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Search for Malaysia Flight 370

Aired April 8, 2014 - 23:59   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good evening again. Midnight Eastern Time here in the United States, in the East Coast. Noon in Perth, Australia, where there's just been a major and very hopeful development in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

With time running out and the plane's black box batteries running down, the search vessel Ocean Shield and its towed pinger locator did what everyone was hoping it would do. It reacquired signals consistent with the black box's sonar pinger.

Australian authorities made the announcement just a short time ago. Listen.


ANGUS HOUSTON, CHIEF COORDINATOR, JOINT AGENCY COORDINATION CENTRE: Today I can report some further encouraging information regarding the search for missing Flight MH-370.

On Monday, I advised that the towed pinger locator deployed by the Ocean Shield had detected signals consistent with those emitted by aircraft black boxes on two separate occasions. I can now tell you that Ocean Shield has been able to reacquire the signals on two more occasions. Late yesterday afternoon and late last night Perth time.

The detection yesterday afternoon was held for approximately five minutes and 32 seconds. The detection late last night was held for approximately seven minutes.

Ocean Shield has now detected four transmissions in the same broad area. Yesterday's signals was -- will assist in better defining a reduced and much more manageable search area on the ocean floor. I believe we are searching in the right area, but we need to visually identify aircraft wreckage before we can confirm with certainty that this is the final resting place of MH-370.

For the sake of the 239 families, this is absolutely imperative. Today the Ocean Shield is continuing the slow, painstaking and methodical work to refine the location around the four acoustic detections. We are not yet at the point of deploying the autonomous underwater vehicle.

The better Ocean Shield can define the area, the easier it will be for the autonomous underwater vehicle to subsequently search for aircraft wreckage. Given the guaranteed shelf life of the pinger battery is 30 days and it is now 33 days since the aircraft went missing it is important that we gather as much information to fix the possible location of the aircraft while the pingers are still transmitting.

At a very stable distinct and clear was detected at 33.331 kilohertz, and that it consistently pulsed at a 1101.6 second interval. That therefore says that the transmission was not of natural origin and was likely forced from specific electronic equipment. They believe the signals to be consistent with the specification and description of a black data recorder.

You may have noticed the size of the search area has significantly reduced over the last couple of days. Based on Ocean Shield's detections, we are now searching a much more concentrated area based on the drift predications made possible by Ocean Shields detections. The smaller area has also allowed us to plan much tighter search patterns based entirely on visual search principles. In other words, we have intensified our search.

And of course, as soon as we finish the towed pinger locator work and hopefully we'll get some more transmissions to better refine the point on the ocean floor where the transmissions are emanating from, once we've got that, and there is probably no more hope of picking up anymore transmissions, we will put the autonomous underwater vehicle down to have a look.

Now hopefully with lots of transmissions we'll have a tight, small area. And hopefully in a matter of days we will be able to find something on the bottom that might confirm that this is the last resting place of MH-370.

And I stress, I can't stress enough the families have to be considered when you report all of this. Because they want a bit of certainty. We don't get certainty until we have a visual sighting of the wreckage.


COOPER: Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston there calling this a great lead. He is now confident that they will in fact find what is left of the aircraft in the not too distant future. And that timeline really depending on how much time they decide to devote to continue to try to find anymore pings from what they believe to be black box or flight data recorders.

Once they determine that there is no more point in anymore trolling along the surface of the water using the devices that they have. They'll actually use those -- deploy the autonomous underwater vehicles to -- use the sonar to try to map the ocean floor in this area, to try to actually find the wreckage.

I want to bring back our panel, CNN safety analyst David Soucie, also CNN aviation correspondent Richard Quest, Boeing 777 captain Les Abend, aviation analyst and private pilot Miles O'Brien, former Department of Transportation Inspection General Mary Schiavo, who now represents accident victims and their families, and on the phone, CNN analyst David Gallo, director of Special Projects at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, he co-led the search for Air France Flight 447. Let's put the map up that was just released in that press conference on the screen. I mean, Richard, as you look at this what jumps out at you? Explain what we're seeing here.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Right, what you're looking at is the various moments when over the four-pinger locations that are being detected. The first and the second were on Saturday. The third and the fourth were on Tuesday.

