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Transcript Of Final Moments In Cockpit; Search Planes Now In Air Over Indian Ocean; More Files Deleted from Pilot's Simulator

Aired March 21, 2014 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Next breaking news, what the pilot said moments before Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared. Finally a transcript between the cockpit and ground control.

Plus just 8 minutes before the plane took off, the pilot reportedly used his cell phone. Who did he call and what did he say?

And an OUTFRONT exclusive tonight, we're on board the Navy's most powerful search tool. It's the elite P8 Poseidon. It will be involved in this search. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, breaking news on this Friday night on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. U.S. investigators have found evidence the pilot deleted files on his simulator's hard drive. More files deleted more recently than had been reported.

Another crucial piece of new information tonight, we finally have a transcript of the entire 54 minutes of communications between the pilots and air traffic controllers. This transcript was obtained by the British newspaper the telegraph. It shed some new light on the critical moments before the passenger jet with 239 people on board vanished.

And officials are looking into reports of a phone call made by the pilot just 8 minutes before takeoff. Pamela Brown begins our coverage OUTFRONT in Washington tonight with the latest on the investigation. Pamela, I want to start with those deleted files. That's the very latest information I know you've been breaking. What does this tell us about the timeline now?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, basically, Erin, experts are telling us that after two days of combing through that hard drive that they are not jumping to any conclusions just yet about the pilots, but sources do tell CNN that investigators have uncovered evidence that files from those hard drives were deleted more recently than that previously disclosed date of February 3rd that the Malaysian officials talked about.

So we still have a lot of unanswered questions. We don't know when this happened. How many deletions there were and who made those deletions. The FBI didn't receive the hard drive until two days ago. So now forensic experts as well as outside consultants are in a full tilt dive to uncover what was deleted and how it may have been a race. That will be very telling.

So the first piece of evidence investigators are looking at is whether those deletions were done in a routine fashion like we would do or whether they were scrubbed clean in a more sophisticated way, which is more of a red flag and investigators looking at information such as browser history to put a full profile together of these two pilots but so far important to emphasize there's been nothing to indicate nefarious intent.

BURNETT: Let's talk about transcript of the final 54 minutes in the cockpit, Pamela. "The Telegraph" obviously obtained this. We've all had a chance to read it. What was in there?

BROWN: Well, bottom line, it was pretty uneventful. We've been reviewing the transcript, the purported transcript we should say obtained by London's "Telegraph" newspaper. It seems pretty routine conversation from beginning to end. If the plane hadn't disappeared nothing would stick out at all about what we're reading in this transcript here.

According to analysis from pilots we've been speaking to, some of the pilots' responses were somewhat informal but not necessarily out of the ordinary. So I want to point out this transcript of communications between air traffic control and pilots of 370 was translated from English to mandarin and back to English.

So not a perfect translation here and also CNN has not independently confirmed the authenticity of the transcript. The "Telegraph" also said it's reached out to the office of the Malaysian prime minister and they said they would not release the transcript so that's the latest there -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right, Pamela, thanks to you and I want to bring our panel of experts. They are going to be with us the entire hour. Richard Quest along with CNN aviation analyst, Miles O'Brien, Jeff Weiss, a private pilot and aviation journalist and Arthur Rosenberg, a pilot and aviation attorney.

All right, Richard, let me start with you in this transcript. All right, as Pamela said when you read through it, if nothing had happened on this flight, you wouldn't think anything of it. I'll emphasize double translation English is sort of a standard language in flight. This reporter got the transcript from a Chinese source so it's in Chinese, got to translate it back.

Here's one thing. You have this repeat of we're at 35,000 feet. They say it twice. Second time they say it happens to be during the exact minute that the ACARS system was turned off. When you look at this as "Telegraph" it's the only thing you can find that that happened at that moment.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: First of all, we don't know the ACARS system was turned off. There was the last ACARS message.

BURNETT: We don't know why it stopped transmitting. QUEST: Secondly the fact that he says MH-370 remaining at flight level 350 altitude and repeats it later is he telegraphing something to somebody that's not right. Very unlikely. It's one of those things that happens. He repeated a message. When he doesn't do the full read back at 091929, after the air traffic control said to him please contact Ho Chi Minh City --

BURNETT: That's 1:19 a.m., which is obviously just a couple of minutes before the transponder goes off.

QUEST: After he says please contact Ho Chi Minh City, the correct read back would have been Ho Chi Minh City good night. Something like that. We got a sloppy read back of 1:19 --

BURNETT: He says all right good night.

