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PIERS MORGAN LIVE
Debris From Flight 370 Found?
Aired March 20, 2014 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL WEIR, CNN ANCHOR: And this is Piers Morgan Live. Your host will be back next week. Until then, I'm Bill Weir filling in and we do begin with Breaking News tonight.
As search planes in the air right now fast-approaching the site of what looks like debris from Flight 370. Could it be this long strain search now taking us into one of the loneliest corners of our planet because of course late last night on our time, the Australians revealed a tantalizing lead in a case almost completely devoid of leads.
This satellite image of something floating in the Southern Indian Ocean, something white in color, something almost 80 feet long, hard to tell exactly what it could be, even harder to actually go find it because this image is over four days old. And this is what the surface of that sea could look like in the next couple of days.
This video shot by some sailors in 60 naut Cs. That means winds of around 70 miles an hour. Now, weather in this area has been calmer than this in recent days and to anyone's guess what the winds and tides have done with that chunk of debris since March 16th. But with a storm brewing, it could be this strong or stronger. The clock now ticking and to complicate matters further, this is also a place prone to garbage patch gyres, the kind of swirling currents that can gather and concentrate all sorts of sea junk. And even if they find it tonight and confirm that it is a peace of the Boeing 777 well then comes the hard part, doing the math and then going down here.
Now, this area is near the maybe Diamantina Trench, a range of undersea ridges and trenches with a maximum depth of around four and a half miles. So to better understand the challenges of such a search, we'll be talking with the best in the undersea business tonight and to better know how loved ones are coping with the news, we'll meet then whose brother vanished in a plane about a decade ago and is still waiting and hoping for information.
But our Big Story begins down under. Kyung Lah moving from Kuala Lumpur to Perth, the staging ground for this latest search. And are the planes in the air now? They're getting close I understand.
KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are in the air. We don't know how close. We do know that they did leave just a little bit later at least the first one, a little bit later than originally scheduled because we got hit with a massive storm this morning here at the airbase. It got delayed a little bit but then everything else appears to be going on schedule. Two more left about an hour ago. One more scheduled to leave in just a little while and it will be joined by the U.S. Navy P8 and Orion.
So if all of this air power heading down to this region, four hours to get down there. They'll spend about two hours but then have to make that long journey back. Bill.
WEIR: I'm a little surprised the planes didn't leave earlier so they'd get more daylight, but I'm just interested if you know how effective these searches can be. A size of New Mexico, they're telling us, when they only have about two hours out there before they have to turn around and fly four hours back.
LAH: Yeah, and that's really frustrating. So take out your pencil because I want you to do a little map with me.
WEIR: All right.
LAH: Yesterday, the Australia has four air craft in the air, four air craft and they covered 23,000 square kilometers, 23,000 square kilometers. The entire search area according to the Australian military is 600,000 square kilometers. So if you do the math here, divide it, the two, 26 days. That's how long it's going to take to search that entire area.
Now, they do have additional air craft there. They have one more plane in the air and they have other ships, commercial ships, as well as military ships seaming to that area.
So they will have more assets in the region, but if they don't pick up the pace, 26 days that's how long it's going to take to clear all of that space.
WEIR: Well, let us hope that fortune is on their side. We get words sooner than that. Thank you Kyung Lah there in Perth.
Let's turn to Washington D.C., now bringing Jim Sciutto of CNN with more on the ships and planes searching.
What is the American involvement now, Jim?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY: Well, it's a big involvement. I'll show you here. This is the search area again that we've been talking about. The U.S. has deployed its P8 Poseidon, the most advanced surveillance air craft. It can see very far and it could travel very far and stay on station for a very long time to search for this. It's also got a P3 Orion taking part as well. You know that the U.S. is looking at its satellites in this area, commercial and perhaps some military to see what they can add to these images that we've seen already.
In addition to that, the U.S. and Australia along with New Zealand, the U.K. and Canada are part of what's called the Five Eye (ph). This is really our closest -- US's closest allies in terms of sharing intelligence and you could be sure they are able to share intelligence that we, you know, we can't do even with allies in Europe, Germany, France et cetera that includes the most sensitive satellite data, the most sensitive radar data. And one thing we become aware of is that Australia has some very advanced over the horizon radar which could come into play in a search like this.