Now we can only see on this map where they lost the first and the second, and that is also because the time distance was greater, one was two hours, 20, the other was 13. By the time you get to number three and number four you're really talking about a matter of minutes, 532 and seven minutes.

COOPER: And we should just -- just for a moment, Richard, just so the audience can visualize this, these are detections being made by this device, which is being towed -- how many -- how far behind the ship?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: This could be as far as five miles behind the ship. So when you look at this, and I'm not real clear on this, I mean, it does say towed pinger locator detections, but is that the location of the boat, the ship or is -- the pinger?

COOPER: We believe it's the location of the towed pinger.


COOPER: It doesn't seem to make any sense to give the location of the ship.


QUEST: And it's moving up walking speed is what he said.

SOUCIE: One. One kilometer.

COOPER: So the fact that it is so spread out, what does that -- what does that tell you?

SOUCIE: It is confusing to me in some respects because of the fact that the pinger should only be transmitting between three and five nautical miles. So if you add that -- you put that into the -- into the picture on the map it appears like they're too far apart to be practical. But the ocean can play tricks. There is also refraction that can happen on a certain temperature of the -- of the ocean floor. It can ping up and then reflect back down and then show up in another spot as well, so that extends the range significantly --


COOPER: Miles O'Brien, I mean, they are all around -- that line in the middle which is the satellite handshake confirmation. Correct?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Yes, I guess one of the big things missing on this map is what is the scale of the map? Do we know?

QUEST: Yes. It's at the bottom.


QUEST: It is -- well, the scale, as it says here, is 20 kilometers.

SOUCIE: Yes. There is about 20 kilometers between the number three --

O'BRIEN: OK. Well -- yes. Yes. I suspect -- you know, I do -- the acoustics under water are unpredictable in many respects. I suspect that might have something to do with it. And that's -- clearly that's why they want to have so many of these contacts because the more they can lay them over each other I think the more they can define the box.

The term that Mr. Houston uses, triangulation, is not exactly correct because these pingers do not receive any sort of directional data. And so what you're doing is you're just bounding boxes. You're not really triangulating in the perfect sense of the word because triangulation involves directionality.

COOPER: David Gallo, when you're talking about an autonomous underwater vehicle, and you look at this map with 20 kilometers is the scale here on the map, can you predict how long it would take? I mean, if you made a grid search in this area between the spaces where these sonars were detected do you have a sense of how long that search would take?

DAVID GALLO, CO-LED SEARCH FOR AIR FRANCE FLIGHT 447 (via phone): Yes, we -- well, with the Air France 447, Anderson, we did about 25 square miles -- I'm sorry mixed miles in kilometers, but 25 square miles every day. That is awfully slower than most people would go. But we wanted to go low and slow so we wouldn't miss anything. So I think you're looking -- you know, just to get those in one sweep you could do those in a day or two, something like that, with one.

But that's not enough to make a map, you'd want to make a bigger map than just one or two swings. But I'm thinking a week, something like that, to cover that kind of an area.

COOPER: And when you talk about the topography on the seafloor, I mean, if there are valleys and peaks, does the autonomous underwater vehicle automatically sense that and move accordingly?

GALLO: Hopefully it would have obstacle avoidance but that -- they've proven in the past not to be too reliable. So that's problematic. The other thing is that the depth on the northern part of where the Ocean Shield has been is deeper than the Bluefin-21 can go. So that's going to be problematic, too, so I don't know exactly where they plan on doing the survey but they're right on the edge of their operation depth.

COOPER: And David Gallo, we're looking at the planned Ocean Shield search area, the Wallaby Plateau. GALLO: The Wallaby Plateau, right, it's about -- stands about two miles above the surrounding sea floor, about two miles above the surrounding seafloor. It's about 20 miles of -- in width. And the volcanic structure, not active volcanoes but old, and covered with sediment, so probably the sides of it, the flanks, the northern flanks are going to have galleys and landslides and all sorts of stuff that are going to make things treaty for the operators.

COOPER: David Soucie and Richard Quest are busily -- I don't know what you guys are doing.


