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CNN SPECIAL REPORTS
Australian Navy Ship Reaches Search Area; Six-Hour Delay for Search Vessel Departure; Crews Spotted "Orange Objects" in Ocean; Aerial Search Resumes Over Indian Ocean
Aired March 30, 2014 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: New hope, new clues. More frustration as crews begin their 24th day of searching for a missing Malaysian airlines 370. The hope from pilots who spotted this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We certainly have our challenges in front of us.
LEMON: The hope coming from pilots who spotted this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four orange-colored objects greater than approximately two meters in size each.
LEMON: Now ships are headed to the area to retrieve and analyze what the pilots saw. But those clues sparking action. With a battery on the missing plane's black box fading fast, a boat is on the way with a Navy pinger on board to try to find it. Despite the clues, families of the passengers are a fed up and demand answer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want evidence. We want truth, and we want our family.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Good evening, everyone. I'm Don Lemon. Welcome to our special coverage.
Just six days remain. That's when the batteries could die on the blacks box data reporter from Malaysia airlines flight 370. No battery means no pings signaling the plane's location. Though there have been a few promising pings, timing is becoming more precious now.
Atika Shubert is in Perth, Australia, where the search effort is based. But I want to begin with CNN's Will Ripley. He is following the Ocean Shield, an ocean ship with a black box detector on its way out into the southern Indian Ocean right now. There are no batteries means no ping signaling the missing plane's location. Tell what's you're seeing right now, Will Ripley, as you head out, as you're shadowing this search ship?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Don, we just arrived here at garden island. This is home of Sterling naval base which is Australia's largest naval base on their western coast. And the reason why we are here is because we are monitoring the movements here of Ocean Shield. You see it. You can't miss it, really, it's bright red, docked here at the naval base. It arrived here over the weekend. Crews have been very busy here. They've been outfitting this ship with U.S. Navy technology that is going to -- that we hope is going to really help in this search.
There is the TPL, that towed pinger locator. It's basically a giant underwater microphone. You put that in the water, you tow it behind the ship and it listens for the fading ping from the cockpit voice recorder and in-flight data recorder. This is critical in the next few days because we know about a week left. That's how much battery life there is before those pings stop.
When the pings stop, there is another piece of technology in the Ocean Shield called the Bluefin 21. Basically, it's an underwater drone. This thing can go down under water and it scan the bottom of the ocean. It can map out if there is any debris.
Great technology, but here is the reason. Here is the reason why they haven't deployed it sooner. You need a small search area for this to be effective. They can cover about 50 miles a day. With the time frame we're look at here, they need about a thousand square mile area to cover in about a week. That's about as much as they can do. But we're looking at a search area well over 100,000 square miles.
So until we can narrow down where debris essentially is, essentially the Ocean Shield with all its technology will be looking for a visual search just like the one thousand sailors on the eight ships which are currently out in the search area 1100 miles from here, don.
LEMON: Will Ripley, we have you out here. And it's fascinating to see the search ongoing and a lave shot. Show us around, will you, so our viewers can see exactly where you are.
RIPLEY: Sure. So we're on a charter fishing boat called thunder down under. This normally they use for fishing tours. But right now as we have outfitted it with mobile technology. You can see the Australian Navy is here right now. They are making sure we don't get too close. In fact, we may have to move back a bit for our next shot. They have allowed us to get pretty special access to be this close to the Ocean Shield.
So I'll walk you around just so you can get a little bit of a view of the boat here. Normally this is more of recreational type vehicle. This is not a boat that can normally make it out to the search area. We don't have enough fuel to go all the way out there.
So our plan now is to follow the Ocean Shield for a bit as they leave garden island and head towards the search area and give you kind of a sense this is basically, this is the base of operations where a lot of these ships are leaving from heading out on the search. And we'll show you more. We'll take you upstairs and inside. We're going to be here for the next 24 hours and beyond.
LEMON: Hey, Will, you have plenty of time. I'm going to let you go as long as you want. I want -- this is fascinating. So take your time. Show us around. How close are you to the Ocean Shield? And just, you know, take us around the boat and where you are in the water and if you can the Ocean Shield. You have all the time you want.
RIPLEY: Sure. All right, Don, well, let's go back and we will show because now what we're having to do is pull away. We were told we need to get back behind a buoy a little farther from the Ocean Shield. So we can zoom in and give you this up close look.
Once we get out on the ocean, Don, we will be able to show you this ship in action. Ocean shield is a really fascinating vessel. This is a civilian vessel. It is not a warship. Some news have been reporting it's a warship. That's not true.
This began as a civilian vessel. The Australian Navy uses it for humanitarian purposes. The eventual goal is actually for customs and border protection here to use it. But right now, as we see the purpose is for the search and rescue operation equipped with the U.S. Navy technology.
So we're going to be watching this very carefully. There is a 30- member crew on board. We have some military members, and we have a lot of civilian personnel that are helping to operate this equipment. It actually takes 11 people just to operate those two pieces of naval technology they was telling you about.
As far as our boat here, as we continue to kind of move away from the Ocean Shield, if we have enough cable, let me take you inside and show you how we are steering this thing. We may not be able to reach but we'll give it a go, Don. So we are walking you in here. This is the living quarters. This were the boat steer. Yes, we can't make it.
Don, when we get our cable situation figured out, we'll get you in there a little later. Captain Ray Ruby -- Yes,.
LEMON: I don't expect you to go inside. But we like looking out into the water, Will. We're going to keep you around for our panel, OK? So stand by. Don't go anywhere. And let us see out of the back there and let us see the ship that is going to be searching behind us, the Ocean Shield behind you.
So we are going to go to Atika Shubert and them we will get to Will Ripley and we are going to bring those live pictures. But again, this is a fascinating information that we are getting, fascinating pictures coming from Will Ripley who is out on the search right now.
I want to get to Atika Shubert right now.
Atika, you know, you have been there for the search for a while reporting on this, our entire team. we've gotten those amazing pictures coming from that boat. We heard the Australian prime minister came out earlier and offered encouraging words to the searchers and also for the families and everyone who is interested in this.
What is going on? What is instrumental now in this search? How many planes are in the air and ships? ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're going have a total of ten planes in the air today. One of the planes has already reached the area and is starting to make the rounds there. There are at least six ships that are in the waters in the search area now, trying to find that potential debris, looking for those orange objects that were cited yesterday.
The key here as you heard from Will earlier is time. There is a window that is closing. And so it's really imperative that these search teams get out there and cover as much as the area as they can.
Now I spoke with Australia's prime minister Tony Abbott in an exclusive interview, and I asked him four weeks into this, still no plane. You know, are we sure we're even looking in the right place? Here is what we told me.
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TONY ABBOTT, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: It's the best information we have. It's the best analysis we can get. And it's the most professional search that can be mustered.
SHUBERT: And you're confident in the information you're getting and that you're searching in the right place?
ABBOTT: We are searching a vast area of the Indian Ocean. This is a very, very difficult task. It's far more difficult than the search for the air France aircraft in the Atlantic ocean a few years ago. Because we had very precise information as to where that aircraft had come down. We've just got very general information about where this aircraft has come down. But nevertheless, we are giving it the very best shot we can. And if anyone can find this aircraft, it's us.
SHUBERT: It's a tremendous effort. There is ten planes in the sky today, as many ships. But it's also exhausting every day. So how long can this be sustained realistically?
ABBOTT: The effort is ramping up, not winding down. We'll have more aircraft in the sky tomorrow. We've got more ships in the area. So we are ramping this effort up. We owe to it the families of the 239 people on board. We owe to it the anxious governments that want to know what happened to their citizens. We owe it to everyone who travels by air and wants the skies to be safe. We owe to it the whole world, which has been transfixed by this mystery now for some time. We owe it to everything to everyone to find out as much as we can. That's exactly what Australia is doing.
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SHUBERT: The key here is Australia is not only coordinating the search, but also now the investigation. So anything that is actually found out in the water will be brought here to Perth. And this is where the center of the investigation will really be.
And for that reason, they've now appointed Angus Houston as the coordinator for that investigation out here. He is just being briefed today. But hopefully we'll have more details on where that investigation and search is leading tomorrow, Don.
LEMON: Atika Shubert with that exclusive interview. Thank you very much, Atika.
I want to bring in my panel of experts here. Colleen Keller, an investigator whose work was instrumental in finding the wreckage of air France flight 447 three years ago. Also Geoffrey Thomas in Perth, Australia. He is going to join us in a little bit. He runs a Web site that keeps an eye on airline safety around the world. Lest Abend is 777 pilot and Michael Kay, a retired royal air force lieutenant colonel and military aviator. And then we also have Will Ripley who is out in the water now with the traveling, shadowing the Ocean Shield. He will be showing what's is going on there.
You see the Ocean Shield there behind him. You think it's a military vessel. It's not a military vessel. Do you think this is maybe the best hope yet to find something? This is indeed a vehicle that could do it?