WEIR: It is great that the Aussies are sort of our -- one of our global BFFs, I guess. So we were much intimate in terms of technology. But does that lead you to believe, Jim, that there are better images than the four-day old version that they're not sharing with the world that maybe U.S. by satellites or Australian technology has a better of picture of what's down there?
SCIUTTO: Short answer is probably yes. But I did talk to two executives in the satellite imaging industry tonight to ask about those images that we saw, you know, that look pretty grandy (ph) and I'll put them up here again. They look pretty grandy. And I said, you know, "Are there better ones out there?" And they said that, "In reality, the ones that would be shared via Digiglobe ..." and that's the source of these satellite images, "... would not be that much sharper, the ones that the U.S. and Australians are looking."
And they said the real key here is not between what's classified and not classified but the angle of the satellite and that these satellites are unlikely to be over the stretch of the earth. So they're more likely looking at it from an angle kind of out of the periphery which makes them less clear images and that's really the difference between the kind of clear images we expect there, you know, you see on Google Earth, right? You look at your house in Google Earth, you could spot whose inside, right?
SCIUTTO: You know, these looked like they've been taken from a million miles away.
WEIR: And we had our hopes dashed, well, you know, we thought we had something with that Chinese satellite picture, it seems like eons ago, it turned out to be nothing.
And before I let you go, Jim. What's the latest with the FBI scrubbing the computers of the pilot and the co-pilot and that flight simulator?
SCIUTTO: This is what CNN has told. CNN told that they have greater confidence today that they could find things on that computer even that it had been deleted. Do you remember, we were reporting a couple of days ago that some files had been deleted from the -- some logs from the pilot's flight simulator that he had in his home. But they feel confident that they can piece that back together. It's kind of putting -- like putting the pieces of a puzzle back together.
And as I've said a couple of times, if you wanted a team to do this job, it would be the FBI team at Quantico. Their job is to find stuff on computers that people don't want found on computers whether it's child pornography or extremist website, the extremist literature. This is the team you want trying to piece this together.
WEIR: All right, Jim. Good to talk to you as well.
And let's turn the dial to Atlanta now. A guy who as a viewer, I've been a fan of this guy for years not only learning about whether but earth science, Chad Myers, it's good to be a colleague of yours. And tell me about the weather conditions plummeting, is the clock ticking for this search?
CHAD MYERS, METEOROLOGIST: It is, Bill. And thank you by the way. It is. Probably 60 hours from now, we're going to have wins right over that dot which is the lot land (ph) of where that debris was last seen. We're going to have winds of 50 miles per hour. That's not the day we had yesterday.
Yesterday it was 30, 40 miles per hour but we had low ceiling, we had low visibility and what's the worst thing you can think of when you're looking for a white airplane, white caps, they were everywhere. The wind was blowing off the top of the waves and you think about trying to find something white when the top of your ocean looks like that. Literally impossible.
But today, there today, hour tonight is the day it's going to flatten out the waves are going to be gone, the sun is going to be high, going to have great visibility and this is the day to find it and tomorrow is a good day too. But by the time we get into the weekend, this all goes away. There is the debris, not a lot of rain in the next 48 hours, that's all it was. The issue is the wind and everywhere that you're going to see this red wind right there, that's 50 to 60 miles per hour and that's just too much to get this even with the ocean so deep and you get rollers, not sharp waves like you get on Lake Erie because it's so shallow, you're still going to have those white caps all day on Sunday and in to Monday. It's going to be unsearchable again.
WEIR: So using your scientific brain here. Let's say they find this thing tonight. Just purely out of luck, they come across it and now the search begins. Tell me about the cone of uncertainty. How big do you think that search area would have to be given what you know about currents and gyres and everything else?
MYERS: Yes. You got it. There it is right there. The currents spin in a big circle. In fact, there are five of these across the globe; North Atlantic, South Atlantic, Pacific, Indian here that would be the number four one here.
So the waves and the wind that's been pushing everything this way for the past couple of days. And so if we're searching for the black box which would have gone down pretty much immediately and that floated away with the current. I guess you kind of back everything up and we have to back everything up not one day or two days but literally 14 days from now. We can do it. We have the data. We have the satellite data that say which way was the wind going, which was the current going.
But the problem is let's say it's just a wingtip that's sticking up out of the water, that means that there's a sale (ph) area there. That's not only going with the current but it's blowing at the opposite direction or with the current because the wind is blowing it too. If it's below the ocean, it just sits there and goes with the current and doesn't get blown along.
