Return to Transcripts main page


Search for AirAsia 8501 Underway; Underwater Equipment to Find Plane Wreckage in Ocean; Aviation Safety Standards; Tony Fernandes Managing the Crisis; Comparing with Flight 370 Disappearance

Aired December 29, 2014 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. Thanks for joining us.

It is 8:00 eastern here in the United States, early morning in the waters off Indonesia. There are late developments in the search for flight 8501. An airbus A320 missing since Sunday morning with 162 people on board. It is back underway so far without any sign or wreckage or survivors.

And shortly before air time, we did get word, and this comes from local Indonesian media, that crews are investigating reports that smoke has been sighted on an island in the java sea. Now, in addition, global help is on the way, including from the United States the guided missile destroyer USS Sampson which is based in San Diego steaming into the area and take part of the search. It is expected to arrive later today.

Sadly, though, it became almost certain today that this will be a recovery not a rescue mission.

As always, we have a panel of experts to make sense of it all, from what it will take in the search and the search for answers. First, how we got here.


COOPER (voice-over): Sunday, 5:36 a.m. in the Indonesian city of Surabaya, AirAsia flight 8501 takes off for Singapore with 155 passengers and seven crew members on board. The flight time between the two cities is usually a little more than two hours. But Indonesian officials say at 6:12 a.m., just 36 minutes into the flight, one of the pilots radios air traffic control requesting permission to change course and climb to a higher altitude to avoid bad weather.

Heavy thunderstorms are reported in the area at the time. The turn is approved but permission is denied to climb to 38,000 feet due to traffic in the skies. This is the last time anyone on the plane would be heard from again.

Just 12 minutes later at 6:24 a.m., all contact is lost with the aircraft. There is no distress call. At 7:55 a.m., flight 8501 is officially declared missing. The last known position over the java sea between the islands of Belitung and Borneo.

TONY FERNANDES, CEO, AIRASIA: We're devastated by what has happened. We do not know what's happened here.

COOPER: Indonesia is leading the search with help from Malaysia, Singapore and Australia. The United States has been asked to join the effort and will soon send assets to the region.

So far there's little to go on, no sign of the wreckage, no signals from the plane to help pinpoint its location.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The chief operation in this area and airplanes and helicopters operating, it is no issue of, of course, being operated in the sea especially in the bad weather like this, but (INAUDIBLE) president instructions to all our peoples do their best and fast and hoping this leads to finding the plane.

COOPER: Rescuers say weather was probably a factor in the plane's disappearance. Flight plans show the entire route was over the sea.

Our evaluation of the coordinates that we received suggest it is under water, he says, so our presumption now is that the aircraft is under the sea.

At Surabaya's airport distraught relatives gather, still hoping their loved ones will be found alive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Are you still hopeful that your relatives are safe?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Of course. We still have hope. We cannot lose hope.

COOPER: Some sharing their pain on social media, an account thought to belonged to the pilot's daughter with a plea for his safe return.

Dad, please come home. I still need you. Please return, dad. You have to come home.


COOPER: That goes without saying the wait for the loved ones is simply unbearable. And we know from experience they've already been through the gamut of emotions, the families, friends, colleagues, life partners of 162 men, women, and children. About half of them from Surabaya which is where Andrew Stevens is now for us. He joins us from the airport.

How has communication can between the authorities and these families? Obviously looking back to MH-370, a lot of those families felt like they were left in the dark.

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's a lot of anger in MH-370, you're right, Anderson. Here, that anger is not visible, at least not on the surface, but certainly, the people we've been speaking to are expressing their frustrations with the lack of information. The difficulty, obviously, is the fact there is no information, but

the authorities can't actually tell them anything more because for the last two days we've had nothing fresh, nothing to go on. Now, what we've been hearing from the relatives is that they're getting more information from television reports than they are from the official channels.

I've been speaking to AirAsia about this and they say look, they've assigned an individual member for each individual family to be their conduit, to get them whatever they can.

There are regular updates here. And just behind me there's a crisis situation center where the family members -- there are about 90 or so family represented. They've been put up in hotels just around the area. They come in every day, usually away from the media. They're updated. But there's no doubt the sense of frustration, Anderson, continues and continues to grow.

COOPER: And so you talk about the hotel where they're staying. They actually then spend their days at the airport just waiting for word?

STEVENS: Pretty much so. They drift in and out. They go between the hotel and the situation room. The situation room, of course, is manned 24/7, and they can come in and speak to anyone when they like, but they are also regular updates. We are aware of at least three yesterday. It's closed to the media. You can peer through windows to see what's happening there and what you see is 70 or 80 people absolutely grim-faced. No real show of emotion as authorities here take them through what they're doing.