MICHAEL KAY, RETIRED ROYAL AIR FORCE: I think expectation is the key word here, Don. I think we've got some sophisticated technology both this the form of -- sorry, about the surface vehicles and aircraft.
But I think the Australian prime minister hit the nail on the head in terms of the air force 447. We knew where the haystack was and it took two years to find the black boxes. Inch and unfortunately the families need to gear themselves for that long haul and set their expectations there because this is a huge area.
What I would be wanting to do in this situation is really try and get some cooperation of the search area, Don. Because we're putting all our eggs in this expectation hope basket of hopefully the search area will give us something. But I would like to go back to the Indonesians. I still find it -- I still find it odd the Thai radar and the Malaysian radar and Indonesian didn't.
LEMON: All right, I want to stick with the vessel we'll get out there, and we'll goat the other things, including the radar. I want to get to Colleen now.
What does it tell you that several days of work, as you look at this new ship that is going out, no new research, no new search there is a new search area. Nothing has turned up right now. They're using this Ocean Shield to get there with the pinger. And we have those live exclusive pictures of that. And we've got Will Ripley out there now traveling with that. Does this offer more hope now with the new search area and with this new Ocean Shield ship going out, Colleen?
COLLEEN KELLER, OPERATION RESEARCH ANALYST: Well, Don, by now, we really hope to have had some wreckage brought aboard a ship that would have told us we're in the right area. That said, the pinger locator devices have to be brought out to the search area. And we just have to get them in the water while we still have a chance of detecting a target. It's our only hope for narrowing the search area down.
I will remind you for the air force search, one of the reasons why the search went on for two years was that we actually decided we did not have pingers to detect. One or both of the pingers were destroyed or damaged in the crash and were not functioning properly. So the extensive pinger search that we did in the first 30 days after the crash didn't yield a target, which put us into this long search effort using the unmanned underwater vehicles, which fortunately, eventually ended up with detecting the wreckage.
LEMON: Will Ripley, explain to us why this vessel that is going out now that you're shadowing, why this one is so special and why they're relying on this one now? And they've been wanting to get this vehicle there for quite some time.
RIPLEY: Well, you know, this is a vessel that is designed for the Indian Ocean specifically. I mean, we mention it originated as a civilian vessel. It's not a warship. But the Australian Navy does use this. They use this to patrol the waters for people who are trying to get here by boat from Indonesia. It has a sister ship that serves the same purpose. So customs and border protection use the same ship. They also use it for humanitarian purposes as well. This would fall under that category.
What makes it special right now is the fact that it is equipped with this sophisticated U.S. Navy technology, the pinger locator, which we can rely on for about a week and needs a more narrow search area to truly search. You know, the reason why they waited this long is they were hoping to have a more narrow area to look, some sort of wreckage to say OK, we found this here. Let's look at the ocean currents. Let's see if we can try to figure out where this originated from.
But as we have seen from day in and day out, objects have been sighted. Some objects have been retrieved. There were eight ships scouring this area looking for these things. And so far everything they have pulled on board has turned out to be sea trash or something from a fishing vessel, nothing that can be definitively connected to flight 370.
But take a look at this ship. I know we're a bit farther back now so, it's harder to see. But you know, it's bright red. We've got 30 people on there. 11 people who are going to be specifically operating this equipment.
Now, the TPL for starters, the Bluefin 21, the underwater drone submarine as well. But essentially, its purpose, until we have a more narrow search area, its purpose is going to be a search vessel, just like the seven Chinese ships that are going to be in the area, the two Australian ships in the area with a thousand sailors who are literally standing along the deck, just like we are right now, holding up binoculars, looking out over the ocean, scanning the ocean to see what they see.
And you know, when you're doing that hours and hours on end, your mind starts to play tricks on you, you know. But you have to rely on the visuals. Because if we're looking for debris that is floating at the top of the surface, radar isn't going to do much good. So, we're also at the mercy of the weather conditions. Today it's cloudy. It's overcast. And normally we're told that Fremantle, which is Perth's main port is pretty sunny. Not the case. The weather here very unpredictable. It is hard to forecast and it's hard to know what is going to happen.
LEMON: So Will, let me get in here for. You know, for people who are watching at home and even us here on the desk where you're off garden island, what body of water have you been and how far have you gone? How far have you gone since you left shore?
RIPLEY: So right now we're still -- we're close to garden island. And what we actually call this port, guys? Hold on. I'm going to bring on our affiliate from channel 7 here, because you're the expert. I know this is the Australian naval base. Introduce yourself and tell what's body of water we're in right now. I know we're going to be heading out to the Indian Ocean.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the biggest naval base in western Australia and the center of the operation for the naval search in the Indian Ocean.
RIPLEY: OK. And specifically right now, we're not out in the ocean yet. Would this be the Fremantle harbor that we're still in?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Correct. We're in the sound between the sterling and the main west Australian coast.
RIPLEY: So you have been out on these waters before. How long does it take to get out of this area and when we start heading out on the Indian Ocean?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The area is protected by rock nest island about ten miles offshore. So you sort of have bay conditions until you get beyond that once you're beyond you're in ocean conditions and the waves can double or triple more once you're out there.
RIPLEY: All right, so we're actually sharing this boat with our CNN affiliate, channel 7, one of the major stations here in Australia. They're going to be broadcasting here as well, Don. And it is great to have these local expert along with us to guide us along as we all learn together how this process works. Because it's one thing to stand at the air base and talk about it. It's another thing to actually be out here, getting ready to head out on the Indian Ocean, getting ready to shadow this ship that for a lot of people, this is what they're feeling is our best hope in finding something.
LEMON: Will Ripley, thank you very much. We're going to get back to you. Great job. Don't go away. I think it's fascinating to watch and to see, really, how the efforts happen, how fast they can go. What resources they're using, what technology they're using. And we have that live for you right here on CNN. You're getting your first look at this. And you can see the worldwide resources of CNN, channel 7 there in Australia, the biggest news organization in Australia there, one of our affiliates.
So coming up, it took two years to find the black box when adventure France flight 447 went down in 2009. The search area was smaller and investigators had a better idea where to look for it. So how long will it take to track down flight 370? My panel weighs in. That's next.
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CAPT. MARK MATTHEWS, U.S. NAVY SUPERVISOR, SALVAGE AND DIVING: Well, if you compare this to air France flight 447, we had much better positional information of where that aircraft went in the water. We supported with a towed pinger locator search. The pingers were nonfunctional on that aircraft due to the damage it received when it hit the water. It then took over two years conducting side-scan sonar searches with autonomous vehicles to locate the debris. So it can be a very long search effort.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Very long search effort. You know two years to find air France flight 447 and had better information than we do now. So what is the best strategy to find this Malaysian airliner and to give answers to the families of the missing?
Here with me again is Colleen Keller, also Geoffrey Thomas is joining us now from Perth, Australia, Les Abend and Michael Kay are both here.
So Colleen, to you were first. You know, you were instrumental in finding adventure air France 44, and you did. Tell me what you would do here at this particular juncture.
KELLER: Well, what we should be doing, Don, what we're doing now is trying to keep track of all the different areas where the aircraft could potentially have gone down. We still have possibilities that it could be farther north, it could have crashed farther south. You know, we keep hunting around in these different areas as new evidence comes in.
The approach that we used in the Air France search is called applying base an search theory. What this does is allows you to keep track of all the evidence you have and its uncertainties. And at any one time you can refer to a probability map that shows you where the evidence points would be the highest likelihood areas to go search. And that's where we would recommend day to day you put your effort.
Right now it looks like they're chasing a very hot clue that puts them in this northern area, but they're coming up empty, which is lending credence to the fact that maybe it's not the right place to be looking.
So it might be that after a couple more days, we should be look back south. Because we did see satellite pictures of large numbers of drifting stuff in the ocean. So they should be keeping track of all their evidence and all their clues and where they have looked to date, and be looking at, OK, where is the next best place to look tomorrow.
LEMON: I think that's important information that she is giving us. And I want to go to Geoffrey Thomas now. Geoffrey, what do you make of what colleen is saying? Seem to be chasing some pretty hot clues hopefully, but so far nothing has turned up. And maybe we should be look elsewhere, or start to look in other places? Do you agree with that?
Look, it's certainly very, very frustrating, Don. And the difference between this flight and 447 is that with 447, we knew exactly where it was going. We had a very clear track of it. It still took us six days to find it after it disappeared.
With this airplane, we lost it in the straits of Malacca. And now we're using satellite pinging data to triangulate. We're getting evidence that we're not privy to. They haven't told us why they're looking in this particular area, and we asked them locally, and they said no comment. We can't discuss it.
GEOFFREY THOMAS, MANAGING DIRECTOR, AIRLINERATINGS.COM: So we're not sure what the body of evidence is that points to this. I agree. After three or four more days of turning up nothing, then maybe we better go back to square one and relook at the numbers again. But they did sight some stuff yesterday that was turned as their strongest sighting. That hopefully will get picked up today by one of the six or eight ships in the search area. And we might start to get some closure on this.
