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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Search For Missing Plane Resumes In Southern Indian Ocean; Australian Military Plane, Two Commercial Jets Headed For Search Zone In Southern Indian Ocean

Aired March 21, 2014 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN YOUNG, AUSTRALIAN MARITIME SAFETY AUTHORITY: We have no sightings yet.

SARAH BAJC, PARTNER OF PASSENGER ON 370: If this debris is indeed part of that plane, then it kind of dashes that wishful thinking to pieces.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST, OUTFRONT: Everyone is thinking of those families. Anderson starts now.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. It is 8:00 p.m. in New York, 8:00 a.m. in Kuala Lumpur and western Australia and there is breaking some news tonight.

For the first times in the two weeks since Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 vanished, with the first officer's four last words hanging in the air, "All right, good night," we may finally know what else was said between cockpit and ground.

Britain's "Daily Telegraph" has obtained and has published a transcript of radio transmissions between Flight 370 and air traffic controllers, starting with the Boeing 777 at the gate, preparing to taxi, ending with the first officer signing off.

Fifty-four minutes in all, 54 minutes of conversation that we did not have before. That said, we want to be very careful to label it for what it is. This is a transcript obtained by a reputable news source but not ourselves, that has apparently been translated from the original English into Mandarin and then back into English again. So nuances certainly may have been lost.

However, there's still plenty to learn from what we've got. Breaking news as well on the search. Australian officials telling us another search plane just took off out of Western Australia heading for the waters that were calm today, but as you'll see rarely stay that way for long. And there has been a big change in tactics. Searchers relying less on high-tech radar and more on the old fashioned eyeballs and binoculars. We're also learning possibly significant new information about files on the PC simulator flight 370's captain had at home. You see the simulator there behind him from YouTube video. Files deleted from the hard drive. Now there could be a perfectly reasonable explanation for that. We're going to look into that.

We have another full hour of coverage ahead starting with Kyung Lah in Australia on the search and Pamela Brown in Washington on these cockpit transcripts and also the flight simulator story.

So, Kyung, let's start with you. Early morning hours there in Australia, 8:00 a.m. in Perth. Are search teams gearing up right now for another full day at sea? What kind of resources are we looking at?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, I think I'm actually hearing it right now. I'm about 500 yards I'm told from where these planes are actually taking off. And we can hear some turboprops starting up. And these are the P-3 Orions. And one is scheduled to list -- take off right now, though they will be leaving from this air base and heading four hours away to that remote area.

At daybreak, there was one that took off as well and then those two civilian long-range planes. There will be more today, a total of six planes in all heading to that remote area four hours away -- Anderson.

COOPER: And, Kyung, an Australian official saying they're going to focus more on using human spotters than radar. What's behind that strategy? I've heard some of the debris may not even really show up on radar floatation devices and the like.

LAH: Well, you put it perfectly when you said good old fashioned eyeballs. What the military is trying to do is rely on planes that get there faster and then use good old fashioned eyeballs. The civilian planes are Bombardiers. They can fly almost at the speed of sound. They'll get to that four-hour -- that four-hour flight that was I talking about, they'll get down there in a fraction of the time. They'll be able to get down there very, very quickly.

They will be able to spend some time there and then zoom back. The downfall is that they don't have radar. They've got to use people who are trained to just look for debris. They're hoping to catch the debris that might float -- planes, excuse me, seats and life jackets.

Now as far as the military prop planes, yes, they'll take four hours to get down there but they have the radar. So it's a give or take, they're trying to flood the zone -- Anderson.

COOPER: And we're going to talk to a commander from the U.S. Navy who's obviously also been involved in the search a little bit later on the program about what assets they have in play.

Pam, I understand investigators are just in the last few hours learning more about the deleted files on the captain's computer. What do we know about it? PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Anderson. Sources telling CNN that investigators have uncovered evidence that files from those hard drives were deleted more recently than we previously -- was previously disclosed by Malaysian officials. That date of February 3rd.

At this point, we still don't know how many deletions there were, who made them and when. But we can tell you that forensics experts as well as outside consultants have been brought in. They are in a full tilt dive to uncover not only what was deleted but how it may have been erased. Of course, if it appears certain files were strategically deleted or scrubbed clean in a more sophisticated rather than routine way, that could be a red flag.

But at this point, Anderson, we have no information indicating the pilots were planning the plane's disappearance. As one of my sources told me earlier, there is nothing to run on that would suggest otherwise at this point.

COOPER: So I just want to be very clear on this. Through sources you've learned that items were more recently deleted. There's no necessarily a nefarious explanation for that. It could be very much as somebody trying to organize their files, correct?

BROWN: Right.

COOPER: OK.