ARTHUR ROSENBERG, PILOT: No, no. Look we all got this transcript a few minutes ago. We haven't had a chance to really scrutinize it. Here's the bottom line. We know something did happen. The last horrendous accident here. Now we have to take a look at the complete part of this transcript. At 42 minutes and 52 seconds he actually reads back the frequency that the air traffic control gave him. That is a formal correct response. The response back down at 1:19 -- hold on, Richard. Hold on, is not a formal correct response.

BURNETT: So, you're saying is this just a casual lazy thing he would have done it both times. First time he did it perfectly, second time he would not. Second time, when all the systems were turned off.

ROSENBERG: At the moment he says "all right good night" and doesn't read back the frequency that's the exact moment of the handoff from the, from one controller to the next controller. If a pilot is ever going to read back a frequency that's the moment you do it. He didn't do it.

BURNETT: All right, Miles, what do you make of that? You've been calling for this transcript for days and you have it. You don't hatch the audience.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: I would like -- I need to hear this. Let me just help you, as a pilot here's what I think happened. I think he wanted a different altitude and he kept checking in saying hey I'm here at flight level 350 and wasn't getting a satisfactory response. This went on for about a half hour. By the time it was time for sign off he's like I'm out of here and didn't give a standard --

BURNETT: Why would he want another altitude?

O'BRIEN: He wanted to fly higher so he could get better fuel economy. Who knows what he filed for? But it seems to me this --

BURNETT: He could have requested --

O'BRIEN: Yes. If a pilot is trying remind the controller I'm still here at 350, which he said repeatedly and didn't say, yes, we have your new altitude ready for you so I think he was getting a little bit hot under the collar. Everything was very polite up to that point where he said I'm still out here at 35,000 feet several times. He has a nonstandard good night because he's ticked off. That's what I think happened.

BURNETT: All right, quickly, Richard, I want to ask --

QUEST: Taking your point I'm not denying what you said.

ROSENBERG: Thank you.

QUEST: But you take one and one and chosen to couple with three. Let's stick with one and one.

BURNETT: We know something happened. One and one adds up to two in this case.

ROSENBERG: There's more.

BURNETT: Accidental or not accidental something horrific happened.

QUEST: At that particular point I don't think you can come to the conclusion you've come to.

ROSENBERG: Can we agree to disagree.

QUEST: I am.

BURNETT: So later on in the show, thank goodness we have you on we'll talk about the deletion of these files and why that's significant and frankly why the Malaysian government came out with great fanfare said it was deleted February 3rd. No, it was deleted much more recently.

In the meantime, the search is beginning in Australia at this hour, obviously, day break there. Are they even looking in the right place?

Plus $50 billion search for the missing plane. How the costs are adding up by the minute? OUTFRONT exclusive, on board the Navy's most powerful tool in this search. We are on board OUTFRONT on the P8 Poseidon.


BURNETT: Breaking news in the search for the missing Malaysia airlines flight, CNN can confirm search planes are now in the air over the Indian Ocean, 1500 miles off the Australian coast. Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT in Perth, which is the staging area for those flights. Kyung, what more can you tell us? I know you've been up all night. Those planes are taking off?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They have taken off. They have left one of the planes, the P3 Orion from Australia left here just about an hour ago right at daybreak. The Australian military confirming this to us just a little while ago and they also tell us that two civilian ultra-long range planes have also taken off from Perth International. Those two planes are quite interesting. They are an addition to the military planes that have been used over the last two days.

They are using specific spotters, civilian spotters who are trained to look for debris on the ocean and what they are going to be looking for is anything that floats. By this time some of the heavy parts of the plane may have sunk. They are looking for things like seat cushions, any clothing. Those types of things that still may be on the surface of the water. The area they are going to though they have taken off a short time ago, they have to fly four hours to this extremely remote area.

One of the most remote spots on the planet. They will have two hours to go, to circle that area and they have to make the four hour trip and then back to this airport. It's going a long day. They anticipate, Erin, they will be staggering these planes throughout the day. There will be more that come up in the air.

BURNETT: All right, Kyung Lah, thank you very much. I think every time she talks it's important to emphasize how remote this area is here. Four hours there, four hours back and two hours to search. I want to bring back our guests. Richard Quest, Miles O'Brien, and Jeff Weiss, our CNN aviation analyst and pilot, Arthur Rosenberg.

