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The Mystery of Flight 370

Aired March 31, 2014 - 22:00   ET


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

Tonight, breaking news: "The Wall Street Journal" reporting that poor communication among countries and companies involved in the search led to three days of searching in an area far from where the plane is believed to be. So are searchers in the right place tonight? We will check on that.

Also, is there a new flight path for MH370, and was this a criminal act? We have new reporting on that tonight as well. And we thought we knew the pilots last words. Turns out "All right, good night" were not the last recorded words uttered by the pilot of Flight 370, but rather, "Good night, Malaysian 370." Are we back to square one of this investigation?

On day of 25 of the search and no sign of the plane, is it time for the U.S. to step in here? Are we doing enough to aid in this search?

You have been tweeting us your questions by the thousands, and we have got top aviation and security experts standing by to answer them throughout this hour, like this one. "A large debris field was seen on multiple satellite images. Then search was abandoned in the area. Why not go back?"

We will take a look at how the best leads to date panned out later on in this show.

I'm going to go right to CNN correspondents for the very latest on this. Kyung Lah is in Perth. Nic Robertson is in Kuala Lumpur.

I'm going to start with you, Kyung, where the search is under way tonight.

Kyung, "The Wall Street Journal" now reporting that because of poor communication valuable time was lost searching in the wrong area for three days. How confident can they be that they're looking in the place right now?

KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We are not privy to the information that the authorities are getting. All we can do is take the prime minister's words on face value. That's the prime minister of Australia.

He was here at the air base yesterday and he was asked that exact question. How confident are you that you are looking in the right area? He is saying that now that it has moved, now that these best minds on this investigation have looked at the best technical data available, that he believes that they are now looking in the right area.

But that's what we were told the first time, that when the initial search happened that they thought they were looking in the right area. And they moved it and now they believe, according to the prime minister of Australia, that they are looking in the right area.

LEMON: We certainly hope so. Kyung Lah, thank you very much in Perth.

Now I want to go to CNN's Nic Robertson in Kuala Lumpur, where he's breaking a story on what could be a major development in this case, a possible new flight path for MH370. Nic is live with that.

Nic, what do you have?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Don, we have heard a lot about how the Chinese families of people who were lost aboard that flight have been very frustrated and they can't get their answers asked of Malaysian officials.

They drew up a list of those questions. One of those questions included a map they had drawn up. We were able to put those questions or at least that map to Malaysian officials. This is how it turned out.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): This map of Flight 370's radar track was much of the reason for upset by survivor families last week, the image captured by still photographers in the family briefing. It shows a very different route from the left turn depicted until now. And it's raising even more questions about what exactly happened to Flight 370, questions the family members were unable to ask at the time.

HUSSEIN: The family briefings were personal. Next?

ROBERTSON: Chinese relatives of Flight 370 passengers say they created the map from publicly available data.

(on camera): A source with knowledge of the investigation tells CNN that beyond doubt the new map, if accurate, shows that someone with excellent flying skills was at the controls of the aircraft, that no one on board would have felt the turn. It's a claim that's getting heavy pushback from Malaysian officials.

HUSSEIN: As regards to the issue of information that's been revealed outside the press conference and of speculation and diagrams in Google or anything else in the Internet, I cannot confirm or discount. I can only base on what I have informed you in my pieces.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Investigation officials insist privately this new map is not theirs, that it doesn't match Malaysian radar readings. Despite refusing to comment publicly, Malaysian officials did say all the radar data is central to their investigation.

ABDUL AZIZ ABDUL RAHMAN, FORMER CEO, MALAYSIA AIRLINES: The manner of the air traffic control at the time of the aircraft make an air turn back is one of the very important criteria for the investigators to look at.


ROBERTSON: Well, in a background briefing, Malaysian investigators did tell CNN that they believed Flight MH370, that whoever was flying it had a thorough knowledge of the aircraft. Government sources have now gone to say that they believe the turn was a criminal act by one of the two pilots or someone else on board -- Don.

LEMON: Well, Nick, why do investigators there continue to believe that this was a criminal act?

ROBERTSON: It's based on the flight path, it appears, during that turn, whether it is this big arc or other information that Malaysian officials have that doesn't appear to indicate that the plane went through some catastrophic malfunction, that it was, in fact, turned under careful control, somebody with a thorough knowledge of the aircraft, excellent at controlling the aircraft, according to somebody else.

