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Breaking Updates in the Search for Flight 370; Press Conference from Investigators in Perth

Aired April 8, 2014 - 23:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I hope you were with us during the last hour. I hope you were as inspired watching Adrianne's story and her husband's as we were making it and helping Adrianne Haslet-Davis tell her story. She truly is Boston strong. And one thing she wanted to get across to everyone watching is that the message something her grandmother said to her when she was as a kid which is it is OK to not be OK sometimes.

But Adrianne is doing OK. And today was a good day. We spent a lot of today with her. She has a long road ahead of her as do many of the survivors. But we will root for her along the way.

If you are just joining us, we are expecting a news conference any moment from Australian authorities on the search for flight 370. It is 11:00 a.m. in the search area. The newly refined and somewhat smaller search area. You see it in the red near the top of the screen. The gray is former search areas.

The question right now is will it change yet again when Angus Houston, who's coordinating the search effort, steps to the make phone in Perth. Will he make bigger news than that. We will find out very shortly and we expect the press conference any moment now. We, of course, will bring that to you live. You can see in the corner of your screen. They are preparing the podium and such.

As we wait for him I do want to go to first to Erin McLaughlin who is also at search headquarters.

Obviously, Erin, we are not sure what is going to be announcing this press conference, but they did refine the search area. What do we know about the search going on right now?

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Anderson. They managed to reduce today's search area by some 1300 square miles, which believe it or not, is a relatively minor adjustment, compared to the adjustment that they made on Sunday when they reduced the search area to roughly a third of what it used to be. Still, we're talking about some 33,000 square miles. A very, very large area, which is why authorities have been stressing that it is critical they get more information to be able to reduce it even further.

As you said, it will be very interesting to see if Mr. Houston has any comments on that in the press conference that we're expecting just minutes from now. COOPER: I mean, when I last talked to authorities in our 8:00 hour, people involved in the search, they were saying they were going to give it many more days, perhaps as many as more than a week of continuing to try to just focus on hearing anymore pings that might occur. And the assets that are now being used in the search day, Erin, do we know how many ships, how many planes are out there looking?

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, today, according to the joint agency coordination center, press statements this morning, there are some 15 planes and 14 aircraft out scouring those waters, but it has to be said in some 23 days of this operation, we have had no reported findings of any kind of debris. But as you mentioned, all eyes right now focused on that Australian vessel, the Ocean Shield, with the American ping locater on board scouring the waters in a ladder-like formation, trying to redetect that signal that gave so many people hope here on Sunday.

Again, it will be interesting to see if Mr. Houston has any comments, any updates on that. The past few press conferences of this kind that we have experienced over the past few days there have been dramatic announcements -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Erin McLaughlin, we appreciate that. We, obviously, we will check in with Erin.

And as I said, if you are just joining us we are waiting to hear from authorities. We do not know what they will be announcing at this press conference. It is just a little past 11:00 a.m. in Australia and in the search area. Obviously, the search is already underway. We don't know if there are new developments, though, beyond the refining the search area. We do anticipate some sort of announcement being made. We will, obviously bring that to you live.

I want to bring in our panel as we wait. CNN's safety analyst, David Soucie, author of "why planes crash, an accident investigator fights for safe skies." He has been doing some calculations of his own on the search. Also, CNN aviation correspondent Richard Quest, Boeing 777 captain Les Abend, CNN aviation analyst and private pilot Miles O'Brien, former department of transportation inspector general Mary Schiavo who now represents accident victims and their families.

Richard, let's start with you. As you know, you were with me in the 8:00 hour. You heard from captain Mark Matthew from the U.S. Navy. He said the really, you know, the life of the pinger, the minimum is about 30 days, he said it can go up to 45 days and they might allow that much time to actually continue just focusing the search on trying to get another ping.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And last night, Angus Houston said -- I'm just keeping an eye -- forgive me, I'm keeping an eye to see if he will stop me. He said that they will go several more days. We are not obviously pushed a lot -- here he is.


ANGUS HOUSTON, CHIEF COORDINATOR, JOINT AGENCY COORDINATION CENTER: OK. Good morning. I'm accompanied by the same team as on previous occasions. And I'm pleased to be here to brief you today.

Today I can report some further encouraging information regarding the search for missing flight MH-370. On Monday, I advised the towed pinger locater 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. Like 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 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, pain staking 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.