WEIR: Fascinating stuff. Chad Myers, thanks for your insight.
MYERS: You're welcome.
WEIR: And let's turn now to the first ship to arrive in that remote area of the Southern Indian Ocean. It's actually not a dedicated search vessel. It's a Norwegian car carrier that was on its way from Madagascar to Melbourne when it got a request from Australia to lend a hand in this search.
And Haakon Svane is part of the crisis management team, the director for the Norwegian Shipowners Association and he joins us on the phone.
Haakon, I understand you are in contact with this crew, an all- Filipino crew. The captain's been with the company for a long time, almost 30 years. What are they doing? Did they get the binoculars up? Did they have any sort of search equipment beyond their eyeballs?
HAAKON SVANE, DIRECTOR, NORWEGIAN SHIPOWNERS ASSOCIATION: Yes, sir. What they actually do is pretty straightforward technology watch. They will use their eyes and binoculars. They will also use the radar that is onboard and finally they will use the directions that I get -- that they get from the Australian Maritime Authorities to the best effect in order to find this possible debris in the designated area.
WEIR: And have they had -- obviously they haven't, you know, found the big piece everybody's hunting for but how much junk is out there? Are they telling you of other pieces that seem like it might have been and it turns out to be nothing?
SVANE: Well, so far they haven't found anything of significance which is the term that they use in this search. They're hoping for good (inaudible) came today.
Yesterday, you had patches fog and so forth. So actually the freeboard of the vessel, it's pretty high, it's like 80 feet. So it's a good observation platform for any type of observation. And with good visibility, the binoculars, they will be able to search through a relatively large area and let's not forget that they're being pinpointed to a city area by the Australian authorities. So hopefully it's going to be effective (ph) today.
WEIR: And just so we can do the math. If they do spot it from the air, how fast is that gigantic cargo ship? How fast could it get to where it needs to go?
SVANE: Well, it already has an area, a sector that it will search through, they have already agreed to a search pattern whether that's great or zigzag (ph) in certain segment is really up to the Australians ...
WEIR: I see. Let me clarify ...
SVANE: ... today and we simply do what they're told to do by the Australians rescue authority.
WEIR: Would you anticipate that the Australians saying we found that the piece we're looking for, we need you guys to get over there and pull it out of the ocean? Do you have the capability of doing that or will that be a different dedicated search vessel?
SVANE: Well, that depends on how far away it is from what the Australians think they have found. Yesterday, they searched through an area which is approximately 60 nauts per miles long without finding anything.
Today, the area is a little bit longer and it's really a matter of calculations and a bit of luck and hopefully they'll get to what they are waiting for.
WEIR: All right. Haakon, we appreciate you dialing us up and sharing that information. And I'm sure the families really appreciate your involvement in this. If your car, you've ordered a custom vehicle and a few weeks later at least you can share in this knowledge that you were part of this search. Thank you.
So is this the break that the world is been waiting for or another false lead? You have to count on the words and hope for the best. We're going to ask the experts why the hard part is just beginning.
WEIR: Back more and now on our breaking news. Those search planes approaching the site of possible debris. But if, big if, this is it, if we have finally found some trace of Flight 370, what do we know about how it got there?
Joining me now, members of our search family, Mary Schiavo, Former Inspector General of the DOT, she represents victims of negligence by transportation companies including the airlines. David Soucie, CNN Safety Analyst, author of "Why Planes Crash", David Funk is a pilot, Former International Captain for Northwest airlines and William Waldock from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University joins us via Skype. Thank you all for being here for day 14.
So I'll start with you, Mary. When you see those images, what was the first thing that went through your mind?
MARY SCHIAVO, FMR. INSPECTOR GENERAL, U.S. DOT: Well, hopeful. I wanted them to be the images of the plane. I wanted it to be the plane so we could find that information before the -- before it's lost. There's so much to be learned from the flight data recorder that I just was very hopeful and that they had finally solved at least part of the mystery. There's much more to solve of course.
WEIR: Right. David, that is a piece that big, almost 80 feet. Can you make a guess as to what it might be histories (ph) on that?
DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: There's some speculation that it would be a wing and that would be approximately that size. And Mary had pointed out earlier today that if it's a wing and it is low as it was on (inaudible) it'd be a large cavity (ph) of area inside of that thing and it is a sealed wing unless it came apart during the impact. In which case, I'd be concerned because the size of the waves would tilt and rock and eventually fill that up with water if it was cracked and a lot of water to get into it.
