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CNN Special Report: Mystery of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370; Deadly Landslide In Washington State -- At Least 18 Unaccounted For

Aired March 23, 2014 - 22:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon. Welcome to a CNN Special Report: The Mystery of Flight 370. We would like to welcome our viewers watching around the world this hour on CNN International.

We're going to begin with this breaking news, a major new development tonight about the missing Boeing 777. It is not about where it is, we still don't know that, it is about the heading and altitude of the plane before it vanished from radar.

A source close to the investigation tells CNN that according to military radar records, the plane made a sharp turn. And dropped a considerable distance from -- towards the ground. That's important because our source also tells us that maneuver was done abruptly in just two minutes. Meaning, the pilots likely did it intentionally.

So tonight, we'll explore some reasons why they would do that. And these are the people who are going to help us through this experience. Aviation experts and air incident professionals.

Also, wherever you are around the world tonight, we're taking and answering your questions about that missing airplane, especially the new information that CNN has just come across. Make sure you get with us on twitter and use the hash tag, 370 qs.

So let's move on now. Making things even more intriguing, a detail from Malaysia officials today, apparently seems to conflict with the sharp turn the pilots made that took the plane off course. Officials say the last transmission from the Boeing 777 showed nothing unusual as the plane was on course for Beijing.

Joining me now is CNN's Will Ripley. He is live in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with the latest.

So Will, listen, what more do we know about this last communication from flight 370?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is really interesting. You know, we have been talking a lot, Don, about the critical time, 1:19 a.m. when the co-pilot said, all right, good night. And now, based on military radar, we're learning more about what this plane did over the next hour and 21 minutes. We know what it did, we still don't know why it did it. But this is really big here. So the plane, as you mentioned, makes that sharp turn to the west. It is over the south China sea, it starts heading for the strait of Malacca, and then it descents sharply down to 12,000 feet as the plane is heading west.

Now, this is why this is important, 12,000 feet, aviation experts tell us is a critical altitude because if the plane, for example, lost pressure, if you go down to 12,000 feet, that's when you can actually safely depressurize the cabin, making it safe for everyone to breathe, making the atmosphere livable on board.

Now, we don't know if that's the reason why the plane dropped, but I can tell you this, 12,000 feet, a Boeing 777 still very visible on the radar. So whoever dropped the plane down to 12,000 feet wasn't trying to evade the radar, but they were well below a heavily traveled air corridor.

You know, planes travel on the highways in the sky, they share the air space with lots of other aircraft. Twelve thousand feet allowed this flight 370 to avoid all that air traffic, but they were still on the radar being tracked until about 2:40 a.m.

LEMON: Will Ripley, you know, the day is just beginning there. Any word on if officials will comment about the drop in altitude of this plane?

RIPLEY: No official comment. CNN confirmed this through a source with very close knowledge of this investigation. The official word we're getting from authorities here in Malaysia and also in Australia is that the search efforts are under way right now. Some of the planes took off several hours before, taking off even before daylight to try to maximize the amount of time available in this search area.

We have for the P-8 which is one of the most sophisticated planes out there. We also have the P-3 Orion, really, the backbone of this operation. They're using radar equipment, they are using sonar equipment and they are also using good old-fashioned eyesight, people lining the side of the planes looking out the window to see if they can spot any of these debris that is now been picked up by satellites in three different countries, Australia, China and France -- Don.

LEMON: Will Ripley, great reporting from Kuala Lumpur in our breaking news tonight. Thank you very much.

For our Special Report, we have a bevy of experts to break down the new radar information on Malaysia flight 370. Joining me is now is aviation analyst Les Abend. He is a former 777 pilot, as a matter of fact, a current 777 pilot. Aviation analyst Jeff Wise, a science journalist, Mikey Kay, former adviser to the UK ministry of defense and aviation analyst Maria Schiavo, former inspector general of United States department of transportation, Christine Dennison, ocean explorer and expeditions logistics expert. Plus our very owned Miles O'Brien. He is a pilot and he is an aviation analyst as well.

Miles, I'm going to begin with you. This new information, a game changer. If so, why? MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: I think so, Don. I mean, what we're seeing there is the evidence of a crew that was dealing with some sort of calamity. We don't know what caused that. That could have been a number of things which we can talk about later. But was trying to get an airplane that was at 35,000 feet with -- where the air is very thin as we just heard, down to an altitude as quickly as possible where the air would be satisfactory for people to breathe.

So that is what we call a high dive in aviation. It is -- we still have to look at a few things, like how rapid the descent rate was, a few details we need to gather, but the impression we get is of a plane that is turning around, 180 degrees, and getting down as quickly as possible.

So what would lead to that? A rapid decompression of some kind, perhaps a fire, perhaps a situation where there were hijackers who commandeered a crew. It tends to take away any sort of implication toward the crew itself because if the crew was complicit and had a plot on its own, doing this kind of maneuver would not be anything that would necessarily be required.

So, you know, this is one of many scenarios we have looked at, but we certainly have a game changer here.

LEMON: All right, Miles O'Brien, stick around. We are going to need you to help me out with this. but I want to bring in now Les Abend.

Les. you've flown a 777 many times. Does this new information reduce suspicions about foul play in the cockpit?

LES ABEND, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, of course. You know, on the surface, it seems to. I don't want to discount any other possibilities. But yes, very much so, that it seems like this is the action the crew facing some sort of emergency.

LEMON: I want to ask you this. I want to go to Mike.

Mike, this is sort of your expertise. You and Richard Quest talked about the radar tonight. Now, we are hearing that a military radar tracked this flight. Is this a game changer in this investigation to you? And why wasn't this information released earlier?

MICHAEL "MIKEY" KAY, FORMER ADVISER TO THE UK MINISTRY OF DEFENSE: I'm still treating the altitude data that we're getting with a lot of caution. And there is a number of reasons for that, Don.

The first one is that the evidence we have so far suggests the transformer was turned off or the transponder was off. There is a number of reasons that could happen, I won't go into that now. The bottom line is the transponder gives you position, attitude, speed and gives you the information of the TCAS. If that was off, you won't get altitude information from primary radar. Primary radar drops off at 125 miles off the coast anyway.

Secondly, surveillance radar with the transponder drops off at about 200 miles. So my question on how they're tracking altitude, I find a little bit -- have to be cautious with it. The only way military radar could do that would be the some sort of ground base air defense system which would use a pulse Duppler tracking radar. But because of the nature of that, high PRF pulse repetition frequency, which means short wave, which means it is short range.

LEMON: So bottom line, of course, what are you saying?

KAY: So what I'm saying is that I would like to ask the Malaysian military authorities what radar they're using in order to give this altitude information, because the altitude information will be key to where we go next. Otherwise, it is supposition.

LEMON: Why? You're shaking your head in agreement, Jeff Wise.

JEFF WISE, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Yes. I heard from my sources too that primary radar is very inaccurate at determining altitude. And, you know, again, I think the point you raise is excellent, Don, why are we hearing about this now? And you know, especially in the context of these conflicting reports about whether the ACARS is indicating a change in way point before 15 minutes or wherever, it seems very odd that this information, it should come out so late or should be changed so late. Should have been clear.

LEMON: Does this support or change your theory about what happened to 370?

WISE: I think we all have a probability matrix of what happened. I don't know what happened to this airplane. I think there is certain ascribe or higher probability to certain outcomes than other people would. Short answer, no.

LEMON: OK. Maria Schiavo, should the new information change the scope of the search, you think? Should they call off this northern corridor search or I think it changes it when it comes to the southern search, not necessarily the northern search.

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: That's right. I think the northern search, they didn't seem to be emphasizing that or we haven't heard anything about it anyway, that they were doing anything on the northern search, particularly after Thai radio and the Thailand authorities said it did not go through the Thai air space. And so, everyone looked to the southern arc and looked down that the plane went out, made the left-hand turn and then continued down into the ocean.

And this doesn't change my opinion on whether they should be searching we are this are now. I think that's very important. But they also ought to analyze this data and look at how far the plane could have gone given the new set of circumstances including if the dive is correct, if the altitude data can be relied upon, it might not be where they say it is, but in fact would be closer.

LEMON: Jim Tilmon, does this new information clarify anything for you, especially the actions of the pilots?

JIM TILMON, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Not really. Because I've got to decide whether or not we're dealing with a hero pilot or a criminal. And I know that sounds like two extremes, but, you know, if he did this on his own, or if he had a -- if he had a gun in his ear, he could have gone to the limits of that military radar and then gone below and then gone wherever he wanted to. There are a couple of islands out there and all that have substantial runways. So I don't know that I have much more now than I had before because I don't know what to count on.

LEMON: Christine Dennison, it is just the Malaysians say France turned over new satellite images today that possibly shows other objects out there. Is this a wild goose chase, you think, especially given the new information or do you think this is a significant breakthrough?