It is important to note that Ocean Shield can search six times the amount of area with the towed pinger locater than can be done with the sonar on the autonomous underwater vehicle. Searching underwater is an extremely laborious task. So the more work we can do on the surface with the towed pinger locater to fix the position of the transmission the less work we will have to do below the surface, scouring the sea floor.

Given the guaranteed shelf life hoe pinger batteries is 30 days and it's now 33 days since the aircraft went missing it's important that we gather as much information to fix the possible location of the aircraft while the pingers are still transmitting.

In further promising information, we have received the results of the data analysis conducted on the signals detected by Ocean Shield on the first two occasions. This data analysis was conducted by the Australia center based at HMS albatross in New South Wales. It is the Australian defense forces center of excellence for acoustic analysis.

The analysis determined that a very stable, distinct and clear signal was detected at 33.331 kilohertz and that it consistently pulsed at a 1.106 second interval. They, therefore, assess the transmission was not of natural origin and was likely sourced from specific electronic equipment. They believe the signals to be consistent with the specification and description of a flight data recorder.

Up to 11 military aircraft, four civil aircraft and up to 40 ships will assist in today's search. A modified APC-3 will coordinate with Ocean Shield in conducting a sonar search in the same vicinity. Today, a weak front is moving in from the southeast, and is expected to bring scattered showers. The planned search area is about 75,000 square kilometers. 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 Shield's detections. The smaller area has allowed much tighter search patterns based entirely on visual search principles. In other words, we have intensified our search in the visual search area.

Just a bit of housekeeping, at my last press conference I said I could come back to you with the precise timing of when the signals were detected by the Ocean Shield. The first detection took place on Saturday, the 5th of April at 4:45 p.m. Perth time. The second detection took place on Saturday, the 5th of April at 9:27 p.m. Perth time. The third detection took place on Tuesday the 8th of April at 4:27 p.m. Perth time. The fourth detection took place on Tuesday, 8th of April at 10:17 p.m. Perth time.

I'm now happy to take your questions, but before I do that I would refer you to the diagram there which shows you where all of the detections were made. I would also highlight to you the satellite hand shake calculation number seven. That was the hand shake, which was a partial ping. Where the experts in Kuala Lumpur access the plane's engines might have flamed out and it's probably significant in terms of the end of power flight.

REPORTER: What does your data show? Du it give you any indication of how far they have traveled?

HOUSTON: We have no idea at this stage. We are continuing the visual search, a very intense visual search in the hope of picking something up because what we are dealing with with the visual search is an area of search which has been adapted consistent with the amount of oceanic drift that has been at play during the period. OK. So that's the first point.

The second point is, the only thing we have got at the moment in terms of this location here is the detection of the transmissions. We have no idea at this stage what is under the water. And of course, as soon as we finish the towed pinger locater work, hopefully we will get more transmissions to better refine the point on the ocean floor where the transmissions are emanating from. Once we have that, and there's probably no more hope of picking up anymore transmissions, we will put the autonomous underwater vehicle down to have a look.

Now, hopefully with a lot 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 -- and I can't stress enough -- the families have to be considered when you report on all of this because they want a bit of certainty. We don't get certainty until we have a visual sighting of the wreckage. And that will probably come with the work the autonomous vehicle does. The other thing about the bottom there, I'm informed by experts, that there's a lot of silt down there. That could complicate the search because the silt on the bottom of the ocean can be very thick and things disappear in to it and it makes a visual search underwater very difficult.

REPORTER: On Monday, you thought there was possibly two pingers. Do you think you are dealing with two or one device at this point?

HOUSTON: Well, we have the evidence. The assessment was made that we thought there might be two pingers there. But this has not been confirmed in further detections that we picked up. Now, whether that's because, you know one pinger has run out of battery life and there's one running, or we just haven't got 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.

REPORTER: Isn't it curious that two pingers, the frequency to be 3.3 on both of them?

HOUSTON: Well, I won't get in to that because basically the analysis on that I don't think has revealed anything unusual. I might ask Commodore Leavy if he has any information on that.



REPORTER: Do you plan to move more pinger locate canners in the area to cover more territory?

HOUSTON: Well, no, we don't. Because as I have said previously, one of the important things about this sort of search is the need for complete, completely noiseless environment. Ocean Shield is minimizing all of its systems and really the only thing that is operating are the two thrusters at the back of the vessel. Everything else is turned off. So that we have the best search environment possible.