Shreds of paper --

SOUCIE: Smoking me out here.

QUEST: We're measuring the distance between the detections. And maybe David Gallo can assist us in understanding.

David, the distance between the first and the second seems to be about 13 or 14 kilometers. Between the second and third is about 14 to 15 kilometers and the third to the fourth is about 10 kilometers. If you then go the total length from top to bottom, from number one to number four or even the total from one to three which is the furthest extremity, you're talking about 20 kilometers. Now does that -- does that sound reasonable to you, David?

GALLO: That is what I need at 12:30, that's a key question from Richard.


No -- yes, it does seem reasonable. And their vehicle, and that vehicle they have I think goes a couple of knots and it can go for about 20 hours. So again, they can get all those in one sweep if you did it right. But normally it doesn't work that way. You set up a sort of grid in -- with the certain area, and then worked that whole grid, and inside that grid would be contained in this area. You want to go outside this area to make sure you (INAUDIBLE).

LES ABEND, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: So, David, what we're looking at is a radius here -- center radius of about 14 miles then? Well, let's say it's 20. So if we go 20 and then calculate the surface area we're talking about 3800 -- 3900 square kilometers of search area.


ABEND: So how long does that take? 3900 --

GALLO: Well, again, we're jumping into -- you know, Air France was 5,000 square miles. And that was -- would have taken -- with one vehicle would have taken seven months because we were going low and slow. But we had -- we brought three vehicles in that particular case. So again, it depends a lot on how -- with the size of the --


COOPER: So you can operate multiple autonomous underwater vehicles at the same time?

GALLO: Positively, we had three from one ship. In fact that was the real secret to Air France. We boiled everything down to one ship, one team, one type of vehicle with one mission and that was to find the aircraft. And everything else we blotted out of our -- off the white board and stuck with those things and went as simple as we could go. And that's a great formula.

COOPER: You were saying you blotted out everything, you mean you told your team don't think about what the pilots were thinking about or what the pilots were doing. Just simply look for the -- look for the wreckage.

GALLO: Exactly right. We said yes, that's exactly one of the things we said. We don't care what anyone was thinking about, how it got here, let's just -- for instance in this case if you know it's on the north slope of that underwater edifice, along the plateau, let's go make a map, the best map we can make of that plateau and anything that doesn't belong there is going to stick out. As long as we can make the best map possible. So without getting caught up in anything else, we're just sticking to the goal of making a really good underwater map and what's there will show up.

COOPER: We're going to take another short break. You've been listening to David Gallo who co-led the search for Air France Flight 447. An expert on really all things underwater from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

A lot more details to talk about with our panel. More details from Perth right after a quick break.


COOPER: Welcome back to breaking news tonight, new signals consistent with a black box pinger likely from a flight data recorder, one of two on Flight 370. Two pings received last night helping searchers narrow their focus and intensify their effort.

Australian search official Angus Houston, being very cautious out of concern for the families of the 239 people on board. They're also signaling confidence that the plane's final resting place may soon be located. His exact words, and I quote, "This is a great lead." He also said he is now optimistic we will find what's left of the aircraft in the not-too-distant future and talked about deploying the autonomous underwater vehicle, sending that down once they've exhausted all possibilities on the surface, again, which he said, he does not think is very far off.

He was also very careful to warn that the signals were weak and couldn't say whether the pingers from both black boxes are still working. Listen to that part of the press conference.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HOUSTON: The assessment was made that they thought there might be two pingers there. This has not been confirmed in the further detections that we picked up. Now whether that's because, you know, one pinger has run out of battery life and there is one running or we just haven't gotten close to it, I don't know. But the fact of the matter is we haven't had any further evidence of two pingers going off in the same area or at the same time.

One of the important things about this sort of search is the need for complete -- a completely noiseless environment. If you had other ships there, you would end up with a very noisy environment and you wouldn't get the sort of search that we've got at the moment. I mean, this is -- we are looking at this stage for transmissions that are probably weaker than they would have been early on because the batteries or both devices are passed a use by date. And they will very shortly fail.