BROWN: Exactly. My colleague, Evan Perez, has been talking to his sources and he was told by them that at this point there's no reason to believe there was any nefarious intent. But of course they are still, you know, combing through the hard drive as we speak trying to obtain more information and more details about those deletions.

COOPER: Right. Pam, also this report by the "Telegraph" newspaper with the communication between the cockpit and the air traffic controller for the first 54 minutes of the flight. Anything raising alarm bells or suspicion among people you've talked to?

BROWN: You know, of course because we're dealing with a missing plane, everything is going to be, you know, under scrutiny and everything is to be picked apart.

There are a couple of parts, Anderson, of this reported transcript obtained by the "Telegraph" newspaper that some do find interesting. You know, for one, the pilot repeated the altitude twice and also the pilot didn't repeat what air traffic control said at the very end, which pilots are supposed to do. Instead he signed off saying those infamous four words we've all heard, "All right, good night."

And pilots we've spoken to, Anderson, say, you know, informal conversational talk between the pilot and air traffic control isn't necessarily out of the ordinary. But again because of the circumstances here, everything is going to be scrutinized. But important to reiterate here that the communications, the 54 minutes of communications between air traffic control and the pilots was translated from English into Mandarin.

COOPER: Right.

BROWN: And back into English. So it's not a perfect translation. And CNN has not independently confirmed the authenticity of that transcript.

COOPER: Kyung, this is now the third day searching this particular area. No spotting of debris that was -- that was apparently or thought to be seen in the satellite information. How confident are Australian authorities that this is, in fact, the right area, that, in fact there was something there to begin with?

LAH: Well, if you talk to the guys who are actually up in the air, the ones who are getting into those military planes and taking a look, they all say that conditions are good. We have hope. We want to figure out what this is. We want to find it. We want to give some answer to these families. So there's hope there.

But they also, if you talk to other government officials, we notice some language difference from what the prime minister said in the first day and then in the second day.

He was raising the possibility that this might just be a shipping container. He didn't say it the first day. So there is this sense of, yes, this is the absolute best lead. Let's get more governments involved. Let's get more planes out there. Let's get more eyeballs out there. There is, though, always underlying everything, is that this might not be it.

COOPER: And of course, if this is not it, then resources, which have been devoted exclusively to the -- to this search, this particular search, have not been used in other areas over the last several days.

Kyung, appreciate the reporting, and Pamela Brown.

Want to bring in our panel of experts who's been with us throughout the hour and throughout the week. CNN's safety analyst David Soucie is here, author of "Why Planes Crash: An Accident Investigator's Fight for Safe Skies," Les Abend is a 777 captain, a CNN aviation analyst, David Gallo was co-leader of the search for Air France Flight 447. He is now the director of special projects at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Also with us former Department of Transportation inspector general Mary Schiavo, currently she represents accident victims and their families.

So, Les, let's start with you. The transcript of these communications, the 54 minutes, you have it in front of you. Does anything jump out at you? And again, there is some language issues, but you have to consider it was translated from English to Mandarin to English.

LES ABEND, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Right. And it's a very abridged version because you don't get all the transmissions to other aircraft in between. So terminology we use is situational awareness. There's a lot of -- there's a lot of things deleted or left out.

The translation, like you mentioned, Anderson, it's difficult even clearances that normally would be responded to in a standard way aren't translated properly.

COOPER: And this final communication that some people have focused on, the casualness of it, which we'll put on the screen, does that -- is that common? I mean, does that count as casual language?

ABEND: Well, yes, it's nonstandard. But that frequency is probably used all the time and they -- and the controllers know that the pilots know and vice versa.

COOPER: So technically, and we're seeing it on the screen here, it says, "all right, good night," technically the co-pilot should have reread, Ho Chi Minh City, 120.9 --

ABEND: Exactly.

COOPER: OK.

ABEND: He should have read back the frequency just to confirm it. But, you know, they've probably done this hundreds of times and it just goes --

COOPER: So as far as you're concerned, not much really to glean from this?

ABEND: No, and in addition to -- we seem to be focusing on the repeating of the altitude a bunch of times. And the sort of good time space on the transmissions on those altitudes, confirming that he's at 350. The way I look at it is if I wanted a higher altitude to go into that air space, the way I coax a controller that I want a higher altitude is to confirm that I'm still at the same altitude.

COOPER: OK. So nothing -- and, Mary, you agree, nothing to glean really from this transcript?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, except for one thing I noticed we keep focusing on the co-pilot, at least that's whose voice we believe it is, said "all right, good night" and exchanged pleasantries. I did notice that he was responding to the air traffic control, which said to the plane, at least twice before then, good night. And they had also said good morning.

So this particular part of the world, air traffic control had exchanged those pleasantries with the plane at least three times. So it doesn't seem out of character to be pleasant in return.