If you have other ships there, you would end up with a very noisy environment and you wouldn't get the sort of search that we have 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 of both devices are past their use by date, and they were very shortly found. I think we are very fortunate, in fact, to get some transmissions on day 33.


HOUSTON: Just one person.

REPORTER: Is it possible you could release a section of the audio recording so we can hear it?

HOUSTON: We'll take look at that. I don't see why not. REPORTER: Technically, how many detections do you think the Ocean Shield needs to refine the location eventually. Because now, you already have four detections and you say you still need to more detections to refine the location.

And second, do you have more information regarding the detection we received about the Chinese ship and do you think it is a reliable one?

HOUSTON: In terms of Ocean Shield, the more detections we get, the better. And the other thing that comes in to it is the quality of the transmission and the detection. What we are after is the best return that we can get from the sea. And by triangulating all of this positional, data we will come up with a much more sharply defined search area, a much smaller search area underwater.

Bear in mind, that the time spent on the surface can covering six times for area and any given time than we will be able to do when we go under water. So with the batteries likely to fade or fail very shortly, we need to get as much positional data as we can so that we can define a very small search area.

Bear in mind, with the Air France disaster several years ago, it took them 20 days. They had a very good -- they thought they had a good fix and it took the underwater vehicle 20 days to get to the wreckage. Yes.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) is it worthwhile to send a manned submarine to have a look at what's down there? Have you considered that?

HOUSTON: Well, I'm not running the search. We've got -- we've got the Australian maritime safety authority running and coordinating the operational search. Of course the defense force providing a lot of the assets, along with many other nations. There's a lot of military assets out there at the moment. And of course there is one submarine. I might just get Commodore Leavy to just comment on that particular aspect of your question.

LEAVY: The short answer is, the utility of submarines has been evaluated and it was when we first started to commencing the search. It you determined that they would not, the submarine would not be optimized for this particular search.

What we do have today as air chief marshal Houston just mentioned is Royal Australian aircraft P-3 aircraft deploying a series sonar buoys in the field. And that does provides more sensors in the vicinity of Ocean Shield without having a ship there to produce the background noise. And to why that would work is an acoustic process are in the aircraft has been modified. Some very good work that was only started after the MH-370 aircraft was lost, very good work by the Australian defense work, in particular the air force have modified the acoustic processor to be able to pick up the 37.5 kilohertz frequency. And we expect anytime now the aircraft, the first aircraft, the Ocean Shield will coordinate to lay a sonar buoy pattern. Sonar buoy is our essentially a sense of package that is parachuted out of the aircraft, floats on the surface of the ocean and will deploy a hydrophone, 1,000 feet below the surface of the ocean and the sonar buoy in the flight has a radio that transmits the data back to the aircraft.

HP-3 is capable of carrying 84 sonar buoy on each mission and so that will provide a range of sensors, a number of sensors, at least 1,000 feet below the surface. The towed pinger locater is obviously much deeper than that. but at least it does provides a range of sensors 1,000 feet down with 1,000 feet closer to the possible source of the pinger locator beacon on the ocean floor.

The other point is the air chief marshal Houston mentioned, this is the silt, can cover on the bottom as well as potentially hiding debris. Now that we have an analysis that shows there is silt down there. That is quite an absorbing material. So we are at risk of a lot of the sound energy being absorbed by the silt rather than if it was a rock seabed. A lot of that would be reflected to the surface or towards the surface. And so, the fact there is silt there also hindered to a certain extent the sound provocation.

REPORTER: Have you analyzed the signal. (INAUDIBLE)

HOUSTON: I understand there's been no further detections in the area where the Chinese vessel Haixun 01 assisted by HMS Echo, which is an oceanographic vessel from the royal Navy. I believe they haven't made any further detections.

In terms of the analysis of the signals that it picked up, I'll come back to you on that. I'm not sure where we are at with that. I haven't had any advice that the analysis is complete at this stage.

REPORTER: When you began this search and looking at the odds, the size of the ocean, the size of the search area, what do you think the chances are that you would make an announcement like this today?

HOUSTON: Well, I would say very quickly caution again what we are picking up is a great lead, ok? We have to visually acquire before we say this is the final resting place. So there's still a ways to go.

But if you 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 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 very challenging business. We're relying on transmissions that have come and gone.

And I just like to have that hard evidence, a photograph evidence that there's pieces of aircraft down there to know that actually this is the final resting place of MH-370.

REPORTER: Based on this diagram, will (INAUDIBLE).