We had the vice president here, who has been leading the whole search effort, and he's the point person for the president, and he was saying, he was talking to the families yesterday. And he's saying, I understand your impatience. I understand this is only human. You need to know what's going on. We're doing everything we can, emphasizing, underlying that point they're doing everything they can, as the search continues to widen, it continues to deepen with the number of new countries now joining the search. But still, absolutely no fresh information.

COOPER: Andrew Stevens, I appreciate the update. Thank you very much.

Again, for those families, this is just a horrific, horrific wait.

I want to bring in our panel of experts former NTSB managing director Peter Goelz, Geoffrey Thomas, the highly regarded editor in-chief at CNN aviation correspondent Richard Quest and CNN safety analyst David Soucie, author of recently "Malaysia airlines flight 370, why it disappeared and it's only a matter of time before this happens again."

David, let's talk about this request to climb to 38,000 feet from about 32,000 feet, what exactly does that mean?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Well, the request is just saying that I need to get to this other altitude. It could be for a number of reasons. It could be just because there was turbulence going on at that time. But that turbulence would have moved the aircraft into a place that it didn't want to be in. There could be two turbulence known from previous aircraft going through there. So, they just simply requesting to go to another altitude, but he was denied. They were not told to go that altitude. And yet later it shows they may already have been at 36,000 feet.

COOPER: Richard, the fact that other planes were flying in the same area, in the same direction, though at different altitudes, it shows you, I guess, a, the importance of altitudes, a few hundred or thousand feet can make a difference.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: It makes a huge amount of difference. But it also tells us that these storms, now this wasn't a particularly bad one, but these sort of weather conditions is quite normal in the region. This is on the equator. It's got extreme weather conditions at various times. And the pilots that fly these routes tell me they're used to it.

I've been there. You've been there. You see them weaving their way through some of those storms. What we don't know, of course, is what was going on inside this particular storm that may have made it more violent and more virulent than when they went through it.

COOPER: But David, is it possible for, you know, aircraft management to almost be too used to these kind of violent storms? I mean, in an area like the United States, you know, planes are delayed all the time because of weather. You fly the shuttle in D.C., it's delayed very often because of weather patterns.

SOUCIE: Well, how it affects it is not necessarily the fact that they've lowered their expectations. What happens is you get used to it. You get complacent with it. And then your reaction time and the things that you do are different because you don't recognize it as being this hazard, which is a hazard, you know it's there, but it becomes a risk. You have to measure the probability of something bad happening and the impact if it does. And those are the judgment calls. Those are the things that the pilots make this snowball into an accident.

COOPER: Peter, what do you make of the fact that there was no distress signal given from the cockpit, no sign of emergency from the flight crew other than that request to change the altitude?

PETER GOELZ, FORMER NTSB MANAGING DIRECTOR: Well, unfortunately, Anderson, it's all too common. You know, we didn't have, you know, emergency callouts on a number of major accidents. Pilots are trained to fly the plane. If they got their hands full, if they are, you know, trying to keep that plane to loft, they're not going to waste time getting on a radio and signaling. I think it indicates that whatever happened, it happened quickly and it happened violently.

COOPER: So Peter, the process of a pilot actually getting on the radio to tell flight controllers exactly what's happening, if they are in an emergency situation, even that would be taking precious time away from dealing with the aircraft?

GOELZ: Absolutely. It's the last priority. You know, it's fly the plane, navigate the plane, and then communicate. But both the pilot, the flying pilot and the non-flying pilot have critical roles in any kind of unusual situation. They could be reading checklists. They could be performing critical functions. Getting on the radio is not the top priority.

COOPER: Geoffrey, the depth of the water in this region much, much shallower than the search area the viewers are used to from MH-370.

GEOFFREY THOMAS, EDITOR IN-CHIEF, AIRLINERATINGS.COM: LOOK. Indeed, Anderson, the average depth in the area is only 150 feet, sp incredibly shallow compared to what we are looking at MH-370, which is depths of up to 15,000, 16,000 feet. So once they find the aircraft and if it is in the ocean, then recovery of it should be a relatively straightforward procedure.

COOPER: Richard Quest, though, I mean, it does raise the question, though, if the water is so shallow, you would think those ELTs, the emergency locator transmitters, would be very easy to hear.