That's why somebody was in there turning it, knowing what they were doing, not responding to an emergency, and therefore that's why they call it a criminal act, Don.

LEMON: Nic Robertson in Kuala Lumpur, thank you, Nic.

I want to get to Geoffrey Thomas now. I want to get his reaction. He is the editor in chief and managing director of He joins me now from Perth.

Geoffrey, I want to ask you about Nic's reporting on the new flight path, but first I want to ask you about a new report tonight in "The Wall Street Journal" that is saying that poor coordination among countries and companies searching for the plane cost three crucial days. Do you believe that aspect of the investigation was mishandled?

GEOFFREY THOMAS, AIRLINERATINGS.COM: Look on the surface of it, Don, yes, it does appear that way. It seems extraordinary that teams trying to work out where this airplane had gone were working independently of each other.

This is not normally what would happen in a crash investigation, say, run by the NTSB in the United States or run by the ATSB in Australia. They would be bringing together all of the experts in various fields and saying, OK, here's the problem. How do we work it out? But for teams to be working independently of each other seems extraordinary. And three days, that is three precious days we have lost.

LEMON: Yes. Every moment is valuable here. Geoffrey, now I want to ask you about Nic Robertson's reporting about a possible new map said to show or possibly show a new radar track for the flight. What do you make of that, Geoffrey?

THOMAS: Look, it's very interesting, Don. And I believe this map came from relatives, the Chinese relatives. It may well be that they are privy to some information from the Chinese that we are not.

And one of the things that keeps coming back to us here is that the authorities know more about this than we are told, and it seems extraordinary that this plane could blunder its way through Southeast Asia, through some of the most heavily traveled corridors in the world for military and commercial aircraft, through Malaysian airspace, through Singaporean airspace possibly, through Indonesian airspace into Australian airspace, and not be tracked by military radar? That beggars belief that that could happen.

LEMON: It is unbelievable.

More new reporting here. At first, we heard the last words were "All right, good night." Now the Malaysian ministry of transport says the last words were "Good night, Malaysian 370."

Geoffrey, what is the significance of this?

THOMAS: Well, first of all, it is amazing that it has taken them three weeks to correct this.

I mean, these air traffic control tapes are available immediately, the next morning. March the 8th, in fact, the morning of March the 8th, they would have had these tapes available to them and they would know exactly what they said. Now, to let this go for three weeks and not correct it is amazing.

But the sign-off is still not correct. It should have been Malaysian 370, contact Ho Chi Minh Center 120.9, good night. The pilot should have repeated the instruction from air traffic control. That's the way air traffic control-pilot communications work. You have to acknowledge your flight, you have to acknowledge your instruction to make sure you have it correct, and then you have the niceties of saying, good night, good day, whatever it happens to be. That's the way it works.

So this sign-off, although corrected slightly, is still incorrect.

LEMON: It sounds maybe someone with some inexperience could have been the co-pilot. We will talk a little bit more about this.

Geoffrey, stay with me.

I want to get tonight's experts' take on all of this. Joining me now, Miles O'Brien is a CNN aviation analyst and a science correspondent for "PBS NewsHour." David Soucie is a CNN safety analyst and former FAA safety inspector and author of "Why Planes Crash: An Accident Investigator Fights for Safe Skies." Jim Tilmon is a CNN aviation expert, a retired American Airlines pilot and President of the Tilmon Group, Jeff Wise, a CNN aviation analyst and contributor to Slate and the author of "Extreme Fear: The Science of Your Mind in Danger." Mary Schiavo is a former inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation and she also is an attorney that represents victims of transportation accidents. Tim Taylor is the president of Tiburon Subsea Services, an expert in robotics and autonomous underwater vehicles.

Thank you all for joining me this evening.

So, Miles, I want to start with you. Before I get to the question about Nic's reporting, but did you hear what Geoffrey said? He said it was supposed to be -- he gave the pilots' official language. Does it sound to you that maybe there was someone less experienced here, maybe the co-pilot answering?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: You know, late at night on a quiet radio frequency, sometimes you forget to read back the radio frequency. It's a minor transgression in the grand stream of things.

So I think -- I don't think we should read too much into it. It's completely out of context, Don. If we had the transcript and the full context of the last call, that might tell us something.