All right, Jeff, let me start with you because you did an analysis today, really complicated analysis of satellite pings off a plane and what this would entail about where it would be. You suggested it could be anywhere. Obviously little difficult to read. You got Central Asia all the way up at the top swinging down to Southeast Asia.

Down ending in the remote corner of the Southern Indian Ocean. Basically, though, what you're saying is they are looking in this teeny corner where our breaking news banner is and that could be the wrong place to look.

JEFF WEISS, PRIVATE PILOT: This is what's significant. You'll recall last Saturday, big, big breaking piece of news was that Malaysian prime minister himself announced that basically announced this Inmarsat data that they were able to create these two red arcs. That's big. Biggest clue we've had so far. That was based on the last ping. A lot of us were wondering what did the earlier pings tell us? We could deduce more about the path of this plane based on earlier pings. These pings didn't contain any data.

All that they were able to glean from these pings was how far was the plane from the transmitter in the satellite? So, what we learned today is simply this, each of the seven pings was further away from the satellite than the one before. That tells us a lot. If you look at that graphic what you'll see we were able to exclude a huge swath of ocean including the center of the Indian Ocean.

We know as the pilot whoever was flying this plane after they passed west over the peninsula they did a zigzag pattern. It looks like perhaps the pilot was trying to stay out away from the land, away from the military radar that was pinging them, detecting its location to get out of sight over the ocean. The most appealing part of the southern route was that it was allowing the pilot to travel out of radar coverage and go all the way to the south without any radar coverage.

BURNETT: Here's my question. How do we know we're looking in the right area?

WEISS: This is hard.

BURNETT: In terms of the place they are looking right now. What emphasis success put. The reason everybody got on board with this was the prime minister of Australia came out himself and said that and usually you wouldn't expect leader of the country to come out and put their credibility on the line unless they knew something.

WEISS: This doesn't exclude the northern route.

BURNETT: Everybody is looking at this very tiny sliver of the southern arc because the prime minister of Australia said to.

ROSENBERG: The attraction of the southern route and I like the northern route, but the attraction of the southern route was the satellite data, we have the ping at 8:11 from the Inmarsat satellite that gave us the location where the plane may have been some place on that arc, together if you take the fact that the plane had eight hours of fuel, flew two hours back, six hours south which at 500 miles give you about 3,000 miles about where that satellite picture was all these facts coalesce.

BURNETT: That's why they have that confidence.

WEISS: Other facts.

ROSENBERG: The fact was that the range of the plane together with that satellite picture kind of put it in the air.

BURNETT: But you're keeping the northern arc open, Richard, which I think is interesting because authorities not that they have given up completely but they kind of have.

QUEST: Right, because there's no radar tracks. Nobody -- to take your point the six hours flying north, if it had been on that, you might have hoped that somebody, even if you hadn't acknowledged it would have spotted a primary radar.

BURNETT: With so many countries with radar.

WEISS: If this plane went north it went over Myanmar or Bangladesh. This is the route it's taking. These are countries not the most advanced and big military spending countries. OK.

BURNETT: That's an interesting point.

WEISS: Now, again, I emphasize the previous attraction of the southern route allows the plane to avoid radar. Now it doesn't. It went over the Indonesian land mass if it went south. There should have been a radar track from Indonesia.

QUEST: Some of the things that we've heard during the week. Frankly it's disappeared and gone off the radar. Up to 45,000 feet down to 23,000.

BURNETT: That's right.

QUEST: We haven't heard anything more about that lately. Flying at 5,000 feet. We had that one for a while. That seems to have bitten the dust somewhere along the road. So there's been lots of things that have come up during the week that -- the pre-programmed turn that we were told about from the NBC report 12 minutes earlier. There's nothing in this that suggests --

BURNETT: Looking at the transcript right now. All right --

QUEST: But we've heard nothing more about that.

WEISS: Richard, this is gold plated data. This is the hardest thing we've got.

BURNETT: And all it tells me is that the plane could be in a 25,000 mile arc. I'm only saying this is the amazing frustration. Hold on. We'll come back and we have Miles O'Brien still to come two weeks into the search. No solid leads. That's kind of the point, right.

Up next the cost of the search and whether it's going to end without an answer. The numbers are stunning.

And that OUTFRONT exclusive, we were granted access to the same type of U.S. plane, which is currently going to be going out to search for the missing flight. It's the most hi-tech search plane on earth and we are going to show it to you.