QUEST: Well, remember, the ELTs don't work underwater. So it's the underwater locators that are on the flight recorders, they are the ones that work well, obviously, by definition underwater. The ELTs don't work underwater. They were designed for crashes or incidents on land.

What I find very interesting, listening to Andrew Stevens and hearing what's happening there, the families and what's happening at the moment at Surabaya is, you're watching the incident in realtime. And this is what's different. They're looking for information. But the search is under way and there isn't information to give them.

And it's not that anybody's doing anything wrong. It's not that they're being negligent or slow or difficult. It's just this is the way these events take place. It's not a movement. It's slow, it's painful, it's difficult and it doesn't always go as you expect.

COOPER: And there's also the question of how much information -- I mean, do you give each little piece of information to a family member. You know, smoke is spotted on an island according to a helicopter crew who sees it, is reporting to local media, is that information that you immediately give to the families or do you wait to verify it?

QUEST: There are very few incidents where you don't have the plane, where you're spending days searching for them. Planes, you know, they crash on land and you've got the wreckage and you can start looking for it. But there is not that many where you actually don't have the plane and you're in this vacuum of information.

COOPER: David Soucie, how significant is the fact that this AirAsia flight was flying at the lowest altitude of all the other planes that were in the region?

SOUCIE: Well, just probably haven't learned about the information, what's ahead of it. How do you know whether there is turbulence ahead of you is if the previous aircraft that went through that area reported it and said this is a bad oust (ph).

COOPER: That's how you know? There's -- I mean, that it not radar equipment?

SOUCIE: There's radar equipment, but that doesn't necessarily tell you what's going on with turbulence or wind shear. So that kind of information is passed on from the previous aircraft that went through. So it was obviously reported that 38,000 was much more desirable altitude than 32 was.

COOPER: How similar do -- I mean, there was the incident with Air France flight 447 which we are going to talk about a little bit later on, with ice crystals on the plane and also the handoff from the computer to the pilots that basically wanted to stall, I think, that lasted for some four terrifying minutes.

QUEST: Cascading of events. It pitos (ph), froze, the auto pilot disengaged, the (INAUDIBLE) disengaged, and that's basically then they reacted.

There will be some similarities, what they are, we don't know yet. But what we don't know is what happened when that plane went into that thunderstorm.

I'll give you an example. Tonight, I flew back from Orlando to New York and very quickly we got to 38,000 feet. We made it to 38,000 feet on a relatively short flight of two hours. So you can take any set of facts, move them all around, but until you get the information from the flight datas, we're really in the dark.

COOPER: Peter, it is interesting that the fact that this plane hit turbulence so quickly after taking off, I mean, some 36 minutes or so after taking off, is that information that you would have thought they might have had previous -- prior to taking off?

GOELZ: Well, each airline has its own department, you know, that studies weather, that routes aircraft, dispatches them, and I think, as we've reported throughout the day, the weather along this line is very dynamic. It changes constantly. And the pilots are used to it.

Now, did this change deadly? We just don't know. We're going to have to find out from the data recorder and the voice recorder. But we do know that planes prior to and aircraft this flight made it through successfully.

COOPER: Geoffrey, I mean, severe weather from past crashes, can severe weather itself by down an aircraft like this? Or is it usually some combination of bad weather and then the reaction of the flight crew to it?

THOMAS: Well, if we go back in history, Anderson, to the late 1950s, early 1960s when weather radar was just introduced to aircraft, and in those days no more than a rudimentary rain gauge, if you like, it showed a blob of return from moisture. In those days a lot of airplanes were lost in severe thunderstorms because the pilots were not able to ascertain the severity of the thunderstorms and they blundered right into them.

Now, weather radar today is advanced in quantum leaps. However, there are very experienced pilots today who will still look at their radar with some skepticism and they'll treat thunderstorms with an enormous amount of respect, particularly around Southeast Asia.

I've been in the cockpit with captains and they spend their entire time searching ahead, looking at their radar can looking out the window, trying to ascertain the severity of thunderstorms and weather if front of them. And it may well be this pilot has misread his radar, got a bad return, misunderstood the return, and has blundered into a super cell.

COOPER: There's a lot more to cover. We'll take a short break.

Coming up next we are going to look closer at just the weather factor. The picture of what the crew may have been facing was not pretty in terms the of the weather.

And later the images are simply terrifying. Flames engulfing a ferry with hundreds on board. We'll tell you about the remarkable rescue effort that followed and why it took so long to get the people off this ship.


