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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
The Mystery of Flight 370; Press Conference from Perth, Australia; The Search Continues for Further Transmissions
Aired April 7, 2014 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: This is a CNN SPECIAL REPORT, "THE MYSTERY OF FLIGHT 370." I'm Don Lemon. Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world.
We have breaking news tonight. We're awaiting a news conference from Royal Australian Air Force base Pearce with the man in charge of the hunt for Flight 370. We're expecting that to start at any moment now and we're going to bring it to you as it happens.
Meanwhile, searchers are working feverishly to answer the questions that the world is asking. Have we finally found a trace of Flight 370? A towed pinger locator on the Australian ship Ocean Shield picked up signals over the weekend that are being called the most promising lead so far. And ever since, they have been searching and re-searching the area, trying to pick up those pings again. But officials warn, the process could take days.
So let's get right to CNN's Matthew Chance. He is in Perth. Also, Richard Quest is here with me in New York. Good evening to you. And good evening to you, Matthew Chance. Matthew, we're expecting a news briefing from the joint agency coordinator center chief, Angus Houston, along with the Minister for Defense, Senator David Johnston. What are we expecting to hear from this news conference? Do you have any word for us?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Not yet, no. We're expecting it to start any time now. We understand that the aircraft carrying the defense minister has already landed. They're a bit behind schedule at the moment, but, yes, it could potentially be significant. Obviously the last couple of press conferences we've had with Angus Houston leading them have been extremely interesting, giving us some fascinating detail on how this multi-national search has been proceeding. We may get more of the same this time.
This time, certainly, we're going to hope at the very least for is an update on the status of this search to try to re-acquire, I think is the term they use, re-acquire these electronic signals that they tracked over the weekend. So far, the word we've been getting from the Ocean Shield, that Australian vessel where much of the focus is right now, is that despite their efforts, and we've been looking at live coverage of its movements on the internet over the course of the past hour or so, it's still moving up and down, making turns, going around this area. It still hasn't managed to re-acquire, as far as we're aware, the electronic signals it recorded at the weekend.
So that's worrying, that's concerning, but it's still the best hope they have in this investigation, Don.
LEMON: And we must say, Matthew, that's the search for the pingers, right, that they mentioned over the weekend, that they talked about last night. There are still other searches going on. Update us on that.
CHANCE: Yes, there are. There are a couple of areas of focus. There's one search area now instead of a separate area, there's one search area that has been dramatically reduced in size, from 90,000 square miles or thereabouts, down to 30,000 square miles. So two- thirds, they've shaved off of it, because of the leads that they're investigating.
But there are a couple of different search areas within that. In the north of that area, that's where we're seeing the Ocean Shield scan the ocean bed, to try and recapture those electronic signals. In the south of that area, still the Chinese vessel there, which detected those apparent pings as well. Different pings, we understand, possibly, 300 nautical miles away. That's still there being assisted by HMS Echo, the very sophisticated British survey ship.
There's also flights taking place in the skies above that whole search area. 14 aircraft, civilian and domestic aircraft, flying in the skies, scouring the surface of the Indian Ocean, to try to find any sign whatsoever of any debris that may have been spotted, to try to spot some more debris, to try and give them a clue as to where this plane may have come down. So far, absolutely nothing, really, from the air, of significance, we understand, has turned up. So still lots of areas of interest, but the main focus, I think, still remaining this place where the Ocean Shield is doing its survey work.
LEMON: All right, Matthew Chance, stand by. We'll be depending on you throughout the hour. Just as soon as that press conference by the way gets started, we'll bring it to you. Richard, should we read anything into this? Not only Angus Houston, man in charge of the investigation, the Minister of Defense, Senator David Johnston, will be joining, and possibly a group captain may be at this press conference as well. What should we read, if anything, into the?
RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: I think we've already seen the setup of the press conference. It's not in its usual place. I think it's actually outside and it's going to be with military hardware behind. I'm usually wrong on this, as you discovered last night.
LEMON: Last night. A couple of tweets, people were saying, Richard was wrong, Don, on this one, this one time.
QUEST: I'm happy to admit when I'm wrong, but I think this one is going to be more political than information. I think this is going to be a case of the defense minister thanking people and talking about the (inaudible). LEMON: Initially I thought the same thing. We were in agreement on that, because the last time he came out, it was the same scenario, thanking everyone. But once I got word that Angus Houston was going to be joining, that may be quite different.