LEMON: Hey, Geoffrey we have to ask you because the Ocean Shield is out there. We're shielding it and our correspondent is shadowing it. And it's the pinger locator, right,. has a pinger locator on it.
LEMON: There is concern that time may have run out for that or it's either quickly rung out. How is this ship going to help you in this search?
THOMAS: OK, well, look, that's a very good question, Don. The University of Western Australia in fact tracks the currents in the Indian Ocean all the time. They have all that data stored on computer. So as soon as they identify a piece of debris from this airplane, say it's sometime today, they get the coordinates of that, they can go through their computer modeling and track it right back to its original spot the bit of debris was on March 8th. And they'll send the Ocean Shield right to those coordinates, and it can launch its pinger. And if necessary, the autonomous underwater vehicle as well.
So we have got excellent data on the currents, the eddies in the area. It's just a matter of confirming one piece of debris, and then we can go straight to the wreckage.
LEMON: All right. Stand by, everyone. We're here for the next hour and a half. We're on until midnight eastern time here in the United States. We're going to continue to follow this. So if or when search teams find the plane, what happens then? We'll tell you. That's next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We certainly have our challenges in front of us. What we're trying to find is an acoustic emission from one of the pingers on the flight data recorder or the cockpit voice recorder. Typically, these last -- the batteries last for 30 days. Usually they last a little bit longer, and that's what we're trying to find. But what is critical is that the teams that are out there searching for the surface debris, they get good position data on that, and they feed it back to the oceanographers to help us determine a probable point of impact for where the aircraft went in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: You heard captain Matthews there. We're living on borrowed time in the search for missing Malaysia flight 370. This is why we only have been six days left until the battery on the flight data recorder stops giving up a ping.
Collin Keller, Les Abend, Will Ripley, Michael Kay, all back with me. We'll get back to the battery life first. But I want to go to CNN's Will Ripley.
Will, I understand you have new information from the Australian Navy. What do you have?
RIPLEY: Yes, we just got word within the last 15 minutes or so there is now yet another delay, which we have gotten used to some delays, unfortunately, in this search over the past three weeks now, entering the fourth week here.
It's going to be at least another six hours, we're told, until the Ocean Shield can depart. And the reason for that is that, you know, we have that U.S. Navy equipment installed, but they need to send inspectors to the boat today because they need to basically, they're maritime inspectors. They need to look and ensure everything is installed properly and sign off on it before the boat is OK to depart. Now we're looking at a departure in the evening hours, as the sun is getting ready to set, essentially. So we're losing essentially another day of that battery life.
LEMON: Yes, absolutely. Stand by, will. Les? You're flummoxed by this?
LES ABEND, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, I mean, this isn't my expertise. But the boat got there. I'm not sure what the inspection is about. I guess it has to do with Australian regulations. But you know, my concern is if they're going to the right area with this ship anyhow and the fact that at least they're doing two different type of searches. They're looking for debris and they're looking for the airplane itself.
LEMON: Right. But if you have the six hours delay, that's half day or more of search lost, and we only have six days left, Mike Kay, for those batteries. KAY: You're absolutely right searching for anything in the pitch- black is a nightmare. But you know, as Les was saying, the key to this is finding the haystack, and the assets will be used will be the airborne which they have about ten as the previous correspondent said. What really the ship should be doing is once it's been identify the ships can be deployed with the ping locators and everything else. The ships really are constrained with the amount of ocean they can cover within five days anyway.
So yes, they need to be there. But really, we need to be trying to understand where the location is through the air assets and zoning the ships in. We shouldn't be relying on the ships to find the need until that haystack.
RIPLEY: Colleen Keller, what do you make of this delay that we just reported here on CNN?
KELLER: I'm disappointed. It was my original understanding that the ship was supposed to deploy on their Sunday morning. So we're already well behind schedule. The ship has to steam out to the area. It goes at a nominal 15 knots. So it would take about three days to get there. And remember, the ship doesn't want to go to the place where we're finding the debris. It wants to go upstream from there, which I would assume is maybe another day or so to get to the area where the debris came from. So it's -- we're racing against time at this point.
LEMON: Will, explain to us to the best of your knowledge, this delay. As you said, it's due to an inspection? Can you update us again?
RIPLEY: Yes. You know, Don, here, and I think this should come with a caveat that this situation is so fluid. As we've seen time and time again, we could be reporting one piece of information one hour, and then we find out the next hour something completely different. I mean, last week is the perfect example when we were talking those satellite images. 300 objects, 122 objects, you know, hundreds of miles south of here. We thought that was such a promising lead. Then new data came out and we had to change the search area.
So right now we're hearing the delay could be six hours or longer. Perhaps it will speed up. I mean, I think being out here and covering this story day in and day out, what I have learned more than anything is that nothing about this story is predictable. That's really the bottom line.
LEMON: All right. Stand by, everyone.
Coming up, a flight attendant on the missing plane. She is a mom and a wife. Now her husband opens up about their struggles as their kids ask where is mommy.
LEMON: I want to focus now on some of the flight crew aboard Malaysia airlines flight 370. For three weeks now the families of these crewmembers and all the passengers on board have not held, kissed or spoken to their loved ones, and that includes a husband of one of the flight attendants. He tells our Paula Hancocks how he is simply at a loss of what to tell their children.
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Foong Wei Yueng's 10-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son keep asking where she is.
Eighteen years as a Malaysia airlines flight attendant, she was working aboard MH 370.
LEE KHIM FATT, HUSBAND OF MH370 FLIGHT ATTENDANT: Mommy is going to take a bit longer to come home this time. And I even promised them I'm going to bring her home. But I really don't know either way is she alive? And now, I'm not sure whether I can bring her home.
HANCOCKS: Lee Khim Fatt asks me what he should tell his daughter. She says Foong is caring, loving. He speaks in the present tense.
FATT: Of course, I'm still hoping there have been lots of miracles. But just, like, what we want is the reality, the true story.
HANCOCKS: Showing me mobile photos of his wife, he tells me he's angry at the way he's being treated. His wife was part of the cabin crew, but Lee feels the airline tells the media more than it tells him. He says he gets most of his information from televised press conferences, part of the reason he's hired a lawyer.
MANUEL VON RIBBECK, RIBBECK LAW: It is not their fault that this happened to the plane, so, therefore, they have to be compensated for their damages.
HANCOCKS: Lee and Foong were together for 20 years. He says they were happy. Now she is lost. Lee says he has lost all direction.
Paula Hancocks, CNN, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
LEMON: Heartbreaking there. Uplifting yet heartbreaking.
The twitter account of one teenage girl tracks the agony of flight 370 since it first began close to more than three weeks ago. Now, in the first week that Marihu goes by the twitter handle gorgeous. She sent out about the missing plane, she called directly to her father. And she said her father is Andrew Nari, he said come home fast, dad. Its only thing I want. And then she continued her conversation online. This is March 8th. She said Daddy, you're all over the news and papers. Come home fast so you can read them. Don't you feel excited? And then on Monday, March 24th, the families of flight 370 heard this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NAJIB RAZAK, MALAYSIAN PRIME MINISTER: That according to this new data, flight MH 370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean.
(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: Gorgeous, again, whose real name is Myra Wrights. We love you, but he, meaning God, loves you more. And Myra is taking comfort in the arms of the tens of thousands of strangers who are rooting for her online. Writing this, I received love from almost the whole world. I'm so touched. I don't know how to thank all of you. Support, prayers, God bless you all. We'll be right back.
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ABBOTT: We aren't counting the costs. We're just doing what needs to be done to try to get to the bottom of this mystery. And that will go on, and I think we owe it to the people who are on board that plane. I think we owe to it their families. I think we owe to it the countries which have a stake in all of this to do what we can to get to the bottom of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: That's Australia's prime minister not long ago. Some predict the search for Malaysia airlines flight 370 could be the most expensive in aviation history. Fuel is costly. The search zone is vast. Up to ten planes launched each day along with ten ships with crews working around the clock. The latest lead, four orange objects spotted in the water.
CNN's Rosa Flores explains if the debris is in fact from the plane, how it helps explain where the plane went down.
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The search via air for Malaysia airlines flight 370 spans tens of thousands of square miles. When objects are spotted by the human eye, boat crews scour the water with nets. If debris is confirmed to be related to the missing plane, an oceanographer like Dr. Ryan Abernathy from Columbia university can figure out where the airplane hit the water by using satellite data.
DR. RYAN ABERNATHY, OCEANOGRAPHER, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: What we're looking at is a NASA satellite that orbits the earth and measures very precisely the height of the sea's surface clearly seen in these colored boxes.
FLORES: Clearly seen in this colored box.
ABERNATHY: So what we take is what these satellites measure, and then we plug it into a computer program that uses those currents to move material around, you know, inside the program virtually.