WEIR: Right. Bill Waldock, you were a coast guard rescue guy for eight some years, I was harkening back to my remedial physics, Archimedes' Principle, right? Something as boed (ph) by the weight of the water at this place is, are you optimistic that if it's floating, this many days after a potential crash, it'll stay up? Or are you worried something like that might sink?
WILLIAM WALDOCK, PROFESSOR OF SAFETY SCIENCE, EMBRY-RIDDLE AERONAUTICAL UNIV.: The other issue with that wing, if it was a wing, you're also going to have events that potentially with enough wave action, you're going to start filling it. I'd almost lean more to it being a collection of smaller pieces probably strung together with wire and some of the other materials to some extent like what we saw with AirFrance 447.
WEIR: David Funk this is the hardest question I'm sure for the families to wrestle with, that's probably why they're rooting against the fact that this might be a part of that plane they want so bad. This shows total devastation, right? If this is part of it, no one could have survived out there that long.
DAVID FUNK, PILOT AND FORMER INTERNATIONAL CAPTAIN, NORTHWEST AIRLINES: Absolutely. And if the Australians were able to locate this particular piece and anyone had survived, they probably would have spotted them in the rafts and the water by this point.
As I mention today when I was out with Mary earlier in the day, if anyone got out on the rafts, each of those rafts has emergency locators on them. As soon as those things hit the water that beacon goes and we know that within minutes, because of the satellite system up around the world. But one of those beacons going off literally in minutes we know exactly where that would be.
And since that hasn't happen, unfortunately I'm afraid we may go from -- I'm the eternal optimist, I don't know about the pilot, you know, you got to be optimist if you're a pilot. And the eternal optimist, if this thing hit the water the way it did we probably are going to from search and rescue to search and recovery unfortunately.
WEIR: And Bill, given your experience as a crash investigator and rescue guy, if we do find this piece, if we get lucky tonight and it is a part of the plane, how daunting is the search given the time that's elapsed?
WALDOCK: Well, the search itself is extremely rigorous because of where it is, compounding that should got the issues with the swells and the wind. And once we find it then figure out whether not it came from the airplane, if it did come from the airplane then the hard part really starts, because we've got to track it back, reverse engineer the current activity, the wind activity and try to put it back in time of 15 days to where the aircraft actually entered the water. And from that point, the other thing that's going to be a major issue things like the flight recorders. If they remain attached to the structure of the airplane, probably are going to be some distance away from where the aircraft entered the water, because the aerodynamic forces on the airplane tend to move things but so do the hydrodynamic forces once it's in the water.
Wing for example is designed to produce lift in air, you put it on water it tries to do the same thing, it's just a much thicker medium. So with the current activity, you can see them and we could move a lot of the stuff long distance away from the airplane under the water.
WEIR: It's floating around down there. David, what are your thoughts on that? Just in a search area, I think AirFrance off the coast of Brazil started at 5,000 square miles this has to be factors of that, right?
SOUCIE: Yeah, absolutely. You know, it's just to try to think about how big this is compared to where this thing is underneath the water. I'm trying to think of an example of, I just can't, there's nothing that's that massive versus this little tiny needle in the hay stack in the bottom. So the ...
SOUCIE: ... search is going to be really impossible.
WEIR: And Mary, after seeing that Chinese image in a few day after the plan went missing initially and it turned out to be a mistake they called it. The Australian seemed more confident. They're still hedging, but compare that experience to this one.
SCHIAVO: Well, and the Australians gave us some more clues that they've done a whole lot of homework and that's why they took four days to actually announce this. They said they had consulted with the NTSB and they had refined the flight tracks. They said they have studied the images carefully and we now know they call on others to provide and beef-up the information.
So, I think when they stepped on, you know, to that podium and announced it, I think that there was a lot they weren't saying but they did give us a clue that they had done an awful lot work and they felt fairly certain that they had something worth this effort.
WEIR: Right. Well, if the four of you be kind enough to hang out with me. When we come back we want to turn to the theory people are now talking about as a result of this to find, the "Zombie Plane" theory. What is it? Could it explain anything? We'll explain next.
WEIR: Back now with more on our breaking news. Those search planes approaching the site of possible debris of Flight 370, that is a big possible.