Mary, what do you make of Nic Robertson's reporting? What does the possible new flight path, if in fact it's accurate, what does it tell us?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: If it's accurate, it is a very wide and sort of meandering path.

I think actually it doesn't square with the notion that these were expert -- whoever was doing this was an expert, had a nefarious plan in place, because it was certainly kind of all over the map. Certainly, it was a wide turn, but you could make a coordinated turn that really the passengers won't feel in a very small airspace.

The key is having a coordinated turn where you use the aileron and the rudder so it's a very smooth turn. So, I didn't see this new path as evidence that was some incredible pilot performing feats of aeronautical skill and it looks questionable to me.

LEMON: All right, David, let's follow up more on what Mary is talking about. Sources are telling CNN that the airliner's turn is being viewed as a criminal act. What do you think?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Well, first of all, I don't have any idea where the map came from, because it totally disregards any of the facts that we know already and inserts facts that don't exist. I'm not giving it any credence whatsoever.

This path is based on speculation and innuendo. It's the same concept of coming up with a conclusion or a theory and then placing the facts in place to support your conclusion or theory. I just don't give it in credence at all on that path.

LEMON: All right, stand by, everyone, because coming up, lead after lead turning up nothing really but dead ends. My experts will dig deeper into this more, each one of these things, tell us what searchers really have found and what the consequences have been and whether or not it's been true if it turned up anything.


LEMON: Tonight, the search is back on after another lead hits a wall.

I want you to listen to this tweet, which raises a very important point. It says: "Any explanation to whatever happened to the 300 floating objects or the images pointing to location? Are we back to square one?"

I'm back now with my experts. It's a very good question, very good question.

There have been a lot of promising leads in this search. I want to follow up on some of those leads. So, everyone, listen very closely here.

First, those 122 objects spotted by French satellites on March 23 released on March 26, none of the objects spotted are now thought to be part of the plane. And then the images from March 24 released on March 27, a Thai satellite picked up 300 floating objects. What happened to be there? The search area was abandoned when the search area shifted 684 miles north.

And then on March 28 and 29, five aircraft spotted objects of various colors in the new search area. Some of the objects have been retrieved and so far none of those objects have confirmed to be part of the missing plane. And finally just yesterday four orange-colored objects considered -- quote -- "the most promising leads so far" were discovered to be old fishing gear.

Well, David, all these leads at one point had many people thinking that the plane had maybe been located. Does this demonstrate really just how daunting a task this search is and will continue to be for a while?

SOUCIE: Well, it really is.

And to be able to have the confidence to give up on that lower search and move it up to where it is now, that says a lot for the team, that they had the wherewithal to determine that that had happened and they must have had a lot of confidence in the Inmarsat data.

But I too was disappointed about the objects that we found in the south. I had convinced myself that it looked like a wing and that was it met the dimensions. And I had seen it two or three places. And so I was extremely disappointed that we didn't get to at least get down there and see what those things were, because although logically I guess from what their data has, they wanted to look someplace else. But to me it was very disappointing.

LEMON: Well, Mary, it seems every promising lead so far has come up empty. Is this just trial and error from here on out? The question is, is there a better way to search?

SCHIAVO: Yes, is it trial and error.

And there is a better way to search. What was disturbing last week is the Malaysian investigators stated that the air traffic control tapes and radar data and something mysterious, security recordings and tapes from the airport were sealed and would remain sealed. It seems to me that those are three really crucial pieces of data that need to be released so as many eyes and as many minds as possible can help search for it. But they remain locked away.

And so the better way to do the investigation would get the information out there, get the data so everyone is working off of hard facts.

LEMON: Jeff, reading your latest piece on, I see that it focuses on how we really have zero tangible evidence about where this plane is. Are you convince that we are looking in the right area?

JEFF WISE, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: We, we don't -- we have no idea what the right area is.

There's been a real mismatch between what the authorities say and then what their actions seem to portray their beliefs to be. In the case of the first search area, when the prime minister of Australia went in front of his own parliament and described it as a credible lead and for days we were hearing about this debris, we were very excited, and then as my previous guests have said, all of a sudden, just they go just off somewhere else.

You have to wonder how much sincerity is there really when these new tangible credible leads are described as such. And basically just the point I was making in the piece is that when you take the totality of the actual evidence, hard evidence that we have that the plane is in the north, it's in the south, it's anywhere, we have got none.