QUEST: Nope, I still think -- Angus Houston is there because his boss is there. It's his boss that's having the press conference, and I'm still thinking it's more political.
LEMON: However, he is the man with the plan. I want to bring in now the team of the experts. Richard Quest of course is with me. Also, Geoffrey Thomas, editor in chief of airlineratings.com. Lieutenant Colonel Michael Kay, a former advisor to the UK Minister of Defence. Jeff Wise, the author of "Extreme Fear: The science of your mind in danger." Jim Tilmon, a retired American Airlines pilot. And Steven Marks, he's an aviation attorney, who represents the families of another disaster, Air France Flight 447.
Again, we're expecting that news conference to happen at any moment now from the joint agency coordinator center chief Angus Houston, along with a Minister for Defense, Senator David Johnston. Geoffrey Thomas, you're there in Perth.
BILL NYE, THE SCIENCE GUY: Am I still needed?
LEMON: Yes, you are still needed so don't go anywhere.
NYE: I'm still on? You didn't introduce me. Excuse me, I thought I was talking to your producer, I apologize.
LEMON: You need no introduction, Bill Nye. Everyone knows who you are, so you need no introduction. So we're going to need you as well.
NYE: We can find an airplane in the middle of the ocean, but we can't know whether or not we're on camera.
LEMON: That is your issue, at this point, Bill Nye. So thank you, we appreciate the comedic moment there. But let's get back to business. Geoffrey Thomas, you're there in Perth. What can you tell us? Richard and I are going back and forth about the significance of this particular news conference.
GEOFFREY THOMAS, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, AIRLINERATINGS.COM: Look, I agree with Richard on this that if it had just been the senator, the Minister of Defense, it would probably be domestic political. However, Angus Houston joining him, it may add a little bit of credibility to it or a little bit more weight to what we're going to hear. There might be a little bit more significance. But of course, as Richard says, if Angus' boss is going to be there, they be he should be there as well.
So I'm not actually that hopeful that we're going to get something major out of it, but you never know. Because this is such a dynamic search that information is coming through all the time and it may well be what they're going to announce will be superseded by something that comes through at the last minute. LEMON: And at the very least, I would expect him to take questions as he has been. He's been very transparent with the media thus far. So we may get something, if not out of a direct announcement, but that of questioning by the media.
And I should mention that Bill Nye, correctly, you are a former Boeing engineer, so you know a lot about the mechanics of what's going on with the airplane. So thank you for joining us.
So, listen, Jeff Wise, I want to go to you. Let's talk about the handling of the search by the Australians. How do you think the Australians are handling the search and the distribution of information? And again, what can we expect from this particular briefing?
JEFF WISE, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, I think the Australians have done a good job of releasing the information as it's come in. I think they could perhaps be faulted to the degree to which they have cheerleaded the significance of the information, perhaps. From the very beginning when the Australian Prime Minister got up in front of parliament and said this was the best lead to date. I mean, when we look back on this now, it seems kind of ridiculous, because when you find some debris floating in the Indian Oceans, to jump to the conclusion that it's therefore wreckage from MH-370, you know, obviously, that turned out to be too much of a leap.
But, you know, they've made a big deal out of this acoustic pinger signal, and as I've indicated earlier, I feel like there's a lot of problems with this data. So hopefully they'll just give us the facts and not try to promote too much the conclusion that they feel that we should reach.
LEMON: All right, Jeff Wise and everyone, stick around. Again, I want to tell our viewers, we are awaiting a news conference. Tonight's live news conference from Perth, we're going to bring that to you when we come back. Very short break. Don't go anywhere.
LEMON: We're waiting for tonight's news conference, live from Perth. Back with me now is Geoffrey Thomas, Bill Nye, Michael Kay, Jeff Wise, Jim Tilmon, Steven Marks, and Richard Quest. They're walking out now at the press conference, about to be held in Perth, Australia. And there you see them introducing -- let's listen in.
(BEGIN LIVE FEED)
DAVID JOHNSTON, AUSTRALIAN MINISTER FOR DEFENSE: -- to see how everybody's traveling, and to thank our defense team and the international contributors and of course, to thank Angus Houston for the work he's doing.
