'm keeping an open mind until we have more facts.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you both very much. We appreciate it.

Well, tonight, the families of those onboard Flight 370 are desperately waiting for any information, hoping for a situation where there could have been hostages, where their loved ones are alive. It has been 12 days since the disappearance of that plane. And there are still no answers for the families. Hundreds of Chinese family members are refusing to leave a Beijing hotel, hoping for news from Malaysia Airlines.

One woman could barely control her emotions.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We only have one child. We are respectful Chinese people. It's hard to control your emotions when you might have lost your loved ones. We just need the truth. Don't use them as political pawns.


BURNETT: Political pawns.

David McKenzie is live in Beijing this morning.

And, David, what is the latest -- you know them, you've been talking to the families and seeing this emotion up close. What are they saying?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, those emotions are so raw as you can imagine as these days stretch on. They just don't know what to believe. They don't believe the Malaysian government, they don't believe at times the Chinese government. Sometimes they do feel like they're being pushed around as pawns. And, certainly, they want to know any bit of information they can.

As you heard from that woman, she says I have one child. That child's on that plane. I don't know if they're alive or dead. They're looking for this information because for them it has very real consequences. When we talk about a plane flying up to an extreme height and dipping down potentially to evade radar, they are asking the airline on the scene at that hotel, well, does this mean if it goes up high, is my family member going to asphyxiate? Are they still alive?

They need to know this information because they want to know if they still can have hope. But as the days stretch on and this mystery kind of deepens rather than gets more obvious, it's just terrible for those families. And now that they've expanded this to more than 2.2 square million miles, that was in fact very depressing news for them, because they feel that they're getting further away from a resolution, not closer to it -- Erin.

BURNETT: And more than 150 people on this plane were from China. This is obviously very sensitive for the communist party. They're not used to these kinds of questions.

MCKENZIE: Well, that's right. And this anger that's coming from all these family members who obviously at this point have a very strong moral voice on this issue, at the moment, it's directed towards the Malaysian government and the airlines. But at times I've heard people saying where are the Chinese authorities on this one? Why aren't they comforting us, why don't the giving us more support?

If that anger shifts direction towards China, that's a very big problem for the communist party here, which is always looking to manage the message -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. David McKenzie, thank you very much.

Well, next the other developing story we are watching tonight, a major land grab and possible military action. Live to Crimea.


BURNETT: Vladimir Putin came out swinging today, moving forward fast to take over Crimea, today holding a rally in Red Square after formally reclaiming Crimea for Russia. Putin continue announced to the crowd the Crimea is, quote, "returning to the home harbor." So far, he has not blinked at President Obama's move to impose sanctions, barring some Russian officials and their allies from things like getting visas to the United States.

Earlier today, Putin signed a treaty with Crimean leaders, after voters there chose to leave Ukraine for Russia. The treaty does still require approval by Russian's parliament but that is a rubber stamp and will happen at the end of the week.

Vice President Joe Biden responded.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Russia has offered a variety of arguments to justify when it's nothing more than a land grab, including what was said today. But the world has seen through -- has seen through Russia's action and has rejected the logic -- the flawed logic behind those actions.


BURNETT: Nick Paton Walsh is in Crimea tonight.

And, Nick, President Obama obviously threatening sanctions against some in the political sphere but none of the really wealthy oligarchs who have a lot of out real estate and assets in the United States. Are the threats from United States hurting Putin and having an impact on him?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, not at all, clearly. In fact, they'll respond with their own kind of sanctions back against the West, perhaps asset that are in Russia at the moment. We saw no sign in that speech he gave today, 50 minutes, of anything other than him trying to reclaim perhaps the former Soviet glory that Russia once knew.

One sticks to me, he said how if you crush a spring too much, it will eventually rebound strongly. So I think the suggestion, Erin, this is part of even a broader scheme to try and re-establish Russia as a great power to the east of Europe. And today inside Crimea, we saw really quite how quickly some people seem to be moving to flush out the last remnants of Ukrainian influence here.

One base there, we have the first fatality of Ukrainian soldier since the move into Crimea, where shots were fired here in Simferopol, the capital. The chief (INAUDIBLE) killed his captain injured, shot in the neck supposedly by armed men in masks thought to be Russian troops who came towards the base. Many concerned that we will see the remaining Ukrainian troops and bases here come under increasing pressure. One base I was at today saw Russian troops move against it, no shots fired but increased pressure for the Ukrainians inside to surrender, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Nick Paton Walsh, thank you very much, reporting live from Simferopol this morning in Crimea.

Tomorrow on OUTFRONT, much more on our continuing coverage of missing Flight 370. The question we've all been asking, how does the 777 vanish from the radar? We're going to go tomorrow inside the state- of-the-art facility where the nation's top radar technicians are trained to track flights. That's tomorrow on OUTFRONT.

Thanks so much for watching.

"ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts right now.