COOPER: All right. And a lot of people had pointed to that in the last couple of days saying, could there be some sort of coded message in there? Clearly Mary and Les thinking not.

David Gallo, we're now two days after the Australians released those satellite photos of possible debris. I mean, how skeptical are you that whatever those images showed was something significant in the first place? I mean I look at them and I honestly can't see anything. It looks to me like reflection on the water, but I'm certainly no expert.

DAVID GALLO, WOODS HOLE OCEANOGRAPHIC INSTITUTE: Yes. You know, I'm kind of conflicted myself because I want them to be bits of that aircraft. And at the same time, I'm with the families hoping that they're not, that the plane is still sitting somewhere, passengers relatively safe and sound.

I've heard from several friends and colleagues that are very familiar with satellite data. And they're not saying it can't be the aircraft, but -- there's a lot of doubt about what those things really are. And I'm hoping that in a few hours we're going to know for sure.

COOPER: David Soucie, about the deletions that the pilot has made, again, sources telling to CNN's Evan Perez that -- and Pamela Brown that there were more deletions later on than the Malaysians had released but no reason to believe that there's anything suspicious in these deletions.

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Right. And the thing that bothers me a little bit about that is the fact that, why did they think that they know it and then they didn't? You know, the Malaysians have had a lot on their hands. I believe that they're a little bit in over their heads on this. And that's what -- that gives me the indication of to me that -- I know they're reaching out and they're getting more help, which is good.

And Quantico has the best facilities of anyone to look at that data and see what had happened to it. So it just indicates to me again that they -- are in over their head a little bit but they're realizing it and they're reaching it for a little bit of help.

COOPER: And, Mary, you've been involved in this kind of thing before. One thing to point you had made several days ago which I think bears repeating is that, it's not just something that an item was deleted but perhaps if something -- if there was an attempt to overwrite something that was deleted, that might be telling.

SCHIAVO: Right, it's not just what you did cleaning up your files or deleted it, but if you took active steps to make it very difficult to retrieve it, it would show that you were intending to cover your tracks, it would show some kind of an intent to obfuscate or hide.

And by the way, at Quantico in Virginia, obviously that's the right place for that because they also have analysts and they don't just have the computer wizards. They will have analysts that can analyze things. What does this mean? Is there significance to this or that? And then by the same token, they may find nothing and say there's no significance whatsoever.

COOPER: All right. Obviously an investigation like this, it's important to recognize and to point out, and certainly in our coverage, to point out what we don't know and what leads have not really led anywhere over the last 24 hours.

There's a lot more to talk about. I want to take a short break. We're going to pick up the conversation when we come back.

Let us know what you think, the questions you have, follow me on Twitter @andersoncooper. Tweet using #ac360. Tweet us your questions for the panel. We'll try to ask them later on in the hour.

Next, though, what may be in store for ships as they search for wreckage in some of the roughest waters on earth. There was good weather today and previous days we've seen poor visibility. You're seeing some of the conditions of what it can be like out there. We'll check in with the U.S. Navy Seventh Fleet, with Commander William Marks.

Later, a new theory emerging that it could have been what the plane was carrying that brought it down, if in fact it did go down. We'll tell you what the cargo was and talk about that possibility ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: The breaking news tonight. Cockpit transcripts and the growing search in waters about 1500 miles off Australia's southwest coast. Now we've been talking about how favorable the conditions have been today. The fact is though that's the exception not the rule. Take a look at what the -- what it looks like in the past.

This is video from a leg of the Volvo Ocean Race last year passing through that area. Again this is from last year. But -- this search area last spring but it gives you just -- it's a part of the Southern Indian Ocean around 40 degrees south latitude known as the roaring 40s. And you get a sense of why here.

It's not smooth sailing at times. The ocean is smoother right now thankfully. It's not likely to stay that way.

Commander William Marks, spokesman for the U.S. Navy's Seventh Fleet, joins us by phone.

Commander Marks, the U.S. Navy's P-8 Poseidon I understand is not searching tomorrow, didn't today due to routine maintenance. Based on what you know, when is it expected to return to the search?

CDR. WILLIAM MARKS, USS BLUE RIDGE SPOKESMAN (via phone): Usually we take a day or two for this planned maintenance. It's a regular thing. We watch the fatigue level of both the air crew and the plane very carefully. So you can't run people 24 hours a day. You also can't run equipment 24 hours a day. But we're in a rotation with the Australian forces. It's a very coordinated effort. So the search is covered for that day.

COOPER: Australian officials are also saying that their search is now more focused on visual sightings as opposed to radar. I assume that, you know, they're still using radar especially when something like the P-8 Poseidon is part of the search.