COOPER: Well, as searchers begin their Tuesday over the java sea, it is worth underscoring key fact about the missing airbus or any airliner for that matter. Simply put, airlines want airplanes want to fly. It is very, very hard to make them not fly. And whether it's a technical malfunction, human error or bad weather, it usually takes more than a single factor to actually bring an aircraft down.

That said, the weather in front of AirAsia 8501 was daunting and potentially very dangerous even if it only triggered a chain of other events that may have doomed the airliner.

Our meteorologist Tom Sater joins us now with what he has been finding.

Tom, take us through what we know about the weather at the time the plane disappeared.

TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Anderson, it's been an interesting 24 hours. Of course, spending the day yesterday with the airline experts, we were focusing mainly on this massive storm you see here. This is an infrared satellite image. So the bright red colors of the high cloud tops. This system blew up out of nowhere. So its strength was building as the plane took off.

Now, notice how it has a little bit of a point here. This is an anvil. This is the strongest storm in the entire region. We focused on this and just trying to wonder, we knew the storm was moving towards the path, but what kind of action was the pilot going to take? Notice the symmetry in our water vapor. If I blew this map up four or five times, this is the strongest storm in the entire region. So it makes sense to focus on this.

But let's break this down more. We know now that the pilot requested, and we were wondering why with his experience level, why would he want from 32,000 feet to 38,000 if he's looking at a monster storm? That's about 55,000 feet in height. No pilot would want to do this. It is suicidal.

So let's forget about that. He didn't request that, I believe, at the beginning. Let's break it down even more. We know this storm is moving towards him. He takes off. The pilots yesterday were mentioning not only raid or on board but visually, the crews can see these storms develop and they see their movement.

This anvil is coming toward the flight path. Now, we know the pilot asked to go and deviate to the left. He wants to get out in front of this anvil. He does not want to fly through it. So he gets into the headwinds to beat it around the punch and get into his flight path without having this disturbance.

But now he runs into this clear air. And many pilots will tell you, this is where turbulence can be found and icing as well, just as there's incredible uplift in the storms, there's incredible down lift, but there's also icing. If this is most likely what happened, he asked to increase his height from here at 32,000 feet to 38,000 --

COOPER: Hey, Tom.

SATER: Because there was no wall of a thunderstorm. This is a band of tropical rainfall. So if he lost control of this, Anderson, at this point, he had no time or space to recover before the heavy rain.

COOPER: Tom, let me just ask you, how quickly would a storm system like this pop up?

SATER: These can do in a matter, you know, 15, 20 minutes. We've all been in a plane, you see them billow up into the air. But the ones that are the tallest have the anvils. Whatever direction that anvil is pointing tells you the direction the storm is moving.

COOPER: All right, Tom. Thanks a lot. Appreciate that.

Still a lot we do not know, frankly, about this.

Back with Richard Quest. Joining us CNN aviation analyst David Gallo, director of special projects at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He co-led the search for Air France flight 447. Also with us, private pilot, CNN aviation analyst Miles O'Brien.

You know, when you look at the radar and you see the conditions that this plane flew through, and we know that there were other planes in the area at the time, but this was at the lowest altitude -- lowest altitude. It's also interesting to me given the shallowness of this water, there was a crash back in 2007 in this part of the world. It took I think 10 to 11 days for them to actually find, locate pieces of that aircraft.

QUEST: It's a big body of water. It may not be deep, but you know roughly where the plane is but you've then got to work out which part of the -- how it came out of the air, which direction it came out of the air. Did it come out -- so by the time -- I mean, people are -- this is not a swimming pool. This is not a sort of a lake. It's a very large body of water and you're trying to find a relatively small speck within it. And that's why they're mowing up and down the water trying to find -- it's going to take time.

COOPER: Right.

And Miles, when it comes to flying through this kind of weather, what kind of training do pilots go for that? I mean, there are some who are saying adjusting during intense storms like this, I mean, obviously requires a lot of skill.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Yes. First and foremost, Anderson, you avoid them. And the rules are, the FAA rules are to stay at least 20 nautical miles away from them. If you find yourself inside one of these cells, one of the key things they tell you to do is remove the altitude and speed hold on the auto pilot. What they want you to do, if you do get stuck, is cinch up your seat belt and sort of ride the wave.

It needs a pilot's full control as he tries to hold the altitude and the speed, you can actually overstress the aircraft because of the nature of the storms is so strong. And so, it can actually break pieces of the airplane off if you don't fly it correctly. So the first thing is to avoid them. Second thing, if you're inside, never turn back, always keep going forward and ride the wave.