CHRISTINE DENNISON, OCEAN EXPLORER AND EXPEDITIONS LOGISTICS EXPERT: I'd like to think that it is a significant breakthrough. And in terms of the more ocean we can cover based on their seeing debris, the more the -- the higher the probability we will be able to get a hydro phone in the water, once we identify the debris, and start listening for the ping because we're still running out of time. We're at 16 days, 30 days or so. We got every day there is a weaker battery ping going out.

So, we really, if we have another area to search for debris, and send more eyes out there, we're going to do that and I think that that will hopefully get us to a conclusion sooner rather than later.

LEMON: CNN Miles O'Brien, you heard earlier of live report from Perth and we were talking to our Kyung Lah and the gentleman who is an official in Australia said, listen, this changes everything. If this happened in order for it to be on that southern track, it would have to make a left turn and another left turn and then possibly another turn. He's saying that if given -- if this information is true, they're searching in the wrong area. What do you make of that?

O'BRIEN: I think no matter which way you slice this, this piece of information opens up at least a second and maybe a third location where we should begin searching or they should begin searching.

Just for one thing, take that 12,000 foot altitude and extrapolate out all the pinpoints we have gotten and see how far that plane would have gotten given the higher fuel burn at the time. I'm also curious about the reports that there was a low flying plane that was seen by a fishing boat off the coast of Malaysia. What do we know about that? Where exactly does that occur? How many nautical miles did it take to get from 35,000 feet down to 12,000 feet? That would tell us about the rate of descent.

And one thing that, you know, we keep coming around in circles on this, we haven't seen the maintenance records on this aircraft. We don't know if they collide with air worthiness directives. Those are very important questions which remain unanswered.

LEMON: All right, Miles O'Brien, thank you. Thanks to the rest of our panel. Everyone stick around. We'll get back to our panel in just a little bit. But up next, a live report from Australia, where planes left a couple of hours ago to hunt for clues.

Plus, a look at the weather that awaits them when they reach that search zone. We're back in just moments with the breaking news here on CNN.


LEMON: All right, now to the search for that airplane. It is Monday morning on that side of the world already. Search planes including one from the U.S. Navy left western Australia at dawn, heading for the open ocean.

CNN's Kyung Lah live in Perth, Australia. Kyung, you have great information from the gentleman you were speaking to earlier. And this is home base for that search. What can you tell us now? How many planes are up? Are they finding anything?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Nearly all of the planes are up. The first of which may start to approach this area right now. Just a short time ago, the U.S. Navy's P-8, Poseidon plane, took off, joining the search today.

So what they're doing is out of the ten expected to be taking part in the search, they're going to actually split the search into two different regions. They want to try to cover as much ground as possible. There are number of governments involved in this today. The United States, New Zealand, Australia. Also joining them, Japan and China.

So multinational, a lot of attention trying to get to this area. And the clock is ticking today, Don. The reason why, inclement weather. The weather is still to take a turn for the worse later this afternoon. They want to try to get in there, get a good look before that weather turns -- Don.

LEMON: Kyung Lah -- and Kyung, listen. The gentleman you were speaking to earlier, I forget his title, but he said if this is indeed true in his estimation, he thinks that we may be searching or officials may be searching, the rescuers may be searching in the wrong area. But that's according to him.

LAH: Well, Jeffrey Thomas, he works for a well respected publication here, He's an aviation expert. He knows many people inside. Knows many people involved directly in this search. What he's saying is he actually does believe that the Australian government, that the French, Chinese, the images, they have it right, that the wreckage if this is indeed connected to the missing plane. That if that is wreckage, that it is connected to the missing plane.

So he believes the search is going appropriately. He believes that if the plane did dip 12,000 feet, it had to go back up to 37,000 to make it all the way here because you have to get that far up in order to make it this far south. That's what he believes. And so what he is taking the leap of is that it has to be human intervention because if you go down, you have to come up by human intervention.

LEMON: Kyung Lah with the search in Perth, Australia. Let's hope they do find something that offers these families at least some information or maybe possibly some hope.

Thank you, Kyung. Appreciate it.

We will get back to Kyung Lah. Searchers could use better weather as you heard her talking about over the water today. But the conditions will still pose some challenges. I want to get to the meteorologist now Pedram Javaheri. He is here.

But P.J. how is it looking out there today?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hey, Don. Today, you got as good as it gets when it comes to the weather. And of course, they had recent days of storms cruising through the region. But you take a loot somehow, 1200-plus miles southwest of Perth, this general region, pretty expansive area, of course, when you narrow it down. So what we are looking at here, generally clear at this hour, being late Monday morning.

But the concern is what happens later on tonight. The sun in this part of the world sets in about eight hours. And as the set, the clouds will be on the increase. And there is front kind in the bottom corner of your screen that will begin to enter the picture. So the forecast for much of Tuesday and unfortunately on into Wednesday going to be really rough across this region mainly because high pressure is parked off to the northeast of this region. So, it is impeding the movement of the storm system.

So, it seems like over the past six or so days we have narrowed down the main focus of the search to this area. We had storms come in every other day and the storm is very slow to move out. So we a couple of days to work on the search and get good weather and then a couple of days where storm system parks in place.

This particular storm has the potential here to produce wind gusts, 55 to 60 miles per hour. That puts it at tropical storm force winds. Of course, generally speaking, in this area, winds are 40 miles an hour or the name of the game because of the latitude we're speaking of, the roaring 40s is known, 40 degree latitudinal mark, but this storm system will park in place, winds gusty.

We know swells in the sea there, Don, could be 10 to 13 feet. So white caps all over the place. And you look at the seas out there, self-locating data markers are being dropped into the ocean, in the past 24 hours, all was calm, all was clear. But if we think with this storm coming in and not moving not only will it bring down the clouds down to the surface, but also making the weather very, very difficult for the searcher and, again, it could be a two-day event. So we might have to slow things down again for the next couple of days.

LEMON: CNN international meteorologist Pedram Javaheri. Thank you, P.J. We appreciate that.

New questions in the search for flight 370. We now know there was a dramatic drop in altitude. A live report in Kuala Lumpur is next.

Plus, we're taking you back into our live simulator with CNN's Martin Savidge -- Martin.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're going to show you what this turn and what this descent could have looked like and what it may have implied was going on inside of the cockpit. We'll show that to you in a minute.


LEMON: Welcome back.

We're tracking breaking news tonight. A source close to the investigation of Malaysia airlines flight 370 tells CNN according to military radar records, the plane made a sharp turn and dropped from 35,000 feet to 12,000 feet.

Let's see what that drop in altitude would look like. We want to go to CNN's Martin Savidge in a 777 flight simulator just outside of Toronto with pilot trainer Mitchell Casado.

And Marty, a sharp left turn down to 12,000 feet into a busy air corridor, I mean, what would that be like? You know, I'm sure people would notice that.

SAVIDGE: Yes, it surrounds certainly dramatic. But we should point out this radar was -- data was collected over apparently an hour and 20 minutes. So, we don't know the rate of descent. And also, the turn precipitated the descent, according to the depiction we have. In other words, they made the turn first and it seems look a relatively slow turn if it took them two minutes.

But that said, we want to give you what might have been a scenario in which something like that could happen. And the way I said it up to Mitchell was that it is a dramatic decompression. The explosive bam, maybe a bulkhead has given away, maybe there has been an explosive device in the back of the aircraft, either way, it is get us down, get us turning.

And so the plane immediately, we have taken it off of automatic pilot. Mitchell seems -- that is the automatic response of a pilot. I mean, you could take it down with the auto pilot, but that is more buttons, more things to be dealt with.

Remember, by now, emergency masks would have been put on. We can't demonstrate that to you. We would have been communicating, that is pilot to co-pilot, immediately establishing, you are OK, we're talking, Mitchell is flying the plane, I would be going over the checklist and many things we need to know to go through to make sure we're preparing as we descend.

Communicating would also be in there, making sure we reach out, tell those on the ground we have got an emergency, and asking for the nearest airport that we could be vectored to, which is why you would be turning at the same time, could be going to Kuala Lumpur. It could be going to another airport.

So, we are doing this for simplicity sake to try to show. And also, remember, the aircraft is not in a nose-dive. No. It has to be done in a controlled descent. Why?

MITCHELL CASADO, COMMERCIAL PILOT INSTRUCTOR: Because if it is rapid decompression, if you had a problem, (INAUDIBLE), there is a hole or structural integrity has been comprised of this aircraft. If you start over speeding the aircraft, that's dangerous with an intact aircraft. This is an aircraft that has been damaged. You're asking for trouble.

SAVIDGE: And you want to get it down because you want to get to an elevation where the passengers and everyone can breathe. Now, remember, we have oxygen. It lasts for 15 minutes but it doesn't last forever. So the descent takes some time. We're now passing through 28,000 feet. We started at 35,000. We're trying to get to 10,000. We mentioned that 12,000, but 10,000 is pretty much the standard when you talk about the circumstances.