As you all know, we have a positive lead. Today, we have 14 ships and 14 aircraft over those sites, flat-out trying to enhance that lead and to deliver up something more tangible. But, again, of course, as you've heard me say in the past, this is an Herculean task. It's over a very, very wide area. The water is extremely deep. This is day 32.
I want to confirm that we have at least several days of intense action ahead of us. The weather out there today is reasonable. And so you can be assured that we are throwing everything at this difficult, complex task in these -- at least these next several days, whilst we believe the two pingers involved are still active.
So without more, I'll take further questions, unless, Angus, you want to say anything?
AIR CHIEF ANGUS HOUSTON (RET.), CHIEF COORDINATOR, JOINT AGENCY COORDINATION CENTER: No, no.
JOHNSTON: All right, questions. [
JOHNSTON: We don't, and that is probably one of the minor considerations at the moment. We are totally focused on assisting our Malaysian friends in identifying the location of this aircraft and bringing some closure to the loved ones of the passengers and crew on board this aircraft.
JOHNSTON: Yesterday's report from Angus Houston is the most recent report we have. It's a positive contact. We're out there again today seeking to enhance that contact.
JOHNSTON: That's what we're using, isn't it?
HOUSTON: The towed locator pinger work continues. There have been no further contacts with any transmission. And we need to continue that for several days right up to the point at which there's absolutely no doubt that the pinger batteries will have expired. So it will be several days more. Now, until we stop the pinger search, we will not deploy the submersible. Is that clear? We will not deploy it, unless we find -- unless we get another transmission, in which case we'll probably have a better idea of what's down there, and we'll go down there and have a look.
HOUSTON: Yes. The issue is that if we can get more pinger -- well, more transmissions, we can get a better fix on the ocean floor, which will enable a much more narrowly focused visual search for wreckage. That's the issue. If we go down there now and do the visual search, it will take many, many, many days because it's very slow, very painstaking work to scour the ocean floor. And, of course, depths are very deep and it's very challenging.
HOUSTON: The advice from the manufacturer is that 33 kilohertz is -- or 33.2 kilohertz is quite credible. The Air France locator battery from five years ago was 34 kilohertz. So, what happens, there's a change, with the pressure, on the ocean floor and the age of the particular batteries, the capacitance can change and you get changes in the transmission level.
HOUSTON: I haven't got the detail on that, but it is a large area for a small submersible that has a very narrow field of search. And of course it's literally crawling along the bottom of the ocean so it's going to take a long, long time. That's why it's so important to try to get another transmission. And we need to continue until there's absolutely no chance that the devices are still transmitting.
HOUSTON: I have no information on the towers (ph).
JOHNSTON: We've deployed more than 20 sonar buoys, data buoys, that indicate the flow of the water. We have a good understanding of where the debris, if there is debris, will have gone to. We are currently very actively and aggressively pursuing where we think that debris field might be so as to give us further information to recalculate back where the point of entry might have been. Now, you know, 133 missions have been completed so far. They go on, with the same intensity that we have carried through to this point in time. And the debris search is obviously vital to us, adding another important piece to this jigsaw puzzle.
JOHNSTON: Well, we don't know what the other possibilities are. This is the most positive lead, and rest assured, we are pursuing it very rigorously.
JOHNSTON: Well, I think speculation is not helpful. Going back, as Angus Houston has said, you know, the Air France tragedy had a drop in frequency. We think we may have observed something like that. But as I say, let's not speculate. This is the most positive lead we've had, and as I say, we are pursuing it aggressively.
JOHNSTON: Well, this is an area of science, we've been doing calculations from the Inmarsat that have never been done before. So that's why I'm not keen to speculate on what might be causing that. But this is, as I say, the most positive definitive lead we've had and we are pursuing it.
JOHNSTON: Let me assure you that the cooperation across all of the nations involved has been absolutely first class and I want to pause to compliment them on the professional way they have gone about the business. Now, we've got, as I say, 14 ships on the surface, of which seven I think today are Chinese. We've got 14 aircraft above and we have several helicopters in the air. Now, one of our wedge tiles is carrying out deconfliction duties to make sure everything is safe, approximately 2,000 kilometers off the coast of Western Australian. It's a magnificent task carried out in the spirit of cooperation, which I'm extraordinarily pleased and proud of and I want to pause to say thank you to all of the countries involved here for the good work they've done. But that work goes on, as I say, aggressively and enthusiastically, given the lead we have had in the last 24 hours.