COOPER: So Miles, this is a dumb question. But in a thunderstorm like this, which is obviously of such great concern to pilots, what is it exactly that directly can impact the aircraft? I mean, is it -- I mean, what part of the storm? Is it wind shear? Is it the cold? What is it?

O'BRIEN: The big items are that the wind shear and turbulence, those are big ones, those can really cause you problems. We talked a lot about icing. You've got a lot of moisture in the air, obviously, it's a thunderstorm. And that can freeze over. And then you can get into hail.

Now, imagine a large amount of hail hitting an aircraft at that size, what that can do to an aircraft. It can blow out the windshield. You can destroy the radar system of the nose cone. There's all kinds of problems it could cause if you ran into hail. And then believe it or not, Anderson, if there's enough moisture in the air, you can actually cause the engines to flame out. So being inside one of these storms is not a good place to be.

QUEST: And to add on to what Miles was saying, what you're talking about, besides the physical hail, ice, rain, is these tremendous movements of air currents, these up drafts and downdrafts and that can literally, what they're doing, of course, is completely and utterly disturbing the vital air flow over the wing at the same time creating tremendous movements of the aircraft within it. And that's where you get your stall from because the aircraft no longer has the necessary smooth air going over it being buffeted in such violent fashion.

COOPER: And David, I mean, you investigated Air France flight 447, there was a stall there. Did it last for four minutes from what I remember?

DAVID GALLO, WOODS HOLE OCEANOGRAPHIC INSTITUTION: Basically, from the beginning where they got into trouble, it was about a four-minute drop to the sea below, yes. So it was a long time that the plane was in a stall. But that's a little bit different situation, but I still involved icing a bit and transferred the handoff from the computer to the pilots in that plane.

COOPER: David, in terms of searching this kind of water -- I mean, as we've said now repeatedly, it is much shallower, about 150 feet is what you get in this area, how quickly would they start to try to bring in underwater platforms, underwater vehicles that they could use or do you think at this point that's not going to be an issue?

GALLO: I think they've started already, I hope. I think there's a meeting in the next couple of days about putting the plan together. But the fact is that even if they've asked the U.S. for help with Sonars, it's going to take weeks, maybe even a month or more to respond to that, to get mobilized on a ship and get the ship out there.

So even though it's a shorter distance than to the Malaysian Air issue from land, it still going to take a while to mobilize.

And also, you know, the first thing you've got to know, really, is where are you looking? Where is that haystack? Are you going to listen for pings? Should you go out now with pingers with pinger locaters and go to the last position and just try your luck, you know?

It's a very horrible situation that we find ourselves in once more that a plane's gone into the water without us knowing exactly where it is.

COOPER: David Gallo, stick around. Richard Quest, thank you very much. Miles O'Brien as well.

I want to talk to David more about the challenges of underwater searchers for planes. Why not just go out with pingers at this point? We'll ask him that ahead.

Just ahead, we will also show you some of the specialized equipment that it may take to find the wreckage of flight 8501. Underwater vehicles that can go where humans can, and at least not safely, humans can't go safely there for at not for long.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: As we said, it's now Tuesday morning in Indonesia. The search for missing AirAsia flight 8501 has resumed over the Java Sea. Planes, helicopters, ships are combing an expanded area looking for any signs of the missing airliner and the 162 people on board. Indonesia has asked the U.S. and other countries for help. The "USS Sampson" is on its way right now to the Java Sea. Indonesia's top rescue official says that based on radar data, the missing jet is believed to be at the bottom of the sea. Our Gary Tuchman has more on the underwater tools that may be an important part of finding the wreckage.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The names are intriguing, what they have potential to accomplish is amazing. The Remus 6000, the Orion, the Triton XLS, the Dorado. They are all autonomous underwater vehicles and remotely operated vehicles. AUVs and ROVs.

MARTIN STILT, ROV SUPERINTENDENT: The ideal black box is not a problem at all for ROV to pick up it in a basket and recover it.

TUCHMAN: This is the Triton XLS ROV based in Florida connected to a ship by an umbilical cord. Then there are the AUVs, which are not connected. This is the Orion owned by the U.S. Navy run by a company called Phoenix International. Vehicles likes this send sound signals to the sea floor, which paint the picture of what's on the bottom. Then there is the Rena 6000, also an AUV. The team from Woods Hole, Massachusetts, has already made dramatic success locating the wreckage of Air France Flight 447 two years after it crashed in the South Atlantic Ocean. The discovery only possible because of this AUV. This is the initial shot of the Air France debris captured by the Remus 6000.