CASADO: Yes. The altitude at which -- about which we're required to have oxygen if we're in the air for more than 30 minutes. So 10,000 feet is the international standard. Below that, you can breathe normally.

SAVIDGE: So it is a crash dive. It takes some time. Here it is going to take maybe five, six minutes to get down to that kind of altitude. All the while, remember, this cockpit would be very chaotic. There could be wind blasting through, you had a very sudden shock to the air frame engine, yourself, so this does in no way really simulate that kind of a disaster.

But eventually you want to get it down to 10,000 feet and that's the goal as you try -- the next step would be to get it on the ground. I mean, it doesn't -- you want to stabilize it, see where things are. But very quickly you with like to get to an airport.

LEMON: Martin Savidge, Mitchell Casado, thank you. We will be checking with you throughout the evening here on CNN, throughout this broadcast.

Meantime, no trace of flight 370 more than two weeks after it vanished. And families are running out of patience. We are going to see how they're coping just ahead in a live report from Beijing.


LEMON: Tracking a major development tonight about the missing Malaysian flight 370 and what may have happened inside the cockpit. It is about the heading and the altitude of the plane before it vanished from radar.

Source close to the investigation is telling CNN that according to military radar records, the plane made a sharp turn and dropped a considerable distance toward the ground. That's important because our source tells us that maneuver was done abruptly in just two minutes or so, meaning the pilots likely did it intentionally.

We'll explore some of the reasons why they might do that just ahead here on CNN.

And also, wherever you are around the world tonight, we're taking and answering your questions about that missing airplane. Make sure you go to twitter and use #370qs.

Now, as the days pass, the despair grows for families of flight 37 0 of the 227 passengers. One hundred and fifty-three were from mainland China or Hong Kong.

I'm going to turn now to CNN's David McKenzie live in Beijing.

David, hello to you. Now more than two weeks after this plane has vanished, are the families still -- are they holding -- I imagine they're holding out hope, but how hopeful are they at this point?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, good evening to you.

Yes, it is a terrible situation here. More than two weeks after this plane went down, yes, people are still publicly saying they're holding out hope, hoping that their loved ones are alive, that they might be a miracle out there somewhere. They're angry and frustrated. But also, you know, many say that privately probably people at this point are expecting the worst.

But here in east Asia in particular, the culture is such that you never want to publicly say that to the press or to anyone else, so you can keep strong. And now, they are hanging on to every word, every bit of news and they still are angry.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE( trough translator): This is my first day here. I said what I needed to say. I'm too angry. Every day I watch the television and I'm going to go crazy soon. I'm very emotionally unstable.


MCKENZIE: Well, Don, they are hanging on every word as you see. And with each bit of news, every lead that we have been speaking about through the days. That obviously has huge consequences for these family members because then it gives them some indication whether this plane has been lost forever or people might somehow be alive. But certainly, in quieter moments at this point, and kind of a resignation, which is of course very sad -- Don.

LEMON: David McKenzie, China is stepping up its search efforts. Tell us about that.

MCKENZIE: Well, yes. It is a very extraordinary level of search and capability that China is showing and something that is very unusual for them as well. They are sending several ships to the region of the area where we now believe the plane might have gone down, including a very large icebreaker that was grounded to the sea and with a skeleton crew, the snow dragon, it is called.

China is trying to show that it is part of this international coalition, looking for this missing flight. Of course, also, it is about the domestic audience here in China. The communist party wants to show it is doing everything at the can to investigate this. They don't have the capacity that the Americans or Europeans do in figuring out what happened, but they do want to show they're part of the process because obviously they can't look like they are just standing by and let other people solve the situation.

So very difficult for the Chinese government, very difficult for China at this time because as you say, so many people on board were Chinese nationals, they really want some solutions, some closure as these days drag on -- Don.

LEMON: David McKenzie in Beijing. Of course, that's where 370 was heading, flight 370 and the families are holding out hope against hope.

Thank you, David, appreciate it.

You know, we have more expert opinions on the hunt for Malaysia flight 370. Right now, 10 search planes, 10, are in the sky, scouring remote parts of Indian Ocean for any trace of the missing airliner.

The families of the 239 people onboard waiting in agony to find out what happened to their loved ones. They have been waiting now for 17 days.

I want to bring our panel in now. I want to get to Mikey first.

The question to you is how long should the crews keep searching for this plane. That is a question and how long will the countries who are involved, can they continue to be -- continue to be involved in this?

KAY: It is a real dilemma. I think what this particular area is doing is it is exposing the limitations of technology. We have heard a lot of people getting frustrated about, you know, you can track my iphone, why can't we find this airplane.

You have the P-8 Poseidon aircraft which is the U.S. navy aircraft. This is the trimmest in too far in marathon surveillance aircraft. It reached initial operating capability in December of 2013 last year and that is with the U.S. Navy.

This thing has synthetic aperture radar. It has signal intelligence, it has got a web cam which gives you thermal imaging radar. And yet, it still has problems with trying to find debris in the water.

It also doesn't have an in flight refueling capability. It gets that in 2015. The P-3 Orion which they are using, the P-3 has no in flight refueling capability. And what this is means is that they're having to make the long trek out there to get minimal hours on water and then they have to go back again. So, you know, the whole area, the whole search is really testing the limitations of what is supposed to be some of the best technology in the world.

LEMON: It takes twice as long to get out there and they have to search. It takes about four hours to get out. They have two hours of searching and have to fly back four hours.

KAY: Well, that is the P-3 has a 13-hour endurance capability. It take five hours to get out on the sea. So five-hours in that and five-hour back to the (INAUDIBLE). P-8 Poseidon can travel a high altitude of fun (ph). It only has four hours on target, so, again, you know, really testing the bounds of the equipment.

LEMON: I want to go to Christine Dennison now.

Christine, you know, how long before the salt in the water eats away any evidence that may be found on the debris? I would imagine it is a little early now, but the longer this goes on, that becomes a real possibility.

DENNISON: Absolutely. What is happening 17 days into this is that the debris that we had or we think we have located is still moving around in the water. The waters are churning. There has been some storm systems there.

They're trying to track that debris and find it. The longer this is -- and we don't know what the debris is, but clearly, the longer it is in the water, exposed to the elements, the harder it will make for us to really be able to identify a lot or even find it. I mean, there are objects that could very well be sinking as we speak. And that's really dependent on the conditions and where, in fact, they are. That's difficulty.

LEMON: Christine, I want to ask you a question. Because our viewers are tweeting questions about this -- the mysterious disappearance of this airliner. And so they want to get some of the questions answered. First one, I want to ask this one from Dexter. This one is going to go to Christine. How much data can a flight recorder store? Do you know the answer to that?

DENNISON: I don't. I sort of kick that over to --

LEMON: Mary Schiavo.

SCHIAVO: Yes. About -- on this one, because it is a new one, probably about 1500 parameters which means little bits of data from all the control services, equipment, instruments, et cetera, in the plane, just to tell you everything the plane is doing.

LEMON: OK. Jeff, Donald tweeted this. Why not install a shockproof floating beacon ball in the tail of airplanes which would be injected and start emitting on impact. I lost my glasses, so excuse me.

WISE: Well, no. That's a very good question. I mean, it is sort of part of a -- part of a type of question that we're getting a lot, which is why not have a better system of reporting information about planes that are about to go down? Maybe you could eject a floating pod that would be retrieved later or why not broadcast via satellite 24/7, so then they wouldn't have to go looking for this black box. It is a question that came up after Air France 447. They spent two years trying to find a black box.

The technology is available. The question is cost. This kind of action is very rare. Is it worthwhile? Think of the tens of thousands of airplanes anytime. You want to go in and spend however much money it is to retro fit. So it is possible. It is a great question. It becomes cost benefits.

LEMON: OK. This one id for Jim Tilmon. Jim, someone said why can't the so-called pings on the black boxes on an airliner last for months instead of 30 days?

TILMON: Well, they should last a lot longer. It should be a much more robust system that we're using to date. My goodness, we had this for quite some time. It is time for us to upgrade it to the extent it was maybe two or three months or more or six months or whatever it takes.

But we know for now that it is inadequate to have to sit here and count days and hope we get to it before it runs out of gas.

LEMON: All right. Stand by, everyone. We have more on flight 370 straight ahead.

But there is another big story that we want to tell you about. Our George Howell following a desperate search in Washington state. It is a major landslide. He's going to be live for us coming up.


LEMON: Welcome back, everyone. We are going to turn to search for Malaysia airlines flight 370 in just a moment.

But first, here is Rosa Flores with some of our other top stories. Hello, Rosa.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don, good evening. Good evening to you at home. It is 46 minutes past the hour.

Total devastation comparable to mount St. Helen's, that's how conditions are being described at the scene of a deadly landslide in Washington state. More than a dozen people are still missing.

CNN's George Howell is live with us on the phone.