Can you explain the idea behind really focusing on visual search as opposed to radar? MARKS: Sure. And really that came about because two days ago the weather was really bad. Very low ceilings, a lot of fog. Yesterday a lot better. But our philosophy is we take a balanced approach to use the optimal range of our sensors. If the optimal sensor is the radar they will go heavy on using the radar. However, if the environment dictates that the visual search would be more productive, they'll lean toward that more.

So we do use a balance. That's what the air crew does. They're experts in that. And it just depends on the environment, depends on the day.

COOPER: We're looking at some video of Australian forces flying low and dropping some items into the water. Do you know what those would be? I mean I don't know if -- they're obviously some sort of sensor devices. What would they be putting in the water?

MARKS: So those are sonobuoys. And I get that question a lot, are we -- are we pinging underneath the surface of the water or are we looking submerged? Really what those were doing was to get a sense of the environmental conditions specifically the currents under the water. So for example, those sonobuoys can tell you if there's a one knot current over the course of 24 hours potentially a piece of debris could have moved 24 miles. Those are mostly for environmental.

COOPER: Lastly just how difficult is the task at hand here? I mean, you know, given that we're some five days after these satellite images were taken, given the difficult weather conditions you've had in the last couple of days, I mean, these objects could have traveled something like 300 miles or so, they could even sunk, correct, if they were there in the first place?

MARKS: Yes, that's true. And simply this whole operation has been a challenge. It's difficult. But, you know, what I tell people is, this is what we do. This is what we train for. We're out here every day so that when a crisis does occur we already know who the players are, we know how to communicate, and we know what are immediate actions are. So to us, certainly a unique situation but something that we are prepared for.

COOPER: Well, I know you think about the families of those on board the aircraft as well as those on board this aircraft. And I've talked to -- I've talked to several family members who are waiting for word. And they're all obviously incredibly appreciative of your efforts as are we. So thank you for talking to us.

MARKS: You're very welcome. Thank you.

COOPER: Let's go back with our -- with out panel.

David Gallo, let me start with you. I want to actually kind of go back to something you said in our last block about the people you have been talking to who had a lot of experience looking at satellite images. They're beginning to raise some serious questions about what actually is in those images.

Can you say more about that? Or -- I mean, how doubtful are you or are they that this is actually something significant?

GALLO: Well, you know, when I look at those images I see something. I just don't know what it is. And it doesn't -- it looks like it could be part of the aircraft. It might be maybe a wing. And therefore has a low profile and so would be difficult to pick up with radar. They're looking at the same things we're looking at as far as I know. So they don't have access to the actual raw data. But they've all -- it's interesting.

There must have been, I'd say, four or five but they've all expressed doubt more than they've expressed any sort of strong positive feeling that those are pieces of an aircraft. I was surprised by that because we're going to know fairly soon whether -- if we find those pieces whether they're right or wrong.

COOPER: Les, do you have doubts as well?

ABEND: I really do.

COOPER: You do?

ABEND: At this point now that we're day three. You know, and I -- my contention is that maybe we should increase the search back over land.

COOPER: Really?

ABEND: From the standpoint of the ELTs not activating with the salt water, you know, the slide rafts would have them in them. That one of them at least --

COOPER: That for you is a big red flag, why those ELTs --

ABEND: Yes.

COOPER: And we've heard from a number of pilots today --

ABEND: Yes, it is.

COOPER: Or folks -- we're actually going to have a piece about ELTs coming up a little bit later on. A lot of people raising the question about ELTs, why didn't they go off, because there are multiple ones.

ABEND: There is. There is. And the slide rafts -- I don't know how this airplane is configured. But there could also be some that were in the overhead bins, too, that were strapped down.

COOPER: David, are you -- David Gallo, are you -- excuse me, David Soucie, are you -- are you skeptical as well about this debris now given the amount of time that passed?

SOUCIE: Well, because of the amount of time, look, I'm concerned about it if it -- if it was a wing, it's a tapered wing. And the center spars of that wing are very heavy compared to the tip of that wing. So the fact that it would be flat enough to be seen in that -- in that configuration concerns me a little bit. I would think that that wing would have tilted toward the heavy side, which could keep it afloat but it wouldn't be in that attitude. It would be in a much different attitude. So I'm a little skeptical that it would have been able to continue to float for that long.

COOPER: And David Gallo, I mean, it looks calm out there now and what we've heard from folks in the last 24 hours it was calm. But as we saw a short time ago in that video taken last year, around this area, I mean, it's notorious for having -- for having big waves, strong winds, tough currents.

Is it -- does that -- does that just complicate the situation in terms of trying to triangulate how far debris could have potentially moved from any impact site?