HOUSTON: Well, you can see the scale on the bottom. The scale on the bottom is on the left at 01020 kilometers. And you can see it is a relatively small area. Again, I --

REPORTER: Narrowed it down to say 25 kilometers.

HOUSTON: Well, I'm confident that we have an area there which provides a promising area to exploit. Note the satellite hand shake calculation and ping seven. That's another source of evidence. So I think that we're looking in the right area. But I'm not prepared to say, to confirm anything until such time as somebody lays eyes on the wreckage.

REPORTER: Are you being cautious for the families and the sake of precision, but we are looking at a case where we have frequencies, which are consistent with a black box. That's been verified by the black box. By acoustic analysis. They have been consistent, they have been sustained and they are where the science suggests the plane is.


REPORTER: Can you give a percentage, without holding you to it, 80 percent, 90 percent how confident are you? I understand you have to express caution but how confident are you?

HOUSTON: I have confidence we're in the right area. But I'm not going to give the final confirmation until somebody has seen wreckage. OK. I'm not prepared to go this percentage or that percentage.

REPORTER: You said you were to wait to get more transitions from Ocean Shield. So, for how many days do you want to keep the pinger locater working before you deploy them (INAUDIBLE)?

HOUSTON: Well, the reason we want to do that is that there's no second chances. It looks like the signals we have picked up recently have been much weaker than the original six signals we picked up. So that means, probably, we are either a long, long way away from it or, in my view, more likely, the batteries are starting to fade and as a consequence the signal is becoming weaker.

So we need to, as we say in Australia, make hay while the sun shines. We need to get all of the data we can. Because by getting more data, we will be able to compress this area in to a much smaller area where we do the very difficult and very challenging search with the autonomous underwater vehicle.

Bear in mind, we heard about the silt. The silt on the bottom will complicate that search. And sometimes silt can be, you know, tens of meters thick. It's a very difficult environment. So, you know, the more effort we put in to location of where the transmission is coming from, the more certainty we will have that we will find something on the bottom of the ocean.

REPORTER: What are other vessels working on (INAUDIBLE)? What are they doing basically in the search area?

HOUSTON: Well, what we are doing, we are not putting all of our eggs in one basket, OK? We are continuing with all of the other activities. And we are continuing to look where Haixun 01 is but we are also doing a much more intense visual search. A visual search where the track spacing if you understand that. What an aircraft does. It's assigned to an area to search and then it will design a pattern with very small spacing and it will cover the area very extensively and very intensively. That's what is happening now in the area where we think wreckage from this area here would have moved with the ocean drift, the currents and the waves and so on. We are now searching the area where after 33 days the scientists, the analysts assess where the wreckage might be now.

And we hope we will also find something on the surface of the ocean which confirms that the aircraft basically entered the water at this location.


HOUSTON: Well, you know, submarines have a limitation too particularly in terms of they have a limitation in how deep they can dive. Of course, that's a very classified area. All nations they don't declare how deep their submarines can go. The environment down here is around, we said previously 4500 meters. So what we're talking about, specialists underwater, autonomous vehicles and specialists other vehicles that could be used for recovery.

So this is the domain in which you use those sorts of vehicles. So from here we will be looking further downstream for other vehicles that might be able to operate in the environment, if we find, if we find obviously the aircraft.

REPORTER: Mr. Houston --


HOUSTON: Sorry. Just one at a time. You first and then you.

REPORTER: The difference between the points on the map is about 25 meters maximum. In the class we were told that the detector could only really pick up sounds about, you know, a mile away from the black box. Are you reassessing of physics of how, you know, the sounds travel underwater at this point because you are detecting things that are much further apart.

HOUSTON: Well again, you heard the commodore say the bottom is a silt bottom. That absorbs sound. And funny things happen depending on temperature, temperature layer answer so on and so forth. So the characteristics of the water, the characteristics of the ocean floor all come in to play here.

Now, the other thing is that in terms of this area, the Ocean Shield went there on the 5th of April. It deployed the towed pinger locater and it is pulling the towed pinger locater since then. So, that's four or five days. And it has searched that area continuously through that period of time. This is what we picked up at the moment. And you'll note that the most recent detections are all down in the southern part of the area.

REPORTER: On Tuesday, the two signal were acquired.


LEAVY: It was around 1,000 matters above the seabed, so we are in 3,500 deployed.