And even this Inmarsat data that was so highly touted that the Malaysian prime minister felt entitled to go in front of the world press and say that the families should give up hope that their loved ones were alive, it's remarkable that then they have subsequently been walking back from that Inmarsat, have distanced themselves.

LEMON: Yes, from that information.

Jim, listen, I understand that you are still not ruling out that this plane could be on land, are you?

JIM TILMON, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: No, I'm not ruling it out at all.

And I know what a puppet feels like now. We were in the South China Sea. We looked there. And then somebody said, no no, no, no.


LEMON: Strait of Malacca.

TILMON: So, let's go there. So, everybody rushes down there. And the next thing you know, no, no, no, it's up here north. Let's go up there, so we all rush up there together.

And it's as if we don't have even an inkling about where we really feel confident that this airplane might be. And I got to tell you, I still think we did not exhaust the search on land. It's that simple.


Well, Tim, you know, he brings up a very good point. Four weeks in, how worried were you that the odds of solving this mystery are rapidly decreasing?

TIM TAYLOR, PRESIDENT OF TIBURON SUBSEA SERVICES: Hey, if I was in Vegas, I would guarantee you this is going to be one of those mysteries.

Even when they find the debris -- it's four weeks later -- even the best modelers cannot work this debris back to an impact zone without more data. And if the satellite information is incomplete or it can't lead us there, this is going to be finding your way back at this particular point, this far out from the event, is going to be hard.

If you take the tsunamis in Japan and you find trash on the West Coast of the United States, you know when the event happened, you know when you found it, and then you can put in modeling in and you might be able to find something. We only -- even if we find debris now, we only have one end of that puzzle. It's going to be difficult. I can give you some numbers that will astound you, if you are interested.

LEMON: I am. But stand by, because I want to get Geoffrey back in here before we lose Geoffrey.

Geoffrey, quickly, the Malaysian prime minister coming to Perth tomorrow, does that indicated to you that officials are more confident in their investigation at this point?

THOMAS: Look, the Malaysian prime minister coming down here gives more credibility to the fact that the government's involved in this, the Australian, the American, the British and the Malaysians do know more about this airplane than they are telling us.

I believe they have more intelligence than they are telling us. It may be mired in politics, in military defense posturing. But I'm absolutely convinced that they do know broadly where this airplane is. And they are bringing in more resources.

So the Malaysian prime minister coming down, I think it adds credibility to, we are looking in the right place.

LEMON: All right.

THOMAS: But going back to those satellite images that we were talking about earlier, there's real question marks about the analysis of those images, and the fact that some of those pieces of fuselage or wing, if you will, were actually whitecaps on the water. I think questions have to be raised about the analysis.

LEMON: Geoffrey Thomas, thank you.

Everyone else, stay with me.

Coming up, the United States often accused by critics for being the -- quote, unquote -- "world police," but if the U.S. can do more to help in the investigation, should we step in?

And then, later, you would not believe what has been floating around the ocean, how this can affect the search for Flight 370. We will be right back.


LEMON: The world watches Malaysia as more leads hit more dead ends.

Should the U.S. be stepping in?

Jim Sciutto is CNN's chief national correspondent. And he has more.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Today, the United States is one of seven countries scouring nearly 158,000 square miles of waves for any trace of Flight 370.

The U.S. Navy is flying two P-8 Poseidon aircrafts. The specially equipped 737s are some of the most advanced surveillance aircraft in the world.

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, FORMER AIR FORCE COLONEL: If there is wreckage to be had, this aircraft certainly has capabilities that can help pick that up.

SCIUTTO: The P-8s report back to the USS Blue Ridge, the command ship of the U.S. Seventh Fleet. No American surface ships are in the immediate search area. But the U.S. Navy has now deployed this towed pinger locator.

It is on board Australia's Ocean Shield, en route to the search zone. The locator is designed to listen for the black boxes' pinging beacons, also on board, this autonomous underwater vehicle, or UAV, which uses sonar to scan the ocean floor for debris. U.S. officials make clear, however, that this equipment will only be useful once searchers have identified a likely crash site and debris field much smaller than the zone they're searching now.