GALLO: Yes, of course. I mean, it's not as though the currents have the same velocity or the same direction or the winds have the same velocity and the same direction. It's all variable. These are swirling winds, there might be eddies in the currents. It's a real complicated issue.

You know, welcome to the world of oceanography. Again as Captain Marks said, this is what we -- the world that we live in. But to find something, to backtrack something over so many days, it's going to be really tough. Not impossible but really, really tough.

COOPER: And I just want to again reiterate to our viewers, the video that you're seeing while David is talking here this is from 2012. This is not involved in this search. But it is in this area. And the reason we're showing it to you simply is to give you a sense of what it can be like out there on the water.

You remember the first day -- and here's more video which you see actually a person. This is from last year from a race that took place in that area. Remember the first day of visibility was very low when search crews went out there and they were said to be waves, you know, in the 20-feet range. It gives you a sense -- that's one thing to say that, it's another thing to actually see at water level how difficult is it.

So, David Gallo, when you're out there, you have -- I mean, how do you -- how do you deal with this in terms of trying to spot something in these conditions? I know you work under the water, but just trying to spot something on the surface when you have white caps blowing off the top of waves, that's -- I don't know how you do it.

GALLO: Yes. Well, it makes it really hard. Imagine trying to stand on the deck of a ship with a pair of binoculars. That's actually that kind of situation would be almost impossible to do. Beyond that, you know, and I've been in those conditions just a little bit west of here out there and it was horrific. But if this was the underwater search it would make it impossible to launch and retrieve vehicles or to tow a system in this kind of weather. So it's a double whammy.

COOPER: Because you simply -- you can't get -- you can't get underwater vehicles into the water in this kind of condition. GALLO: Not -- well, certainly not with a cable. If you're towing something that's four miles beneath you or three miles beneath you, almost impossible to keep that thing stable. And you've got snap loads on the cable so you're stressing the system. And if you're launching autonomous underwater vehicles which are like drones, retrieving -- launching them and retrieving them in this kind of weather really impossible.

COOPER: David, just very briefly, last night in the program we showed some of the remarkable equipment that Woods Hole has to map the ocean floor, these submersible vehicles that can really map a wide range. And I got a number of questions after the show from viewers about it. Why not just even now put those in the water, get those in the water, mapping out grids, you know, underneath -- on the ocean floor?

SOUCIE: Well, Anderson, you got to start someplace. And those vehicles on a good day -- you know, those vehicles that's one thing. The technology is incredible. Those vehicles are awesome. The team is more -- almost more important.

COOPER: Got it.

SOUCIE: The dedicated team that goes along with those vehicles. And where do you begin on a good day each vehicle might cover about 25 square miles? That's not a lot of turf. So you would be burning out a team. These teams work day and night for weeks and months on end. And you'd end up with a lot of burnout. So almost not worth just -- just be taking a shot in the dark. So we need a little bit more to go on than just get in the water and turn the vehicles loose.

COOPER: And we're showing animation of what these vehicles from Woods Hole can do. Invented by Woods Hole, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. And again, it's a good reminder that -- I mean, the technology is extraordinary. It's the humans behind the technology to interpret the data to keep these things running. And you've got to -- you've got to take into account wear and tear on human beings as well as on the equipment.

Much more ahead. We're going to talk with an aviation reporter in Australia monitoring the search effort. What his sources are telling him. He has some serious questions about some of the copilot's signoff with air traffic controllers. As you've heard most other pilots we talked to say there's nothing unusual about it.

Plus inside a 777 simulator. Exploring one of the new theories about what may have happened on board. Trouble that may have been coming from the cargo hold. We'll tell you about what could have been -- what was in the cargo hold and how that may have -- may have played a role. One of the other aspects investigators are looking at. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Breaking news tonight, Britain's "Daily Telegraph" has published a transcript of radio transmissions between Flight 370 and air traffic controllers. Last night, we got a lot of crucial information from Geoffrey Thomas, editor-in-chief and managing director at airlineratings.com. He is back with us from Bulls Brook, Australia.

Geoffrey, regarding this copy of the transcript obtained by the "Telegraph" newspaper, you say the signoff from the co-pilot. He said, "All right, good night" that it's still doesn't sit right with you. Why?

GEOFFREY THOMAS, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, MANAGING DIRECTOR, AIRLINERATINGS.COM: No. Well, the international protocol from the International Civil Aviation Organization is that the signoff should be a repeat of the instruction given by air traffic control. So typically the signoff should be MH 370, contact Ho Chi Minh City on 120.9, good night. It repeats the instruction. That's the international protocol. "All right, good night" is either very -- way too casual, not compliant, or maybe it's a coded message. COOPER: So it could be just sloppiness. You're saying it could also be some sort of a coded message.