FLORES: So if there are objects in the ocean in these bumps, you're able to measure the movement of those objects?
FLORES: The hope is to find a trace of the 777. You would be able to calculate back to the crash site of MH 370?
ABERNATHY: Yes. The hypothetical crash site. Now, we don't have any confirmed debris.
FLORES: Here is what it look likes on map.
ABERNATHY: So as you go from red to blue, you go backwards in time.
FLORES: Meaning, if a debris sighting in red, the cluster of blue dots would show where the plane hypothetically hit the water. This would help us find the haystack as to where to look?
ABERNATHY: Yes. That's a very good way of putting it. This will help you find the haystack, but you still have to find the needle.
LEMON: Russell Flores joins us now. You know, search crews have found debris in the different spots in the Indian Ocean. It possible debris from the plane could be in two different areas or different areas?
FLORES: You know, based on the satellite images we've been reporting about, those objects that we've been seeing and the search area to the north, the short answer is no, according to the oceanographer. And I want to take a look behind us, because this really explains what we're talking about. The oceanographer put it to me like this. The blue dots, the origin. If you trace back the dots to march 8th. Look at these two images. The blue dots do not connect, meaning they're not from the same origin.
LEMON: And the red -- this is where the path it would have taken according to the currents, correct?
FLORES: Correct. So the red dot is where the debris was found. So that satellite image.
LEMON: Or was seen.
FLORES: Hypothetically, correct, from the satellite. And then you trace back in time to the blue dots so it takes you back to the origin. What is really interesting is this cluster over here, because those orange, the red and then the yellow dots, those are different images we were told about, different satellite images. And if you just look at this cluster over there, you can see that the same origin is possible. It's blue. So if we only had that information, it would tell us oh, perhaps that is the origin.
FLORES: That's obviously not the case.
LEMON: All right. Let's talk more about this. I want to bring the panel in to discuss this, the challenges of finding the information, finding flight 370.
Colleen Keller, Michael Kay, Les Abend and also Will Ripley is joining us from Australia and also we have Rosa Flores here.
Before I get to you guys, I want to say this is just in from HMAS Toowoomba has made best speed and entered the area for MH 370 after departing on Saturday afternoon. So there we go, the ship has made its way into the area in where we believe, you know, the objects were found. And so they are -- made good time on Saturday afternoon.
So there we go. We have that ship. We've also got the ship that Will is out shadowing. And then we have this new information that Rosa Flores is bringing us.
I want to get to you first, Colleen. What do you make of Rosa's information here talking about, you know, if the origination of two different places in the ocean where objects were found, and it doesn't -- the data doesn't quite jive?
KELLER: It's no problem that the data doesn't jive. The reason is the data is uncertain. So you could have two separate hypothesis and they could be conflicting. And since you have overlap and uncertainty you, have you to keep both of them on the table until you exclude one, until you have credible evidence that takes one completely away.
In the air France search, we actually had three separate agencies that did reverse drift modeling using their own current models and databases. It was the Brazilian, the French, and the U.S. coast guard. And all three came up with separate, different origins for where the debris came from. It was very frustrating. We didn't really know which ones to use. We ended up just using the coast guard data because we were affiliated with the coast guard being a U.S.- based company. And we de-emphasized the reverse drift data, the database on the drifting debris because we were very uncomfortable with the uncertainties in the current. We ended up using other information to try to build our probability maps.
LEMON: OK. Rosa, you want to --
FLORES: Yes, one of the things that the oceanographer explained to us is the more time passes, the more uncertain that data is.
FLORES: So the shorter the time period, the more accurate that their calculations would be. So in this particular case, the more time that passes by, literally, the science almost isn't as accurate.
LEMON: Yes. Let's get back out to the Ocean Shield now, and Will Ripley is out there.
Will, I want to, you know, just to see your shot. I have a question for you in a bit. But I want you guys to talk about it. You see the Ocean Shield behind Will Ripley there. And you said it's really disappointing. Obviously, this delay, because that ship and that pinger finder, it wants to go where, Les, you were saying?
ABEND: Well, that ship wants to go where the actual impact site may have been and the wreckage of the actual airplane is. So now you have basically two searches. You the debris field search, which we've been talking would be the chart that was just up, and then we've got the actual airplane, which could be a positive thing, because we've got, you know, the possibility -- I mean, the shot in the dark with that ship that is in port right now.
LEMON: Michael Kay?
KAY: Yes. I think just again, we need to be best utilizing our assets to try and work out whether we're looking for the haystack or whether we're looking for the needle. There is effectively two independent searches going on. We're talk whack Rosa was talking about what happens beyond the assumption of where the impact point was and how the currents might affect that. What I would like to go back and interrogatory the assumptions where the impact point was. And what I mean by that, how far it's traveled there are three to five assumptions that we're using. We're using speed, altitude, we're using endurance, how much fuel did it have. What was the track after the last transponder ping to when it actually turned south.
And all those assumption also inform where the impact point was, which we don't know, and then we're trying to base further analysis and science off where the impact was on the currents and the drift. So it's impossible.
LEMON: You said that listen, the ships that are out there now, the planes, they want to get to the debris if possible or objects. That ship wants to get to the plane, to the pinger, right? To the data reporters?
ABEND: That's my understanding.
LEMON: Will Ripley, yes. And that is exactly what has now that has been delayed six hours. But that could change as you say. The information has been so free-flowing in this particular story.
RIPLEY: Sure. Absolutely. Right now we know we're look at maybe an evening departure. If they can bump it up earlier, that would be great or perhaps it could be later. We just don't know.
Another thing I wanted to mention briefly, this has been a huge factor is the weather conditions. We've seen a light rain here. Overall things are pretty calm. But I wanted to bring in the captain of our charter vessel quickly f we have time, Captain Ruby.
Because, you know, you have been out in this area of the Indian Ocean. First of all, you just looked at the forecast for the general area. What is the latest data that you're seeing?
RAY RUBY, CAPTAIN: There is a bit of a high coming through. So a little bit sloppy today, a lot of cloud cover. The next few days should it be good.
RIPLEY: Which is good news. But as you know, it can be so unpredictable. It can change in an instant?
RUBY: Look, I've been out at sea some days, it's like glass. And people think, beautiful. And then all of the sudden at night it's blowing 20 and 30, up to 40 odd knots. And they wonder why everyone is sick. You said it was going to be fine. We can't predict the weather.
RIPLEY: And nowhere is that more true, Don, than out of the Indian Ocean specifically it seems like. Because you know, remember, we were just talking yesterday about how weather was expected to deteriorate. Pilots came back and reported it was great. And then on days when we expected things are going to be smooth, it was turbulent. And planes actually had to turn around mid flight.
LEMON: Will, thank you very much. Panel, everyone, stand by. More of our special coverage of missing flight 370 right after that very short break. Stick around.
LEMON: Just a short time ago to CNN, one of several search planes that took off from Australia is now inside the search area, scanning the ocean for possible wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight 370. Eight ships are also in the area.
In other news now, the confirmed death toll in that landslide in Washington state has now risen to at least 21. In addition, crews say that they've located four more bodies, but so far they've not been able to recover them. Thirty people are still missing from last weekend's mudslide near Arlington about an hour northeast of Seattle. Governor Jay Inslee told CNN that searchers still hope to find survivors.
The top diplomats from the United States and Russia spent four hours behind closed doors today. Secretary of state John Kerry and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov are trying to resolve the conflict between Moscow and Ukraine. Russian troops, thousands of them, have mass on border, something Kerry calls it intentional climate appear. Today's discussion, as Kerry said, they exchange ideas but no agreement was reach and said they would talk again soon.
Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon. This is our special coverage. It is the top of the hour. Every new day in Australia brings with it hope that search crews will find something, anything linked to that missing airliner and the people who were onboard.
At least one search plane has reached the far offshore search area. And we -- we just learned that an Australian navy ship is there now, too. A short time ago, Australia's Prime Minister spoke to reporters.
He is optimistic, too, and has a simple message for searchers. Keep going.
TONY ABBOTT, PRIME MINISTER, AUSTRALIA: We are searching a vast area of ocean. And we are working on quite limited information. Nevertheless, the best brains in the world are applying themselves to this task. If this mystery is solvable, we will solve it.
LEMON: And this big ship is preparing to join the hunt. It is fitted with a high-tech black box detector and an underwater search drone. The ship is called Ocean Shield. It will need a few days to get to the search area.
CNN's Atika Shubert is in Perth, Australia, where the search effort is based. But I -- I want to begin with CNN's Will Ripley. He is following the Ocean Shield, an Australian ship with a black box detector that was supposed to be on its way out into the Southern Indian Ocean.
What do you know, Will?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know that there's another delay, Don, and that we hopefully will have this Ocean Shield ship departing by this evening. But what needs to happen first is maritime inspectors need to come in and make sure that that sophisticated navy equipment has been installed correctly before they give it the all- clear to get out to the search area.
