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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

The Mystery of Flight 370

Aired March 18, 2014 - 22:00   ET

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


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: This is a CNN special report, "The Mystery of Flight 370." I'm Don Lemon.

The Malaysia Airlines plane has been missing for 12 days, 12 days without a trace, no word from any of the 239 people on board, despite a search that now covers an area nearly the size of the continental United States. And that makes the missing plane a worldwide obsession. You know that.

Thousands of you have been tweeting your questions for days, and tonight we have got the world's top experts in aviation and security standing by to answer those questions for you, like, is it realistic that a fire incapacitated the pilots, but the plane remained operational for hours?

With all the conflicting theories on what happened with the plane, at what point do investigators start eliminating them? And with all of the technology in this world, why is it that planes don't have an unstoppable tracking device attached?

We're going to begin with a big development tonight, reports that flight 370's abrupt turn to the left was programmed into the onboard computer at least 12 minutes before the co-pilot's famous final words, "All right, good night." That comes from NBC News.

CNN's Jim Sciutto and Richard Quest are both here tonight.

Richard, I'm going to start with you.

NBC News now reporting that the plane's change of course was programmed 12 minutes before the cockpit signaled, "All right, good night." What does that mean to you?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At least 12 minutes before.

What it tells me is that when that reprogramming happened, either by direct or next or into the flight management computer and it was executed, probably the ground was informed about the change over the ACARS system. How do we know this, Don? Because of the 12 minutes.

Remember? This is a timeline business. At 1:19, there was the last "All right, good night." Go back 12 minutes and you're at 1:07 or earlier, and at 1:07 or earlier is when we got the last ACARS messages. So that, I'm guessing, is how they knew about this reprogramming, if the report is correct. But I want to emphasize...

LEMON: All right.

QUEST: ... we need official confirmation about the reprogramming.

LEMON: All right. More developing news.

I want to get to Jim Sciutto now.

Officials, Jim, reviewed Flight 370's cockpit conversations today. What did they find?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, and this is part of the baffling case that this whole story has been from the beginning, because on the one hand you're getting more information that implies there was direct intervention from the cockpit to change the direction of this plane, and as Richard was describing before that last communication, very suspicious.

But as the investigators have been looking at the past and present of the pilot and co-pilot, they are finding no evidence of anything untoward. When they look at the communications, for instance, from the pilots to the ground, nothing that indicated a problem. When they looked into their past, they looked in their e- mails, their computers, they didn't find contact with extremist groups, signs that they were thinking about suicide, for instance.

So, on the one hand, while you're building evidence that exonerates them from wrongdoing, on the other hand, you have this evidence that they were involved, that it was a deliberate act to turn this plane, which has been the theory for some time. But you're getting more evidence that that is, in fact, the case.

LEMON: OK.

As we have been telling you, this show is for you, the viewers, so, Richard and Jim,.

Jim, I want to give you this one. Many people have been tweeting about the U.S. government's response to the missing plane. I want to read you this one. This is from Sarah. And she says: "How is the United States responding to" -- many have tweeted about this. She says, "When can the U.S. take over this investigation? I think it's about that time. Just saying."

So, how is the U.S. responding to today's developments, Jim?

SCIUTTO: Well, unfortunately, it's just not the way these things go. Right? If the plane crashes on your territory or if it is a flagged plane, in this case, Malaysian-flagged carrier that disappears over international waters, it's the responsibility of that country to lead the search for the plane.

That's the way it's done. Now, many countries, as we know, have offered -- in fact, more than two dozen countries have offered help and they are involved both in the search for the aircraft, but also in terms of analyzing satellite and radar data -- and the U.S. very much involved in that.

We have got -- the U.S. has its most advanced aircraft now searching those waters in the South Indian Ocean, a very new aircraft, a P-8, Poseidon, searching those waters. Certainly, NTSB officials on the ground there, FBI officials, they're very involved, but it's got to be led by the local authorities.

LEMON: All right, Jim, Richard, stick around, because I want to check in now with CNN's Martin Savidge. At this very moment, he's in a 777 flight simulator, along with flight instructor Mitchell Casado.

Martin, we have received a lot of questions about whether this plane made it to land. I want you to help out with this. And I want you to help, Mark, with this. "The Himalayas, right" -- this is what he writes -- "are vast." This is a Twitter question. "Is it possible that the plane could have crashed there where radar coverage may be spotty?"

Can you plug that into the flight simulator and tell us what you get?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We can't do it in this particular moment, no, Don. Sorry. We can do that for you in a couple of minutes. That takes some setup.