George, what do you know?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Rosa, you were talking about devastation that really happened within a matter of seconds. When you look at these pictures, it is just devastating to see what happened to this community. We know that the day is another day for many of these families where we are here, in Arlington, Washington. Another day for them to wait with uncertainty, the uncertainty of not knowing whether their homes are still standing or destroyed. The uncertainty of not knowing whether family members are still alive.

The latest numbers that we understand from officials, we know that at least four people are confirmed dead in the mud slide. We know at least 18 people are unaccounted for, and the search continues here through Snohomish county in that area.

We know rescuers are basically using helicopters, but the land here, it is very porous. And when you consider all the rainfall that they had here in the past couple of days, that's why this area is so prone to landslides. And that's why, again, it happened here this time.

So the rescuers are doing their best to get in there and do what they can and not doing it by ground. And, you know, they are just continuing today and will do the same tomorrow.

FLORES: You know, we know a lot of these areas are very unstable, George. Do you know how close these first responders can get to these affected areas?

HOWELL: Right. Well, you know, you can't get in to that area on either side of it. If you look at a map, on highway 530, you know, one side is blocked off, the other side is blocked off. The mud slide goes over that road. So you can't get there by road. You have to use helicopters at this time.

And as I mentioned a minute ago, it is very porous here. I used to work here in the Seattle area and covered many of these landslides and it happens right around this time simply because this is the rainy season, get a lot of rainfall when that happens you find communities on bluffs. People know many of the areas are prone to landslides, they could give way. So the best way to get this there right now is only by helicopter.

They're using infrared cameras to see what they can in this area. But I got to tell you, you know, I just spoke with a woman here, who came by to see her friend at the shelter. And she tells me that her friend is waiting here because she doesn't believe her home is still standing, she doesn't know whether her family members are still alive in that area.

And that's what you're dealing with right now. Just a lot of uncertainty, people not getting the answers that they really want, that they desperately want, simply because rescuers can't get in there. It is too dangerous. You just have to wait day by day, see what they can find safely.

FLORES: Some tense moments there, George Howell, live with us on the phone from Washington state. Thank you so much.

We switch gears here, President Obama is on his way to the Netherlands. The first stop of world road trip overseas. The president left the White House just over an hour ago. The primary focus of the trip, supporting Ukraine and increasing diplomatic pressure on Russia. CNN's Erin McPike has a preview of the president's week ahead.


ERIN MCPIKE, CNN GENERAL ASSIGNMENT CORRESPONDENT: President Obama is calling for more severe action against Russia and that is especially in light of the new military incursions that the Russian military has made into the Crimean peninsula. That will be the focus for this urgent meeting that President Obama is having at the Hague on Monday with leaders of the G-7.

Then on Wednesday, he'll head to Brussels where there will be a summit between the European union and the United States and, of course, the situation in Ukraine is likely to dominate that as well.

On Thursday, he'll go to Rome, where he'll be meeting with Pope Francis and discussing income inequality.

And then on Friday, he heads to Saudi Arabia, where he'll meet with King Abdullah on nuclear talks with Iran and the conflict in Syria.

But much of this week for President Obama will be dominated by the situation in Ukraine.

Erin McPike, CNN, the White House.


FLORES: All right. Thank you very much, Erin.

And, of course, still so many questions about what happened to Malaysia airlines flight 370. Many of those questions focused on the pilot and the co-pilot. We're answering your questions about them next.


LEMON: We are tackling your questions on the disappearance of Malaysia flight 370. Here now is my panel of aviation experts. Right now, we're focusing on questions about the pilot and the co-pilot.

So Les Abend, to you, the first viewer question, and this one is from Lisa and here is what Lisa says. What was supposed to -- what was supposed to happen after all right, good night. Was co-pilot free to leave cockpit, leaving pilot alone to turn off transponder?

ABEND: The co-pilot just acknowledge that he supposed to switch over the frequency of 120 (INAUDIBLE) and get a-hold of (INAUDIBLE). And that was basically the start.

At the point, you know, who knows what he had done from there. I would assume he would stay in the cockpit. That airplane was only airborne for about 40 minutes at that point, so.

LEMON: Mary Schiavo, second question is for you. Hannah asks, why is it taking so long to get the delete files from the pilot simulator when it takes hours to track deleted texts and e-mails?

SCHIAVO: That's very good question because the FBI is very good at that. And I would suspect they have already done it and have recovered those. They just haven't released them and that's typical for the FBI. They usually don't release anything in the ongoing criminal investigation.

LEMON: This -- you know, I wondered about this one myself, actually. This one is for Jeff. This question comes from Elizabeth. Elizabeth is asking, anyone consider the possibility of the pilot filing a second, a false flight plan to disguise the I.D. of MH 370? Is that possible?

WISE: Wow. No, because you've got a transponder code. So you're assigned a code, you put it in --

LEMON: The reason I'm asking that, I'm answer the viewer's question is because, if the pilots -- if other people were in on it with the pilot, right, if the ground crew is on it and got more fuel to go somewhere, there are ways to despise an airplane and wondering if this was possibly one way, that's it. The viewer is, but I thought the same question.

WISE: OK. But, you can't just switch your -- I mean, Les would know better than be, but you can't just switch you code. It is like all of a sudden --

ABEND: You draw attention to that.

WISE: All of a sudden you're not there anymore.

LEMON: Have to be way too many people in on it.

KAY: When you walk into work, to go flying, you get all of the details including the flight plan, the code will then jump in the cockpit and he will enter that flight plan into the computer. The only way of changing that flight plan once it is in the computer is by an authority from the area radar that you're talking to. So if you want to change it, you've got to speak to the area radar.

LEMON: Yes. I think you guys would notice the light behind us came on. That means we're here way too late in the building. I don't know if you guys noticed that. They probably did at home.

I want to ask this one, this one is for Jim Tilmon. Jim, it is from Steven. And he asks, is it possible that the pilots tried to make it to the nearest air strip and realized they wouldn't make it and changed course again, Jim Tilmon?

TILMON: Yes, that's possible. But I -- we have a conundrum here. We have a situation where the situation was so dire that they couldn't continue and so immediate, that's one thing. But what happened, actual is whatever that was, they were able to continue to fly. So I have to tell you that we have some serious things here. I don't -- to the business of the depressurization either. Because what does that have to do with transponders and ACARS. LEMON: Wow, go on. That's true. He makes a good point here.

WISE: Not only that, they didn't -- we saw Martin Savidge navigating and going around and doing everything trying to get down, frantically trying to reduce altitude. It is an aggressive maneuver. What we saw on the radar returns was two-minute turn, remaining on heading for over an hour.

LEMON: I think we cut you off. Go ahead.

TILMON: Well, it is just that we need to try to zero in on the things that we can defend. And once you get the transponder and the ACARS turned off, now the airplane is literally free, except for that skin paint that the military radar can look at. And the military radar that we have been getting reports on just are not that great. So, I'm really concerned about the pilots right now.

LEMON: Yes. You agree with that, right? It is not that -- you agree it is not that great?

KAY: Yes. I mean, I think Jim sort of absolutely is right. I think the air defense radars that we're looking at have a better capability. But my question, Don, is if the military is saying it descended to 12,000 feet, why didn't they -- that, to me, is something very unusual. Why didn't they go and interrogate the missing jet?

LEMON: That's good. I want to get Christine Dennison in here. This is my question to you right now. What is the biggest challenges to an ocean search, 17 days after the plane vanished, ocean currents, weather, what is the biggest challenge? Maybe both?

DENNISON: I think both. I think at this point, again, we're still looking for a needle in a hay stack. And you've got teams out there that are ready to deploy that are on site in some areas and they're not finding debris. They're being hampered by winds that come in, ten foot waves, 15 foot waves. It is making their job impossible. And I think it is frustrating, but they'll have their time and they're ready to go.

LEMON: Yes. But, again, as you said, it is frustrating and they are up against -- you and I spoke about this after we were off the air last night, most people don't understand just the magnitude of search, how enormous that ocean is.

DENNISON: It is. And they have a very large area to cover. And they want to be so exact and so precise in making sure that if they did have a satellite image of debris, they are trying to track that just to be able to eliminate it and say it wasn't that. It was just, you know, garbage, plastic bottles or nothing to do with the plane.

LEMON: Thank you, Christine. We appreciate you. Thank you very much.

Hello everyone, I'm Don Lemon. This is a CNN special report -- The Mystery of Flight 370. A few key things are happening at the same time right now. Any one of them could finally solve this puzzle and lead searchers to that missing airliner. First, we have new information tonight about how that jet was traveling when it disappeared from radar screens. A source close to the investigation tells us that according to military radar, the plane suddenly turned left while dropping more than 20,000 feet in altitude. It was done so quickly that our experts say it must have been intentional maneuver. If we learn why the pilots made that wild move, it could dramatically change the scope and direction of this search.