JOHNSTON: You want to take that one?
HOUSTON: One of the -- there's a lot of interest in the water conditions. As we discussed yesterday, funny things happen to transmissions in water. Some of the false leads that we've had have been actually transmissions from the ship that was actually searching. And it got its own transmissions back again. So, funny things happen in that environment and you can't -- you can't assume things.
So, in terms of the search, we think the Ocean Shield transmission is probably the most promising one and we continue to prosecute that to find out exactly what we're dealing with. We need another transmission to better refine the area, and then we need to go down, have a look, and find confirming evidence that that's where the aircraft is. And I can't stress -- I can't stress that enough.
Now, in terms of the environment, we can't have too many ships in the area, because when you're dealing with these transmissions, you need utter silence. It becomes a very noisy environment if you suddenly have several ships around there or aircraft dropping things in the water. We just need to let Ocean Shield continue its work with the towed pinger to try and find another transmission from whatever is down there.
HOUSTON: They were -- they sounded like an emergency -- as I said yesterday, an emergency locator beacon. So that's part of the evidence. That's why we are so excited about it. We're very hopeful that we will find further evidence which will confirm that the aircraft is in that location.
HOUSTON: We are looking for wreckage and there's still a long way to go. And I think without wreckage, we can't confirm that this is where the aircraft is because we haven't been able to hold the transmissions constantly. So there's still a little bit of doubt there, but I am a lot more optimistic than I was one week ago.
REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE). HOUSTON: Well, I think there are several days -- probably several days more where we will tow the pinger locator around to try to get another transmission. This is day 32. The battery life expires on the device at 30 days. But experience with the kit from around the world is that they usually last longer than the 30 days, so we might proceed for several days more, and then if we don't get any further transmissions, we have a reasonably large search area on the bottom of the ocean to prosecute. And with the device we've got, that will take a long, long time. It's very slow, painstaking work.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.
(END LIVE FEED)
LEMON: So there you have it. That's the press conference in Perth, Australia, with the Minister of Defense, Senator David Johnston, and also Angus Houston, the man who is heading up the search for Flight 370.
Now we know they have not made contact with those supposed pingers again. They have not heard any new pinging coming from the ocean. Also, we know the next step in this search, if they don't make contact, if they don't hear anymore transmissions or have anymore acoustic events, they say they're going to play it out as long as they possibly can, probably for maybe 45 days because the batteries can last anywhere from 30 to 45 days. Once they exhaust that, then they will lower a submersible to the ocean floor, which is a Blue Fin 21, to do the search.
But as Angus Houston said, that is a tedious, tedious task, and that will take days and days and days because it is essentially crawling around on the bottom of the ocean, back and forth. So the best case is that those pingers, the battery, is still working, and they get another signal, they get another signal, and then they will know which direction to go in.
Richard Quest, what did you get from this?
QUEST: Very clear. He says, they will continue doing what they are doing for several more days.
LEMON: So we're at day 32 now.
LEMON: Probably, what, about 40 some --
QUEST: Your several is my several is Angus' several. Several more days. Until and unless we find another transmission. And then, thereafter, they'll put down the Blue Fin. And he said, if they do that -- and this is the wording he used, because it's really telling -- he said, it would take many, many days if they have to scan the bottom of the ocean. And when he was asked again, he said, a long, long time. So I think what we are in at the moment now, it's very clear what we're in, several more days of Ocean Shield trying to find, using the pinger. LEMON: Can I jump in here too? Because, also, there were questions about, remember the 32 kilohertz, because he said that is credible because Air France came in at 34. So it's in the right area. The pressure -- because of the pressure change in the ocean floor and the age of the batteries, it could change the transmission level. So no concern about that coming in at 32 rather than --
QUEST: That's exactly right. Quite credible, he said. And those were the reasons why. But we've got days of this now.
LEMON: You have heard our breaking news, the Australians say that the towed pinger locator search is still going on. I want to talk more about that with my experts when we come right back.
LEMON: Our breaking news from tonight's news conference in Perth, the search for the towed pinger locator goes on, and it may go on for a long, long time.