THOMAS: Indeed. Indeed.

COOPER: I guess one way would be to try to find out other planes that the co-pilot has flown on to see if this is what he commonly signs off with. Australia's deputy prime minister came out today urging caution saying whatever the debris is or was may not be floating anymore, may have already sunk. With certainly different tone than we heard from the prime minister just two days ago. Do you get the sense from people you're talking to in Australian authorities that they're not as confident as they were that this is something significant?

THOMAS: No, not at all. Prime Minister Tony Abbott I think is think very careful not to raise the expectations of the relatives, loved ones that are left behind. And this is also still a rescue mission. It may well be we find some rafts as well. But I think what we're seeing on the ground here is that more assets are being deployed.

We hear today that the Chinese are not only sending three warships. They are redeploying three search aircraft from Kuala Lumpur down to Pierce Air Force base where I am right now in Perth. I understand also the Japanese are going to commit a couple of P3 Orion to the area as well.

While the rhetoric from the prime minister may be a little bit softening, a little bit of caution, at the same time, the actual military assets, the commercial assets are being ramped up.

COOPER: And in terms of we heard from searchers that they will not be using radar in that area, just their eyes, is that a good idea in your opinion?

THOMAS: Well, look, I think it's possibly been a little bit misconstrued there because they're still using radar, but they're using their eyes as well because a lot of this debris would not be picked up by radar. Seat cushions from an airplane, pieces of plastic. All those sort of items that would float are not necessarily radar friendly if you like. And so they're using both and they're also using experts at spotting. And people who really can identify things at long distances. So it's a combination of assets here.

COOPER: And to your knowledge, are they sending back in real time high resolution photographic images that other people in Australia are looking at in real time, or is this all being done by the platforms that are out there?

THOMAS: Obviously they're doing it -- they're recording everything they see out there. My understanding is that they are relaying back to the search headquarters anything of significance. My understanding is that yes, there is some real-time data imagery being sent back if appropriate. But as yet that hasn't been shared with us.

COOPER: All right, Geoffrey Thomas, appreciate you reporting on what your sources are telling you. Thank you.

THOMAS: Pleasure, Anderson.

COOPER: Well, up next, did fire strike Flight 370? That's one of the things that investigators have been looking at. We're going to take you inside a 777 simulator, cockpit and see what pilots can do when a fire breaks out on board.

Also ahead tonight, the families of the missing holding on to hope. We're going to speak to Sarah Bajc whom we have spoken to before. She has been very public about her partner, Phillip Wood, who is among the missing. She has a Facebook page. She wants information out there about him. We'll talk to her ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back. Another new development tonight, Malaysia Airlines CEO acknowledging that Flight 370 was carrying a cargo of lithium ion batteries. He did not say how big the shipment was. These type of batteries have been implicated in other incidents. They are flammable.

Tonight CNN's Martin Savidge is back in a 777 flight simulator along with flight instructor, Mitchell Casado. I don't think you guys have ever left the simulator frankly. But in terms of, you know, this is one aspect investigators are looking at, the possibility of a fire on board. There were these potentially flammable lithium batteries. We don't know how many. Could a fire have started in the cargo hold and then overtaken the cockpit?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The answer to that is most definitely it could have happened. We're not saying it did in this instance but it could have. It's happened before in other aircraft. Value jet one of the most famous ones. That plane from the moment the fire started to when it went down was 3:42. Then you have the UPS flight out of Dubai in 2010. That was due to the batteries. It was basically fire that just filled the cockpit with smoke, either overcame the pilots or made it impossible to navigate. So it happens definitely.

COOPER: What steps would pilots take to try to contain the fire? SAVIDGE: If we were flying at altitude the first indication would likely be the alarms that would be going off. The moment that alarm goes off there are a number of things that begin to go into play. The pilot and co-pilot would measly go for a checklist and begin to figure out who's going to fly, who's going to navigate. You want to get this plane down on the deck as low as you can, maybe 8,000 feet because you're going to want to open the window to try to ventilate.

At the same time, you've got oxygen masks that have come on, and you're going to begin communicating to the ground because you want to find out from air traffic control where you can get this plane down on the ground and onto a runway somewhere. So the only thing we know from 370 is they turned. As far as any of this other action, which would have been standard and drilled into them over and over, it didn't happen.

COOPER: I want to go back to our panel, bring in Mary Schiavo, former inspector general for the Department of Transportation, David Gallo of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, CNN safety analyst, David Soucie and CNN aviation analyst, Les Abend.

Les, I mean, you've spent a lot of time in these plane. A fire on board, how serious is that, as a pilot, how big a concern that is for you and what do you do?

LES ABEND, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: It's got to be the worst scenario on an airplane.

COOPER: Really?