REPORTER: Is that -- experts say that is consistent with what happened -- (INAUDIBLE)


LEAVY: It is quite possible that there's currents down there which could have disturbed the debris. And also as it was falling from the surface, it would have dispersed over a large area, as well. It has been said we know more about the surface of the moon than the seabed of the ocean floor. I think that's probably right. So we don't have accurate sampling of the currents in that particular area. The indication we have that silt is on the seabed is taken from samples that were taken some years ago and 130 miles away from the current position (INAUDIBLE). They are in a database that we can access but that gives an indication of how little understanding we have at the detailed topography of the seabed. But the concept of having water movements and flows down there is simply one that we need to take into account.

REPORTER: I'm sure that families must take some encouragement from what you have announced today. But as you said that confirmation must be visual from the autonomous sub. What is your best understanding of when the sub could go down? Do you have a time frame in mind, five to ten, 20 days.

HOUSTON: You mean the autonomous underwater vehicle?


HOUSTON: We will send it down when we have exhausted the possibilities in terms of the surface search. This is a personal opinion. I don't think that time is very far away at all because I think the last signal we got was a very weak signal. If we continue to get signals, though, we will continue to search. For the very simple reason that the underwater vehicle it operates at walking pace. OK. It has a relatively narrow swath and it takes days and days and days to cover even an area like this. In fact, this area you see here would take it we'd be talking in terms of weeks, not just days. So the more time we spend getting the locational data the better off we will be when we come to the underwater search.

And remember what I said in my brief. Essentially, it takes six times longer to cover the same area with the underwater submersible as it does with towed pinger on the surface.

REPORTER: How long will you wait from the last ping you receive, or the last signal you receive, which as you said you last night, if you hear nothing more how many hours or days will you wait before deploying the autonomous vehicle?

HOUSTON: Well with, I think those judgments have yet to be made. This is a very dynamic process. Judgments are made on the basis of a lot of factors. And clearly we are not at that point yet. So I can't give you any information at this time. I would imagine, though, it's not far away before we deploy something to go down and have a look. REPORTER: Today? (INAUDIBLE)

HOUSTON: None of the debris we with found, thus far, has had a connection to MH-370. But we are now in a search area, and we are working very intensely and we are hopeful, we are hopeful that we might find something that has a connection to the aircraft. So we'll just have to wait and see how that goes. If we find anything of significance, we'll obviously let the media know.

REPORTER: Have you already been over that before in a broader pattern?

HOUSTON: I think we have probably been over on a broader pattern, but we haven't done it the way we are doing it now. You may remember over the last week we have been covering areas of 220,000 kilometers, areas the size of island or one of the largest provinces in China. We're now sending the same number of aircraft out to a search area which is much smaller. Consequently we can do a much more intense, thorough search, visual search.

Before we were doing, if you like, an all sensor-type search, using radar and eyes, but what we are focus canned on right now is a visual search. Well,. visual range. I think the (INAUDIBLE) range is two miles each side. I think that is visual search 101.




HOUSTON: We are searching 75,000 square kilometers. We keep going from nautical miles to kilometers. Yes.

REPORTER: Given the debris that was previous you believe has nothing to do with MH-370. Is there any chance of the frequencies actually have nothing to do with the transmission devices you were looking for? You said they match up to the frequencies and you don't believe them to be anything natural but could they be something unrelated?

HOUSTON: We think -- well, we have had the analysis done. It's nothing natural. It comes from a manmade device. And it's consistent with the locater on a black box. So that's why we are more confident than we were before, but we have to lay eyes on it.

One more question and then--.


HOUSTON: We are working. That's one of my roles to coordinate that. This week is very busy in Perth because there's a big conference. That is true right now. But we have thousands of people here at the moment. Thousands of visitors.

From the end of this week, we will have adequate accommodation to cater to the families and we will be keeping a very close eye on that. We are working very closely with the Chinese ambassador and his staff, the Malaysian high commissioner and his staff, Malaysian airlines and the West Australian government, the city of Perth and the city of free mantle to ensure that we can do everything possible to ensure the families are looked after and taken care of when they come to Australia.

We want them to -- we know it's a very sad time for them. But when they come, they will be looked after. We are very focused on that. And I must say the west Australian government, the federal government both see this as a very, very high priority.

Thank you very much.

REPORTER: Thank you, sir.