And a question a lot of people asking "If that is it, was Flight 370 a Zombie Plane that flew on autopilot until it ran out of fuel." We're going to put that question to Mary Schiavo, David Soucie, David Funk and Bill Waldock, our panel of experts here.
David, we'll start with you, this is reminiscing of course of Payne Stewart. How long did that fly? And like four hours or something, right?
SOUCIE: Yeah, at least four hours until it ran out of fuel as well.
WEIR: And that was a result of depressurization in the cabin, everyone lost consciousness.
SOUCIE: It was -- it's debatable that there was depressurization or over-pressurization followed by pressurization. The outflow of valves stuck on that aircraft, there's a safety valve behind it.
SOUCIE: So if the outflow of valve stops, the safety valve doesn't open then all of the pressure from the engines that suppose to be bleeding off stops.
SOUCIE: And that over-pressurize the aircraft basically taking you from a Kelvin altitude of, say 8,000 feet down to below sea level, immediately and it causes physical damage to you at that point ...
WEIR: And not -- yes.
SOUCIE: ... which is -- and then back up again after that up to 30,000.
WEIR: David Funk, what do you make of theory? I mean I guess it could be also smoke or some sort of fume that would knock these guys out in the cockpit or I guess a struggle or a terrorist attempt that in which knocks everybody out?
FUNK: That's possible. You know, because we had some wide variations in the altitude track from the primary radars up in Malaysia, I'm inclined to believe that the autopilots were probably tripped off at least in the pitch mode, the up and down mode. And that would explain why the airplane was varying from, you know, potentially low 40,000 and into the mid 20,000 foot and they've could have done that all night long, it's a dynamically stable airplane.
Dynamic stability is really simple, just think of a ball in a little -- a marble if you let it go on the ball it just comes to a stop. And that's what the airplane will do when it's disturbed, it will eventually seek back to its trained air speed. And this very well could have flown with no autopilot inputs at all, which would also explain a much further left turn than it would have been on autopilot when it passed the last programmed way point. It would have just continued on the same ground track, it was on until ran out of gas.
That's why I think the autopilot was out for two things, the pitch changes and the fact that they're heading, swung around as far down to the southwest as it did.
You know, very likely scenario that that could happen and all communications systems, the transponder, the radios, the ACARS. And if there was some sort of problem with an electrical fire in that center pedestal area or the power supply for those things, all of that would have been knocked out, which, you know, we may know very well it had a zombie airplane flying across the country ...
WEIR: Bill ...
FUNK: ... A.K.A. Payne Stewart's crash.
WEIR: Right. Bill, you don't -- I don't think you buy this theory do you?
WALDOCK: Well, first of, I really don't like the term zombie plane, that connotes a sinister aspect to it. But, I'd prefer it to call it a ghost plane. But, we have seen things like this before. I know you guys have been talking about Helios from 2005. That's a classic example of a pressurization failure or pressurization issue, where the crew didn't realize what was happening fast enough to deal with it.
And in that circumstance, the airplane just -- once the pilots passed out kept going to it's destination in Athens when it orbited in altitude and it too crashed after it ran out of gas.
The thing here is that, with all the radical maneuvers upfront and the obvious turn that had to occur to put it on this direct south heading, that argues for something else. And in terms of a fire, I've studied a lot of fire accidents and literally every single one that has resulted that the airplane subsequently crashing after a known in- flight fire, it happens relatively quickly because there's an awful lot of things. If it's an electrical fire, for example, you can get arc temperatures and electrical short somewhere between 7,000 degrees Fahrenheit and as much as 16,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
The electrical component of the fire acts as an ignition source to things around it, and Swissair 111 being an example. Mylar insulation in the overhead, it literally caught on fire after being ignited by the electrical short. The crew wasn't aware of it and they're running the cockpits some of the checklist.
In every single case where there's been a fire like that, the crew is been able to communicate with their traffic control, let them know what the situation was. ValuJet 594 down in Miami in 1996, the cargo compartment fire. The crew didn't know the fire was there that it burned through the floor of the passenger cabin.
WALDOCK: Once it was there, they got all their masks, contacted ATC after they stabilized the airplane. Unfortunately, all the fire burned through the control cables, put the airplane down. So, I'd be real hesitant to focus on the fire. But the big question is going to be is how is that airplane able to fly for another five hours ...
WALDOCK: ... after the original sequence.