Also, planes are in the air right now and will spend their precious few hours searching here, scanning a section of the Indian Ocean where some kind of object was spotted from space. The U.S. Navy aircraft involved (AUDIO GAP) too in helping lead (ph) the best aviation and safety professionals in this business, and we want to hear from you as well. Make sure you post a question to our panel on Twitter using hashtag #370QS -- 3-7-0-Q-S.

Making things even more intriguing, though, a new detail from Malaysia officials today apparently seems to conflict with the sharp turn the pilots made that took the plane off course. Officials say the last transmission from the Boeing 777 showed nothing unusual as the plane was on course for Beijing. Joining me now, CNN's Will Ripley. He is in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia tonight for us. And, Will, what more do you know about this last communication from Flight 370?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, we know at 1:07 a.m., everything was running as normal. The plane was flying to Beijing, things appeared to be fine, then it at 1:19 a.m., the co-pilot said, "All right, good night." And it was over that next hour and 21 minutes that something very big happened.

But the big question tonight, what was that exactly? We know that the plane took a sharp turn to the West. It was over the South China Sea, it started heading toward the Strait of Malacca, and then it plunged down to an altitude of 12,000 feet. Why would a pilot do that? Aviation experts tell us 12,000 feet is not low enough to avoid radar detection, but it is an altitude that would be standard procedure if there was some sort of a problem on the plane where they needed to depressurize the cabin and make it safe for everybody to breath and stay alive. Twelve thousand feet, you can still survive whereas you cannot survive at a much higher altitude. But here's the big mystery, Don, there was no mayday call. Why is that? Was it too critical of a moment where the pilots were doing so many other things or was there some other reason? A question that we just don't have the answer to right now.

LEMON: And so, Will, listen -- any official word? Will officials make any comment about the drop in altitude that this plane took? Do we know anything about that?

RIPLEY: Nothing official right now on this. This is coming from a source that CNN has spoken to that has close ties to this investigation. But we do know that efforts are focusing more now on this area about 1,500 miles southwest of Perth, Australia in the South Indian Ocean. This is where three countries now -- Australia, China and France say they have satellite images showing possible jetliner debris, and we now know that NASA satellites are in the process of repositioning to get a closer look at this area as well. That will still take a couple of days from now. In the meantime, there are search planes up at this hour -- the P3, the P8. They're out, they're over this area looking. So far they haven't found anything, Don. So step one, we identify this debris via satellite, step two, we need to actually go and find it and that hasn't happened yet.

LEMON: All right. Will Ripley, thank you very much there reporting from Kuala Lumpur. The U.S. Navy sending a special listening device to Australia to be on standby if any physical evidence of Malaysia Flight 370 turns up. The Navy listening device can help locate pingers from the flight's data recorder. Joining us now to discuss that is aviation analyst Les Abend, former 777 pilot, and then also aviation analyst Jeff Wise, a science journalist, Mikey Kay, former advisor to the U.K. Ministry of Defense plus aviation analyst Mary Schiavo, a former inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation. So, Les Abend, to you first as a former pilot -- or as a 777 pilot. So, -- Christine Dennison, oceanographer and logistics expert -- she is joining us as well.

So let's talk about all of this. As they are looking for this search now, what is this information do you think? What does this change especially when it comes to the pilots' actions?

LES ABEND, AVIATION ANALYST: Well, it says you know once again, I'm open to any scenarios. I think the data that we got from the -- from radar and so on has been -- has been -- sketchy at best. If this is indeed true information this airplane descended to 12,000, I go with a guess -- a gut feel that these people were -- it was a professional flight crew handling an emergency and they were turning the airplane to divert it and begin a descent.

LEMON: All right. I want to bring in now my special guest who is joining me on the phone -- U.S. Seventh Fleet Deputy Public Affairs Director David Levy onboard the USS Blue Ridge in the South China Sea. Officer Levy, thank you so much for taking the time to join us tonight. We know that you are very busy, so tell us how the Towed Pinger Locator is used to locate emergency pingers.

DAVID LEVY, U.S. SEVENTH FLEET DEPUTY PUBLIC AFFAIRS DIRECTOR: Well, Don, I just wanted to say as a precautionary measure in the event that a debris field is located, we are setting the Towed Pinger Locator down to aid in locating of the black box. Basically this is highly- sensitive equipment that is used. It's towed behind at very slow speeds on a commercial vessel down to depths of about -- it can listen down to depths about 20,000 feet looking for the ping coming off the black box which is going to be critical in helping out with the investigation if in fact a debris field is found.

LEMON: Another question for you since we have you here. What can you tell us about today's search?

LEVY: Right now the P8 and the P3 are actually probably arrived on station right now and are conducting the searches. They'll probably be on station for about three to four hours but as of now there's been no reports of any finding of anything from a debris field.

LEMON: Christine, if the U.S. were leading this investigation, would the ocean search be drastically different?

CHRISTINE DENNISON, OCEANOGRAPHER AND LOGISTICS EXPERT: No. I think that there's a certain protocol to follow in what they need to do which is, again going back to the debris and finding the debris, identifying the debris. Secondly, they would deploy this hydrophone that I just heard (AUDIO GAP) and can pick up sound at 20,000 feet which is tremendous and will be very, very helpful. But they do have to follow the pattern which is to first find debris, identify it and then get the acoustics -- get the sound and look for that pinging, hopefully in that area.

LEMON: Officer Levy, I want to -- can you explain to our viewers exactly what you're up against here? We're -- you know, viewers are sitting at home watching, many don't know the challenges of the ocean, of the seas as you are out there searching. Could you please explain to our viewers, if you can, just what you're up against.

LEVY: Well, we're up against -- it's a difficult task. It's a -- the Indian Ocean is a very large area and we were -- try to follow -- we go to every lead that's out there -- these identified search areas. These are long missions for the crews, they're -- you know -- they're ten-hour missions that doesn't include the pre and post- flight that goes with all this effort of the crews. It's very daunting, it's very taxing on the crews to find this stuff but -- to locate it -- but they're doing their best, we're dedicated to the mission and we'll keep going as long as we're needed out there.

LEMON: Lieutenant Levy, thank you very much, we appreciate it. Good luck to you guys out there. I want to tackle some of our viewer questions right now. I'm going to ask you this one, this one is for Mikey Kay. Mikey, Toffer (ph) says, "So if the plane dropped from 35,000 feet to 12,000, what would have been its fuel range" -- I'm not sure if you know that -- "surely, not Indian search field now."

MICHAEL "MIKEY" KAY, FORMER ADVISER, U.K. MINISTER OF DEFENSE: Yes, it's a great question. I think what we're now seeing at the moment is conflictory reporting. What we're seeing is non-complementary information so to the point if the aircraft would've dropped at 12,000 feet and it's heading westbound sort of towards the Malacca Strait, we know that the lower an aircraft goes, the less efficient it becomes in terms of endurance. And what that would do is it would bring into question whether a Boeing triple 7 could actually make ti down into the area that all this effort is being focused on off the southwestern tip of Australia. So they're non-complementary in that respect.

And so what I'd like -- what I'd like to see having been part of two parts of (ph) the investigation, just trying to think out the box and corroborate the evidence that we've got in terms of drawing a line back from where the search is going on at the moment back up to the lost transponder ping. Looking at how long that would be. It's probably on the outer bounds of the triple 7's endurance. It would also have to fly pretty near to Singapore, and Singapore's airspace is some of the busiest in that region -- Qantas used to use it as a leapfrog for getting into Europe.

It'd also have to fly over Indonesia and through Indonesian airspace. You know, what are we talking about with the Indonesians? Are we getting the evidence from them in terms of radar traces -- from your radar traces. So, you know, there's a lot of conflictory evidence going on and I think the sad thing about this is that if indeed we are talking about something now over in the South Indian Ocean, then it makes the (AUDIO GAP) --

ABEND: The short answer to the question is that it would be double the fuel consumption practically of what it normally would have been to go to Beijing.

LEMON: Really? OK.

ABEND: At 12,000 feet.

LEMON: This one is from Renanos (ph) and I would imagine, Jeff, you may want to tackle this one -- maybe Mary Schiavo because I think it's a good question now, so because -- since we have this 12,000 feet or below. It says, "If flight was at 12,000 feet flying west over Malaysia, would any passenger's cell phone still be in the position to register with a GSM mast?"

JEFF WISE, AVIATION ANALYST: Experts that I talked to said it's got to be well below 10,000 feet and you'd have to be right over that transmitter. You're talking about being over the -- over the water --


WISE : -- not likely.

LEMON: One more for Mary Schiavo. Algonquin Dude says, Mary, "Does the new info on radar and altitude fit in with the shadow plane theory at all?

MARY SCHIAVO, FORMER INSPECTOR GENERAL, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION: That's hard to say. I would think not because it would be so abrupt -- the changing of the altitude and the fuel burn, etc., it'd be hard to tuck in behind a Singapore Airlines and travel that long route right directly under them and behind them up to Europe. I think it's impossible.