And it'll still take a few more days to reach that search area. That poses another challenge, because we know just about a week is all that's left on the batteries -- ideal really -- ideal conditions for the battery on the cockpit voice recorder and the inflight data recorder.
We have -- we have a TPL, a towed pinger locator on the back of this ship. It's a giant microphone that essentially, they're going to drop it into the water. They're going to listen for the pings that are being emitted, the fading pings, unfortunately, because they have been presumably going off now for several weeks.
And we only have a month of battery life. If -- if we get to the point where we know without a reasonable doubt that -- that the pings are gone and if they're not being emitted anymore, there's also another piece of equipment on the Ocean Shield.
It's basically an underwater submarine-drone-type device. And it scans the bottom of the ocean and can map out if there's any debris sitting on the ocean floor But in order for any of this sophisticated equipment to be effective, we need to narrow down the size of the search area.
They can only cover about 50 square miles a day. We have over a hundred thousand square miles of area to search. So essentially, until you find that haystack -- we've been using the needle in the haystack term, this is the needle finder.
But they have to find the haystack first, and we're not even close to doing that yet.
LEMON: Will, tell us where you're -- even though it's been delayed, tell us where you are. As I understand, this is from the HMAS Stirling. It's the largest naval base in Southwest Australia.
And it's the Fremantle Sound or the concrete (ph) Sound that -- that you're in?
RIPLEY: Correct, correct. So we are just -- this is Garden Island behind me and -- and Fremantle behind me as well, as you mentioned, a very large naval base. We're actually just outside what they call the exclusion zone here in the Sound.
The reason that we can't get much closer than that is because this is -- this is a military operation. And so if you're photographing, you know, the operations here too close, it could potentially be a security risk.
So the Australian Navy, we actually had the water police, the Western Australia Water Police come by and visit us as well -- very nice. The country's been very nice to us. But they -- they asked us to move back just a bit.
But you can still get a good shot of the Ocean Shield. And -- and it really stands out. It's distinctive, bright red. So as we follow this, when the ship does depart and we are able to get a little bit closer to it as we go behind it, it -- it goes about 15 knots.
We can keep up with that in -- in this fishing boat that we're in, the Thunder. You know, we'll be able to show you what's happening.
But essentially, there's 30 people, Don, on board that ship, 11 of them specifically tasked with operating this sophisticated equipment that's been supplied by the U.S. Navy. It's been installed.
Let's hope the inspectors can do their job and they can get going as quickly as possible.
LEMON: Absolutely. Will Ripley, stand by. We'll get back to you throughout the hour. We'll be relying on you here on CNN.
I want to get to Atika Shubert now. Atika is also in Perth.
And Atika, you're where, you know, the ships and the planes are leaving from where you are, Pearce Air Base. You got an exclusive interview with the Prime Minister. What did he say to you?
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he said that the efforts are going to continue and there is no intention of winding down the operation. In fact, they're going to continue to ramp it up.
And we've seen already several planes take off from here today. One of them is already in the search area, another four are on their way. And there are eight ships already in the search area, including the HMAS Toowoomba.
Now, when I asked the Prime Minister, what did he think of coordinating all these nations' efforts and how confident he was about the information that he was getting from his partners in this, here is how he replied.
TONY ABBOTT, PRIME MINISTER ,AUSTRALIA: Obviously, Australia is leading the search. The legal responsibility for the investigation rests with Malaysia as the flag of the airline that went down.
We will want to work very closely with Malaysia. I've certainly offered Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia the full cooperation of -- of Australia. We've also just appointed HMAS Air Marshal Angus Houston, the former chief of our defense force, very well-respected in our region in -- in the water world, as the chief of the coordinating center.
So Angus Houston can liaise with the officials -- the senior officials of all the various countries who have a stake in this.
SHUBERT: How would you categorize then that cooperation or the challenges in that cooperation?
ABBOTT: Challenges are considerable. But let's not underestimate the goodwill. Everyone wants to get to the bottom of this mystery. Everyone is united in their common grief, in their common anxiety to resolve this.
I don't think we've got a whole lot of competing national pride at stake here. I think we've got at stake here a whole lot of people who just want to solve the problem.
SHUBERT: Yes, as a final question, what message do you have for the families who have loved ones on board, the Flight 370, but also for their search teams who are going out there every single day, about how important the search really is?
ABBOTT: Well, my message to the search teams is please keep it up. We admire your work. We respect your professionalism. My message to the families is that Australia is your friend.
And should any of you wish to come to Australia, you will be in the arms of a friendly country.
SHUBERT: Now, we did that exclusive interview here at the Pearce Air Base. And you could hear some of those search helicopters actually taking off in the background there. But it is a daunting task, Australia coordinating all these efforts.
And part of that is the information coming out of Malaysia has been at times conflicting. And adding to that, of course, China's very concerned about the well-being of its own citizens.
More than half of the passengers on board were from China. So it is a logistical but also a diplomatic challenge, Don.
LEMON: All right, Atika Shubert, thank you very much. Appreciate that. I want to get back to my panel of experts now, Investigator Colleen Keller who helped in the finding the wreckage of Air France Flight 447 three years ago, Geoffrey Thomas, the Editor-in-Chief of airlineratings.com.
He's going to join us in just a little bit from Perth. He'll be joining us in a moment. Aviation Analyst and 777 Pilot Les Abend, Michael Kay, Retired Royal Air Force, Lieutenant Colonel and Military Aviator, and of course, our Will Ripley who is joining us now from Perth as well, on the water in Perth.
I want to get to Will Ripley first. I understand, Will, you have some new information for us?
RIPLEY: Don, we just got off the phone with a spokesperson for the Australian Defense Force. And it seems like we at least have a clearer picture of a possible departure time.
It's even a little bit later than we thought. They're now looking at a 6:00 p.m. local time departure at the earliest. So just under seven hours from right now. And here is -- we know now specifics about the type of inspection that needs to happen.
They have installed an a-frame on the Ocean Shield, which you see behind me. And we can zoom in to give you guys a better look as -- as it sits here at Fremantle Naval Base here in Western Australia.
The a-frame on this boat is what's going to lower the TPL, the towed pinger locator. And it's also going to lower the Bluefin-21, that underwater drone. Both of these high-tech pieces of equipment that will help search -- search for debris and listen for the ping coming from the inflight data recorder.
So they need to need to inspect that a-frame. They have to make sure it's welded properly to the deck so that when they actually get on on the Indian Ocean and drop this technology into -- into the water, that it will work -- it'll work, and without falling apart.
So that's -- that explains a little bit more about the delay that we're seeing out here.
LEMON: All right, Will, stand by.
You know, Colleen, Prime Minister Abbott is confident on his search teams. Now, there is a six, possibly a seven-hour delay, you heard Will there, for a high-tech ship, the Ocean Shield to get underway.
How confident are you in what's going on?
COLLEEN KELLER, OPERATIONS RESEARCH ANALYST, METRON INC.: Well, I'm not particularly upset by the delay right now because frankly, I don't think we have a very good idea of where to send the ship. I don't mean to be pessimistic.
But this is a monumental task. What he's talking about doing is just getting the TPL into the water and hoping that you're going to hear something. You have to get to within one or two miles of the source to hear it.
And you -- you know the numbers. The search area is so big. It's such a long shot anyway that I don't think a six-hour delay is going to make a difference.
LEMON: Geoffrey Thomas, I don't know if you were able to hear our correspondent there say, you know, there's been a six-hour delay, possibly a seven-hour delay now, a 7:00 p.m. departure. Do you know anything that?
What's going on? I mean, each moment that goes by, we, you know, lose a battery on that pinger.
GEOFFREY THOMAS, MANAGING DIRECTOR, AIRLINERATINGS.COM: Don, look, I don't know the particulars of the reason for the delay. But I agree. We -- the time is running out, although according to experts onboard that ship, U.S. Navy experts, the pinger is certified to last 30 days.
The reality is it may last 40 days. So -- so the window may be a little bigger than we think. However, I agree. Now, we're looking for a needle in a haystack. And then we've got to thread the needle.
This is -- this is an enormous challenge. And -- and it -- it can't be underestimated. And the reality is, it may take us two, three, maybe even four years to find this wreckage, if past experience is any guide.
We may get lucky. We just may get lucky. And with the University Of Western Australia having all that current data, the -- from the '80s (ph) where the search area is in their database, as soon as we pick up a bit of debris, we can go back to the origins of it on March the 8th, which might reduce the search area just -- just enough for us to get lucky.
LEMON: Geoffrey Thomas brings up a very good point. And, you know, smart minds have been saying this for, you know, listen, we -- we all get excited and we think we're going to find something. The next minute, oh my gosh, they find something, debris, and the objects and what have you, but for calmer minds or cooler heads, they have been saying to us calm down.
This could take years to find anything. Geoffrey brings up a good point. David Marin's (ph) brought up a good point last week that, you know, it could take two years. The average investigation, in (ph) the findings, takes 3.5 years to find.