In terms of Ocean Shield, the more -- the more detections we get the better. And the other thing that comes into it is the quality, quality of the transmission and the detection. What we're after is the best return that we can get from the deep. And by triangulating all of this positional data, we will be able to come up with a much more sharply defined search area, a much smaller search area under water.

I would say very quickly caution again what we're picking up is a great lead. OK? We've got to visually acquire before we can say this is the final resting place. So there is still a way to go. But if you had asked me -- let's say when I arrived last Sunday night, I would have been probably more pessimistic than I am now. I'm now optimistic that we will -- we will find the aircraft or what is left of the aircraft in the not-too-distant future. But we haven't found it yet because this is a -- is a very challenging business.


COOPER: Very challenging business indeed as we have seen over the last several weeks. You know, it's a little confusing when you look at this map of the four locations that they have (INAUDIBLE). Then on the left-hand side of -- actually there is another map where you see the -- there, the planned search area for the 9th of April. In the red there it's far or not far, as within 20 or 30 kilometers of the pings, but why would it be there? Why would they be looking in that area?

QUEST: If you read what he said yesterday it's because they are taking into account -- do not worry about the other search areas, Angus Houston has said, the aircraft had been looking -- the aircraft in the sky has been looking for wreckage on the surface and they have been taking into account 30 days of oceanic drift. What you were saying earlier. So that is -- the ping areas are where the aircraft goes into the water. The search areas are where they forward drift for wreckage.

COOPER: Based on currents, based on the amount of time.

SOUCIE: And wind.

COOPER: And wind.

David Gallo, how precise a science is that? I mean, obviously they haven't found any debris thus far. But the ability to kind of predict where debris goes.

GALLO: Yes, it depends on how good the model is, of course, Anderson. And in the case of Air France we had a committee working on backtracking of the debris. And sadly, they led us into two months of survey in an area where the aircraft wasn't, which caused all sorts of trouble because you lose confidence. People say well, you know, you've been looking for two months, were sure the plane was in the area, you haven't found it.

The models were wrong. And so, you know, it depends on -- it's something called physical oceanography and it's an incredible science, a little bit of witchcraft, a lot of magic, and a whole bunch of mathematics so when it works great, it's fantastic. And when it doesn't work it could be trouble.

SOUCIE: But, David, I had a quick question for you. Isn't this much more simple because you're doing forward drifting instead of reverse drifting? Because if you look at all the debris you have to consider all of those pieces of debris and boy, they would have calculated back to a single point, whereas now what we have is the pinger and trying to locate that drift forward. Wouldn't that --


COOPER: Would it make a difference between forward or --

SOUCIE: Yes, forward drifting means you know the point of origin, now you're trying to figure out where it went, as opposed to finding what you find and then going back to the single point.

COOPER: And then find the point of origin.

SOUCIE: So the math is easier that way.

COOPER: David --

GALLO: Well, I've been asking that question all day. In fact, yesterday thinking now, if the -- this is the area where the impact would have been then we can forward model and find out where there should be a debris field someplace. But you know, I'm not getting straight answers and I must be asking the wrong questions or I'm not speaking in that language of the driftologists. So -- but I think that's very true. We should be able to -- it should be able to point us to where the drift is.

And that area that you asked about, Anderson, I have been watching all day. There have been a cluster of about eight ships over day in the western part in that -- in that box, and then there's just to the east on that plateau is only Ocean Shield. So it's separate from this other flotilla of ships, for whatever reason I'm not quite sure. COOPER: So will they -- they'll continue obviously along the line of where they've received the pings. They're going to continue Ocean Shield with the towed pinger locator, but again we don't know how long that will go for. They'll basically just make an assessment of when they think they're diminishing returns, or when they think they will no longer get any kind of pings, correct, David?

GALLO: I think that's true, yes. What the marshal said yes, and I believe that's probably the best thing to do at the moment. And they're of course assessing when to put the -- or whether they can put the Bluefin in the water, or if they're in the right depths of water to do that. And they don't want to risk damaging or losing that vehicle for the sake of just getting something from the bottom.