LEMON: You want to answer that you said?

KAY: Yes, I just want to also just highlight how difficult it is to fly in formation. I've done a lot of formation flying at night -- it's usually been on night vision goggles. So, it just seems out of the bounds of reality for someone to know how to fly in formation, but -- at night as well. I mean, without night vision goggles on, you've having to go off cues like the various small lights on the aircraft. We actually have formation lights put on the aircraft at night which will help us formate (ph) on an aircraft. So I just think that theory is completely bogus (ph) --


WISE: Well we know it also doesn't jibe with what we know about the route that the plane took. We know a lot about the route --


LEMON: All right, great. Standby. Up next a live report from Australia where planes left a couple of hours ago to hunt for clues plus a look at the weather that awaits them when they reach the search zone.


LEMON: Now the work to find that plane and the 239 people on it. Several high-tech search aircraft, including one from the U.S. Navy that left western Australia heading for the open ocean. CNN's Kyung Lah live in Perth right now in Australia. That's the home base for this search, Kyung. Do we know if the planes are in the search area yet and will you hear updates from them when they're on this -- on mission so to speak?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we're not getting those types of details but if you do the math from what we've seen over these last several days, we do know that at least some of the planes are there. I can definitely tell you that the U.S. Navy's P8 Poseidon did take off just a short time ago, at least that's when it was scheduled to. This is America's -- one of America's -- highest tech planes. It's going to do some painstaking searching. This area is a very difficult area. You have to fly four hours down just to get there, and then they're going to comb through that area. The split is being divided into two different sections.

And that's a new tactic, and the reason why is they want to try to cover as much ground as possible. Why today? Because the weather is going to take a turn for the worse later today. That area extremely difficult. When I talked to the head of the squadron, Don, he told me that when you're looking out, it already looks like a washing machine sometimes. So this is very difficult, it is very tough work and now they have to fight the weather. Don.

LEMON: CNN's Kyung Lah. Kyung, thank you very much for that reporting, we'll get back to you especially if you hear something from the searchers. Searchers could use some better weather out over the water today as you heard Kyung Lah say. Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri is here with us now. PJ, what are they looking at today?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, METEOROLOGIST: You know, Don, today it looks like as good as a day we're going to see here over the next couple of days. So certainly the data to take action as far as the search is concerned, some 1,200 miles southwest -- southwest of Perth.

Might want to take you initially off to the northwest of Australia because this region we're watching a tropical cycle and this this tropical cycle and is actually a category five equivalent. The winds -- 260 kilometers per hour. That is equivalent to 161 mile per hour. Healthy category five cyclone and the reason I show you this first is because, keep in mind those two arcs where the final satellite ping was detected and we know of course the search was put in the southern fringe of that southern arc. The region right here, and that's an area of search taking place as well. And the seas in this area, Don -- it's 31 feet high. So any sort of search to the northern portion of this southern arc going to be impeded here today. And then you go of course back down to the south where we have the initial and really the focus is on (ph) a search. At this hour, notice generally clear skies. Bottom corner of your screen, beneath the banner there you see some clouds begin to move in. There's a cold front pushing in towards this region, and the major concern I have is this high pressure. Typically good news, typically causes the air to sink, typically dries the conditions out. Unfortunately, it's doing this northeast of an area where a front's coming in. So it's impeding the movement of that front.

So later on tonight being Monday night local time, you know the winds will begin to pick up. Generally in this region, Don, we're talking about winds about, say, 25 to 40 miles per hour. Today and later on tonight, the winds will increase 55, maybe 60 miles per hour. The clouds will (AUDIO GAP) low visibility and white caps going to be a major concern. In fact models indicating the surge in this region -- the wave heights -- could be ten to 13 feet. So if you're down on the boat because across that airplanes beginning tomorrow it's going to be very hard to see from above looking down.

But down on a boat, the seas will go down almost to sea level and come right back up to ten to 13 feet and then go back down again. So you for a second are able to see the top here and see a lot of white caps and then you go right back down to the sea level areas. So it makes it very, very difficult and that looks to be the case for not only Tuesday but maybe even early Wednesday before conditions improve, Don.

LEMON: Pedram Javaheri, thank you very much.

JAVAHERI: You bet.

LEMON: Appreciate that, sir. We've got more on Flight 370 straight ahead but there's another big story we want to tell you about. It's a landslide in Washington State. We're learning that the death toll has just climbed dramatically higher. A live report from the scene next.


LEMON: Welcome back everyone. We're going to have the very latest on the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in just a moment, but first, here's Rosa Flores with a few other stories of our top stories right now. Rosa, what do you have?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don, good evening. It is 22 minutes past the hour. Total devastation comparable to Mt. St. Helens. That's how conditions are being described at the scene of a deadly landslide in Washington State. And that scene just got deadlier. CNN's George Howell is there. George, what can you tell us?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rosa, the latest information that we've confirmed with the governor's office here is that now eight people are confirmed dead in this mudslide. Again, the number that we were given earlier today was four. We've been monitoring some of the search and rescue operation basically over scanners just listening and talking to officials here to understand what's happening. And we can now confirm through the governor's office that eight people are confirmed dead. We know that the number of unaccounted-for -- still at least 18 people. And several people are still in the hospital, Rosa, we know at least five people are in the hospital, including a six-month-old boy and an 81-year-old man, both in critical condition.

FLORES: Now talk to us about the challenges of getting to these impacted areas because of just the instability of the ground.

HOWELL: Well, the biggest challenge of it right now is simply the land itself. It's very porous land here in the Pacific Northwest, and when you consider the amount of rainfall that they get, a record of rainfall in this area over the last month, that's where you have these situations where these bluffs, these cliffs can give way very quickly. That's what happened in this one community, and we're talking about an area that -- one square mile. We're talking about land that gave way really in a matter of seconds. I spoke with a women just a few moments ago who told me about a friend that she came to visit here at a shelter. This woman is staying another night at the shelter. But she said that her friend was away at work, the family was there at home when this came through. She doesn't know if her family is still there, she doesn't know if people are still alive. So, it's another night of uncertainty for her as are many of the families who are waiting for answers as the search continues.

FLORES: And as you said, eight dead, 18 missing. What about those injured? Any word on those injured who have been hospitalized, George?

HOWELL: Certainly. The latest information that we're getting from Harborview Medical Center the main -- the big hospital there in Seattle where people were taken -- we know that five people are there. The states of condition vary. Again, we do know the condition, we know that the six-month-old boy remains in the hospital in critical condition, and again, this 81-year-old man who was also in that area, in critical condition.

And we're waiting for any more information as we get it, but this we should also keep in mind. As the search continues, as they continue to look over this area over helicopter, and if more people are sent to the hospital, the number of hospitalized could grow. These numbers are certainly changing, you know, by the day as the rescuers get a better grasp and a better handle on what if in (ph) that degree what's in that area.

FLORES: All right. George Howell live for us in Washington State. Thank you so much. Again, eight dead, 18 people still missing. We're going to switch gears here. President Obama is on his way to the Netherlands -- the first stop in his trip overseas. The President left Washington Sunday evening. He's to meet with G7 leaders at the Hague tomorrow and will urge allies to remain united against Russia's incursion into Crimea. His message will remain the same when he gathers Wednesday with European leaders in Belgium.

There are fresh fears that Russian president Vladimir Putin could cease a second chunk of territory in the former Soviet Bloc. NATO's top commander warns Russian troops are massing on the eastern border of Ukraine, strategically close to Transnistria. Now, it is a pro- Russian region neighboring Moldova. Remember, Putin first sent troops to Ukraine in his word, "to protect Russians living in that area." Meantime, thousands of pro-Russian residents marched in a major city in Ukraine's east today urging for a referendum so they too could split off and become part of Russia. And of course, no trace of Flight 370 more than two weeks after it vanished. Ahead, another question -- how long will the search last? Our special report continues in just a moment.


LEMON: All right. We're tracking a major development tonight about the missing Malaysia Flight 370 and what may have happened inside the cockpit. It is about the heading and altitude of the plane before it vanished from radar. A source close to the investigation tells CNN that according to military radar records, the plane made a sharp turn, dropped a considerable distance toward the ground.

That's important because our source tells us that maneuver was done abruptly in just two minutes. Meaning the pilots likely did it intentionally. We're going to explore some reasons why they might do that just ahead here on CNN.

And also, we're taking and answering your questions about that missing airplane. Make sure you go to Twitter and use the #370qs. 370, Q-S.

I'm joined now by my panel of experts. First now to Jeff Wise.

I want you to take this question. Brendan, here's what Brendan says. "Could large objects in satellite images be makeshift raft with survivors? Would survivors make it this long with no food or fresh water?"

JEFF WISE, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: It's going to be a tough one, you know. These are brutally cold waters. There's already been three storms go through that area.