We will point out one thing we wanted to show you here, the flight management system. This is the system that you should think of like your GPS in your car. This is what brought about the course change, we believe. How easy is it to do it? A couple of key strokes, just like programming the GPS inside the vehicle. The pilot, Mitchell Casado, has already done that.

All you have to do is hit the execute button and you will find that with a matter of just a few entries, we begin to make this aircraft deviate and turn off course. It's that simple, Don.

LEMON: Very simple. Martin, I want you to check back with what we said and we will check back with you a little bit later on in this hour to answer Markus' question.

All of us are experts here and we dig deeper into the questions that the viewers have been tweeting us. I'm an expert journalist. We have expert aviation people here.

But, first, many of you have asked a growing theory, whether a fire on board could explain what we know about Flight 370, like Shama Thakur. Here's what she says. "Is there a possibility that it caught fire and radar, et cetera, wasn't manually shut off, but an accident?"

We ask CNN's Stephanie Elam to dig into that question for us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARRY SCHIFF, FORMER COMMERCIAL PILOT: You know, what we're given here is a large jigsaw puzzle that has normally 1,000 pieces and someone tossed 20 pieces at us and said, here, you figure out what this is supposed to represent.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Barry Schiff flew TWA jetliners for 34 years. Like many in the aviation community, he has a theory about what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, a problem on board.

SCHIFF: Personally, I like to go with the simplest explanation.

ELAM (on camera): One of the theories is actually maybe they were being heroes and trying to get back to a landing strip that was big enough to carry a 777, and that's the reason why they made that sharp left turn.

SCHIFF: If you have a serious problem aboard a jetliner, like a fire, one thing you're going to want to do is get on the ground as soon as possible. And turning back towards Malaysia, towards a large airport, it's the first thing I would do.

The most imperative thing is to take care of that fire. The last thing you're going to do is communicate unless you have the time to do it, because no one on the ground can help you.

ELAM (voice-over): So would a crisis like a fire leave the pilots to take drastic action?

(on camera): Would it be crazy to think that just going into the water, trying to do a water landing of some sort...

SCHIFF: No, I seriously doubt that anyone would try to land a jetliner in the water at night without lighting.

Imagine hitting the water at 100, 200, 300 miles an hour. It's going to make that airplane just splatter into pieces.

ELAM: So, if that's the case then, isn't it surprising that we haven't seen any debris anywhere?

SCHIFF: I think there is debris. The ocean is huge. And I simply don't think that they found it yet. I don't know that all the ocean has been looked at yet. I kind of doubt it. My guess is -- and it's strictly a guess -- that they will find pieces of this airplane somewhere soon.

ELAM (voice-over): Schiff also takes issue with idea that the transponder was turned off deliberately.

SCHIFF: It stopped working perhaps because someone turned it off, or perhaps there was an electrical fire or some kind of problem in that airplane that depowered the transponder, along with a lot of other things on that airplane. We don't know what happened.

ELAM: And because we don't know what happened, he argues the pilots should be given the benefit of the doubt.

(on camera): The idea that their legacy is being drug through the mud without any real knowledge of what is going on, that is upsetting to you?

SCHIFF: It's very possible that they were working their asses off do the very best they could to combat a very difficult problem and became overcome by perhaps a fire, perhaps smoke. From everything I have seen about these pilots, they were pretty sharp guys.

ELAM (voice-over): Stephanie Elam, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: All right, Stephanie, thank you very much.

Back now with me, Jim Sciutto and Richard Quest, also Jeff Wise, the author of "Extreme Fear: The Science of Your Mind in Danger." Mary Schiavo is a former inspector general for the Department of Transportation. Mary now represents victims of negligence by transportation companies, including airlines. Jeff Beatty, who served with Delta Force, the FBI and the CIA. And then there's Arthur Rosenberg. He's a pilot and aviation lawyer, and then Patrick Smith, the author of "Cockpit Confidential."

I want to start with this. This is from Meredith Eby. Meredith Eby says, "Is it realistic that a fire incapacitated the pilots, but the plane remained operational for hours?"

Jeff, the "smoke in the cabin" theory has been a big one today, but you don't like that do you, Jeff Wise?

JEFF WISE, "SLATE": No.

I wrote a piece about it in "Slate" today. And this is the scenario that Barry Schiff was just talking about, the idea that the pilots are incapacitated, there's a fire, they turn to the left headed for Langkawi, looked for a runway.

The problem with that -- there's a couple problems with that. One is that they did head towards Langkawi. The problem is that they then flew past it and then proceeded to engage in a series of very precise maneuvers heading over these waypoints in the sky and followed the zigzag pattern that incapacitated pilots, so they could not have done -- the other problem is that if they had just become incapacitated and headed towards Langkawi and then just headed into the horizon until their fuel ran out, they would have wound up near the Horn of Africa or something.