BURNETT: It's been almost two weeks to the minute since we first heard Flight 370 was missing. Ships and aircraft from around the world have been hunting for it ever since. Teams of investigators worldwide have spent 24/7 to discover this plane's fate and costing big money. Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT. Tom, now 14 days. How much is all of this costing?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's costing a lot of money as you said and a lot of time. Enough that you have to ask at some point as blunt as it may be how long does this go on? Nobody wants to abandon the effort. No nation wants to say that it's hopeless, but they have to have some clues. They have to narrow the search area down to something like these areas they have been aiming for now because the bigger area they can't manage.

Remember the overall search area is still about 3 million square miles. Erin, I was doing some math on this. If you took one of the searches from the Air France crash of about 800 square miles, and you multiplied the reported cost out to search this entire area would be over $50 billion. And could take not a couple of years but many years to search it thoroughly. You still have no guarantee of success.

So at some point even though have all these nations kicking in here and in the southern part of the search alone you have 20 ships and 31 aircraft out there at some point everyone has to say if we don't have a clue, we can't afford to just keep pounding away at this. We got have something to lead us -- Erin.

BURNETT: Stunning number. Air France 447, you know, in deep waters perhaps not as deep where this plane may be if it's even in the water.

FOREMAN: They knew where it was. They knew where it was. This is an extrapolation. There's no road map at the end of this.

BURNETT: As I said a stunning number. Can you break down sort of where some of this money is being spent at this point?

FOREMAN: Well, we don't know where it's all being spent. There's money on analysis. Money on movement of people. Money on movement of equipment. Here's one example because we talked about it a great deal. This is roughly quarter million dollar P8 Navy submarine hunter. This is state-of-the-art aircraft from around the world. It's been brought from around the world to the United States to be part of this effort there.

The Navy, the Pentagon says the military collectively has spent about $2.5 million so far in the effort to find this airplane. They budgeted about 4 million, which will get them through the start of April and we are not contributing the most of all countries out there in terms of ships and airplanes. That's one tiny slice of it, but you can see how it adds up really fast and if you stay out there indefinitely it just goes and goes and goes even though nobody wants to give up the search now -- Erin.

BURNETT: As you say, Tom, nobody wants to give it up. Incredible. Tom standing there in front of that Poseidon p8 and that is the U.S. Navy's most sophisticated tool in the search. It's pretty incredible how it can fly? What it can do? It's actually amazing.

We have an OUTFRONT exclusive. We're going to go on board a P8 Poseidon.

Malaysian officials have confirmed lithium-ion batteries were on board the plane. In fact, the airline is saying now they are not regarded as dangerous goods. They are banned by the FAA. Is this part of the disappearance? We'll be back.


BURNETT: Breaking news in the search for Malaysia Flight 370. More news about the actions of the pilots in the moments leading up to that plane vanishing two weeks ago, really we've got the first notice of this two weeks ago in about 10 minutes time.

U.S. investigators say they found evidence that files from the pilots simulator was deleted after February 3rd. Now, that is really important because Malaysian authorities originally said they were deleted before that date.

We also finally have the transcript of the entire 54 minutes of communications between the pilot and air traffic controls. The transcript is obtained by the British newspaper "The Telegraph." We haven't confirmed the authenticity of the transcript but here's the bottom line. I want seemed routine except there was one non-routine aspect, the repeating of the plane's altitude, which happens at the exact minute the ACARS communication system stopped transmitting data.

As for the search, planes are at this moment heading west from Perth, four-hour flight to get to the debris site. They will have a couple of hours to look and then four hours back. They have been joined by a high-tech U.S. Navy P8 Poseidon aircraft, which up until we've never seen the inside of this plane. It's the most sophisticated in the Navy's arsenal.

And our David Mattingly just got exclusive access to OUTFRONT to a P8 Poseidon. He's OUTFRONT in Jacksonville, Florida.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Poseidon p8 surveillance jet is designed to hunt submarines and yet when it comes to finding wreckage of the missing Malaysian flight, the Navy is not making any promises.

(on camera): You don't even know exactly where to look right now, do you.

CAPT. SEAN LIEDMAN, U.S. NAVY: Correct. And because the debris may potentially be very small we're searching with very small track links to make sure we don't miss anything over the course of the volume of space we're searching.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): We've been granted this extraordinary access to P8 in flight, simulating a search off the court of Florida. Incredibly sophisticated, it can see things no other aircraft can see. So much is classified we had to obscure parts of the monitors.