WEIR: Mary, when plane does run out of gas on autopilot, how far can it glide?
SCHIAVO: Well, it can glide very far. And in these previous accidents where that has happened both the Payne Steward in the Helios, they responded differently. In Helios, one engine failed, ran out of fuel and it flew. For the other one was flying still and it went for 10 more minutes and so that continued to fly and it did have a glide pattern. But Payne Stewart's plane, the engines failed at the same time. That haven't have a recording on and they could hear the engines pulling down together. And what happened there is that it made right turn and then it started to roll.
So they responded differently in each way. But if it did come down for example more like Helios and was able to fly down or not go into the roll, I suppose it's possible that it could have landed on the water with less of an impact. But, we've seen another water landing not like Sally (ph) who did it so without this. But, a wing will often clip on a way and then it will tumble.
So, it remains to be seen if this is the wreckage how this ended up, so we might have get lucky and have big pieces or not.
WEIR: Well, it does remain to be seen, those planes are on their way. We'll let you know what they find, when they find it. Our thanks to Davids, both Davids, Bill and Mary, yeoman's work with us, we really appreciate it.
And we comeback, what if Flight 370 is never found? A grim question being faced by all those love ones. What is like for someone to live without knowing for a very long time? I'll talk exclusively to a man whose brother was on a plane that vanished 11 years ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not confirmed. I think this is definitely not the place.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Both governments, Australia and Malaysia, I thank them. If it is true, it is OK. I will accept it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WEIR: Such an emotional tug-of-war going on right now. All those searchers, governments, the airline hoping that that piece of (inaudible) out in the south Indian Ocean is a clue to what happened at 370, and all those family members hoping against hope that it's not, because of, of course it would mean the certain perishing of all their loved ones.
I want to bring in a man who may have some idea how they feel. His brother Ben Padilla a certified flight engineer got onto a Boeing 727 in Angola back in May of 2003. And that man has never been heard from since. Joe Padilla is Ben's brother and he joins us now exclusively. Thank you for being here Joe. Tell be about your brother ...
JOE PADILLA, BROTHER OF FLIGHT ENGINEER ON 727 THAT VANISHED 11 YEARS AGO: Thank you for having me.
WEIR: Thank you for being here. Tell me about your brother and what happened to him?
PADILLA: Well, all I know is the FBI had told be in the beginning when this have happened that my brother was on a plane, he boarded this plane and then it took off and no one knows what happened to it.
WEIR: There were only ...
PADILLA: 12 days after that I had found out that that the plane made all kind of crazy ground maneuvers before taking off. So that's telling me that he was hijacked. And then I later learned, weeks later that someone went to the airport before my brother boarded this plane, paid 93,000 USD cash to have this plane fueled, like I said, before my brother stepped on this plane. And I have learned all through the years about different people from al-Qaeda that had been seen at this airport. So, I've really believed my brother had been hijacked.
WEIR: He was the only -- there was himself and one other man. It wasn't like a plane full of passengers, right? There are only two confirmed people on the plane?
PADILLA: Yes, him and John Matton (ph) too.
PADILLA: A person from the Congo.
WEIR: All right. And I understand that along the line, you have been so frustrated in the lack of information and there's certainly was no search the way we're seeing now and he was a suspect, I'm sure, for a lot of this time.
PADILLA: Yes. That's what I was told at one time and it's ridiculous, you know. I had to do -- all the things that I have learned, I've learned on my own, talking to reporters and looking on the Internet, doing my own research, but as far as our government, the U.S. government did nothing to help me except one person at the State Department that was Jack Markey. It was the only help I received. But our U.S. government did nothing as far as the search for my brother's plane. They had asked the African authorities for their help to locate my brother's plane because far as all the help that the passengers on this plane, their family members are lucky because they have almost the whole world searching for them -- for this plane. I didn't have that luxury. I had to do the searching myself.
WEIR: That must be an agony most of us cannot understand. Michael Verna, let's bring in, he's an Aviation Trial Attorney, won a $23 million settlement for the victims of air flight -- Flight 447 at Air France plane that went into the Atlantic.
And Michael, when you hear this -- the story here and you think about those folks in Beijing and in Kuala Lumpur and around the world, what is it that they're going through emotionally, do you think, you've seen the families ride this emotional roller coaster. What is that like when Australian government comes out and gives a lead like this?