Boeing, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, the FAA and even the FBI are all assisting in the investigation. But is the United States, with the world's largest military by far and an expansive fleet of spy satellites, doing all it can?

CHUCK HAGEL, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: We have provided, as far as I know, everything the Malaysian government has requested of us.

SCIUTTO: Today, American support does include some of its vast array of satellite.

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, U.S. NAVY: That you haven't seen satellite imagery from the United States on cable and network TV doesn't mean that we aren't sharing imagery as appropriate. We are.

SCIUTTO: International hot spots are competing for U.S. satellites' attention.

CHAD SWEET, CEO, THE CHERTOFF GROUP: Most of our capabilities are going to be focused on North Korea, Russia, China, and you can imagine right now, with what is going on in the Ukraine, the competition for these resources right now, if you are president, you have got to weigh, do I focus on the Korean -- the Ukrainian border, or do I really divert assets in this region?

SCIUTTO: Even with the best of military assets, time is running out. Scouring the seabed may soon be the only hope, if the black boxes' crucial beacons go silent.

Jim Sciutto, CNN, Washington.


LEMON: All right, Jim.

Joining me now by phone is Commander William Marks from the USS Blue Ridge. Commander Marks, can you bring us up to date on your operation?

COMMANDER WILLIAM MARKS, USS BLUE RIDGE (via phone): Sure thing. Thanks for having me.

We launched our P-8 patrol aircraft flight for today just a little while ago. That's in transit out to the search area. We are flying pretty much every day. It's important to note: we are in a supporting role in this tremendous international coalition we have here. So we get our air tasks in order from the Australians coordinating the search effort.

But we did just launch our P-8 flights for day. This area is much closer than the area last week. So that maximizes our search time. So the flight out there, probably about 2 hours or so. And that gives us almost five hours on station time for search area. And it's about two hours back.

So we've had good luck with weather and scheduling, so all the flights are working out. You know, unfortunately we haven't found any debris associated with aircraft wreckage. We do see stuff every single day. We do see things as small as trash or seaweed or even dolphins splashing out there in the water.

But nothing associated with an aircraft. So we have a flight up in the air right now. That's on our aviation side. And also, as was mentioned, our towed pinger locator and the Blue Fin (ph) 21 side-scan sonar, those are on the Ocean Shield, and that got underway last night.

LEMON: Commander Marks, thank you for your update. We appreciate you.

And you know, technologically speaking, the U.S. does seem to have its hands full around the world.

Joining me now, U.S. Congressman from New York, Michael Grimm.

I'm sure you were listening to the commander there. And you heard in Jim Sciutto's story there about what would have to happen if we wanted to be more invested in this. With everything that's going on -- North Korea, Russia, China, the Ukraine -- Congressman Grimm, how big a priority is finding Flight 370 for the United States?

REP. MICHAEL GRIMM (R), NEW YORK: Well, it's still a top priority. The United States is used to having our hands full. But there's no question, we're stressed.

But you have to look at this region in a larger geopolitical context. This is a tense region to begin with. Obviously, with China doing what it's done in the past, we have a lot invested in this region. We have a lot of allies, including Australia. So the commitment, I believe, from the United States is about as good as it can be. And it has to be, because this is such an important region.

But there is no question we -- we are looking at a lot of different hot spots throughout the world. Let's not also forget -- no one is mentioning it, but Iran racing towards nuclear weapons. Trust me: the president and the DOD are looking at that, as well. So it's not just Russia with Ukraine massing forces and possibly expanding past the Crimea. There are a lot of hot spots that we have to worry about. But this is a crucial, crucial region, geopolitically speaking, and it's very tense to begin with.

LEMON: And you said as good as it can be. Some people still don't -- wonder if it's enough. Malaysian officials said today, Congressman, that they might ask the U.S. and others for other assets in this search. So do you believe the U.S. is doing everything? You said, you know, as good as it can be. But everything it can to help find Flight 370?

GRIMM: Well, I think right now, they are doing everything they can in light of the fact that we don't have specific data. If we had a specific region where we knew for sure the plane went down, we could probably amass more resources. But as of right now, I'm not sure that that would be the best use of our resources until we have something more specific.

This is a massive area to search. And unfortunately, we've had a lot of misinformation from the Malaysian government. So until it's narrowed down, I think it's going to be very difficult for the United States to expand for -- or expand the amount of resources we're willing to put forth right now, considering everything else that's going on in the world.