ABEND: Yes. Because you have no control over the situation for the most part except to be able to attempt to extinguish the fire. If it happened in the forward cargo compartment like seemed to be simulated there, you would start a whole process of arming bottles, freon bottles and deploying those bottles into the cargo departments. You would select which one assuming the forward.

COOPER: That's done electronically?

ABEND: It's done electronically through switches. But you would manually have to go through that process to do it. There's a couple of freon bottles. Starting the process shuts down fans all sorts of things so it stops circulation down in that compartment. If you did smell the smoke first thing would be to put on your oxygen mask, which includes the goggles. You have to use a different mic switch on your yoke to communicate. It's a lot of confusion.

COOPER: As a pilot do you have an immediate sense of how serious the fire is? I mean, I know alarms are going off. But are they that accurate in terms of how big the fire is or do you smell smoke?

ABEND: Oftentimes you'll smell something. A lot of times with us it turns out to be something they're burning in the galley behind us. So we went immediately jump to the oxygen mask. It could have been insidious, slowly sneaked its way into the cockpit.

COOPER: Mary, how effective are on board fire suppressions systems against battery fires?

MARY SCHIAVO, FORMER INSPECTOR GENERAL, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION: That's the problem. Because of the crash of Value Jet Flight 92 back in 1996 we have fire detection suppression equipment in the cargo holds of wide bodied planes and others. But that fire suppression equipment may not be effective against the lithium batteries. That was one of the outcomes of the Boeing 787 investigation, which they discovered in looking at two planes that caught fire or had a smoke event because of the batteries.

And they determined as they had to redesign the box in which those batteries were housed that the fire suppression system didn't work. And even the firefighters in Boston had a difficult time putting the fire out. So those batteries are especially troublesome. Not only do they start fires, but it's hard to get them out.

COOPER: David Soucie, there have been a number of incidents involving lithium batteries, not necessarily on board flights, but like Fed-Ex, DHL, a lot of carriers people who ship these things.

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Right. There's a form that's required after as Mary pointed out after Value jet, hazmat regulations have been changed under code 14 of the CFRs. Under 171 through 179 it tells you what you have to do, what you have to report, prevent from going onto the aircraft. So we have a list here of about -- anybody that's looked at this has probably searched for this and found out there's 141 incidents of this happening with a lithium batteries.

However, if you go through there and look at it, most of them -- only one or two that I found I haven't gone through the whole list yet, but just a few on the airport when it happened. Most of it loading and unloading, forklifts going through. Most about a lap tonight battery got hot in and the flight attendant was able to take that battery out and put night a coffee pot and suppress any kind of fire.

COOPER: David Gallo, a lot of discussion online about the search effort. We know it's a long way off the coast of Australia. Got a tweet from Julie. She said "why can't they launch some drones over the suspected debris area?" What about that?

DAVID GALLO, CO-LED SEARCH FOR AIR FRANCE FLIGHT 447: Well, they could theoretically, sure. From a ship, I think it's a long way out, but I guess you could do it from land. Again it's going to come back to the drones are really going to carry cameras or radar or something of that nature. It's still going to be tough to see through any kind of rough weather. And that is a long way away. It's twice the distance that the Air France site was off the coast of Brazil.

COOPER: I also got a tweet from Andrea who says "I've been wondering if they could have had a decompression and lost consciousness and the plane could have kept flying." Les, how likely is something like that?

ABEND: It's possible if it was toxic fumes. One of the things I wanted to point out, the baggage compartment, all the baggage compartments have freon. The avionics area does not have fire suppression. What it is has the automatic ability to redirect air flow because that air flow that comes through there comes up into the cockpit also.

COOPER: It's just extraordinary this far into it we are still going over -- investigators are still going over these theories. There was so much hope just a few days ago when this debris seemed to be picked up by satellites. And now with each day that passes, and again my thoughts just keep going to the families who are just waiting day in and day out. This is just horrific for them.

I appreciate all our panellists being here again, Mary Schiavo, David Gallo, David Soucie and Les Abend as well.

Up next, we are going to talk to Sarah Bajc, whose partner, Philip Wood, is missing on Flight 370. She is hoping that the massive search in the ocean, Indian Ocean, comes up empty. She is going to join me ahead.

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COOPER: Two weeks ago tonight, 239 families learned that their loved ones vanished seemingly into thin air, 239 souls from more than a dozen countries. For two full weeks now their families have lived in this terrible state of limbo trying to hold onto hope. We've seen their anguish and also their courage. Sarah Bajc still hopes for the safe return of her partner, Phillip Wood, one of three Americans on board Flight 370. They were about to move back to Kuala Lumpur from Beijing when this nightmare happened.