MIKE PURCELL, WOODS HOLE OCEANOGRAPHIC INSTITUTION: They can go up and down mountains that are up to 40 degrees in slope. They are very stable so you get really good data almost all the time.

TUCHMAN: Another AUV that could be used, the Dorado based at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California where CNN Stephanie Elam visited.

DOUG CONLIN, MONTEREY BAY AQUARIUM RESEARCH INSTITUTE: So, this is a titanium pressure sphere, so it's as good to 6,000 meters deep and inside we have all this sonar electronics.

TUCHMAN: The other option is manned submarines or submersibles. This vehicle, that resembles a spaceship is a manned submersible called the Johnson Sea Link based in Florida. This sub located wreckage in the Atlantic Ocean after the tragic explosion of the space shuttle "Challenger" in 1986.

This sub is about 24-feet long. It's also about 11-feet tall and weighs about 28,000 pounds. It has enough oxygen and emergency provisions aboard for the people to survive underwater for up to five days. This sub is retired, though, but other subs that can go even deeper could be brought into action along with AUVs and ROVs ready to assist the task. Gary Tuchman, CNN, Los Angeles.


COOPER: I want to bring back in our aviation analyst David Gallo from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He co-led the search for Air France flight 447. They were -- you mentioned this before the break. Why not at this point just start searching for pings, I mean if the plane is believed to be at the bottom of the sea, as some Indonesian officials have said they believe it, wouldn't that be a prudent move so early on?

GALLO: Yeah, it could be prudent except the teams are few and far between. And you don't really want to burn out a team just having them go out there doing busy work. And we don't forget, we're talking about an area right now bigger than West Virginia and a big chunk of South Carolina. So it's a huge search area. And - but I think, you know, maybe going to that last known position and having a listen, not a bad idea. But then you've got to come up with a plan. All that wonderful technology we just learned about, it's the teams of people that go along with that, that have the operational expertise that you really need to bring to bear under one solid plan.

COOPER: In a region like this, how many teams like that are there available right now?

GALLO: It's a handful really. I mean that really know how to use those types of vehicles to get the job done. It's, you know, we talk about mowing the lawn. And if you're mowing your own lawn, you got a pretty good handle on how you want the grass cut and how you want the grain to be. If 20 people show up with their lawn mowers, different sizes and strengths with different ideas about how your lawn should be, you may end up with a result that you don't really want. So, it's really important to have that leadership under one solid operational plan. So, there might be a handful. We'll see who comes -- who turns up in the next few days, but, you know, it's sad that it takes so long to respond to incidents like this. And pray that another plane doesn't go down because we're already short because of Malaysian Air 370.

COOPER: All right, David Gallo, I appreciate you being on again. Thanks very much.

At first glance the disappearance of this flight seems similar to Malaysian Airlines flight 370, but there are striking differences that are important to know. At the top of the hour, don't miss the CNN special report, "Vanished: They Mystery of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370." That's at 9:00 p.m. here on CNN.

Just ahead, though, in this program, we're going to take a closer look at the captain of AirAsia flight 8501 including how much experience he has flying this Airbus 320.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Welcome back. In every airline disaster the pilots come under immediate scrutiny. The captain of flight 8501 like many Indonesians goes by one name, Iriyanto. He's a seasoned pilot with more than 20,000 flying hours including 6100 hours with AirAsia on the airbus 320. Joining us is CNN safety analyst David Soucie, also, Deborah Hersman, president of the National Safety Council and former chair of the NTSB. David, obviously, there's a lot of differences between this and what we know about Malaysia flight 370. One thing, though, is similar, is that they both did not have a real time tracking information that could have given constant data. Still, why do these planes not have this?

SOUCIE: That's the question. We've had that question now for at least six or seven years.

COOPER: Is this the money?

SOUCIE: It's partly money. You know, part of it is because of the fact that there is no regulation that requires it. So, and that's where it should begin. If they don't do that, then there's some issues for the airlines as to what they can write off on their taxes. It sounds simple -- it sounds stupid that they're doing that, but in fact, without having that they can't accelerate depreciation and some airlines wouldn't be able to afford that.

COOPER: What would this technology allow? What would it?

SOUCIE: What it would allow is that all the information about where the aircraft is specifically at all times would be reported. Other information as well like the cabin altitude, for example, is something that would be critical to have. If we'd had that information on 370, we would have known if there was an in-flight breakup, we would have known a lot about what happened to that airplane that we don't know now.