They would not have ended up in the South Indian Ocean. So on two counts at least, this theory doesn't hold water.

LEMON: Here's another one here. This one is from FSTaylor. And it says: "The fire theory makes no sense. Why turn off the transponder if a plane is on fire? Instinct would be SOS, contact passing information."

Patrick, do you believe there was an in-flight emergency, and why if you do or don't? PATRICK SMITH, AUTHOR, "COCKPIT CONFIDENTIAL": I think that possibility is a shrinking one, but I'm not willing to fully dismiss it yet.

I think it's possible that they had made that turn because they were dealing with some sort of emergency and were considering a divert for an emergency landing and maybe in the process of that diversion they became incapacitated due to smoke or fumes.

And it's certainly plausible at that point that the plane could have continued on for a while before being further affected by fire or, to really stretch it out, running out of fuel at some point, either way, ending up in the ocean, which as Barry Schiff mentioned a couple of minutes ago, is the likeliest possibility.

The whole mechanical failure, fire thing, like I just said, it's a dwindling possibility, but it is still there and it's certainly more plausible, meanwhile, than some of the other more fringe theories that we have been hearing over the past couple of days, some of the more ridiculous ones, that the plane had tucked up underneath a Singapore Airlines jet so that the two radar signals became one and then broke away to land somewhere.

I hope at the very least, Don, that we can -- can we put to rest or at least move away from this idea that the plane is hiding in a hangar somewhere with the passengers held captive? There are a number of reasons why that is just extremely far-fetched.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: OK. We will talk a little bit more about that, but there are people who believe that every possibility should be explored.

Here's another scenario I want to get to about the fire, and this one is from Henry. And Henry says: "Co-pilot was smoking, as he did with Aussie girl before, caused fire, didn't want to report it. All unfolds."

Henry, what he is talking about here is Jonti Roos is an Australian woman who came forward with photos of herself and a friend in the cockpit, the co-pilot of the flight. That was back in 2011. She said that she stayed in the cockpit the whole time and the co- pilot was smoking.

Richard?

QUEST: I don't know the truth of that.

LEMON: You know the co-pilot?

QUEST: I have met the co-pilot. I have no reason to believe that he did, but I have never met the woman. So, I have no reason to believe one way or the other. What I can tell you is that question goes to if -- let's just say you're right and you're talking about a fire in the cockpit. There's a fire extinguisher. There are plenty of ways that that could be extinguished. This theory that a fire that eventually -- with a mechanical fault, it could be something else besides a fire that leads them to make that turn. The good Chris Goodfellow theory, which is we're talking about, which has been around all day, it could not be just a fire, it could be something else that leads to a mechanical that needs to be turned around.

LEMON: Jim Sciutto, can you talk to us about the supposed link between a pilot and an opposition leader in Malaysia?

SCIUTTO: Well, it's a former prime minister of Malaysia, Anwar Ibrahim.

Some local newspapers in Malaysia reporting that the pilot was politically active and Anwar Ibrahim himself, interviewed by CNN, said that he knew the pilot and in fact that they are distant cousins. But investigators, officials I have talked to do not consider this a big deal.

They do not consider it a big warning sign that that tie to that political movement might have led him to do something. That movement is not radical in any way. I think it might be a red herring at this point.

LEMON: Jim Sciutto, thank you very much.

Everyone else, make sure you stay with me. You at home, keep tweeting me your questions. Make sure you use #370QS, #370QS.

When we come right back, should searchers in home -- should they search the home on a particular remote island with an airport?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Welcome back, everyone, to our special report. We're answering your questions about Flight 370. Tweet us with #370QS, #370QS.

Now, here with me is Richard Quest, Jeff Wise, Mary Schiavo, Jeff Beatty, Arthur Rosenberg, and Patrick Smith.

Jeff, this one is for you. Here is what Caroline Barnett says. Caroline Barnett says, "Often, thieves get away with big heists; 777s would worth money in the black market. Wouldn't you agree that that could be a possibility?"

You initially looked into question of selling a stolen 777. What did you find?

WISE: I was kind of spitballing this idea that there's a secondary market for these airplanes. You can go online and find them listed, and they are not worth a gigantic amount of money. It's like $50 million for a used secondhand 777. And bear in mind, that is for one that is not hot.

This is something that is kind of a chop shop model. You have got to file off the serial numbers and so forth. So there's probably easier ways to get your hands on a few million bucks.