So the six-hour delay -- that's not good because it's, you know, every moment counts here.
But when you hear about that and it takes three days to get out there, Michael Kay, are you confident that -- about this search? The Prime Minister certainly is. But you know, we are losing time here.
MICHAEL KAY, RETIRED ROYAL AIR FORCE PILOT: Yes, that goes back to the expectation point. And you know, what -- what I'd like to just mention is, you know, full credit to the Australians for taking the lead on the international search, but more importantly, for their military as well because they have been working around the clock nonstop for the last three weeks, reacting on all of the different types of data that we've seen coming in.
But I think Colleen raises a really good point in terms of not really knowing where we're supposed to be tasking the ships because you can't rapidly retire (ph) ships. And we've already seen the search area move once already from -- from the sort of deep southwest 700 miles north.
Now, i you've got ping locators out in that southern location, so suddenly expect them to head up 700 miles north rapidly, it's not going to happen so...
KAY: ...during this delay, we need to have the P-8s out there, the P- 3s, the alatians (ph). They need to be using this time to get out there and really corroborating the data that we have to make sure we're narrowing down the search area.
LEMON: I think you're bringing up a very good point. Thus -- thus saying, it's a big ship to turn around. They have that saying for a reason...
LEMON: ...because you know, it takes a long time to do that. And if they're not even in the right area, you know, then we're losing more time.
Stick around, everyone. Great discussion. A promising lead or more false hope? Search crews spot more items floating in the Indian Ocean. Ahead, are they significant or just more sea trash?
(UNKNOWN): We're getting down to an area within approximately five nautical miles which included at least four orange-colored objects, greater than approximately two meters in size each. 0I must stress that we can't confirm the origin of these objects.
LEMON: Four mysterious orange objects floating in the Indian Ocean called promising leads in the hunt for Malaysia Flight 370. But right now, search planes and ships are scouring the sea area, hoping this could be the huge break desperately needed to help solve the mystery of Flight 370.
Back with me now, my panel, Colleen Keller, Geoffrey Thomas, Les Abend and Michael Kay.
Geoffrey, to you first, you say the orange objects may be easier to locate again than previous mystery items that -- that we have seen. Why is that? THOMAS: Well, if -- if the orange objects are identified as from MH370, then the University of Western Australia tracks all the current data, all of these -- where this area is large eddies (ph) in that area. And they can then track back to March the 8th and tell the searchers exactly where that bit of debris came from.
If they have the exact location of where it's picked up, on the exact day, they can track it back to where it came from on March the 8th. And that will then give the Ocean Shield exact coordinates to travel to.
But of course, having said that, it won't be a pinpoint in the sea. It'll be an area or probably maybe 30 or 40 square miles. That's kind of the accuracy you're talking about. That's -- that's a rough figure.
And it can be with the pinger locator, the distance of being about a mile to pick up the -- the ping from the black boxes. You've got, again, be very lucky to get it.
LEMON: Let's talk about the search -- how long this could possibly go on. No one knows for sure. But certainly, the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott addressed that at a press conference not long ago. Let's listen.
ABBOTT: I'm certainly not putting a time limit on it. I -- I think as I said, we owe to it to the families. We owe it to everyone who travels by air. We owe to it the governments of the countries who had citizens on that aircraft.
We owe it to the wider world, which has been transfixed by this mystery for three weeks now. And we owe it to everyone to do whatever we reasonably can. And we can keep searching for quite some time to come.
And we will keep searching for quite some time to come. And as I said, the intensity of our search and the magnitude of our operations is increasing, not decreasing.
LEMON: What the families have wanted, obviously, besides getting their family members back, that they have wanted someone to be in charge, someone with authority, someone to give them information. And I think that's exactly what they have gotten.
Just in this press conference, Michael Kay, I don't know if you agree, but I think this is probably the -- the best information that they have gotten so far. And it also offers them some hope that their loved ones are not -- won't be forgotten soon in this process of searching.
KAY: Yes, I think it does. And in the absence of any critical facts or unequivocal facts, I think this is -- this is sort of all we can do at the moment. What I'd really like to see, though, at the moment, is we've been very focused on sort of the tactical level activity over the last week, the search, the aircraft, the -- the ping locators.
I think I'd like to go and see conversations at the international level again, looking, you know, reengaging with Inmarsat, just interrogating that data to make sure it's right, because what -- what I think we should be doing is -- is chasing data to corroborate that it's gone south, but also, because we don't have enough information to rule out any other options, we need to be looking at data to rule out anything that's gone north or west.
LES ABEND, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: But this may already be -- be happening. I mean, we're -- we're not privy to the inside of this investigation so...
LEMON (ph): I agree...
ABEND: ...it may, you know, let's -- let's just hope that it is. And I -- you and I have discussed this before and I -- I think we agreed that that's important. And I hope these objects -- these orange objects might be -- I mean, I don't want to throw, you know, a scenario that's not necessarily correct.
But it could be that's the color of crew life vest -- inflatable life vests -- orange -- orange -- orange.
LEMON: Colleen Keller, I understand from our producers that you're nodding your head in agreement, is this with what Michael Kay is saying?
KELLER: Yes, yes, I -- I do agree. I was trying to think of what he was saying. The orange is definitely unnatural. And it's indicative of some sort of life preserver thing. And we definitely need to pick that kind of thing up.
You know, what I was thinking earlier is the Australians are doing a great job. And -- and it's obvious that they're very methodical in the way they're searching. And that's very important.
But we also would like to see transparency in the organization running the search. That's critical for the family members and for other people that are -- we want to see not only how they're picking where they're searching, but are they looking at the other data.
Are they revisiting the original assumptions? Are they keeping everything on the table? They have an excellent Web site, the AMSA Web site is posting updates every couple of hours, explaining why they're doing certain things.
And I -- I laud them for that. I think that's wonderful.
LEMON: Do you think we might see more transparency, Geoffrey, with Angus Houston in charge, a retired Air Chief Marshal?
THOMAS: Look, I do indeed. And I think I agree. The AMSA Web site is excellent. I think it's going to be taken to a whole new level with Angus Houston who is a highly decorated commander of the Air Force and the Chief of Defense, excellent credentials.
And it also flags from -- from what I see and from what I hear behind the scenes that Australia's going to take a much bigger role in the search for and recovery of MH370. And it's highly likely that they will reach agreement with the Malaysians that the debris, once we find it, the wreckage, if we recover it, will come ashore at Fremantle, which is the port for Perth here in the -- in the West Coast.
And the airplane would be reassembled here as well. So -- and I also believe that the Australian Transportation Safety Board, our crash investigator, will actually take a major role in the investigation, along with the NTSB and the British and the French as well as, of course, the Malaysians, who will lead the crash investigation.
LEMON: We are working on borrowed time. That's how one member of the U.S. navy describes the search to find Flight 370 in the Indian Ocean -- the Southern Indian Ocean -- Indian Ocean.
Coming up, the two crucial pieces of equipment that could finally yield some answers.
LEMON: Time now quickly running out in the search for Flight 370. There's only about one week of battery life left on the flight data recorder. So when the battery will run out, the pings go silent.
Right now, an American pinger locator, an underwater search equipment, are loaded up and ready to head out to that search zone. Correspondent Paula Newton takes a close look at the U.S. pinger locator and how it may help solve the mystery of Flight 370 if time doesn't run out.
PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Ocean Shield is at the ready and just hours from sailing off to a search zone that so far has yielded no trace of Flight 370. The Australian ship will be the linchpin of the investigation, but only if and when air wreckage is found.
RAY GRIGGS, VICE ADMIRAL, ROYAL AUSTRALIAN NAVY: This is a very complex and challenging job. And the first real step here is to find some debris so that we can back cast and pinpoint an impact point to give us an initial search area.
NEWTON: Being fitted onboard, A U.S. navy tow pinger locator that will try and isolate the signal from the cockpit and flight data recorders and the Bluefin-21, an underwater vehicle that will comb the ocean floor looking for wreckage.
No matter how specialized and sophisticated this equipment, it won't do any good unless that search zone can be narrowed.
MARK MATTHEWS, COMMANDER, U.S. NAVY: We need better point of impacts estimation than -- than we have right now. NEWTON: U.S. Navy Commander Mark Matthews is leading the team that will deploy the locator equipment. And it needs to come within about a mile of the pinger, just like the one he's holding.
MATTHEWS: I can search approximately 50 square miles a day. So really, if we're searching for a beacon and we're living on borrowed time, I -- I need something that is only, you know, less than a thousand square miles.
NEWTON: Right now, we're dealing with over a hundred thousand square miles?
NEWTON: As you said, challenging.
MATTHEWS: It's very low probability of detection if that is our search area.
NEWTON: And that's a sobering thought for the families of those missing. As we board Ocean Shield, those working to deploy her are mindful that every minute counts. The pinger's signal will last a little more than a week.