So I think they'll probably -- the other thing they've got to do, Anderson, is they've got to make a map of that -- so you get a first order of map because right now there are no maps of the underwater terrain there. So -- and they can do that fairly quickly from the surface. And I'm assuming Ocean Shield can do that with something multi being mapping.

COOPER: Miles O'Brien, you know, I keep coming back to some of the things that Angus Houston was saying in the press conference that took place a little bit more than an hour ago. I mean, this is certainly the most optimistic we have heard officials. And it's the closest any official has come to saying we know where the aircraft is. It does sound like in relatively short order, they are going to have autonomous underwater vehicles, at least one underneath the water doing a grid search, trying to find this wreckage.

And I mean, we could be talking about a very short amount of time before -- if they're in the right area, something is found.

O'BRIEN: We could be talking a matter of days, which is what he said. And you know if they get a few more returns there as the Ocean Shield goes over and they develop a little more of a cluster of those dots, that could get them right on it. And then when that autonomous underwater vehicle gets there wouldn't that be amazing if we had a visual sighting.

I just wanted to throw one more thing in the mix as we try to cipher up this map and assess it out. The one thing that isn't on the map that isn't considered there or isn't depicted, is the relative strength or weakness of the detection. And that has a lot to do with the battery, the state of the battery at that moment. But also the relative distance between the -- what is pinging, what is receiving the pings.

And I think that is probably why we're getting confused about the locations of these things. In other words, if there is something really a long way away, and it's a faint signal versus something potentially closer or stronger signal that might all kind of come out in the wash ultimately. So that's just -- I don't know, maybe David Gallo has some more thoughts on that.

COOPER: David, do you -- (CROSSTALK)

GALLO: No, no, I would agree with Miles. That's about as much I can -- I can't add to anything to what he just said.

COOPER: All right. We're going to take another big break.

Up next, reaction from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel traveling in China about this. The U.S. Navy Seventh Fleet playing such a big role in the search and so many Chinese nationals missing on the flight. That's next.


COOPER: Our breaking news tonight, new underwater pulses consistent with black box signals from Flight 370. Australian officials made the announcement just a short time ago. Listen.


Today I can report some further encouraging information regarding the search for missing Flight MH-370.

On Monday, I advised that the towed pinger locator deployed by the Ocean Shield had detected signals consistent with those emitted by aircraft black boxes on two separate occasions. I can now tell you that Ocean Shield has been able to reacquire the signals on two more occasions. Late yesterday afternoon and late last night Perth time.


COOPER: Angus Houston there, not saying with absolute certainty they have found 777's wreckage. He said until they have a visual on that he will confirm it. But he believes they are looking in the right place. This is a major interest of course for a lot of reasons in Beijing.

Our national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is traveling with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. He joins us now on the phone.

Has Secretary Hagel made any announcement or said anything about this -- Jim?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (via phone): He hasn't yet, Anderson. I'm going to be speaking to him in a short time, a couple of hours from now. Certainly will bring this up. But his spokesperson Admiral John Kirby has made comments and he says the Australians, this is certainly encouraging news, but tempered by his comment that there is still a long way to go.

One thing being that they do have to confirm that this is coming from the plane itself, although the signals, the U.S. officials like Australian officials saying the signals are consistent with a pinger, but also just the depth of the water they're dealing with here, right, so that they know that this is an encouraging step but the first of a few that you would need to actually locate the wreckage. COOPER: This trip he's taking, this doesn't have anything to do with this search, does it? I mean, this is just some trip that was planned, am I correct?

SCIUTTO: It doesn't. No. It's his first as defense secretary, there are certainly a lot going on between the U.S. and China and some disagreements, frankly, right now. China and Japan have a territorial dispute. You know, we talk a lot about territorial dispute in Ukraine. You have another one going on in Asia, island in the South China Sea. But also this increasing military-military contact.

Earlier in the week Hagel was the first foreigner in fact to go on China's first aircraft carrier, as a sign of their openness. But I think that you can connect them in that you have the U.S. and China working together in this international coalition looking for MH-370. You would agree you wouldn't have seen this years ago, I think. You've got some of the most advanced U.S. airplanes involved and some of the most advanced Chinese ships, you know, nearly a dozen of them, working in close quarters with the same goal in mind. And that is when you speak to U.S. officials they say that is an encouraging sign.