LEMON: Here is one from FSTaylor. FSTaylor says: "Anyone been able to investigate the men traveling on the forged passports yet, any connection to the pilots?"

Jeff Beatty, you have been looking at that. And you have been taking another look at forged passports.

JEFF BEATTY, CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICER: Well, that's right, Don.

I think that really leads to the question of were there people that were helping the pilots? Because first we have to look at -- and what you mentioned at the head of the show here about this report about the computer being programmed 12 minutes prior to the good night call, obviously, there was no duress signal given from the pilots to the people they were communicating with.

And as my friend Patrick and other pilots can tell you, there is a way to communicate duress not only with the transponder codes, but also what you say verbally. So, if in fact a decision had been made, if they had been coerced and unwillingly turned the airplane, they could have given a duress indicator in their radio communications.

They didn't do that. So, what does that say? That says perhaps they did have other people on the airplane with them. They willfully made this course deviation. And when we look at, well, who's suspicious, the mere act of taking and traveling with false passports certainly makes those people suspicious.

LEMON: OK. This is from Jayterr. "What about the fake or stolen passports? Nobody is saying anything about it. Could the plane have flown to Iran?"

Mary, could the plane have made it to the Middle East, Iran specifically?

MARY SCHIAVO, FORMER TRANSPORTATION INSPECTOR GENERAL: Well, you have to look at not just could it make it through all of the different airspace and through the radars and all sorts of civil defense, but also could it just physically have made it there?

We do know that they didn't take on, the pilot didn't ask for additional fuel before they took off, so it's got a range of 7,250 miles. And unless they stopped and took on a whole bunch of Jet-A, I think it would be pretty pressing it over the mountains.

LEMON: Arthur, there were some employees from a semiconductor group on board. And here is what Michael says. Michael says: "What intelligence value do the employees of Freescale Semiconductor, China Telecom, Business Machines Intl, ZTE and Huawei?"

What is the significance? Is it possible that flight was chosen because of something to do with the passengers on board the flight, Arthur?

ARTHUR ROSENBERG, AVIATION LAWYER: Yes, my understanding is that those employees actually had a background in sophisticated radar.

And there may have actually been at least one of those employees who had some piloting experience. So the fact that they were actually on this plane I think is significant. But I would just like to go back to one other point that was made earlier, whether this turn was the result of a mechanical malfunction on the airplane or something else.

I have to say, at 1:07, when the ACARS system reported that there was a program change for the heading in the airplane, followed by 12 minutes later, when the pilot said his now infamous remark, "All right, good night," pilots don't make their change in course mid- flight without getting permission from air traffic control.

They had 12 minutes to talk to air traffic control, tell them that they wanted to change a heading for whatever reason, and did not do that. I think that this was a well-laid plan. I think the fact that they said "All right, good night," followed by transponder off, putting the whole sequence of events together, you have an airplane that was on a track to make a U-turn, they wanted to become invisible, they turned that transponder off and they flew back across the Malay Peninsula over to the west side.

I don't buy into the mechanical fire theory as a cause for this sequence of events.

LEMON: Richard Quest?

QUEST: Well, yes, absolutely, because what you now have is a direct contradiction in terms of all the theories.

They can't -- obviously, they can't all be right. But if the NBC preprogrammed 12 minutes earlier fact is right, then the mechanical turnaround theory cannot be right as well, because that preprogram -- and what I now believe is that that preprogram may not have actually happened when it was done in the flight management computer, but may have been when the plane next reported in at 1:07, because when you report in, automatically, your next waypoint and your next waypoint are sent along with it.

LEMON: And what I'm understanding from producers now, if this is correct, CNN has now confirmed the preprogramming, right, of the flight path in the system. So it was an NBC News report. Now we have confirmed that report.

QUEST: We have confirmed that U.S. officials believe it. Yes, we have confirmed that U.S. officials believe that is what happened, that there was a preprogramming.

Now, if that's the case, I would suggest it became clear because when the aircraft did a reporting automatically, it gave its position, its next position and the position after that.

LEMON: Stand by, everyone. Stay with me. We have lots more questions for you, including what we can learn from technology in this mystery. I'm also going to be checking in with CNN's Martin Savidge in a flight simulator.

Make sure you tweet using #370QS, #370QS. We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: So we saw Martin Savidge at the top of the broadcast. And we asked him to do something. And we're going to check back in him now.

At this moment, he's in a 777 flight simulator along with flight instructor Mitchell Casada, and he's answering a question from Markus. Markus says: "The Himalayas are vast. Is it possible that the plane could have crashed there where radar coverage may be spotty?

Martin, what have you got for us?