COOPER: So, difference, you know, David's saying it's a question of them being forced to do this by law. What body would actually mandate that?

DEBORAH HERSMAN, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL SAFETY CONCIL: Well, there's a lot of different levels of requirements when it comes to aviation. I would say the first and the hardest level of requirements is the national standards. And for the U.S. this would be like the Federal Aviation Administration requiring something. But when you ...

COOPER: So there would be each country having their own national standard.

HERSMAN: That's right. I mean that's the hard -- the real hard standard, but the best standard would be to get some international standard because we're not seeing planes being lost over Des Moines or Detroit. What we're seeing is planes being lost in other areas of the world where they don't have the kind of radar coverage that we have that's land based over the U.S. But, you know, getting this international standard is a real challenge because when you go to an organization like ICAO, the International Civil Aviation Organization, you got to get agreement of multiple countries, and that's not just countries like the U.S. or France. It's African countries, South American countries, everyone.

COOPER: So, do you agree with David, that, I mean, unless there's some sort of push for actual regulation, airlines aren't going to do it on their own?

HERSMAN: You know, I think we have seen airlines lead with technology in certain situations. Like early adoption of enhanced ground proximity warning systems or things like that, but really what you're trying to get is not the folks who are the first adopters or the early adopters. You're actually trying to get everyone. And you've got to pick up the folks that, for example, that are low cost carriers in Indonesia.

COOPER: David, there was a task force, wasn't there, after Malaysia flight 370 that had recommendations. Does anything come of that? Or is it just a question of ...

SOUCIE: It has, but it seems like it's stuck in this bureaucracy. Nancy Graham who is in charge of that project at the first -- ICAO, did a great job of getting it started - everybody at the meeting in Montreal, I think it was late July, maybe early August. And they said we're going to get this fixed. And I - Inmarsat at that point said we're going to give this to them for free. Most of the aircraft that have it, in fact, 90 -- about 90 percent of the aircraft throughout there do have the equipment installed, but they don't necessarily have the subscription. And that represents about 99 percent of all the flying passengers in that realm.

COOPER: So, they don't have this subscription, every time there's - it sends data, they get charged?

SOUCIE: Well, no, it's a matter of, just saying, I want to have that data, it's a flat fee.


SOUCIE: And after that flat fee as the information ...

COOPER: So, they have the technology.

SOUCIE: They do.

COOPER: They just don't actually have the subscription.

SOUCIE: They absolutely do. And now in this case, they didn't have the technology installed.

COOPER: Right.

SOUCIE: They were in the process of adding the Swift System.

COOPER: So, do you think it's inevitable, Deborah, that this is going to happen or you're not so confident? HERSMAN: You know, I think it's inevitable. I mean when you look out at a long timeline, but for example, the member airlines, the International Air Transport Association they actually are looking at many of these recommendations through this task force. Some of them they put on a three-year track. And so, it's just not -- it's not going to be fast enough, but I do think over time we'll get a lot better at this. Your phone, my car, we can do this.

COOPER: Deborah, thanks for being on, I appreciate. Deborah Hersman, David Soucie as well.

Up next, the quick response from AirAsia's CEO to this tragedy and also an incredible rescue effort as a ferry catches fire off the coast of Italy. Hundreds were trapped. Some said they felt like prisoners on a burning ship. It took more than 24 hours to actually get people off. We're trying to take a look at why it took so long. The latest, when we continue.


COOPER: The search has expanded for areas of flight 8501 off the coast of Indonesia, the USS Sampson is going to join the search later today. AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes is keeping families informed. He's done so from the beginning. He's something of a celebrity CEO, a former host of the Apprentice Asia, 2001. He and his partners bought AirAsia for just 25 cents and turned it around. He's now facing a much tougher challenge. Poppy Harlow reports.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tony Fernandes is living the moment every airline executive dreads.

TONY FERNANDES, AIRASIA CEO: We're very devastated about what's happened.

HARLOW: AirAsia CEO since 2001, Fernandes tweeted more than a dozen times in the hours following the plane's disappearance. "This is my worst nightmare. We will go through this terrible ordeal together."

FERNANDES: I'm concerned right now is for the relatives and for the next of kin.

HARLOW: The approach of AirAsia's CEO thus far stands in stark contrast to that of Malaysia Airlines and its CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, known as A.J. after MH-370 disappeared.

COOPER: It is a Boeing 777 wide body twin jet.

AHMAD JAUHARI YAHYA, CEO, MALAYSIA AIRLINES: Our thoughts and prayers are with all affected passengers and crew and your family members.