COOPER: Jim Sciutto reporting on that.

Jim, I appreciate the update on all of that. We'll continue to follow and as you talk to Secretary Hagel we'll hear from you later on CNN.

I want to bring in our panel. Mary Schiavo, you know, you deal with families all the time, accident victims and their families. We now have word from Angus Houston that preparations will be made for family members when they come to Perth. They said they will be well taken care of.

I mean, it's a tremendous undertaking to have all these family members coming. And it's clearly the reason Angus Houston -- or one of the reasons that Angus Houston is being very cautious to not confirm anything until they have a visual.

MARY SCHIAVO, FORMER INSPECTOR GENERAL, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION: Right, there were a couple of things in the words that he said that, you know, impressed me a lot about the operation they have. And one is that he was being very cautious. And he was sending a message to the families, don't start coming to Perth yet. We have to get our eyes on that wreckage. And of course once they do they'll start by trying to find the black boxes and bring them up first.

But families will go and they want to go. And under the Family Assistance Act in the United States they have a right to go. It's different -- it's different in Malaysia, of course, than in Australia, but they want to go to the site where the wreckage is being brought up. And as it's being brought up -- and I was very impressed that Angus Houston realized that, mentioned it, and was sending a message to the families that they will help coordinate that and take care of them because they will go. And it's very important to the families to go when the wreckage is recovered. COOPER: But, Miles O'Brien, how does China come out of this so far? I mean, I think back to those early days when they had it on the Web site saying that they had found debris that was related to the crash. They then took that down off the Web site, also now they're saying that they had located sounds. How did they come out of it so far?

O'BRIEN: Well, you know, it's just like any country in this situation. There would be a lot of domestic pressure to show people that you're doing something. And you know, those -- that video of that little vessel, that inflatable vessel going in, with that kind of kluge together device and the ear buds and the whole thing, apparently hearing some pings. Looked to me like a photo opportunity and not much more than that.

And apparently the data is bearing that out now. They might have -- if they really did hear pings, it might have been the pinger that they happen to have in the raft with them to test the device, which a lot of people would tell you, you never do. That's not the protocol. So you know, I think there is a lot of pressure, you know, especially given the confusion and the apparent ineptitude that we witnessed in Malaysia, and the huge -- you know, the angst among the Chinese had -- you know, sort of prove to their own people they were doing something no matter what.

COOPER: I mean, clearly, a difficult situation, I mean, there are domestic politics involved in all of this for a lot of the different countries in the region.

QUEST: And I think it's going to be a lot more tricky, once the wreckage is found, any wreckage will of course be taken to Australia, initially, but it's being taken to Australia at the instruction of Malaysia because Malaysia is the state of registry in the state of operator.

COOPER: So is it in Australia that they will try to gather as much of the debris as possible of the wreckage and piece it together?

QUEST: All being -- no, no.


QUEST: It might stay in Australia but it will all be done under the instructions of the Malaysians. The Malaysians are the Annex 13 country of investigation. Because it's in international waters so there's no state of occurrence. It will all eventually I suspect go up to Malaysia, if the investigation -- and that could be interesting, Anderson, because then it is going to be a real tussle as the Chinese start to make sure that they have not just accreditation but the say in the investigation.

COOPER: You know, David Gallo, you certainly have hands-on -- you know, first person experience with the bureaucracies involved getting permissions. I mean, it's one of the fascinating things about the Air France 447 investigation which you co-led. That there was so much time eaten up by just getting permission to go out to the location out in the sea. GALLO: Sure. There was a matter of getting the confidence, first of all, the French government agency, the BEA of Air Bus, of Air France, of the families involved. And that took up an awful lot of time. And especially we were there in two phases. The first phase, two months, didn't find anything. And then the pressure really built from the community that these divers (INAUDIBLE).

You know, they said they'd find this aircraft. It is unfindable. And, you know, why are we going to let them go out there again? So it took a lot of effort and constant pressure to show that we could really do that job.