COOPER: It is perhaps the most significant information we have heard in a very long time. Air chief Marshall Angus Houston saying a number of important things. He described the new confirmation of pings as a great lead. He said he quote "now optimistic we will find what's left of the aircraft in the not too distant future." He's not confirming the aircraft has been found, but they have -- the sounds they have now heard again are consistent with flight data recorders. He says, quote, "they are stable, distinct, clear signals that have been detected. The transmission is not of natural origin," which eliminates any idea there could be a whale or something else natural on the seabed. They it is a very silty bottom of the ocean here in this area which has been complicating the sound, the transmission of sound.

This is truly a significant evening. We are back with our panel. David Soucie, Richard Quest, Captain Les Abend, Miles O'Brien, Mary Schiavo and on the phone, David Gallo.

Richard, let me start with you. I mean, he didn't say they found the plane but he came very close.

QUEST: He came as he is going to come to saying they found the plane. Without it he says I want to see some physical evidence. But when he says I'm optimistic we will find the aircraft in the not too distant future. I believe we're searching in the right area, not of natural origin, electrical equipment, consistent with an FDR.

I mean, you know, it doesn't get much to not being a military man. He's not going to go that final step until he has physical evidence. But this is pretty much telling us he's got it.

COOPER: David Soucie?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Yes. And I agree. When the families are in consideration and that's what he is considering, you can't give anything other than facts when you are in investigation. They are handling this like a professional investigation now as opposed to earlier on when announcements were coming out all over the place. This guy knows what he is doing. He has been taking control of the investigation and he is being considerate of the families and I think is very well done.

COOPER: Les Abend, the fact that new pings were heard is clearly a huge, huge step forward.

LES ABEND, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: I was confident that they were going to reacquire it. I kept that to myself. But you could see that the Marshall was -- had a more relaxed demeanor than I have seen him before. And that would be confidence as far as I'm concerned. And the interesting thing, earlier in his conversation or his press conference, he indicated that it was not only did they have the pings but they had it from the flight data recorder as opposed to the cockpit voice recorder.

COOPER: Significant. Mary Schiavo?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: The same thing. I mean, I think that Angus Houston and the team there, they certainly expressed that they thought they had the pingers, they had the black box, they had the right site. It was all there. They didn't put the final crowning achievement on it. They didn't say we have the plane, but I think everybody reads between the lines that they are saying that and so very important.

And I concur that they should use those black boxes and those pingers for as long as they last. They might be in their final dying pulses, but it would certainly simplify the length of the search because this is the first step in a long process.

COOPER: And Miles O'Brien, Angus Houston also saying the autonomous underwater vehicles will not be sent down until they have exhausted all possibilities in the search on the surface both for debris on the surface and for these pingers. But Houston also said that he did not anticipate that would be very far off because of the weakening -- what he believes is the weakening of the signal that they are likely to go to those autonomous underwater vehicles relatively shortly.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Yes. I think as the confidence grows that this is, in fact, the location and yet more and more returns from the pingers, you can say with certainty when you stop hearing them what happened. Where's we didn't know if it you a fluke before or not.

So with four or five and if we get to six and seven and they get a little less and less you can say with certainty the batteries are died. Let's get the AUV in the water and get busy with that. I still just completely flabbergasted, not a single shred of debris has been found. And they are on the pingers quite evidently. I'd really like to know what assets in the nonpublic realm, the secret realm were used to pinpoint this location. This can't be just luck.

COOPER: And Richard Quest, so you believe there's more information they are not giving out? QUEST: I think they have a higher level of credibility on the information. I think they have one level deeper. They have got the experts who know this backwards basically. This is my supposition, but the experts are saying this is it but he's the last level of caution. You don't come out and do a press conference and make the sort of comments -- you quoted it, Anderson. We will find the aircraft in the not too distant future. They know where that plane is now.

COOPER: David Gallo, you called that the search for Air France flight 447. So much has been made that it took two years to actually get the black box up. But as you and I have talked over the last several weeks, a lot of that time was just eaten up by red tape, by getting approvals to actually get out to the site. Once you are actually out there, once you have an idea where the wreckage is, I mean, when you look at the conditions under the water her even with the silt, how confident are you that they will be able to find the black boxes and in a relatively short order?

DAVID GALLO, CNN ANALYST (via phone): Well, I'm very confident that they can find the black boxes. I have no doubt about that. I'm not saying it is easy. That's a fairly tricky topographic area. It is on the north side of an undersea plateau that is about two miles high off the sea floor and the north side might have canyons, gullies and landslides and all sorts of stuff. So there is nothing saying that it is going to be easy, but you know, silt can help on a side scan survey because the last thing you want are boulder and rocks scattered around on the sea floor. So silt is covering those sea floor it may actually help the search, the sonar search.