There's infrared sensors to track heat and something called electro-optical sensors.

LIEDMAN: Like the best type of camera available on the market.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): What you can see with that that you can't see with radar?


MATTINGLY: Which gives the P8 an advantage in picking out objects in an endless blue ocean. The search area for the missing plane is so remote and takes so long to get to the Navy only has about three hours a day to use these hi-tech tools.

And that's not the only problem. There are so many unknowns that search teams really don't even know what to look for. It could be something as large as a piece of a plane.

(on camera): But it could be something as small as a seat cushion or a life vest. (voice-over): Finding wreckage would be like finding the needle in the haystack. If only they could find the haystack.

(on camera): So, that's a sonar buoy.

LIEDMAN: Correct. What we call a sonar buoy.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): These devices are being deployed in the Indian Ocean to monitor sound and to map the wind and ocean currents, in hopes of narrowing down the search area.

Without more direction, the P8 has to fly a monotonous straight line at 1,000 feet. At this height, even a fishing boat like this can be obscured by waves. This boat is about the same length as that piece of mysterious debris spotted on satellite days ago.

(on camera): And that could still be conceivably missed, right?

LIEDMAN: Absolutely. I would estimate that's about 80 feet long or so and you can see amidst the wave action and white caps even at that that object would be a challenge.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Now, try to imagine spotting something smaller, somewhere among the countless waves and reflections.

(on camera): Keep in mind, this is a very calm day off the coast of Florida. We have about 20 miles of visibility. And yet, the idea of finding a very small object in a very big ocean seems almost impossible.

And remember, in the Indian Ocean, where the search is going on, the seas are much rougher. The winds are much stronger.

(voice-over): And even though the Poseidon P8 is the best search plane the world's nations have to offer, success still depends on time and on element of luck.


BURNETT: David, it's just pretty incredible to watch that and even how you had to obscure those screens.

You have a moment there where you were showing that buoy on that aircraft. So, does that hear the signal from the flight recorders if it's under water, because it sounds like what you're saying even the plane that you saw, the most sophisticated in the world, at least when it comes to sight might have trouble finding this.

MATTINGLY: Well, when you look at those buoys, when we ask about their capabilities the Navy won't go into any sort of detail what it can and can't hear. That's just the classified nature of the equipment that's inside that aircraft.

But they can tell us that right now they are concentrating on looking for what's on top of the water, not beneath the water, because they need some sort of clue right now to help them narrow down that search area.

BURNETT: All right. David Mattingly, thank you very much. Just amazing access, and report there.

I want to go back to Miles O'Brien, Richard Quest, Arthur Rosenberg and Jeff Wise.

Miles, first to you. What's your reaction to that piece? I mean, that is the most sophisticated piece of equipment on this planet for finding this possible wreckage if it is under the water.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Yes. If they are anywhere near where that wreckage might be they might have a good chance of finding something.

It's worth pointing out the P8 does have mid-air refueling capability. And so, you could obviously extend its time virtually indefinitely on station as it were. If for whatever reason, the U.S. wanted to commit those assets and if they felt they were in the right place. So, that could help in some way because the P8, unlike the P3, does have that capability.

BURNETT: That's an important point, too, because right now, we have this whole, you know, flying out four hours, two hours of hunting around and flying back before you run out of fuel yourself.

All right. One of the reasons why we're in this situation because of the dearth of information, right? And some of that just that we don't have a lot of information, but some of it is that there's been some real failures in communicating the information, right?

Let's start for example with the device, the computer that the pilot had at home the flight simulator, OK? February 3rd, Malaysian authorities say that's when the stuff was deleted. U.S. authorities, the FBI gets the hard driver and says into a lot more was deleted and a lot more recently than that.

That to me, you add to that the fact they didn't search the pilots' homes until a week after. How is this possible?

ARTHUR ROSENBERG, PILOT: Well, I think what you're focusing on now is the Malaysian government, the Malaysian authorities. I think from the get-go, they were just out of their league. I think they have been behind the eight ball on this investigation from the get go.

The days following this crash they had a flotilla of ships in the South China Sea. Now, it's no there, information starts dribbling in. Very interesting though about with this computer is this -- you know, a lot of people have said that deleting files in and of itself is not very significant. Now more files we fine have been deleted closer in time.

To me, if you're going to train, you're going to try to use this plane for, you know, to steal it basically, you want to locate airports, maybe practice radar, what better tool than a flight simulator.