COOPER: You've got to come away, David Soucie, tonight, though, encouraged just by the speed with which things seem to be developing. I mean, we've had constant -- over the last several days, refinement of the search area, refinement of the search area, to have these pings now analyzed, said to be -- no way they're from a natural origin, they're consistent with the flight data recorder. And now to have even two more pings. I mean, maybe they have been looking at it for days.

SOUCIE: Yes, it's incredible on any investigation, at some point everything starts to click. There is so much work and so much preparation and the pressure to try to do something quickly as Richard pointed out about the Chinese trying to say hey, we're doing something and communicate that. That time during the investigation when you're just doing the work and you can't get the communications out, and there's too many things going on, but at some point it all comes together, and that's where we are now.

COOPER: There is a lot of skepticism out there, I mean, I've just been reading, you know, tweets from some of the viewers who are saying, look, it's the same thing we've been hearing now for weeks, there's -- you know, they don't have eyes on something. This is all just talk until they actually have eyes on something. It does seem like something is different tonight. I mean, in this press conference.

QUEST: Yes. There's going to be people out there who still are tweeting that the plane is on Diego Garcia. And there are some people who will happily, you know, disbelieve the most obvious until it becomes in their face. But tonight you have Angus Houston saying what he did. And it's the best they've got. And anything else flies in the face of what is now -- still circumstantial, we don't have a piece of corroborative physical evidence but I'm guessing that's not long still to come.


ABEND: This adds credence and credibility to the brilliance and the clever calculations that were done with Inmarsat to bring us to this point. I think it should be even more encouraging.

COOPER: Because when you look at the map, the sonar points or the pings are along that line basically. ABEND: And before the break I brought up to you the fact that this -- if we narrow this down even more I think that because of all of these calculations and assumptions they're going to be able to eliminate the ones that don't work for the -- for the impact zone. And they will be able to determine speed, altitude, and even more, even before they see the wreckage.

COOPER: We're going to take another quick break, more coverage ahead.


COOPER: We've been reporting what appears to be very promising breaking news out of western Australia. In delivering it, though, search official Angus Houston also made it clear ocean conditions presents some big challenges and a lot of work remains. Listen.


HOUSTON: I believe we are searching in the right area, but we need to visually identify aircraft wreckage before we can confirm with certainty that this is the final resting place of MH-370. For the sake of the 239 families, this is absolutely imperative.


COOPER: Imperative and sensible, Richard, given all the ups and downs that, you know, have been released publicly for the last couple of weeks.

QUEST: What a dignified way of putting it forward, retired Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston does it. He is going as far as he absolutely can without saying we found it.

COOPER: They -- some reporter tried to get him to give a percentage, you know, are you 80 percent certain, or 90 -- and he wouldn't go that, he would not do that.

QUEST: You don't become an air chief marshal by falling for that one.


COOPER: In terms of the timeline now, David Gallo, I mean, what are we looking at? I mean, obviously we know that they're going to continue to search for anymore pings. They're going to try to maximize any opportunity to try and narrow down this potential field. What sort of -- you know, and Angus Houston saying that it's likely in very short order that they're going to start putting the autonomous underwater vehicles in. He said he didn't think it's that far off, the time when they actually start to do that.

From then on, what kind of a timetable are we looking at?

GALLO: Again it depends, Anderson, on what the goals are if they define an area of the seafloor that they want mapped in detail. It could be anywhere from a week to a month worth of mapping. But I suspect that it would go by quicker than that before they first start to recognizing bits -- if the aircraft isn't back there, it could go by much quicker than that. So I think, you know, in the next week's time you're going to see a vehicle in the water. Maybe even three days from now, and then we'll go from there.

COOPER: To the panel here in New York, can you guys explain? I've gotten a couple of tweets from viewers about this, sort of confused. Why are there four different locations for where they picked up pings if there is only two black boxes and Angus Houston saying that they really only believe -- I think that they've been getting pings from one flight data recorder.

SOUCIE: Yes. They've been just talking about it just from one, which makes sense. But in long range navigation systems a lot of times the signal will bounce off clouds and come back down and that's, I think, what we have here, is the signal is going up and it's hitting a temperature layer, a boundary layer inside the ocean which allows that ping to kind of reflect off and refract off. So there's going to be areas -- and then you have valleys and canals where sound comes --


COOPER: So just because there is a ping in this one location it doesn't mean --


COOPER: It obviously doesn't mean the black box is under that location. You're saying it is refracted sound.