Back with me now, Geoffrey Thomas, Bill Nye, Michael Kay, Jeff Wise, Jim Tilmon, Steven Marks, and forensic audio expert Paul Ginsberg. Thank you very much for joining us.
Paul, I want to get to you quickly, because I want to talk about what he said. We're wondering about the legitimacy of 33.2 kilohertz. Was it credible? Angus Houston said yes. We have to remember that Air France came in at 34 kilohertz because of the pressure of the ocean, the depth, the age of the batteries, it can change the transmission level. Do you concur?
PAUL GINSBERG, FORENSIC AUDIO EXPERT: Well, there's an easy way to find out. I would suggest that we do an experiment as part of this investigation by dropping new working pingers into this part of the ocean and measure the characteristics, the frequency, and the variation from one to another to see whether these agree with our observations.
In other words, what I'm saying is, let's have a real reference in this part of the ocean, and to see whether what we are observing is something that is credible as a pinger reception where we are.
LEMON: Bill Nye, as a science person, you want a controlled experiment, so to speak, to make sure that they are on to something and see where it comes in. Would you recommend that as well?
NYE: Well, if we have the resources. But as an engineer, I would say, if you have this datum from a couple of years ago where the Air France pinger changed frequency at great depth, it's very reasonable this one did too. And as I mentioned earlier, and I ran some numbers, and it seemed like with all the errors, it's very reasonable that the pinger would change frequency like this.
But with that said, if we're right at the limit of the batteries, 32 days, and you've heard nothing, maybe that last little bit you heard was the last little bit that this device could produce at this depth. And also, along with the errors introduced by the different layers in the ocean that form with different temperatures and salinity. And this is all -- we're all speculating.
LEMON: Well -- and -- but I want to go to Michael --
NYE: But it is possible that it's -- that that's the last you're going to hear from it.
LEMON: Michael Kay, remember last night, we were talking to, you know, one of the guys out on the Blue Ridge, USS Blue Ridge, and we were talking -- you were talking about triangulating. How do you figure out the location? What do you do? Do you drop markers or what have you?
So if the batteries are gone, it does give them, you know, an area of which to search, but as you heard Angus Houston say, it's a very big area, and there -- you know, the next thing they're going to have to do is drop that Blue Fin 21 in, and that's going to take days and days and days, much longer than if they get another ping or pulse.
LT. COL. MICHAEL KAY, CNN AVIATION EXPERT: Yes, Don, you're absolutely right. This is going to go on for longer than several days. We know that the batteries can last for up to 40 days. And therefore, if I was Angus Houston, I would be putting this search out to at least 42, 43 to make absolutely sure that the batteries had failed.
But there's another good reason why it's going to go on for a lot longer is because Australia had been leading the greatest aviation mystery search, one of them, in history. And they're going to want to succeed at this. Geo-politically, it will mean a lot for them to get a resolution on it.
So they've put a lot of time and resource into it so far. They're going to keep on going. And like you said, if that means sticking a submersible in after 43 days and scanning that whole area and that taking months, I think they'll do it.
LEMON: I've seen the marks from a legal standpoint, looking at this as an attorney, when you're looking at liability, when you're looking at exposure and what have you, what do you take away from this news conference, if anything? And from these -- you know, latest development?
STEVEN MARKS, CNN AVIATION EXPERT: Well, nothing, really, has changed from a legal standpoint, from the beginning. This flight (ph) was governed for most passengers by the Montreal Convention. So the liability as to the carrier is pretty well known. It's very certain there's some complications under the treaty jurisdictionally, and venue, what foreign law will apply to certain victims, what the recovery system may be. Those issues remain outstanding.
As far as any third party, well, we haven't gotten any real facts to determine whether or not there's possible claims against third parties. But, essentially, the families are going to have a remedy under the Montreal Convention. But what they really want are truthful and honest answers and some finality to the search.
LEMON: Jim Tilmon, you know, they've talked a bit about searching for debris here, not as much as searching for the pinger here. It's been 133 missions so far. Do you think the investigation now really focuses on listening to this pinger rather than searching for a debris field?
JIM TILMON, CNN AVIATION EXPERT: I think it has to be two-fold. I think we have to continue to look for a debris, because that's going to make a significant difference. And as I keep hearing, debris can get spread all over the place. So the longer we wait, the more difficult it's going to be to use that debris to pinpoint something.