BURNETT: And there have been various reports that he had tried on runway, you know, certain runways in the Indian Ocean, the San Diego was in there. There's various reports but none of it has been confirmed, Richard. I mean, but still a lot of frustration here.

And even Boeing, let's take Boeing, this is their plane. I haven't heard a peep out of Boeing.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN HOST, QUEST MEANS BUSINESS: They can't. Under the ICAO treaty, they are not allowed to. They are accredited to the investigation.

And the only people who can release information are the people, the state in this case, state of registry, state of operator which is the Malaysians.

If Boeing start putting out information, they will be in trouble in that sense. It's not -- it's why none of -- nobody -- the only people leaking, frankly, are U.S. government source once they get the information back from Malaysia.

BURNETT: And showing what Malaysia told them originally was wrong.

QUEST: No. Let's go back on this. Remember what John Maynard Keynes said. What do you do?

BURNETT: John Maynard Keynes is -- OK. Yes.

QUEST: What do you when the facts change? I change my mind. We are talking about a situation --

BURNETT: OK, I'm just going say deleting on February 3rd or later is not like the facts changed. It's that you didn't know what you were looking at.

QUEST: That's not the same thing as saying they are not giving the information. When they said February 3rd, that's what they believed. It's only --

BURNETT: I'm not saying it's not what they believe -- of course I agree with you. They just didn't know.

Miles, you want to get in here.

O'BRIEN: Two things. First of all, the more relevant thing in my mind is were the files deleted older files or newer files? It doesn't matter the date.

BURNETT: We don't know the answer to that.

O'BRIEN: That's an important question, right?

Now, one other thing about Boeing talking and all this stuff -- we are used to in this country the gold standard, the National Transportation Safety Board runs a beautiful investigation, if I can use that term. They run a tight ship. And the parties to that investigation including the aircraft manufacturer report to the NTSB, they clear the information, it gets released in a timely way. It's not chaotic. It's not incomplete.

We're not seeing that in Malaysia. This is a country that doesn't have the resources of this country. And, frankly, they have been lucky not to have this experience. So, we're watching them learn this and that's why we're in this situation where so much inconsistent information is out there.

BURNETT: All right. I think that's a fair point.

Richard, you also made the point there's certain information that the U.S. may have that they are purposely not putting out and may be appropriate in this case. They may know more about motive which honestly is the big question here.

Once you get motive, location becomes something that will become more obvious.

JEFF WISE, PRIVATE PILOT: Bear in mind when you criticize the Malaysian accident investigation, what we just learned is where this plane is -- if it's on land, could be Indonesia, Bangladesh, Myanmar, would you like to have an accident investigation run by Myanmar? That could be an interesting experience.

So, you know, it could be worse. Wherever that wreckage turns up, if it turns up on land, that country becomes the head of that accident investigation.


ROSENBERG: Just quick. This plane flew all the way across in an easterly direction towards Beijing. Then made a complete 180 degree turn when the transponder was off, flew back across the Malaysia peninsula through three Malaysian military radar units. What the hell they were doing that night nobody knows, but they should have seen this airplane.

From the get-go, the Malaysian authorities have been behind the eight ball.

BURNETT: To Miles' point that they just never had to deal with this before. Perhaps that's part of it.

WISE: The Malaysian radar, there's also Thai, Indonesian, Myanmar, Bangladesh, and China.

ROSENBERG: And possibly India because they said they monitor the area in the Andaman Islands, and they usually don't look that way. Sometimes, they look that way. Sometime it's on. Sometimes --

QUEST: It's a disgrace. If there is a disgrace, that so many authorities and that's something all air travelers should be concerned about. That some authorities saw a blip on a radar and nobody bothered to say, hmm, I wonder what that is.

BURNETT: Nobody is expecting to be attacked at this point in time in history and that's probably part of it. But pause.

Still to come, Malaysian authorities are confirming there were flammable batteries aboard Flight 370. This is something that U.S. officials had said weeks ago and we're now getting it out of Malaysia authorities. The question is, could this have taken down the plane in any way that would explain what happened. And the emotional roller coaster for the families after two weeks still no answers for them.


BURNETT: Now, we'll check in with Anderson with a look on what's coming up on "AC360" -- Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Erin. Yes, we have much more on the breaking news tonight on Flight 370. A number of threads in the investigation to look at, including 54 minutes of potential clues, the 54 final minutes of conversation between cockpit and air traffic controllers. We'll talk to a panel of experts, including 777 pilot Les Abend. We'll ask him if there's anything that strikes them out of the ordinary in those exchanges.