SAVIDGE: Well, essentially, here's the scenario we set up. These are the Himalayan mountains.

And we're trying to do is simulate flying through them, apparently trying to do it below radar, in other words, using the mountain as kind of cover. The 777 was never designed to be a fighter aircraft. And even though we're in a simulator and even though I know that none of this is real, I have got to say, just the way that the whole horizon keeps banking and yanking here is extremely uncomfortable.

The aircraft is doing over 230 knots as we wind our way through these steep, narrow mountain passes here. You can hear all the alarms going off, warning that we're way too low. And I can see that we're -- even though we're saying we're 1,600 feet in the air, we're actually only 320 feet off the deck.

So try to fly like this for any great length of time, I mean, this is pretty amazing just watching. It is a simulation. But if somebody was trying to do this at night, there's no way. You would end up on one of these mountainsides here.

So it's impressive to watch, but really this is just fantasy here. There's no way an aircraft like this would fly this low in the Himalayan Mountains, Don.

LEMON: Yes, it is fascinating. You heard -- you may have heard Richard Quest just mouth the words there saying that it's fascinating.

The question was, though, Martin, could it have crashed and still be there? The possibility, you're saying, is that, yes, it probably would have crashed, but could it be there? But have they searched? Have they been searching this particular area?

QUEST: I'm not aware that they have particularly searched it, no.

Martin, do you know? SAVIDGE: No. I don't know, Richard. But you know, let's face it, the Himalayas are some of the most hostile territory to be found on the planet. So searching it would not be easy, unless it's from space.

LEMON: Well, we answered that question. Thank you very much for that, Martin Savidge. We answered the question back here. We're going to answer more.

The Boeing 777 just might be the most advanced commercial airplane there is. Could the technology give us the vital clues we need to solve this?

I'm back with my experts right now. It's Richard Quest, Jeff Wise, Mary Schiavo, Jeff Beatty, Arthur Rosenberg, and then Patrick Smith joins me.

I'm going to ask you -- this question comes from Ricardo. So Ricardo says, "With all the technology in this world, why is it that planes don't have an unstoppable tracking device attached?"

Jeff Beatty, you have been talking about -- you have a theory that the communication on this plane that you say no one has been talking about involving countries jamming signals. Elaborate on that for us.

BEATTY: Certainly. Well, first of all, the -- your viewer is correct. There is no reason why we could not put technology on that was impossible or highly unlikely for the crew to be able to turn off. We have that type of technology in the emergency beacons onboard the aircraft. So that would be probably something that we'll be looking at to do.

But you know, I've been racking my brain, looking at how do we explain the no cell-phone calls, some of the other things that -- where people were asking about tonight and last night, and one of the very simple explanations is, jamming of equipment.

Now, in the old days that used to be something that only states could do. They could do electronic warfare and jam radio transmissions or cell-phone transmissions.

But right now that is easily commercial -- commercially available stuff that somebody may have been able to bring on the airplane, maybe even the cockpit crew, to keep people from being able to use their cell phones. You can go to a Web site, JammerFromChina.com, and see these things for like 200 to $2,000, where you can knock out all cell- phone communications.

LEMON: Yes.

BEATTY: They sell them for prisons to keep prisoners from communicating. So there's some very simple answers as to is it possible? It certainly is possible. Mary last night talked about maybe they weren't near cell towers. That's a possibility. But also, Mary and Don, there is this technology out there. LEMON: Yes, and I want to talk a little bit more -- I have another question for Mary, but it's just amazing, the questions that -- the questions are so smart from our viewers, and they're coming in. What do you say we've gotten -- we get like 30 or 40 within seconds.

QUEST: They are running at 50 to 60 a second.

LEMON: Really. Yes. So listen, I want to ask -- this one is for Mary. This is from Tristan. Mary, Tristan says, "Why would one program a computer system if they didn't plan on landing somewhere?" That makes sense to me, Mary.

SCHIAVO: Well, it does, and ordinarily, actually, you program your flight computers for places you don't intend to land, because you have to have second airports and you have to have emergency plans before you ever take off. You have to have enough fuel to get to your primary and to your secondary in case something happens.

So you actually do routinely program and have flight coordinates for airports other than the ones you're going to. But it's to deal with emergencies or weather or problems at the airport and you can't get in. So it's just a backup plan.

LEMON: It's just a backup plan. OK.

Patrick, I want to ask -- let's see. Here's one that's -- this one is from Keith. Could the transponder have been reprogrammed to emit a different flight identity?

SMITH: No. No. And Don, I want to back up a second. Richard made a good point a few minutes ago, that it's really important and critical that we establish that timeline, the communications timeline versus the ACARS timeline, make sure they match up; make sure that is, in fact, accurate information before we start to rule out certain possibilities.