LEMON: Congressman, the last time you and I spoke, you said that the FBI is the most qualified to handle this investigation. Has the FBI, in your opinion, been given enough investigative responsibility in this search? In the investigation?

GRIMM: To be honest with you, I don't know. I'm not on the ground with the FBI down there, obviously, but there is no question: they are without a doubt the best to handle this situation, because they're used to dealing with multi-agencies. I mean, there's so many agencies involved with this. This is what they do. They specialize. And they're also used to dealing with foreign governments. So they are certainly in the best position.

However, we have to remember, you have to look at this in context. This is a very tense region, geopolitically speaking. So other countries are going to be very reticent to having the FBI probably fully involved or giving them too much authority, just based on the nature of the region.

And we just heard China wants to put 50 more satellites in the air. There's -- no one has really raised the specter, and I think it may be premature before we have a discussion, but the reality is if a triple-7 can go missing and sophisticated countries, include Australia, has no idea -- it was never picked up by any radar, obviously, there are some security lapses that many countries are looking at right now, even beyond finding this particular aircraft.

They are wondering what other lapses are there? Are there other things in the ocean they don't know about? Are there other things in the air they don't know about? And it's a little bit of a race now to play catch up. So I think that also plays a factor in how much of a role the U.S. is going to be allowed to play in this region.

LEMON: And thus, the importance of this story. And that's why we're getting it on here. There are so many unknowns here and so many lessons to be learned.

Congressman, thank you. We appreciate it.

GRIMM: Thank you.

LEMON: Coming up, the last best hope for clues. Is time running out? Or has it already?


LEMON: Is it a race against the clock as the battery life of the black box is running on fumes. And I'm back now with my experts. And you know, we have discussed this: how long it can last -- 30 days, 40 days -- and we're not sure.

Tim, I asked you, I think, an important question earlier in the show, where you said -- I said, four weeks in, how worried are you that the odds of solving this are decreasing. And you said, you know, you have some startling numbers for us? What do you have?

TAYLOR: OK. If you can narrow this down. I spoke with David earlier tonight in the green room. And he was saying, trying to narrow this down with the satellite data, they may have some leads. But let's just say, everything aside, we're working with the AUV.

I actually personally have mapped 1,800 square miles of ocean bottom with the exact same AUV model, one size smaller. And it takes time. Not, the -- the AUV.

So we're looking at a 10,000-square-mile area, which is 100 miles by 100 miles. And you can talk in numbers. That is a fraction of what they're looking at. You're going to take about 2 years of AUV dives. That's 660-something days of AUV dives.

Now every day in AUV dives is usually two days of maintenance or weather or something with the ship. So usually, one operational day with an AUV takes three operational days total. So do the math: we're six years mapping a 10,000 square foot, or 100-mile by 100-mile area with an AUV.

And that's just a broad-based picture. Once you hit targets and they show up like little dots and you have to go down and investigate them even closer with a higher frequency sonar at a lower altitude off the bottom to get a good picture of what you're looking at.

LEMON: So basically, what you're saying is it's going to take a long time, and there's probably going to have to be patience involved.

And you know, the families right now, it's hard for them to be patient, and understandably so.

And speaking of the families, of everyone on board, including the pilots, Miles, the pilot's daughter lashing out on social media, accusing a British paper of falsely quoting her as saying her father was disturbed before the flight? Miles, are the pilot and co-pilot in this investigation being unfairly scapegoated?

O'BRIEN: Yes, in a word. I mean, I saw that initial article -- and it was a poorly written article, poorly sourced, and I was very skeptical about it. And I think it's a shame that this kind of stuff exists. And I hope those of us at CNN, you know, refrain from doing this kind of thing.

The pilots, the crew, have to be right on -- near the top of the list as targets of investigation. There's no question about it. They were in the cockpit at the controls. There's an awful lot of things that don't add up.

But beyond that, you would put that -- you would couple that with all the other scenarios that we've been talking about and put that on a list together. And to individually go after the pilots and their families, who are grieving, incidentally, and write things that turn out to be fiction, I think is reprehensible.

LEMON: Jim Tilmon, I'm sure you heard the congressman. I thought he brought up a very good point. He says that countries in this part of the world, a hot geopolitical climate, are scrambling to figure out what really happened here because of important security issues here. That is very relevant.