We'll also speak with Commander William Marks of U.S. Navy from the Seventh Fleet about the search and why the U.S. is using radar while the Australians have moved to visual techniques. The U.S. is using obviously both visual and radar. Also, my conversation with Sarah Bajc. It's been two weeks since her partner Philip Wood, one of the three Americans on Flight 370 vanished.

It's all the top of the hour, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Anderson, thank you and we'll see you in just a few minutes.

And as the search continues for the flight that vanished two weeks ago in this hour tonight at least when we found out about it. Search planes are in the air over Indian Ocean, about 1,500 miles off Australia. But meanwhile, on the ground, Malaysian officials now confirm the aircraft was carrying lithium-ion batteries in the cargo hold.

All right. Now, if you open up your cell phone or your laptop, you're going to see an ion battery in there and you fly with it all the time. So, they may confuse you a bit.

But they have been known to overheat and spontaneously explode on other flights. In fact, there was a cargo flight out of Dubai in 2010 that exploded because of a lithium-ion battery in the cargo.

So, could the batteries have caused this.

Martin Savidge is live in a 777 simulator with a pilot trainer Mitchell Casado, who's been with us all week. So, Martin, if there was a fire in the cargo area from the batteries because we now know U.S. officials, Malaysian officials have said that there was a lithium-ion battery load in there, what would happen in the cockpit?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, part of it, what we don't know is how many batteries were in there. That would be key to know.

But if there was some sort of fire that began in the cargo bay as we were thinking would happen with these batteries, then the first indicator is likely the fire alarm that would go off, the bells that ring inside of the cockpit here. Warning that would come up on screen that would tell where you that fire is located.

Now you got I think five bottles of fire retardant located in the cargo area. Can you discharge them by pushing the button up here. That's a lot of fire retardant to go into the cargo bay. At the same time, we would have done already the oxygen mask here, presumably, and this is the thing, we would have called through, into radio or air traffic control announced you got a problem. Aircraft would descend. You begin to make a sharp turn. As you make that descend, planning to go back, and you would try to navigate to get back on the ground as soon as possible.

I mean, those are the basic parameters and none of it happened. So, we've gone over this scenario many times in the cockpit. The fire theory doesn't hold up.

BURNETT: Right. I mean, there are some things they would have done differently that doesn't seem to.

All right. Thanks very much to Martin and Mitchell.

Now, back to Miles, Richard, Jeff and Arthur.

All right. So, Richard, you saw them. I mean, obviously, the scenario here fire mechanical malfunction is hard to understand because it was something so catastrophic the plane would have gone down right away. If it was something that they want to go back to an airport, they either would have indicated that or they would have found the plane on the way to Kuala Lumpur airport. And yet it flies on for hours and hours.

All that being said, is there any way this lithium-ion thing could have anything to do with the plane's disappearance?

QUEST: The FAA did a report into battery incidents of lithium ion batteries on board aircraft. They found 141 incidents either boarding of the aircraft, in fire, smoldering of lithium ion from 1991 to pretty much now. It's a well-known risk that has been there.

I'm going to go back. The Malaysian Airlines chief exec when asked about this specifically said they knew they were there, they'd been checked and rechecked and they'd been packed according to ICAO rules. Since we don't have a warning, we don't have an ACARS warning, we don't have a verbal warning, we have to sort of --

BURNETT: Discount this one.

QUEST: -- we have to put it as one of the less probable.

BURNETT: Less probable. Miles, but, you know, Malaysian airlines, as Richard said, defending its handling of the lithium ion batteries on board. As Richard were saying, the CEO defended it. The quote was they're not regarded as dangerous goods.

But I want to give you a chance here because I know you had your own pretty frightening incident with them on a plane.

O'BRIEN: Well, I had an incident in a hotel where a lithium ion battery caught fire and nearly burned down the hotel. But that's -- and that gave me pause, when we went to the airline to check it in, believe me, because it was a very hot fire very quickly.

You know, you can imagine the amount of juice you get in that lithium ion battery that allows you to run your laptop across country. All that juice is metered out over time. Imagine it explosively coming out quickly. You've got like virtually a rocket engine.