COOPER: We are going to take a quick break.

Again, if you are just joining us, truly, a significant press conference that we have heard from Angus Houston, the air chief marshal in Australia, coming as close as possible really, as Richard Quest pointed out, to saying they have, with a lot of confidence very close to finding this aircraft underneath the water. They said they will not confirm anything until they actually have a visual on wreckage. They obviously want to continue to search for debris, as well, on the surface of the water. None of which they have found thus far. But they are pointing out, and again, this is the significant part. The transmissions they have heard are not of natural origin. They are consistent with -- they are from manmade objects. They are consistent with the flight data recorders. A lot more to talk about.

We'll be right back.


COOPER: Good evening, everyone. The breaking news tonight, a very significant news. A major development in the flight 370, one that would make it easier to find the 777's flight data recorder at the very least and possibly locate the cockpit voice recorder and wreckage from the missing airliner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HOUSTON: Today I can report further encouraging information regarding the search for missing flight MH-370. On Monday, I advised the towed pinger locater 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: Confirming based on their analysis that those are not of natural origin, the sounds are not of natural origin. That they are consistent with a flight data recorder. A great lead Angus Houston has called it. He said he is now optimistic we will find what is left of the aircraft in the not too distant future saying that just a week ago he was not all that optimistic, but now he is saying this is a great lead.

I believe we are searching in the right area, he went on to say a short time ago. I want to bring back our panel.

David Gallo, you know, Angus Houston is saying now it's just probably not far off before they actually deploy the autonomous underwater vehicle to go down once they have exhausted the possibilities of finding more sound on the surface of the water. How will that work? What is that process? Can you tell us?

GALLO: Well, they are going to have to -- well, you have to retrieve the PPL which is on the end of the cable and then you got to prepare to (INAUDIBLE) launch and recover using a crane, this torpedo-shaped object and it means setting up a navigational grid on the bottom because you can't use GPS. It means the whole rhythm of that ship is going to change to the offset will allow them to launch and recover this vehicle. So it is a totally different ball game for the vessel.

COOPER: And how does the vehicle work, the autonomous vehicle? I mean, is it like mowing the lawn, it just goes along a grid back and forth?

GALLO: Yes. They will tell it what grid they want it to run and then they will launch it off. It will go to the bottom. It will take an hour or two to get down to the bottom and then it will start to move along its path. And every time it runs from north to south, the next time it comes back, it will move over something like 100 yards or something like that and then come back on the next track. Just like cutting the grass, if you want to overlap every path so you don't miss any spots.

COOPER: And is it sending back imagery in realtime?

GALLO: Sadly, no. That's part of the world of oceanography that we live in. We can't use a radio wave or we have used sound waves to transmit -- to speak to the vehicles underwater. So that is a very (INAUDIBLE) process. Unless they got something incredibly new in the last week, it is going to mean recovering the vehicle, they will download the data into the ship board computer and they will recharge the vehicle battery to standard back out again.

COOPER: And what sort of data is it? I mean, is it images? Is it sonar? What is it?

GALLO: It is images made with sound and like an ultrasound looking at a baby's ultrasound. So, it is just made with sound on the sea floor. So anything on or above the sea floor that contrasts with the background will show up on that.

And a lot of this will depend not just on the technology, but also on the operators of the system. If you have a very good sonar operator, they will be able to pick out something natural against something manmade against natural background, like this is a plane against a landslide slope.

COOPER: David, they talked in the press conference also about the silt on the sea floor causing a problem in terms of the transmission of sound. Would this also cause problem in terms of actually getting sonar images?

GALLO: I think -- well, first of all, I think the oceanographer would know that taking a core sample, tens or hundred miles away doesn't exactly mean that is going to find there. Everything I read that is got a sediment coding on top of the volcanic rock.

And you know, but even any kind of coding, volcanic rock is tough. It is very hard, it reflects sound very easily. (INAUDIBLE). It is easy to get lost in the rubble. So, a little bit of sediment would be good. And I don't think it will affect the sound much at all.

COOPER: All right, everyone, stay with us. We want the take another short break. We are going to return at the top of the hour.

If you missed the press conference we will replay the key moments for you. Our live coverage of this very significant new developments in the search for flight 370 continues after this.