TILMON: It's extremely relevant for every one of them, including the United States. You're going to find out where some of our weak points are in our security, and other countries are looking at theirs.

Because it's unbelievable that an airplane like this could actually fly around long enough to create all of this -- this misunderstanding, let us say, and not be detected. That's -- we don't know where it is. It's a huge airplane. They don't get much bigger than this. And yet we don't know where it is, and nobody seems to own up to it, if they do know.

LEMON: And thus, why this is so astounding: almost a month later we're still covering this, and this is still breaking news, and no one has any clues, no answers and no sign of that missing plane. It is truly mind-boggling.

Another lead, another dead end. Another lead, another dead end. The floating orange objects found by satellite, fishing equipment and lots of garbage. Coming up, my experts on what has to happen next.


LEMON: Yesterday's most promising lead yet, objects spotted by satellite found to be fishing equipment and garbage. In fact, floating foreign objects in the ocean are disturbingly common. Ships often lose cargo in storms.

In 1992, thousands of rubber ducks, turtles and frogs were found floating around the Pacific. Returning now to talk about of this is Marcus Eriksen, executive director and co-founder of the 5 Gyres Institute.

Good evening to you, sir. One of the things this search has really revealed is that the ocean in this area is really full of garbage. And here's one of our viewers -- her name is Sabreen -- she says, "In looking for Flight 370, does it not alarm anyone else that there is so much debris in the ocean?" This area is notorious for this garbage, isn't it?

MARCUS ERIKSEN, DIRECTOR/CO-FOUNDER, 5 GYRES INSTITUTE: It's surprising how much debris is there. There's a background of plastic waste, from fishing gear to bottles and bags, single-use products washing off our coastal watersheds out to sea. So to find a lot of debris in the Indian Ocean at the site where the crash occurred and have it not be from the crash itself is not unlikely.

LEMON: What might you find there and how does it get there in such quantities?

ERIKSEN: Well, I brought a few things to show you just what you might find. Some of our -- from some of our previous expeditions.

So we've gone through all five subtropical gyres. And there are five of these large accumulation zones called the subtropical gyres, North and South Pacific, North and South Atlantic, and the Indian Ocean itself.

From the North Pacific, I showed you one thing we found about five years ago. Right in the middle of nowhere was this case. Now, if you were -- if you had a satellite image, an aircraft flying over this region, and you saw this, you might think that this might be a seat cushion. You could easily confuse this debris for objects that came from the aircraft.

But a lot of what's out there is the fishing gear. So I brought you -- here's a net we found near Easter Island. That's from an expedition a few years back.

And a lot of consumer products you might recognize. Here's a shoe, a child's shoe. Here's an oil can, deterrent bottles of all kinds. And you can see, these things are really chewed up by marine life as they begin to degrade.

Now the fishing gear is pretty common. The fishing gear is designed to survive in those inhospitable environments. You find a lot of fishing floats and fishing nets.

The smaller stuff, it begins to break down rather quickly. It's -- it will degrade by sunlight. It will degrade by fish bites and be consumed by other life. Here's a handful of cigarette lighters that were pulled out of the stomachs of albatross on Midway.

So this stuff begins to break down very quickly into the fragments you can see here. This is one ocean...

LEMON: And I would imagine there would be lots of floating plastic chairs from beach -- beach furniture, all types of things that float into the ocean.

And so the question is, Marcus, for the sea crews searching for MH-370, is there a more efficient way to distinguish between what is trash and what could be plane parts? Because a lot of it, they're doing it by eyesight.

ERIKSEN: More efficiently? There really isn't. It's very difficult to tell, you know, what is any common household product.

You mentioned chairs. You know, when you're out there on the ocean, when you walk onto the beaches of islands in the gyres, it looks like a department store kind of washed ashore. Everything made in plastic, it may find in the ocean, they sit in these gyres for years, if not -- if not decades. So to distinguish a seat cushion, for example, or something from someone's luggage from the background material already there is very, very difficult. And color and shape doesn't always give you the best clues.

LEMON: Thank you, Marcus, appreciate it.

ERIKSEN: My pleasure.

LEMON: I want to get my experts' reaction right now. So you saw it. Those were just the small items he could bring in, Tim. There's a lot of ocean junk in this part of the ocean. How challenging does this make finding this 370 wreckage? I think it just multiplies it, right?