So, in the U.S. you're not supposed to check them in cargo holds of passenger aircraft period. That's the way it's supposed to be right now. If you have lithium ion batteries, which I did after the fire in the hotel room, you carry them on board and they're with you in the cabin, so at least they're under your control and you can make sure they don't run away on you.

Now, in this case they were packed well. Again, we go back to what Martin and what others have said. It's hard to imagine a scenario where they couldn't get off at least one call to air traffic control saying we've got trouble here. We've got a fire.

Could it have cut key communication, or power cables and wiped out all their communication capability? I have to look at the schematics of the 777, it seems unlikely.

BURNETT: Right. Because it would have to, then, Arthur, not only disable those things but allow the plane to be structurally intact and fly.

ROSENBERG: Yes. And we know the plane flew for another 6 hours. We know at 8:00 a.m. in the morning, a ping, a handshake with an Inmarsat satellite was made, so at least a portion of the electrical system was still working. I don't buy into that scenario.

BURNETT: Jeff, is this a case again, though, of dropping the ball on the investigators? So, a week ago, the U.S. officials say there were these batteries on board. Now, the Malaysians say it.

So, first, there's that gap. But there's also what else was in this cargo hold? Now, again, as Richard points out, some of this stuff is known by investigators and not being released for reasons close to the investigation that makes sense. But a lot of this still raises the question of, why are we just finding these things out now?

WISE: Well, as Richard points out, it's not the job of investigators to release information. Just as in a criminal investigation, their job is to solve the mystery. And the interest of the press is really not their problem. It's our problem.

Now, you would wish that if they are going to release information and make a statement, it be accurate not misleading. Now, the probative value of this particular point of data --

BURNETT: There's also -- I mean, U.S. officials are very frustrated with them. Maybe now, things are better, but a few days ago, they were, right, as days and days went by and there was no search of the pilot's homes for example. I don't think that would happen here.

WISE: I would say we need to all have some patience. This is a very unusual case. We're having to integrate the efforts of a lot of different countries. The perpetrators, I will call them perpetrators, were deliberately obfuscating their intentions.

BURNETT: Fair point.

WISE: So, you got a particularly tricky set of problems.

BURNETT: All right. Literally five seconds, I want to go around. Will we ever find the plane, Miles?

O'BRIEN: Oh, boy, maybe.


BURNETT: It's a tough one to be definitive on. I put you in a tough spot. Is anyone going for say yes or no?

QUEST: I'm going to say they won't stop looking.


WISE: I think there's a good chance that it's going to find us.

BURNETT: OK. That means -- that opens the door to a whole host of other things on the intent front.

All right. Arthur?

ROSENBERG: I don't think we're going to find this plane or any part of it for awhile. I think that too much time has gone by. We lost critical time right in the beginning looking in the South China Sea. I think it's a little bit of a wild goose chase at this point.

BURNETT: All right. Very quickly, this plane is going to find us. That means you think this plane is intact somewhere?

WISE: This was a criminal investigation. This was an action deliberately undertaken.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks to all of you. Appreciate it.

Disappearance and the search have weighed heavily on the families of the passengers as the world is focused on this mystery. For them, this is the people that they loved. And their story is next.


BURNETT: It's been exactly two weeks since Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared without a trace. Still no concrete answers. It's been a horrible rollercoaster for the families of the passengers grasping at hopes, hoping this plane is intact.

But it all began two weeks ago tonight when the news first broke in this hour.


BURNETT: We have breaking news right now. Malaysia Airlines confirms it has lost contact with a plane carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: That's a lot of new information on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. But new facts, not so much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The plane was way off course when it went missing. And still no answers.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: China now says once of its satellites has found what could be a crash area.

DANICA WEEKS, WIFE OF PASSENGER ON 370: I'm trying not to take too much of it in. It's been a bit of a roller coaster. One minute, it's this, and the next minute, that's not confirmed.


CUOMO: Malaysian officials say it is a bogus report.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're rolling their eyes here. There is a lot of frustration here in Malaysia as to how all of this is being handled.

SARAH BAJC, PARTNER OF PASSENGER ON 370: I have intuition. And I have a feeling that they're still alive.

SARA WEEKS, SISTER OF PASSENGER 370: Should a miracle be required, that's what we're hoping for.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Satellite images right now of debris some 1,400 miles off the coast of Australia.


BAJC: If this debris is indeed part of that plane, then it kind of dashes that wishful thinking to pieces.


BURNETT: And everyone is thinking of those families.

Anderson starts now.