MICHAEL VERNA, AVIATION TRIAL ATTORNEY: Well, the grief is incalculable for these families. Not knowing what happened to their loved ones is something that I don't think any of us can really imagine. But, you know, in terms of the Australian government coming out with this information, we have this problem where there's basically a conflict between this insatiable need to have more information and the lack of any reliable information. And those two sometimes conflict. The real impact of this that I've seen as a lawyer representing victims of these crashes is on the families themselves. Their hopes get up and their hopes are dashed, then their hopes get up and their hopes are dashed.
And in this particular case, I think it's very important to be mindful that there's two very significant legal questions that exist here. Number one, was there even an accident, and then secondly, what was the cause of that accident. All we know is there are some debris, some 1500 miles off of Perth. We don't know if that's this airplane or not, but even if it is, all that does is give us an answer to the first question. Was there an accident? If we could identify that debris of course is being part of Flight 370. It still doesn't answer the question of why. And to answer that question, you really need to have the flight data recorder, the cockpit voice recorder, that is probably at the very bottom of the ocean right now and took almost two years in Air France 447 to be found.
WEIR: Yeah. What are the next steps legally, Michael Verna. We saw reports today that with -- one child policy, it's something we don't think about here, and those parents that was the only child they had, they're worried about suicides, does that add into the legal aspects, the recourse of this people might have going forward?
VERNA: Well, it may. The -- as I said the other night, the legal structure for resolving claims against Malaysia Airlines is that known as the Montreal Convention. It's an international treaty that both China and Malaysia are signatories too. But the Chinese, even though that would establish liability on Malaysia Airline, that the Chinese families would still have to prove their damages. And that would be based on Chinese law. And I am certainly no expert on Chinese law but I can assure you that the way Chinese courts or Chinese law interprets the value of the laws of the life is very different than the way American courts do.
WEIR: Joe, what advice, I mean, you're still going through your own form of sort of psychological torture all these years later, but what would you -- what advice would you give these families watching this search knowing what you know?
PADILLA: Just don't give up hope. It is too early right now to give up hope -- don't. All these stories coming in is really hard. Like the gentlemen just said, it's very hard on them. It brings their hopes up and then it brings them down. But I don't believe that they should heard a story where they believe that the plane is off -- was 1400 miles off the west coast of Australia, now, the families are thinking that their loved ones down and bombed (ph) in the ocean. They don't need to hear news like that. But, hopefully, they will get some good news. I hope they do. But, don't give up hope. Here it is 11 years later and I'm still hoping that I will see my brother one day. It might not happen but I'm still giving hope.
WEIR: We're hoping with you Joe. Thank you for being with us, Michael as well.
PADILLA: Thank you so much.
WEIR: All right.
PADILLA: Thank you.
WEIR: With search planes fast approaching now that site of the debris, what happens once they get there? Will radar find the other pieces? What about drones? More experts next.
WEIR: Our breaking news tonight continues as the search planes continue to get closer and closer to the site of possible debris in the Southern Indian Ocean, possibly from Flight 370. But, how will they search once they get here?
Joining me now, Radar Expert Greg Charvat, author of "Small and Short- Range Radar Systems," and Missy Cummings, former Navy Pilot Professor of Drone Research at MIT in Duke. Good to see both of your. Once again, let's start with you. There's the P-3 Orion, the P8 Poseidon. These have planes name fittingly after the god of the sea and his son.
GREG CHARVAT, RADAR EXPERT: That's right.
WEIR: But how good are the -- or how good is the radar, these are sub hunters?
CHARVAT: That's right. One of the most important pieces of gear on these planes is the radar amount to the nose.
WEIR: How does it work?
CHARVAT: Well, what it does is it searches the horizon ...
CHARVAT: ... in front and side of the aircraft. And what it -- while it's searching, it forms what's known as a synthetic aperture radar image of what is out and around it. It's a very high resolution, maybe even better than the satellite imagery we've seen already.
WEIR: And we would think that from the naked eye, a piece of, you know, manmade machinery ...
WEIR: ... would jump out the waves but that's not how the radar sees it?
CHARVAT: No, no. The radar sees the ocean as if it's a liquid metal like the liquid metal guy from movie "Terminator." That's what the radar sees.
WEIR: And how's that -- how does it know when it's found the plane?