TAYLOR: Oh, yes. I mean, I've been out there, and we've found fishing nets like he explained with their own ecosystem that has evolved around them. Things grow on them. Fish live on them. They create a larger, almost little island floating around.


TAYLOR: And they get driven together with wind. And it's amazing what you'll find.

So yes, the satellite images are going to show that. But again, it's still a lead, and they need to chase it down. So you're looking for a plane that wrecked, and it should be a large debris field somewhere.

LEMON: As you're speaking, we're looking at incredible images there of just debris on the beach and all of it coming from the ocean, washed up on the ocean someplace. First was on land and then got in the ocean.

Jeff, if all we keep finding is trash on the top of the ocean, at what point does this search solely focus on mapping the ocean floor?

WISE: Well, you have to wonder if there's no evidence on the surface of the ocean that the plane was there. I mean, it's very difficult to imagine a plane that size landing at hundreds of miles an hour not breaking up, not generating some debris. The stuff is going to spread around.

And you know, we've got people, as we've been hearing about, you know, major assets being deployed to find the stuff. We've also got fisherman, merchantmen going through the oceans, a very heavily trafficked ocean. You've got people on the beaches. You know, you would expect to find these things turning up in ordinary people's hands.

You know, there was a firefighting bottle that turned up on the beaches of Maldives, and it went viral. You know, anything that turns up, any seat cushion turns up on a beach from a triple-7 is going to instantly be the most famous seat cushion in the world.

LEMON: Absolutely. David, four weeks in, is it likely, though, that wreckage would still be floating?

SOUCIE: Yes. There's still -- there's a lot of things, like for example, the carts that go up and down the rows, those float, and they'll stay floating for a long time. They're made out of a honeycomb structure that's sealed, with epoxy on each side of the metal, with the honeycomb in between, which, it's a perfect flotation device. It's a sealed cell flotation device that could float for years.

LEMON: Mary, I want to -- this is a question from Phillip. Phillip asks, "Can a plane enter the water in such a manner that it leaves no debris?" A lot of people have been asking that. Do we -- do we know -- can we do that? Do we know that now?

SCHIAVO: Well, I used to be an aviation history professor, and we would find, you know, in researching planes from World War II and older planes, that they would enter the water and occasionally, they would remain on the ocean floor and in lakes and in bodies of water completely intact, waiting to be discovered years later.

But in modern times, not really. There aren't many accidents where that happened. There are a few small private planes, I will say, that managed to land on the water and then sink. They don't float very long. But there are some small private planes where that has happened. So it is possible. And the triple-7 is a tough plane. Boeing built it to last, apparently. So it's possible.

Unlikely, because if you are coming in to make a Sully-style landing on the water with these high seas, if you caught a wing, you would cartwheel and it wouldn't be a smooth landing at all.

LEMON: All right. When we come right back, I want to ask my experts, what would they have liked to see done differently from the beginning of this investigation.


LEMON: I'm back now with my experts. And I want to get your final thoughts on this point. Is there one thing that you would have liked to see happen at the beginning of this investigation that would have dramatically changed where we are today? First, let's go with Miles.

O'BRIEN: If the Malaysians had said, "We cannot handle this investigation" and just turned it over to the Australians, that would have been great.

LEMON: All right. David.

SOUCIE: I think that they should have done daily briefings from the beginning, opened up the investigation what they could and said what they couldn't. If it was a criminal investigation, say they couldn't.

LEMON: Jeff.

WISE: I don't know. They didn't know anything at the beginning. But right now, what they need to do is release that Inmarsat data. Let the analysis go crowd-sourced.

LEMON: Jim Tilmon.

TILMON: Radar. Using the radar that they have and letting us know what it sees from the very, very beginning of this thing and right up to today.

LEMON: Mary Schiavo.

SCHIAVO: The joint task force. I think it's a great idea. It brings in all the nations, the best minds in the world. They should have set it up on day one.

LEMON: And Tim Taylor.

TAYLOR: Leadership transparency.

LEMON: That simple. I got it all in in one minute. Guys, very good. Thank you. Always appreciate you bringing the best information and your expertise on this, very valuable.

That's it for us tonight. Thank you for watching. I'm Don Lemon.

"AC 360" starts right now.