We talked to Sarah in the recent days, she joins me again tonight. Sarah, I appreciate you being with us. I know you have a support network around you. You created a Facebook page. I want to show our viewers that. It's called finding Phillip Wood. You're trying to keep up energy for the search and keeping hope alive. It's one of the reasons you're speaking out as you have for the last several days.

How concerned are you that too many resources are being put to this ocean search and not enough to searching over land?

SARAH BAJC, PARTNER OF PHILIP WOOD, AMERICAN ON FLIGHT 370: Thank you for asking that question, Anderson. I'm very concerned about it. If you look through our postings, I think general population is concerned about it as well. The experts keep pursuing all the options that would denote a crash. But intuition of the innocent or the ignorant depending on how you want to look at it seems to be that the people are all still alive. That's a consistent theme. And whether it's wishful thinking or just logic, sometimes when you know less of the data you can make more intuitive decisions. But if there's a chance that it was taken by an abductor of some sort we should be putting some of our resources to land.

COOPER: Have you been able to give that message to authorities to Malaysia Airlines? What is the communication like and the flow of information from them to you? Are you satisfied with it because I know it's been frustrating for a number of families? BAJC: Yes. There's been no exchange of information with authorities. So that is exactly why I've been engaging with the media. It's been a consistent theme that I've tried to come back to, that I believe and I think most people believe that the passengers are being held for some other purpose. And so far that doesn't seem to be listened to, but since all of the other avenues that we've explored actually don't make sense -- I mean, I've been listening to your show as I've stood here.

Even a fire in the cockpit, there would have been some other evidence to point to the fact that that had happened. An alarm or some other movement of the plane or whatever the case might have been. So I hope the authorities maybe take a little more brain approach as opposed to the brawn approach that's been pursued so far. Maybe that will get us someplace else.

COOPER: I'm always very cautious about speaking to somebody who's experiencing a situation like this because I don't want to do anything or ask anything that's in any way inappropriate or too invasive. And in the past you have spoken about Phillip. And I know just this not knowing, this day in and day out, are there ways that you have figured out to try to get through each day? Do you stick to a routine? Do you pay attention to all the twists and turns that are being reported, that are being investigated? How do you deal with this?

BAJC: Well, desperation leads to a certain kind of nervous energy. And I'm dealing with that by engaging with the media and pushing forward with the finding Phillip Wood Facebook page to bring awareness and to provide a format for group therapy, if you want to think about that. But at a personal level I've tried very hard to keep with the routines that Phillip and I have followed for the last couple of years. I get up early. I drink coffee in front of the window and look out over the sunrise. We live next to an apple orchard and I do yoga every morning and eat my oatmeal and go to work.

I've continued to keep a teaching schedule. And I'm sure that that's what Phillip would want me to do. You know, no use having other casualties of my students not being able to hit their exams. So I'm keeping normal life going, but I'm pushing all this extra energy into trying to make a difference.

COOPER: It's extraordinary that you're able to continue teaching and that that's something that you've been able to stick to. It just shows what a great teacher you must be, the fact that that is still a priority for you. And Sarah, I appreciate all you're doing and you talking to us. Thank you very much. My thoughts continue to be with you and with Phillip and all the others.

BAJC: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Sarah Bajc. A quick reminder, you can find out more about all the passengers of Flight 370 at ac360.com.

Up next, a strange and chilling headline, a Georgetown University student arrested, accused of making ricin, the deadly poison in his dorm room. And also special prosecutors weighing in on whether the FBI did the wrong thing when they shot and killed an associate of one of the Boston bombing suspects.

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COOPER: Let's get caught up on some of the other stories we're following. Susan Hendricks has a 360 bulletin -- Susan.

SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, Ukraine and the E.U. have signed a trade pact even as Russia finalizes annexation of Crimea. It's a powerful move since Ukraine's former president ditched the pact in November leading to protests and his removal in Russia's actions in Crimea.

In Washington, D.C., a Georgetown University student is under arrest accused of making ricin in his dorm room with ingredients he got at Home Depot and a garden center. At the Department of Justice, civil rights prosecutors say there was no wrongdoing when an FBI agent fatally shot a Chechen man who was being questioned in Florida about a possible link to one of the Boston marathon bombing suspects.

One month from today at the Boston marathon, 100 runners will make up team MR8. They will be running in memory of 8-year-old Martin Richard, the youngest bombing victim. His sister was injured in the attack. The family released this photo today showing Jane with her new prosthetic cheetah running legs. Certainly a brave little girl.

COOPER: Indeed, the whole family is. Susan, thanks very much.

That does it for us. We'll see you again at 11 p.m. Eastern tonight for another edition of 360. Make sure you set your DVR so you never miss us.

"PIERS MORGAN LIVE" starts now.