Meanwhile, Mr. Beatty just made a comment a minute ago that I almost had to jump in. The reason a cell phone doesn't work from an airplane isn't because it's being jammed by a signal from a foreign country. It's because you're not near a cell tower. A cell phone just won't work from an airplane above a certain altitude and if you're far enough from land. It's really that -- that simple.

Now, certain airplanes -- certain airlines on their long-haul fleets have installed technology that does allow cell phone by collecting the signal and beaming it up via satellite and then back down to the ground or down to the ground through radio frequencies. I don't know if Malaysia Airlines has that equipment on their 777s, which would have allowed cell-phone calling. But in any case, it can easily be turned off.

And as we saw, all of this other communication equipment on the aircraft either being switched off or falling offline for another reason. The same would hold true for that.

LEMON: Jeff, do -- Jeff, you can respond. Because you were talking about cell phones.

BEATTY: He was.

All types of communications can be jammed this way. I was mentioning cell phones, but we were also talking last night about the scenario, if the plane had landed somewhere, why hadn't we heard from the passengers? So perhaps we haven't made that clear enough. But that's the scenario I'm talking about.

When you do get, as Patrick said, down below a certain altitude and you are in the vicinity of cell towers, you could normally reach them or from the ground you can. That's why they allow you to turn your phones on when you're taxiing in.

But if, in fact, the airplane landed or if it were low and people were trying to use their cell phones, I am pointing out simply that there are technologies out there that not only can jam cell phones that are commercially available and inexpensive, but also other radio frequencies.

LEMON: All right. Stay with us, everybody. We've got a lot more questions to answer about Flight 370. Tweet us using #370qs.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Welcome back to our special coverage. I want to bring in CNN's Chad Myers to answer a question from Ken St. Aubin. And he says, "My theory is the plane flew south into the Indian Ocean and landed on Christmas Island. It fits, and it explains everything."

Chad Myers, what do you think about that?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: What people are doing, Don, is they're looking at those two red arcs. Here's one up here and the other one here. They're looking at those arcs, and they're trying to find a runway anywhere near those arcs, and literally the closest one that you would find on the southern route would be Christmas Island.

So here's where we are here. Here's the last contact we had. Here's Kuala Lumpur. It took off here. The plane took left. We know -- at least we know that. After that, we don't know very much. So what those people there, the Christmas Island people believe the plane turned to the left again and went farther to the south.

And let me take you down to Christmas Island, because it is a very short flight. It's right there. Literally, it's an hour or two hours away from where they were up here. This would not take very long to get to Christmas Island.

So what were they doing for the other two or three hours that they weren't flying around? Well, we don't know that.

And what we really need, Don, I'm telling you, what we need to get our head around this, is we need Inmarsat to give us the other pings so that we can see where the plane at least was getting closer to the satellite or farther away from the satellite so that we even know whether those arcs are really true.

Because I'm telling you, here's the runway right here. Here's Christmas Island. It's a mile and a half long runway. It's perfect. The island is not very populated, not very big. Could be a place -- I don't where I'd hide the plane on this island. But that's what people are doing.

And let me just give you one other example here. Here's what I have here. This is the same spot; here's the same line. I fly you up the Bay of Bengal, and all of a sudden, I'm right into the Himalayas. What do I see on the other side, where the red line is? Lots of airlines, lots of airports. Airports right almost on the line here.

Now, this is 3,000 miles away, and if we were evading radar at 500 or 1,000 feet, burning fuel like crazy, you couldn't get to these airports without at least a refuel or more fuel in the plane in the first place.

So that's what people are doing. They're looking for runways along that red line.

LEMON: Wow. Chad Myers, thank you.

So much that we don't know; so many possibilities. And I don't have to tell you that Flight 370 has become a worldwide obsession. Thousands of you have been tweeting us about it for days now.

And back with me now, my panel of experts: Richard Quest, Jeff Wise, Mary Schiavo, Jeff Beatty, Arthur Rosenberg and Patrick Smith.

OK. I want to start with this one. This one is in reference to facial recognition. And it is from "Winning." "Winning" says, "Use -- the FBI -- can the FBI use facial recognition of surveillance through the Malaysia airport security metal detectors for possible terrorists?" Mary.

SCHIAVO: And that's one of the technologies that we certainly hope that they are doing, not just facial recognition through the airport, through the people on the plane, anyone working around, supplying the plane, provisioning the plane, repairing it, fixing it.

Yes, the FBI can do that, and hopefully, they are. There was some -- there is some use of it in the United States, along the behavioral profiling. But, yes, and they should be doing it.