And any wreckage has been dragged by wind and currents for weeks now. Paula Newton, CNN at Australian Naval Base Stirling.
LEMON: All right, Paula Newton, thank you very much.
I want to bring back in, Will Ripley now. He is following that ship, the Ocean Shield, an Australian ship with black box detector that was supposed to be on its way out into the Southern Indian Ocean. But there has been a delay.
And Will, I understand you have some information as to why.
RIPLEY: Yes, we just spoke with the Australian Defense Force. So there's an a-frame on the boat going to drop this equipment into the water. And that needs to be inspected, specifically, the welding on the a-frame.
They need to check to it make sure that it will hold up. We also have just learned that this afternoon, at some point, they're actually going to bring the Ocean Shield out here. And they're going to do some tests.
We don't know what kind of tests. We don't know what exactly it's going to look like or what they're testing. But we expect to see some activity here over the next few hours. We'll of course be monitoring.
We're working to get more information about specifically what's going to happen with those tests. And then we know that we're looking at a 6:00 p.m. local time departure. And that's at the earliest.
So 6:00 a.m. Eastern Time in the United States, 6:00 p.m. local time here at the earliest. And the departure could even be pushed back until tomorrow morning, we're told. We just have to wait and see.
I want to bring in Glenn Connley, who's a senior reporter and producer with the Seven Network here in Australia, a CNN affiliate. And we are partnering up with these guys out on the boat today.
Glenn, I just wanted to talk to you about, you know, the time frame of this search because you know, we've been talking all along about how the clock is really ticking here.
GLENN CONNLEY, SENIOR REPORTER, SEVEN NETWORK: Well, that's what makes this delay very interesting. We're talking about it might be seven days. It might be 20-odd days left in that black box pinger.
So if there's a delay here, remember, we were originally scheduled for this Ocean Shield to leave on Sunday. There's another delay. It makes you wonder about what's gone wrong, whether this equipment has been properly tested, whether this equipment will, in fact, work, because, you know, we're talking about deadlines all the time here.
So for us to be continually told another six hours, another six hours, maybe tomorrow morning, something is not right.
RIPLEY: You know, Glenn, you and I were chatting about this earlier. You know, we've been out here covering this now for a while. Do you get the sense that, you know, we were so eager a week ago, talking about we're close, we're close, because that was the energy that we felt.
What's the energy that you're feeling now, now being on this story, as we've been now for weeks?
CONNLEY: Well, to be fair, the optimism has maintained. But it's not the same. It doesn't have that same buzz that we had when we first saw that debris from the air four, five, six days ago now. I remember, three or four days into the search out of Perth, there was a hundred and 22 pieces spotted from a satellite.
We thought this has got to be it. There are a lot of experts right around the world saying, yes, we're onto it now. And then, of course, we have that Thai satellite image of 300 pieces. Now, what on earth was that?
So we've seen a lot of false storms (ph) here. And now, of course, we're seeing more delays. So yes, our energy is being sapped. But we do remain optimistic. And certainly, those pilots when they land out of the base (ph) Pearce, are positive.
RIPLEY: And you know, you've got to wonder, too, how long this is sustainable. I know, you know, the United States government is spending a hundred thousand dollars a day, CNN has reported on this search, Australian government.
Do you know a significant number? I know it's a significant amount of money that you, guys, are...
CONNLEY: All I can tell you is it is in the millions. And by now, well past 10 million Australian dollars.
RIPLEY: Yes, yes, yes.
So Don, I mean, that's the other factor here, looming over all of this. How long can we sustain these resources? A thousand sailors, eight, even I think nine now ships, 10 when you count Ocean Shield, which will be on the way, plus of these flights overhead.
It's an expensive search operation. And we still, thus far, have come up with -- with very little, certainly no tangible evidence of Flight 370.
LEMON: Will, thank you very much.
You know, Les Abend makes a very good point here. He says, listen, we must be patient. You cannot send a piece of equipment that big and that important out into the water without making sure that everything is outfitted and working properly.
Hold that thought. We'll talk about it right after this quick break.
LEMON: All right. I want to bring back my panel, Investigator Colleen Keller, Retired Royal Air Force Pilot Michael Kay, Aviation Analyst Les Abend and also Will Ripley joining us now in the water in Perth, Australia.
So with this new delay, this high-tech search vessel, we're really running out of time here. You brought up a very good point. You said, there it is, live out on the water there off Garden Island in Western Australia.
You said you can't do what?
ABEND: Well, this looks -- I mean, this looks like a great asset. But -- but obviously, it's never been deployed specifically for this purpose. So you've got to make things -- make sure that things are all safe and -- and ready to go, and that, you know, you don't lose all that expensive equipment.
LEMON: Michael Kay, cautious optimism. You said what?
KAY: Yes, absolutely. I mean -- I mean, this is a critical asset. But it's got a -- a specific capability, which is used when you zoned in on the area. So I think we should be guarding against using this as what we call a silver bullet.
We've still got to rewind and understand that the -- the higher probability is finding the debris on the surface or on the ocean bed. And that's what the P-8s, the P-3s and the Alatian (ph) should be doing. So yes, it has been delayed. But the aircraft and the maritime surveillance asset is still going to be out there and still going to be looking for the on-top-of-the-surface clues.
LEMON: Colleen, I wonder if this delay really puts the crew of the Ocean Shield under pressure, given that it's going to take them about two days before they get out in the area where they think that, you know, they can reach the -- the -- or hear the pinger before it dies.
KELLER: Well, I'm sure they're feeling the pressure. But the silver bullet comment is -- it has a lot of merit. If you think about it, this is the only TPL we've got in theater. And you don't want to just put it in the water without being really sure that this is the area you want to search in.
And just to make people understand, this thing reels out a cable that's a mile or so long. They try to get the pinger locator as close to the bottom as they can so that it has a chance so -- so that it's in the range of the -- of the beacons that are lying on the bottom.
So we're talking a couple of miles of cable. And you don't want to snag this or, you know, lose it or -- or have it, you know, catch some debris. So it's a very touchy operation. And if it were damaged in any way, where would you be then?
So they -- they want to be very sure of what they're doing when they deploy this.
LEMON: Mr. Les Abend making that point. A very good point, Les Abend.
Will Ripley, listen, you have been not only reporting from there where the Ocean Shield is. But you've been reporting from Pearce as well. And we must remember, there are other assets that are out searching as well, assets in the water and in the -- in the sky.
And this is just one that they believe is the best option -- one of the best options for locating the data recorders.
RIPLEY: Yes, absolutely. You know, we -- we -- you mentioned, you know, we had another ship just arrive.
So now, with the addition of the Ocean Shield in a few more days, I believe, according to our latest numbers, and the numbers are changing everyday, that we're going to have eventually 10 ships out there, more than a thousand people on those ships doing a visual search, I mean, because with all the technology that we have, the true heart and soul, the backbone of this operation are -- are people looking with their eyes, with binoculars, scanning the water to see what kind of debris they can spot.
In addition, that's also happening with the air search. Sometimes, there's 10 planes. There have been eight planes in the air, depending on the day. Sometimes, the planes have mechanical problems.
They can't all take off. So when you have that many people both up in the air and down at -- at sea level, monitoring this area, I mean, you've got to be hopeful about that. But -- and it sounds like a lot of people.
And it is a lot of people. It's a lot of resources and international effort. And yet, you know, we still face the reality that this is a huge area, roughly the size of Poland, where they're searching.
So even with that many people, that many ships, that many planes, still a lot to cover. And -- and it's a daunting task to them. Every little bit helps -- the technology and the manpower.
LEMON: Absolutely from Tony Abbott, the Prime Minister of Australia's press conference not long ago, he said 550 personnel were out working on searching here -- Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Malaysia, China, Japan, Korea. And he said, a hundred -- at least a hundred people were today in the sky alone.
And so, you know, we keep relying. We keep talking about the Ocean Shield. But there are a lot of other people and a lot of other equipment out looking. Stand by to my panel, everyone, and Will Ripley as well in Perth.
Up next, I'm going to speak to a man who survived the San Francisco plane crash, also joining me, his daughter. What was it like for her to wait for news, knowing her father was on that plane?
Don't miss this. We're back right after a very quick break.
LEMON: Two hundred and 39 people lost, their whereabouts still unknown, causing unimaginable grief for their loved ones. Worshipers around the world and here in Malaysia offered Sunday prayers for the missing passengers and crewmembers.
There, they are Christians, Muslims, Buddhists alike, lit candled and released purple balloons, one for each of the victims in this poignant ceremony. You know, no aviation disaster is easy to move on from, especially when you or your family member are on the plane.
The loved ones of those aboard Malaysia Flight 370 continue to wait for news, hoping for a miracle. Eugene Rah can relate. He was aboard Asiana Flight -- airline Flight 214 that crashed last summer in San Francisco.