CHARVAT: Well, that's a good question. It's down to the operator who's watching the imagery go by. That's the problem. What he's going to see is, if we consider this as the ocean here, this piece of aluminum foil, and this is a large piece of debris, on a good day, should be no problem to see that piece of debris, nice and flat.
CHARVAT: But when it's rough out, it becomes obscure by the ocean, and that's what the radar sees. And what the operator got to look for is he needs to look for that debris moving a little differently than the waves.
WEIR: Right. So, Missy, if they do see the debris and down there on the see of aluminum foil, what happens next, how do they mark it, do they have to hover above it until the ship can get there, how do they know where to find that thing floating?
MISSY CUMMINGS, FMR. NAVY FIGHTER PILOT: Well, the aircraft is in constant communication. And so, they relay their GPS coordinates which are pretty good and -- the bell drop occasionally, send a buoys which are basically beacons in the water that will transmit the position of where the beacon is, and they'll lay down -- one that several and some kind of pattern so that they can keep track.
Particularly at night, when crews have to go home, and in fact this is a great example of this entire mission of why we need to start looking at replacing this manned missions within unmanned drones because the crews can only stay out so long and the fuel load on a manned aircraft, that doesn't last nearly as long as maybe a drone aircraft. And it's possible that we do have drones over there potentially using some of those same synthetic aperture radars you would find.
But we also have aircraft that are big airline size aircraft just jam- packed with these radars and we maybe working with the Australians to use those as well. WEIR: Yeah. You say, maybe knowingly, we hope or maybe that this is classified, they can't tell us exactly everything that's out there. You would think that moving these resources into this area, they have more to go on than a four-day old image of that whatever it is.
CUMMINGS: Right. I think that what's happened here is that the public is being given these images. But, I would be very sure that they have some collaborating evidence from other images either from our nation's resources. But probably, other nations, other nations have good satellites and spy planes as well. So, I'm sure that there are multiple nations who are putting their resources together. We may not be able to see those images, but I'm sure that they have more than the images than we've seen on the news.
WEIR: How high are they flying Missy, what's the altitude?
CUMMINGS: Well, it depends on the aircraft, you know, you could have relatively low aircraft, you know, anywhere -- if they were trying to get down low, they would fly a thousand feet and I think that was what reported there. So, they would fly right over the surface potentially looking and the aircraft will take altitudes all the way up to U-2 aircraft fly basically in low earth orbits, very near low with orbits. So, you know, near 60,000 feet.
So, you'll see a range on there. And as you just heard before about the other radars, it really, you know, where you put the aircraft will determine just how effective that radar is and certainly that weather conditions too can have a dramatic impact. So, they'll move the aircraft quite often just to try to get better a better resolution on the imagery.
WEIR: Right. And Greg, they can't see beneath the surface, right?
CHARVAT: No, no. Ocean surface looks like a liquid metal to the radar.
WEIR: And because the sub hunters really we're just periscope hunters?
CHARVAT: That's right.
WEIR: That's a small little target.
CHARVAT: It's a very, very small target.
WEIR: And compare the image that we saw to -- from that satellite, so what these guys are seeing in this planes.
CHARVAT: You know, there are radar that could potentially form an image that's so good that if there's a large piece of fuselage there, you could count the windows on it.
WEIR: Wow. Fascinating stuff, I learned more. Thank you for bringing in the props ...
CHARVAT: Thank you very much.
WEIR: ... as well. Missy, we appreciate your information as well, the former Fighter Pilot Professor of Drone Research at MIT in Duke.
And we'll be right back with more on the search to 370. Stay with us.
WEIR: In 1834, a kid named Richard Henry Dana left Harvard to sail around the world on a schooner. And after watching a few men go overboard, he wrote later that when "A man dies on shore, the body remains with his friends and a stone marks the spot. But at sea, nothing but a vacancy shows his lost. And to use a homely but expressive phrase, you miss a man so much."
Look back and read that today and it seems so poignant in relation to what we're looking for now. But, all of those loved ones missing and waiting tonight, they would probably have to dwell on Hemingway's line from "The Old Man in the Sea." "It is silly not to hope. Besides, I believe, it is a sin." They of course are hoping that what these planes that are on their way to the South Indian Ocean find is not 370.
We're about to go to Chicagoland, the great documentary here. If anything comes up, we will break you in with that breaking news. Keep you posted there and at CCN.com.
I'm Bill Weir. Thanks for being with us. I'll see back here tomorrow night.