LEMON: Here is another one. This one is from Ian. Ian says, "I fly to Mexico in a week, and I'm a little scared to fly international. Why hasn't" -- the president, or POTUS, in the tweet, as it says -- "made a statement to assure the U.S. public that we are safe?

Is this something that we need to be thinking about, Arthur Rosenberg, if we're flying overseas or we're flying out of the country anywhere?

ROSENBERG: Well, look, of course. Aviation is an incredibly safe way to travel. You know, you are -- when you travel from the United States to hot spots -- I wouldn't call Malaysia a hot spot -- but where you're not under the security umbrella of the United States, there obviously is a little bit more of a risk.

But generally, traveling to Mexico, traveling to Europe is an incredibly safe way to go.

My personal feeling is I would rather fly an American-flagged carrier, knowing that the quality assurances of the pilot and the equipment are ruled by the FAA, and place less confidence in the...

QUEST: Oh, no, no, no. I'm going to interrupt you on this. Forgive me. Forgive me, sir.

ROSENBERG: That's OK.

QUEST: Forgive me, but I can't let you get away with that one. There are many international carriers. I can reel them off -- from Singapore Airlines, Cathay (ph) Pacific, Qantas, British Airways, Lufthansa -- I can go on forever. So I cannot allow, forgive me, the suggestion that somehow a U.S. carrier is that much safer than one of the other major global carriers.

LEMON: Well, the question, though, is about international travel. Someone wondering if the standards are different and maybe the standards are better internationally than they are in the United States, especially when it comes to Israel. There is maybe no safer place to fly.

QUEST: Which would you prefer? A U.S. carrier or El Al, if you go to that extreme?

ROSENBERG: Well, I think El Al is known for its security. It's one of the most safest airlines on the planet.

But generally speaking, notwithstanding your view, Richard, I believe that American carriers. And the quality, the auspices of the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, we set the model for aviation safety on this planet, El Al included. I don't know any other airline that has the same -- airlines that have the same level of scrutiny as a control as what the United States government imposes on our airlines.

QUEST: We're going to have to -- we're going to have to agree to disagree on this.

LEMON: Richard is apoplectic about this.

QUEST: I have to agree to disagree on this. I'm not flying the British flag, I hasten to add, but I am saying that I -- anyway, we'll agree to disagree.

LEMON: But I do feel -- I do feel fairly safe. I get your point, Arthur. I want to move on here.

I want to talk about -- and Chad Myers mentioned this, and forgive me if I pronounce it wrong. It says, "Has an authority other than the Malaysian government" -- this is from "NASCAR" -- "NASCAR4," whatever -- "other than the Malaysian government like our NTSB- validated Inmarsat -- that's something I was making sure I was pronouncing correctly -- ping data and Maylay radar tapes?"

And I want to pose that one to Patrick Smith. What's the possibility about that? Because Chad mentioned that. He said we need to get the other ping information from them.

SMITH: Yes, we're getting all sorts of garbled information, unconfirmed information. I think it goes without saying that everything needs to be put on the table and vetted a little more carefully before we have a stronger sense of what happened.

Meanwhile, to back up a minute, I'm going to side with Richard on that last argument about global air safety.

LEMON: You're not going to win, Arthur. You're not going to win.

SMITH: It's safe to say that all global carriers are astonishingly safe. You start to play that game, comparing country to country and carrier to carrier, it's an academic discussion. It's hair-splitting. Really, all carriers are safe.

LEMON: OK, all right. We'll leave it there.

Stick with us, everybody. And get ready, because this is what we call the lightning round. We're going to answer as many of your tweets as we can possibly fit in. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Your questions, your tweets are pouring in tonight, and I want to get as many in as possible. So let's get back to our panel. We're going to call this one the lightning round.

OK. This one is from Max Wise, or Weiss or Weese, however you want to say it. "Why is it assumed that Flight 370 went down? Is it possible the intent was to make us think the plane crashed?" Jeff Wise.

WISE: Yes.

LEMON: And that's it?

WISE: No. I think -- I think that the evidence is this was a planned attempt to abduct this plane. It's most likely somewhere. Some plan is probably unfolding and continues to unfold.

LEMON: OK. Lauren Russell says, "Have any ships -- have any ships used sonar to detect any wreckage on the sea floor?" Jeff Beatty.

BEATTY: I have not heard of any of those reports yet. I know that sonar equipment is being used. And when we talk about a heist, don't forget about the cargo. The plane may be hot, but there may be great cargo.