It is a day that haunts him still. And I spoke to Eugene and his daughter, __ about their advice for the families of Flight 370.
EUGENE RAH, SURVIVOR, ASIANA FLIGHT 214: It's really awful, especially when you don't have a clue. You need to have a closure for you to move on. I mean, in my case, it was such a traumatic and severe experience that I wanted to, you know, I mean, overcome and move on with my life.
And still, I mean, I had such a short moments of, I mean, horrifying experiences. And still, it left so much -- so much of scars that I had to, you know, deal with.
But it's hard to imagine what those family are going through without knowing, you know, what happened to their loved one.
LEMON: Eunice, it was hours that you waited. This family has waited weeks now. And you know, there's been criticism of Malaysia Airlines, of some of the government officials there for not being sensitive enough.
What could have helped you in that situation coming from officials or from the airlines that you can offer to the family members who are probably watching us and -- and officials in Malaysia as well, to help those families? What kind of support can they give those families as they wait here not knowing?
EUNICE BIRD RAH, DAUGHTER OF SURVIVOR OF FLIGHT 213: You know, at that point, like I said, when you lose complete sense of your mind and your normal life, the only thing you could really ask for is just human support, just human, you know, kindness, and just that humility.
I think during a crisis, a lot of these airlines go into crisis management mode. And they're thinking legal things. They're thinking image. They're thinking so much out of what is really important, which is we are all human.
And we're feeling, you know, we are -- we have lost our, you know, loved ones. And we've lost track, you know -- we've -- we've lost contact with our loved ones. Please help us and communicate with us openly and be honest with us.
And just -- just work with us. And you know, at least then we can work together because when Asiana had happened, we were so disconnected from the airline that it made it so difficult for the families to even trust the airlines.
And I think for the Malaysian passengers and their family, it -- it really just breaks my heart even seeing footage of the passenger families mourning and grieving so, so much, and then on top of that, having Malaysia just so act so inappropriately. And, you know, honestly, it's -- it's very saddening.
And -- and I can only imagine what they're feeling, especially because they are waiting days and days and days. And when you're waiting that long and you're hanging onto hope like that, it -- it really just takes so much life out of you.
LEMON: Yes, you know, of course, the families want to hang onto hope. And it's not a criticism of the families. But I've heard psychologists say that they fear that the families are losing perspective here and are somewhat becoming delusional because they think, you know, thinking that maybe the families are alive somewhere.
But you -- one can understand that, right, because you would hope against hope that your family member is alive, no matter how odd or unusual the scenario. Either one of you can -- can answer that. RAH: For me, you know, when I -- when I first heard about the Malaysian airline, I -- I wanted to tell the families to be strong, because evidence is going to tell you that there's no hope. People and professionals and experts are going to tell you, the media's going to tell you, there is no hope.
But as, you know, the daughter to my dad, if I were to put myself in their situation, I would just hold onto hope. And it's very, very difficult for me to say that to these families, especially now, you know, seeing all the evidence and what's going on.
But truthfully, you know, I -- I would never give up on my dad. And if there was ever a moment when I didn't know if he was OK, I wouldn't -- I would never stop. And for psychiatrists to say that families are delusional, I mean, they're supposed to be delusional because this -- this is such a tragic event that you can only be delusional at a time like this so...
LEMON: Eugene, Eunice has offered some advice and some words of encouragement to the families. Your thoughts -- final -- your final thoughts?
RAH: Well, Eunice spoke well, which I totally agree with her. But I'd like to add just one comment with, I mean, you know, for those Malaysian officials and the airlines people.
Accidents happen. You know, saying sorry over and over again, it doesn't really help people. Imagine their families involved in this crash. I don't know if they would act the way they have been, you know, treating the families of those passengers.
I feel that there is some barriers in between, which has to be, you know, I mean, break before any improvement in between. And they all need support emotionally, of course. But mostly, they need transparent efforts from the Malaysian officials, especially when the investigation, the officials owns the company, the airlines itself, it creates a lot of, you know, I mean, uncertainties and doubt from families naturally and obviously, which they have to be really transparent and, you know, care.
LEMON: Make sure that you take part in our conversation as well. Send us your questions for our panel of experts. Use Twitter hashtag #370qs. And stay right there. Some of your questions, going to get some answers, next.
LEMON: Each day brings new questions about the mystery of Flight 370. And we're answering your questions with our panel of experts. And also, they're going to ask some questions, themselves, what would they like to see answered.
And remember, you can send your questions to @donlemon on Twitter or make sure you use the hashtag #370qs -- #370qs. Here's our panel now, Michael Kay. He is a Retired Royal Navy Pilot and the former Advisor to the U.K. Defense Ministry, also Les Abend is a CNN Analyst and also a pilot himself.
He flies a 777, and Will Ripley. You see him there in the water off of Perth, Australia. I want to ask this, and let's ask -- I'm going to ask the pilot question to the pilot here. This one is for Les.
So Tower (ph) asks, how many sorties out of his seat does each pilot get on a flight like this? How much sleep did the pilot or copilot get in the previous 24 hours? Do you know that?
ABEND: As far as the -- as the Malaysian crew is concerned?
LEMON: Yes, yes.
ABEND: They -- you know, this -- this was the beginning of their trip. So, I mean, that was -- that was a discretionary thing on their part. But generally speaking, on a layover, they're going to at least get 12 hours of rest.
LEMON: OK, Les, another question for you. Can -- this (ph) says have they looked at -- and this is from Koosi (ph) -- have they looked at tapes from previous flights of the copilot to see if he's always signed off as "all right, good night?" That's a pretty good -- that's a -- that's a great question.
ABEND: If -- if they have, we don't have that information at this point in time. It's a great idea. LEMON: Do you know -- do you have any -- you don't know? OK. ABEND: Well, I think it's a great question.
LEMON: It -- it is an absolutely great question.
So Will Ripley, as you were out there now, we have this delay, you're getting information that has been delayed at least until 6:00 in the evening. And that's six hours more of a delay to get close to that pinger and the time is running out. Any updates?
RIPLEY: Yes, we talked just now again with the folks who were kind of feeding us information. And what -- what we're told is that later this afternoon, it looks like we're losing our shot a little bit.
But the -- the Ocean Shield behind the boat here, they're going to be conducting some equipment tests here in Coburn bay where we are right now. So they're going to -- they're going to bring the boat out. And we'll be watching.
They're going to be testing the equipment. We know that they -- they had some inspectors who wanted to make sure that the a-frame that lowers the tow ping locater into the water, that big giant microphone that listens for the ping from the black box, they want to make sure that a-frame works properly, that it's welded properly so they can -- they can get that equipment safely down to the water, because when you're out in the weather conditions, in the Indian Ocean and things get potentially pretty treacherous, you need to make sure that all of that is held together and is going to work effectively. So that's -- that's the reason behind the delay. They're testing everything out to make sure that it works all right.
LEMON: Yes, and -- and that's absolutely according to our experts here. That's what they should be doing.
OK, Michael Kay, you have really been honing in on -- you want more radar, more satellite information, is that correct?
KAY: Yes, I want more evidence to corroborate the track south because that will then help us feed the assumptions on where it is. And I -- I want to zone in on primary radar -- works out to about 200 miles off the coast.
There is a huge area of radar right (inaudible) which has been...
LEMON: Why -- why do you still have -- what is the reason that you -- you're honing in on this so much? Why is this so important?
KAY: Well, we don't have a lot of information as is. But the information we do have from the last transponder (ph) ping is headed kind of west, an altitude between 12,000 and 45,000, big conflicting evidence.
If it's gone that way and it's gone across the northern tip of Indonesia, it will go across a huge area of radar at Banda Aceh, which is an radar site, an Indonesian radar site in the northern tip of Sumatra. It will have seen something.
And the question I have is is the -- the tide radar saw something. The Malaysian radar saw something. Primary radar doesn't indicate what it is. But there'll be a trace on there. But it wouldn't have a score (ph).
But the Indonesians didn't...
LEMON: Are you -- are you saying, though, that you want to look into this because do you believe that we're searching in the wrong place and that -- that northern track is still a possibility? Is that what you're saying?
KAY: It goes back to what I was saying. Let's corroborate evidence to support the southern track. Let's eliminate data to get rid of the northern track. That's what we need to be doing.
We can't just put our eggs in one basket and assume it's gone south, unless we have eliminated every little bit of data that could be an assumption of it going north.
ABEND: That may already have been taken place, you know, and...
KAY: But radar would help with that. That's what I'm saying is... ABEND: And I think the altitude is important because the altitude relates to speed because if it's a lower altitude, it means a slower speed.
LEMON: Thank you very much. Thank you, Mike.
Thank you, Les.
Thank you, Will Ripley. We appreciate it.
I'm Don Lemon. Thank you so much for joining us. And make sure you stay tuned for CNN for any update on the search for Flight 370. Also, tune in 4 a.m. tomorrow morning, early starting a new day at 6 a.m. Have a great evening.