I want to just caution everybody about something, about the way we discuss debris and how it's handled. Today, watching CNN, I heard someone say that, you know, currents are like a washing machine or a blender. And it does all those crazy things to any debris. Understand something. Some of the so-called debris could be human remains. And I think we have to maintain a lot of sensitivity right now. We have to be very, very careful the way we describe anything we say, so it's just a point of mind I just wanted to bring up.
LEMON: Point taken, thank you very much, Jim Tilmon.
Coming up, you've heard it at tonight's news conference: the pinger locator search goes on. But just how difficult is that search? We're gonna show you when we come right back.
LEMON: You heard our breaking news from tonight's news conference in Perth. The search for the towed pinger locator goes on, a search that could take a very long time. Rosa Flores took a pinger out on to Rhode Island's Narragansett Bay to show some of the obstacles they may encounter in the Indian Ocean.
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPODNENT (voice-over): This is what a ping sounds like.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very high frequency.
FLORES: The critical sound searchers are hoping to hear in the deep and rough waters of the Indian Ocean.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's deep and it's dark. It's salty. It's high pressure. It's hard to work.
FLORES: Here in Rhode Island's Narragansett Bay, researchers show us the challenges search crews face as they try to hear the ping from flight 370's data recorder.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So this is a hydrophone.
FLORES: We drop an underwater microphone, a hydrophone, off the back of the boat as it moves farther away from a pinger that's already been submerged.
And even less than 100 yards away, the ping starts to fade. Distance isn't the only problem out in the Indian Ocean. There are other noises competing with the sound of the pinger, like sea life. One dolphin species sounds like a black box pinger, and this is the sound of rain underwater.
(on-camera): Let me get away from the loudest part of the boat, so I can show you one of the biggest obstacles that searchers have in the open sea, just ship noise. Even here, listen to how loud it is. There are, at a minimum, 15,000 ships on the world's oceans on any given day, creating even more obstacles in a search that's already daunting.
Rosa Flores, CNN, Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island.
LEMON: Rosa, thank you very much for that. That gives you some idea of just how difficult this search will be. My expert panel back with me right now.
I want to start with you, Paul. Do you usually know a ping sound when you hear one, even at that high a frequency?
GINSBERG: Well, there are signatures that are studied, and under different conditions. And as we spoke earlier, if you can narrow down the variations in the transmission path, that is, the signal from the pinger to the reception, then you get an idea of what you're looking for. You can try to filter every other kind of sound out, and focus on exactly what you know you would have, had you found an actual pinger.
LEMON: But you heard Angus Houston in that news conference saying that they needed to minimize ship noise. How -- I mean, listen, they need the Ocean Shield, a very big ship. They need the other ship. I can't remember the name of it, the Chinese ship, 01. And how can they do that without having the ship? They turn the motors off, but they need to have the electrical power in order to have it run.
GINSBERG: Well, they can put the ship into different positions and turn off everything and listen at each of the positions and take readings. It is very important. We're dealing with something that's a fraction of one watt, transmitting bursts that are very, very short in length.
And you need to eliminate the possibility that anything else is getting into your system. You know, you have to know what you're measuring, and that what you are measuring is what you are looking for and not a result of ambient.
LEMON: Yeah, the Haixun 01 -- that's the name I was trying to recall.
Geoffrey Thomas, you know, we just heard -- we just learned that they aren't deploying the submersible drone until they get another transmission. Is that the right move at this point, do you believe? THOMAS: Look, I think it is, Don. And at the same time, we shouldn't underplay the debris search, because now what we've got is we've got what we believe is the location of the ping.
Now, instead of looking at an area the size of Texas, we're now looking at an area the size of Houston. So we have a point. And the current around that spot is actually a counter -- is a clockwork circle. It's an eddy.
So I believe that the search for debris is now focused very much on this greatly reduced area, where the debris would have spread, too. And it wouldn't have spread too far, either. So there's a very good chance that we can pick up debris here, make a sighting, possibly pick some up, which will give us real certainty that we're on to the airplane.
LEMON: You know, the chief coordinator of the search says that he is a lot more optimistic than he was a week ago. I'm wondering why he is so confident. And Jim Tilmon, even after listening to that last briefing, are you still as confident as you were before? Because you've been very skeptical all along. This is the most optimism you have had.