LEMON: Jason Palmer says, "Could a satellite have hacked into the plane, conducted altitude/waypoint maneuvers as a test, then dumped the airliner into the ocean?" Who's -- who's laughing about that?

ROSENBERG: That was me. It's Arthur.

LEMON: Arthur or Patrick, which one was doing that?

ROSENBERG: I'm going to answer it; the answer is no.

LEMON: OK. All right. The answer is no.

Let's see. I think I have one more. Lauren Russell said, "Is it possible that someone doing maintenance on the plane before it took off changed the flight plan, leaving pilots unaware?" Patrick.

SMITH: No. Look, we're going all James Bond over this. I'm sure that what happened is a lot less elaborate than most of these theories.

LEMON: Yes.

SMITH: And I do not believe that the airplane is sitting out in a hangar. I do not believe that it was purloined to be used later. If a terrorist was going to do that...

LEMON: OK.

SMITH: ... a group of terrorists, why not use one of the hundreds or even thousands of cargo planes and business jets that move around the world anonymously?

LEMON: OK. We've got...

SMITH: This is too high-profile for that.

LEMON: Go ahead, Richard.

QUEST: All right. So now the next ones. Starting off with "BNStinks." "Why can't it just be a case of expensive misadventure?" Jeff Wise.

WISE: I'm not sure exactly what that means? Somebody is having fun with it? I mean, or just a prank? Is that what that means?

QUEST: No, it means that something just gone wrong. But never mind.

Edward Seifert says, "All these theories but what's the objective? What's the payoff? What's the motive?" Clearly one for Arthur Rosenberg.

ROSENBERG: Well, in my view, I'm in Jeff Wise's camp on this one. I think that this was a well-conceived plan, was well-executed by smart people. We've been playing catchup since day one. The end game remains to be seen, and I think this hasn't unfolded to its fruition yet.

QUEST: Mary Schiavo, Vishal Patel says, "Riddle me this: How do you lose a Boeing 777 with today's technology, but I can't park two minutes over at a meter without a ticket?"

SCHIAVO: Meter maids. There aren't any for the aviation world. When you're over the ocean, they -- you have nothing but primary and secondary radar, and that hasn't proven very well. So we simply don't have the aviation cops where we need them.

LEMON: Go ahead.

QUEST: One for you, Patrick Smith. It comes from Erica McKnight: "Why don't airliners such as Flight 370 have any cameras on board or in the cockpit?"

SMITH: I don't know how that would have helped, Richard. I don't really see that as germane to this.

SCHIAVO: It would have.

LEMON: Go ahead. What were you going to say?

SCHIAVO: That would have helped. So much is...

SMITH: We don't know that.

SCHIAVO: Yes.

LEMON: Yes.

SMITH: We're all playing armchair investigator here. That's the problem. Us and everybody out there watching. I think we just don't have enough information yet. And we need to sit back, stop all the crazy speculation, and see what happens. I think we'll get to the bottom of this eventually. We might not, and people should be prepared for that, but I think we will.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think this is plausible scenarios, not speculation, with all due respect.

LEMON: I agree with you. I think it's all plausible scenarios, especially when we don't know anything. We thought it wasn't plausible that someone would, you know, crash airplanes into buildings; and then they did, and it suddenly became real. So thank you. We're going to talk a little bit more after this. We'll be right back with more of your questions.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: We're back now with our panel of experts and a profound question. And this profound question comes from Patricia Kitchen, and she says, "Could Don discuss the power of mystery? Agony of the unknown. Planes, faith, those who differ from us." That's a good one to talk about, especially considering our last comment, our last bit of debate here with Patrick Smith. Who wants to talk about -- who wants to talk about that -- Mary.

BEATTY: Don...

LEMON: Go ahead. Go ahead.

BEATTY: Yes, this is Jeff. I'd like to buzz in for the lightning round. You know, the word "plausible scenarios" was used. It's extremely worthwhile to do this, because we've already learned things like the transponder, et cetera, that we could be doing better.

In the year after D.B. Cooper did his little exercise in the Pacific Northwest...

LEMON: Fifteen seconds.

BEATTY: ... 15 copycats manifested themselves. Fifteen copycats. We've got to get out ahead of the copycats, because they will happen. And so lessons we learn here ought to be applied quickly before we have to wait for the end to become apparent.

LEMON: Yes. And you know what? This person brings up a very good point. We're talking about the power of mystery. This show is called "The Mystery of Flight 370," and it is quite a mystery.

QUEST: And I'm going to remind you, there were 239 souls, as well.

LEMON: The mystery is what happened to those 239 souls?

I'm Don Lemon. Thank you so much for watching us. "AC 360" starts right now.