COOPER: But Malaysia Airlines didn't tell families flight 370 was missing until after it was supposed to have arrived in Beijing, many hours after it vanished. And there was the disastrous text message sent from Malaysia Airlines to family members saying none of those on board survived. Malaysia Air CEO defended the move saying it was the best way to tell those it could not reach by phone or in person, but it led to some demanding his resignation.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: They're different men with different strategies, but it doesn't mean one's better than the other when it comes to running an airline. Whether you have Tony coming out in front, leading, A.J. was much more behind. He was much more the government's leading the way forward. We're dealing with it in that way. That does not mean that behind the scenes he wasn't as involved with his staff and with the airline.

HARLOW (on camera): How much do you think Tony Fernandes has learned from really the communications debacle after MH-370?

DAVIA TEMIN, CEO TEMIN AND COMPANY: I think every CEO of an airline around the world has learned something from the Malaysia Airline situation. That was impersonal, disorganized. It was really a checklist of all the bad things that an airline could do.

HARLOW: Malaysia Airlines is replacing its CEO. It's part of the company's recovery plan. As for AirAsia's Fernandes, the outspoken CEO may have managed to turn around a failing airline, but his biggest challenge is ahead.

FERNANDES: We have carried 220 million people up to this point. Of course, there's going to be some reaction, but we're confident in our ability to fly people.

HARLOW: The question now, will fliers feel as confident? Poppy Harlow, CNN, New York.


COOPER: We're following a number of other stories tonight. Susan Hendricks is here with a "360" bulletin. Susan.

SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the death toll has risen to ten now after a ferry caught fire in the Adriatic Sea as it headed to Italy from Greece. Cell phone video shows the flames behind shattered portholes. It is believed the fire broke out in the parking bay. 427 people were rescued from that ferry. Many of them airlifted to safety. A passenger described it like the "Titanic." Some amazing video there.

To Los Angeles now, two police officers were shot at while on patrol last night. They returned fire. No one was injured. One suspect is in custody, another remains at large.

And President Obama has phoned a pair of Army captains and apologized for forcing them to move their Hawaiian wedding at the last minute because he wanted to play a round of golf. The couple found a new venue just as beautiful. The White House source says they had no idea that round of golf would interfere with the wedding. The bride and groom actually invited the Obamas. Since they need to be they RSVPed no, and sent their best wishes before that mix-up, but they did get a call from the president.

COOPER: All right, Susan, thanks very much. Up next, the three worst airline disasters of 2014 all have ties to Malaysia. The coincidence of the three flights coming up.


COOPER: News broke that AirAsia flight 8501 had vanished many of us felt a sense of deja vu. It's a third tragedy this year from Malaysia based airline. We saw the aftermath in the Ukraine where Malaysia Airline Flight 17 was downed in the middle of the war zone. Just as haunting, though, is what we still cannot see. Almost ten months ago Malaysia Airlines flight 370 vanished midflight, and no trace of it still remains. One country, three aviation tragedies in less than a year, two of them very similar. What are the odds?

Rene Marsh takes a look.


RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: AirAsia flight 8501 is the second missing passenger plane in Southeast Asia in less than a year. It's the third high profile disaster this year for Malaysian-based airlines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is eerie, it is unusual. Or it's just kind of spooky that this would happen in this area. But we don't know the facts yet.

MARSH: After nearly ten months, Malaysia Airlines flight 370 and the 239 people on board have still not been found. Authorities are convinced the Boeing 777 crashed in the Indian Ocean.

STEVEN WALLACE, FORMER FAA ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION DIRECTOR: Malaysia 370, and there's good evidence to indicate that it was flown a long, long ways, and again, most likely as a criminal act either by a rogue pilot or intruder or something like that. And no indication of anything like that in this case.

MARSH: Just four months later, July 17th, Malaysia Airlines would suffer another loss. Pro-Russian rebels are blamed for shooting MH-17 out of the sky using a surface-to-air missile. All 298 people on board that Boeing 777 died. The carrier for this latest incident has a relatively spotless record. This would be their only fatal accident.

PETER GOETZ, FORMER NTSB MANAGING DIRECTOR: The reality check is flying is still the safest form of transport, and that when you put the numbers up, you say you got a choice between driving or flying. Get in the plane.

MARSH: Rene Marsh, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Well, thanks for watching. Now CNN special report "VANISHED: THE MYSTERY OF MALAYSIA AIRLINES FLIGHT 370."