TILMON: I'm very impressed with the organization of the team now. And the players are playing on a field that's very, very sophisticated. They're very sincere, and they're very, very tireless in the way they're going about it.
And the kind of evidence they have been presenting, now that they have this team in action, has been very impressive. And I'm impressed with their credentials and with their willingness to go the route, to get this thing done.
LEMON: All right, stay with me, everybody. When we come right back, I want to answer some of the questions that we have been getting from you at home.
LEMON: All right. We've got a lot of questions from you. You've been tweeting us by the thousands, you at home, from the developments of flight 370. And I want to get them to my panel of experts right now.
The first one we're going to start with is from Linda. And Linda says, "If and when they recover the flight data boxes, will they be able to see if it was programmed for a destination?" Let's give that one to Mikey Kay.
KAY: Don, I knew you were going to ask me. That's not one I can answer, I'm afraid. I'm sorry.
LEMON: All right, Geoffrey Thomas?
THOMAS: It's technically possible that they will have that information, the digital flight data recorder, yes. LEMON: OK. So they will have that.
Can a -- here's another question. This one is from Popcorn. It says, "Can a whale or a dolphin recreate or make a similar clicking, pinging noise as the black box? That one is perfect for Paul.
GINSBERG: Well, I don't think so, unless it's a very well-trained mammal, who has good laboratory technique. We can measure to ten thousandths of a second on the repetition rate. And we expect that not to vary.
LEMON: And we talked about certain signatures, because you have certain repetition rates and certain signals and all of that. And some aquatic life or ocean life, an animal or mammal would have to do the same sort of thing in order to repeat that, and that's highly, highly unlikely.
OK, so let's move on now. Leyla (ph) says, "Where exactly are each of the black boxes located on the plane?" Jim Tilmon?
TILMON: Well, there are a number of places they'd normally put them. Generally, you'll find most airplanes will have the boxes in the tail, in the vertical fin, some place that they think it's going to survive the worst part of a crash. A few of them have been, from time to time, placed further forward and high in the fuselage, but most of them are near the tail.
LEMON: All right. "If the aircraft was put down as gently as Sullenberger on the Hudson, could this 777 sink without breaking up?" That's a good one for you, Mr. Bill Nye. Oh, no Nye, sorry about that. Let's send that one to Jeff Wise.
WISE: Yes, we've talked about this in the past. It does seem like the consensus is that if this plane was put down very gently, it could remain in tact enough that, indeed, yes, it could all wind up nice and tidy on the ocean floor. That's a big if, however.
LEMON: All right, this sounds totally nuts, but "Could anyone have parachuted from a 777?" I can't believe it has come to this. This is a good one for Steven Marks, but I know the answer is n-o, absolutely not.
MARKS: That's correct. You couldn't withstand the pressure. You'd have to come on board --
LEMON: You couldn't open the door.
MARKS: Right, you couldn't open the door. You'd have to have an oxygen canister at that altitude, and it's highly unlikely, if not impossible.
LEMON: We'll be right back.
LEMON: I'm back now with my expert team and the final thoughts on tonight's developments in the search for flight 370, especially in light of that press conference.
I'm going to start with you, Mikey Kay.
KAY: I just want to reinforce the intensity of which the Australians and the JACC are throwing assets at this. We heard from the Australian defense minister 133 missions have occurred so far. That's over four missions a day. That's impressive, and that should reassure the international community and their family and loved ones that they're taking this very seriously.
LEMON: Quickly, Paul Ginsberg, I hope that's not his satellite going out. Do we have Paul Ginsberg?
GINSBERG: Yes. I would just like to hope that some day we will be uploading flight data to satellite, so that data does not go down with the ship.
LEMON: Jeff Wise?
WISE: The source of a lot of these false positives turns out to be signals from the ships themselves.
LEMON: Steven Marks?
MARKS: The coordination of this search, I'm discouraged by the time that's left on the battery life, and I really don't understand why there is such a short battery life on these black boxes.
LEMON: All right. I want to thank all my guests for joining us tonight. Again, we've learned a whole lot from this news conference. At first, we were not expecting to have the head of this search joined, but Angus Houston did join, and as always, provided us some great information. He says we're going to continue to search, look for another ping, as long as possible, before putting us a submersible on the ocean floor.
That's it for us tonight. I'm Don Lemon. Thanks for watching. Good night.