LEMON: No. So the answer is really no. I know you're trying -- in deference to the families, but let's just -- let's be honest with the viewers, that water is so cold, it is so treacherous. I'm not saying -- I don't think people will know.

WISE: Not to be completely depressed, though. We don't know what happened to this plane.

LEMON: Right. Yes. We don't know what happened to the plane, but if they're in open water like that the chances are --



ABEND: If they're in a raft, it does have some --

LEMON: Yes. Yes. ABEND: Some supplies on the raft.

LEMON: OK. So let's then -- let's take this. You take this one. Can-Canada tweets -- I hope I said that, Can-Canada, I think that's it. "Has Malaysian Airline made any changes to any procedures relating to pilots signing off?"

ABEND: I can't answer for Malaysia Airlines. Their a professional flight crew. They -- we operate according to ICAO standards.


ABEND: So I would assume that they would do the same thing.

LEMON: Yes. And I want to -- you know, we have been talking in some instances, too, as well, and we're saying, you know, aboard a life raft is really -- you know, there are some supplies. We're also looking at 30-foot waves at some point. And as you're saying there are a number of storms that have gone through there.

Again, very hopeful but I want to present the stark reality because people -- considering what the searchers are up against, you know, these are people who are in airplanes and who are on ships. And they're having a hard time navigating the ocean.

WISE: That's depressing. But don't forget Malaysia has not given up on the land theory.

LEMON: No. We're not giving up.

WISE: Yes.

LEMON: But I'm just -- we just want to be real about this. This is the news. It's not a reality show, it's the news.

OK, so listen, Jim Tilmon, I want you to take this. Elizabeth tweets this, "If catastrophic failure suspected, why aren't all Boeing 777 planes grounded until cause determined?"

JIM TILMON, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Because I don't think there's any solid reason for that. Look. We don't even know if that airplane crashed. What is the evidence that said it did?

LEMON: Right.

TILMON: We have some assumptions that we're making but I think it's very, very dangerous for us to just assume that we have all the answers. I'm concerned about all the money being spent down there over the ocean when there's a whole lot more land out there to take a look at. We've better really be careful about making a decision now too early. Let me see some evidence in the airplane breaking up or whatever else before you make me say anything else about that.

LEMON: All right. That is a very good point. Mary, and you know, I think that's a good point. I have another question but I think a follow is warranted on that one. SCHIAVO: Well, in the history of aviation, at least in the US, as far as the U.S. regulators are concerned, we've only grounded a couple of models of the airplanes. One was the D.C. 10 when the engine fell off and obviously that was a -- had to do with the engine mounts and the pins and that was obviously necessary to work that out.

And then the other one was the Dreamliner, the 787 with two onboard fires. So it's very rare that we actually ground them and in both of those cases they had very real evidence that there was something wrong with the plane. And that's why the maintenance records are so important here. And we hope Malaysia has reviewed them and is reviewing them.

LEMON: I was going to Christine, but just real quickly, I want to take this one. Sorry, you guys.

Mary, this is from Grandma Ocean. "I read that two people checked in to Flight 370 but did not board. What has been discovered there?"

I think that's important.

SCHIAVO: Yes. And what has been discovered is that they removed the bags -- actually a few more than that. They removed the bags from the flight. That is the protocol, both in the United States and almost all nations. It's an ICAO, International Civilization Aviation guideline or rule, that if someone has a ticket, their luggage goes on the plane and they don't get on. The luggage comes off and they did do that, they said.

LEMON: All right. Christine, there are search crews looking for that plane or the remnants of that plane. But they're basing their searches on satellite images that are two, three, four days old sometimes. That has to be frustrating.

CHRISTINE DENNISON, OCEAN EXPLORER AND EXPEDITIONS LOGISTICS EXPERT: That's frustrating, but you're looking at potential debris field that has drifted as much as 1,000 miles in 17 days. So I think that they're being hampered by weather. These crews are incredibly trained and prepared. But they are battling the elements, they're battling fatigue. Not to mention the ships that are on site. They carry enough lot of fuel but they can also run lower than they expect just because they're being forced to sort of wait around and follow this debris more than they may have anticipated.

So at a certain point they may have to turn back and bring in a second ship or a third ship just because of the fuel consumption issues that they're having with weather.

LEMON: Mikey Kay, you want to get on this?

MICHAEL "MIKEY" KAY, FORMER ADVISER, U.K. MINISTRY OF DEFENSE: Yes. Just sort of (INAUDIBLE) what Christine is saying. I think it's incredibly frustrating as well. I mean, this is -- the France satellite image is the third one we've had now. They're fairly low resolution and what they're turning up is no equivocal evidence. You're getting, you know, the side that went out there and there was a freighter that was out there. This potential containers that could be pushed off ships.

There's pods of dolphins, there's even refraction of light that can sort of turn up these images. So I think that's just adding to the frustration and, again, posing the question, you know, when do you call it a day and when do you start focusing the search efforts somewhere else, because it just doesn't seem that the satellite imagery that we're getting can give us that evidence that would make this search a little bit easier.

LEMON: Yes. So, listen, there's a Twitter question. I don't know who the name of it but they're asking, is it possible to fly as far as Perth at 12,000 feet?

ABEND: You know, I don't know what that airplane's actual fuel load is but I can almost guarantee you they didn't have any fuel in the center tanks. I'm going to have to do some pilot math on this so it'd be a little ridiculous. But I don't think so. I think that's a short answer. I really don't.


LEMON: As we were sitting here, reporting this, you know, 1:00, 2:00 in the morning, Mary Schiavo, when they first found -- that's when they first reported that satellite image off the coast of Australia. And, you know, everyone seemed to think, like, they found something. All they have to do is get to it, identify it. And we kept cautioning to people that it's not that easy just to get to it and identify it. This isn't like map quest and going out to the open ocean to try to find something.

SCHIAVO: That's right. Because you have two different sets of delays. You have the delay between when they had the image, you know, took the picture, if you will, to put it in layman's terms, when they had the image, then they analyzed the image and then the searchers get it, you know, two to four days earlier. And then there's a second day when they have to go out and find it. So a lot of movement can occur in, you know, two to six days, sometimes depending on the currents. You know, 50 miles a day.

LEMON: Fifty miles a day.

Christine Dennison, let's talk about this. As we sat there, we sort of had a debrief last night, Christine and Mikey and I talking about this story because it's so fascinating about the satellite images they're finding. The radar, what they're up against in the ocean and what have you. So as we're sitting there, we pulled up a globe, right, on our iPhones to show the open water and it's just amazing when you're looking at depths of some -- miles of depths and currents and what have you.

This is something, as we said, is going to take quite a while to find. And as I said, it's not like map quest. It could be refraction of light as we're looking at this. The possibility -- is it possible, and I would imagine it is, I hate to -- but that we will never find because of the conditions this airplane? DENNISON: I would go ahead and say that it's a very realistic possibility that will be addressed at a certain point. That's not to say that we're going to give up the coms and put a hydrophone down when we have a debris field that we feel is indicative of a plane crash. And debris from that wreckage.

The question is after picking up, if we can locate these black boxes, how far do we go after that? If it isn't this area, you're looking at depths as shallow as 3500 feet, down to 25,000, 24,000 feet. So that's that really going to be an easy task. Normally they want to bring up this wreckage. I think the first thing is we want to locate the black boxes to get an idea of, if we can, what happened.

And then of course the task of finding the fuselage or finding more of this wreck and seeing where it lies. What the conditions are, if it's something we can get to and find more answers. But I think it's a very realistic possibility that we will not. We did with Air France. We're able to locate that but we still -- that's just too deep. It's not a recovery that after a certain amount of time I think will go on.

LEMON: And as we were saying just real quickly, Christine, there aren't -- commercial aircraft don't even fly over this area. This isn't a route. If you're flying, you know, whatever airlines. It doesn't take -- it doesn't go over this water.

DENNISON: Correct. This area, the South China Sea, there is -- I'm sorry, the South Indian Ocean, there's no really -- it's not heavily trafficked by ships, by air so it's very strange that, you know, we're finding all this activity going on there and hopefully that debris field will lead us to more that's accurate.

LEMON: Yes. I hate to be so negative here. But, Jeff Abend, I mean, I'm sorry. Yes, Mr. Abend, thanks. Les Abend, thanks to so many of you. Appreciate it.

Les Abend, do you think that in today's technology and the advances that we have, you think that it's -- we will absolutely find this plane? You don't know when but you think we'll find it?

ABEND: I'm optimistic.

LEMON: OK. Thank you very much.

All right. We now know that Flight 370 had a dramatic drop in altitude.

Coming up, we're going to take you inside our flight simulator and show you know what that looks like.


LEMON: It is our breaking news tonight. A source close to the missing plane investigation tells CNN that the 777 made a very abrupt course change and then lost more than 20,000 feet in altitude.