SOUCIE: It's like being in the mountains and yelling down a canyon that it carries that canyon down, it carries the sound down a canyon, and that reflects back down. You can hear your echo come back.

COOPER: Makes sense.

SOUCIE: Those are the kinds of things that are going on in the ocean right now with that period. It's 160 decibels. That's pretty loud. That's pretty loud and pretty strong signal.


COOPER: And David Gallo, which is why the topography of the ocean floor matters so much in this in terms of playing tricks with sounds as you said before.

SOUCIE: Absolutely, in fact, that could be sitting one of those -- or both could be sitting in the valley beneath -- or against the pile of rubble for all we know. So that's absolutely right, Anderson.

COOPER: Interesting. We're going to take another short break. We'll have more. We're going to get reaction from the families waiting for word in China. David McKenzie joins us from China ahead. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Well, as you know the majority of the 239 men and women and children on board Flight 370 are Chinese nationals. The 777 vanished en route to Beijing where a lot of families have been waiting for word and where our David McKenzie joins us now.

Obviously, David, this is not the word families would want to get but at this point are you hearing from families that they simply want to get some sort of concrete word one way or another?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is right, Anderson, the family members are exhausted. And though publicly they are saying one thing privately I believe they would see this as an encouraging sign. But publicly to us they are saying that they don't believe it. They don't believe anything that comes to them that isn't physical, hard evidence.

And as you saw, the marshal there saying, you know, he is not going to go all the way to say they found the plane until they have that -- something that these family members can grasp onto. And that very much reflects the feeling here.

All of these weeks that we have been talking about, these family members, these harrowing ups and downs and the hopes that has been dashed, you know now, they are just exhausted. They have just been sitting through this process and they just want something that they can tangibly hold onto so they can start some kind of closure -- Anderson.

COOPER: You know, we -- in previous weeks family have been all gathered in this hotel, where they would have press conferences, they would have briefings. Is that still the situation? Are they -- I mean, are many of the families still choosing kind to kind of stay together in a hotel or have they gone back to their homes?

MCKENZIE: Many of them are still in that hotel. In fact at least on one occasion they asked whether they would want to leave. And they, to a person, said no. There might have been some individual families that have left. But I've been in briefings there in recent days where there were still hundreds of them. They just held a very poignant vigil 24 hours or so ago to mark the one month that this plane vanished.

So yes, many of them are still in that hotel, banding together, leaders have emerged, a lot of them pointing fingers still at the Malaysian authorities. Just hours ago they were still asking questions about whether the plane might have crashed or landed on an island in Indonesia. So you know, they still don't want to believe that the plane went down in the southern ocean, because that would be the worst case scenario -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, David McKenzie, I appreciate the update from Beijing. Thank you.

Mary Schiavo, who works now with family, your quick take on all of this for families. SCHIAVO: Well, for the families, I mean, I think it's kind of been summarized. They don't want to believe it. But they cling together, they're staying in the hotel. And it isn't just this accident, so many accidents where the situation is similar where it's gone into the ocean. After 9/11 we saw the same thing, too, where it's difficult to get any information. And they don't have any visual information or visual confirmation.

And with two things happen. They do want to stay together because they trade information with each other and they help each other. And they don't want to leave for fear that they won't get information. And then when the confirmation comes in Perth and when they do start finding the wreckage, they will go there. And it is wise that they're already thinking about that, because they will be there to see it with their own eyes and to support each other.

COOPER: And there will obviously, you know, down the road there will be no doubt lawsuits. We had already heard from Malaysian authorities that they be given I think some $5,000 just to kind of tide people over. They were talking about other sort of compensation -- obviously there is no real compensation for something like this. And there will inevitably be, we've heard already stories of attorneys both from the United States and elsewhere already in that hotel trying to get people to sign up with their law firms.

A lot more ahead in our coverage, Mary Schiavo, appreciate it, we'll be right back.