To give us an idea on how that extreme move would look and feel, CNN's Martin Savidge recreated it in a Boeing simulator.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here's what we would say a sharp turn in an aircraft like this would feel like and will take it up and -- you see the alarm that goes off, it's warning that we're already turning, you know, more than this airplane really should. And you can see by the horizon, you know, this is very dramatic. What's the degree of turn here?

MITCHELL CASADO, PILOT TRAINER: This is about 40 degrees.

SAVIDGE: OK. So that's a really sharp turn. So now set it back up straight. Put it on autopilot again. Because, remember, the information that this source is giving us, it says that that turn took two minutes to complete. That is a very long time to make a 90 or even 180 degree turn -- an extraordinary amount of time for this aircraft.

In fact, we'll try to give you a sense of what that kind of a two- minute turn would feel like. And this is it, right? We're doing it now. It's barely perceptible. I mean it's slight. You'll get it. But if you were a passenger, once we straighten off, you would not sit here and say, boy, this is like, something really, really wrong. This is a very subtle, slow turn.

It's sharp in that it will deviate you from the course to Beijing eventually. But the perception that you're like banking as if in a fighter craft, that's not what the simulator reflects on that.

OK. So let's go into the altitude issue. Remember the flight was at 35,000 feet. We say that it drops to 12,000 feet. But that reading on radar was over an hour and 40 minutes. So here's a precipitous drop. Let's just do a real -- if you threw this over the top and sent us down, kind of a dive. Nose down.

Again, all the alarms that you're getting, bells and whistles, warning you're going way too fast. You're going to over speed. So doubtful they did anything like this. There's the ocean straight ahead. So pull it back. Remember, if it really was over an hour and 40 minutes, that descent could have been very, very gradual.

So what we're saying here is that those actions do not indicate emergency. It's not a sharp turn to go to some emergency landing. And it's not necessarily a steep descent to get down for the passengers to breathe. It could have been a slow descent and a gradual turn. That's what the simulator tells us.


LEMON: You know what, they're calling it the shadow theory. It suggests flight -- suggests Flight 370 flew undetected, hiding in the radar shadow of another commercial flight. Next, we'll explain why it's not as farfetched as it sounds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: Seventeen days into the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and still investigators are no closer to determining what happened or where that plane is. One possibility being looked at now is being referred to as the shadow theory.

CNN's Chad Myers lays it out for us -- Chad.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Don, the shadow theory. The shadow theory says that Flight 370 flew to the Northeast but only to waste time, to turn around and fly back over here in order to catch up with a plane that had left Singapore later and they would fly together as one plane on the radar off toward the north and toward the northwest, somewhere up that way. We don't even care about that at this point in time.

Is it possible? I've talked to a lot of pilots, they say yes. They have seen the shadow theory work, in fact, with other people, bad people trying to keep either drug planes away from other planes or whatever.

If you get the planes close enough together, they will show up as one spot on the radar. And if you get a secondary radar, it squawks SQ- 68, doesn't squawk 370 because the transponder's turned off, and 68 doesn't even see 370 because with the transponder off, there is no proximity alert to this plane. It doesn't work that way. If this is turned off, then that plane doesn't even know it. And if it come up from behind and from the back, you may never even see that plane ever there.

So is it possible? For right now, yes. It is still possible until we get more pings from Inmarsat, those hourly pings, knowing how far away from this spot right there. That's Inmarsat satellite, 22,000 miles in space, but it's at 64.5 degrees east. Way above the equator. So we know how far that is. These are all circles really and I'll put them in.

But as we know how far away these circles are, we will know whether that could have been a shadow of 370. Let's get right to it. There would have been the first ping, one hour really after the merge. There is the line. There is the line that could -- it's parallel to this line. Then the next hour, then the next hour, then the next hour, and we fly on up toward Afghanistan, Pakistan and to the north here.

Now there is one ping that doesn't work, and that's the ping here, this blue line, because that's where 68 would have been at 8:11 a.m. but it is not there, so for this to work, 370, Malaysia Air 370 would have had to turn away, break away and end up on that line up here somewhere, somewhere here.

I can only go so fast. But the breakaway would have had to occur and somebody on radar probably could have seen it. But if they didn't or if they weren't watching or they weren't even expecting it at all, this is the theory. It is out there. Keith Ledgerwood is the author of this, you can go to Twitter and look at all of his stuff. He has animations, he has plots. When we find out from Inmarsat that this here didn't happen, with the Flight 370, then we'll know this didn't happen, but for now, we don't have that data yet and we have asked -- Don.

LEMON: All right, Chad, thank you very much. We're tackling your questions on the mystery of Malaysia Flight 370. My panel is with me now, including aviation and ocean experts.

OK. Hash it out. You believe this is completely plausible. You guys are saying no way. You feel completely confirmed and -- go ahead.

WISE: There is so much I need to say here. Listen --

KAY: Be brief.

WISE: We do have that data. The data, we have it. We reported it on Slate on Friday. We have data. We have information from Inmarsat. Do we have the specific pings? No. But this is what the spokesman from Inmarsat told me on Friday. He said every ping gets further away -- so we know -- go to my Web site because it's kind of hard to explain, go to, I'd explained it all for you. Sorry for the plug but --

LEMON: No. It's all good.

WISE: This -- that analysis we just saw was great. It was great, but it lacked the data that let us know whether it was plausible or not. We now have the data that says it's not plausible.

LEMON: Yes. I --


KAY: Don. Don.

LEMON: Hang on. Jim Tilmon, then you guys -- you guys can beat up on Jeff Wise. First Jim Tilmon.

Go ahead, Jim.

TILMON: I got to tell you, I don't think it's possible. And I don't think it was possible because this is a very, very tricky maneuver. It would take a lot of practice and a pilot with a lot of luck.

KAY: I got 500 hours formation flying. A formation joined by day is a tricky maneuver in an agile jet or a helicopter. If you got something with a momentum of a 777, it's even harder. If you then overlay the fact that that's at night, the only night formation that I've ever done, and I've got 3,000 hours flying, I was senior instructor, I was very experienced on night vision goggles, so for me this just is not a plausible option and it's not what we should be looking at because it's taking people right down the wrong route.

We should be concentrating on the facts, getting back to whether the transponder and the ACARS and the radar traces have been, and focusing on that. This is pie in the sky, Don. LEMON: Les?

ABEND: Orchestrating something -- somebody is on the same route, it might be semiplausible. But -- the way this scenario was going out, there was a triangulation that had to get the airplane had to catch, it would just -- it's just too much.


LEMON: Before I go to Mary, Jeff is like, one more thing. Yes.

WISE: One thing I really want to say, which is this bit. People are trying to understand whether a northern route is possible. Some people say it's impossible because you can't get through so many countries' military radar. Here's the thing, it has been done in the past. You can't say that this is impossible. Is it hard, yes? How is it done? We don't know.

LEMON: What is a quick example it had been done in the past?

WISE: Raid on Entebbe. The Israelis flew two 707s through very hostile -- very hostile air space, Egypt and Sudan, to get to stage this raid. No one knows how they do it -- how they did it.

ABEND: '70s technology.


KAY: Integrated Air Defense Systems, Don, in India, in Iran, in Pakistan are very, very sensitive and very complex.

LEMON: Mary Schiavo?

SCHIAVO: It's impossible. Wake turbulence and fuel starvation. Those are your two problems to overcome.


LEMON: Mary is, like, weight turbulence and fuel starvation. And that's -- she's very decided about that.

I want to get Christine -- let's move on just a little bit here. I keep reaching for my glasses and I can't find my glasses.

Christine, let's talk about this one. This one talks about depressurization and what would happen below. This is from Neshua, "If there is a catastrophic depressurization before the turn, why aren't we searching for cabin degree below the turn?"

DENNISON: Well, as I understand it, at the moment now they are potentially looking -- or they will be looking in the South China Sea, but they were looking initially. I think that's where they originally sent the search crew out. So there was no debris that was discovered earlier on in that area. And so they have been able to find debris further south. And this is why we're concentrating in this area. I think they have been looking for debris on the ocean and, again, these radar images that maybe several days old at this point is what they have to go on. I'm sure that there will be more coming in.


DENNISON: And you have to follow the leads. I think there is no choice. They're doing what they can do at this point.

LEMON: It is very interesting to me that, you know, here we are, going into another Monday, another week, and still we don't know where this plane is. That's the big question, where the plane is. I've got 10 seconds.

KAY: Two prongs at this time, Don. No distress call, nothing on the transponder.


KAY: And if it was on military radar, the fact that it was descending rapidly to 12,000 feet it would raise my suspicion.

LEMON: We have to keep in mind that there are planes out looking now. There are boats out looking now. They're trying to scour the ocean for any sign of debris, satellites are being moved to look for debris as well and we should also remember 239 people on board and that's why this is so important and we will continue to cover it.

I'm Don Lemon. Thank you for joining us. Good night.