TODAY   |  March 17, 2014

Analysts weigh in on missing Malaysia flight

Greg Feith, a former investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, and NBC News analyst Don Borelli join TODAY to discuss the latest developments in the Flight 370 case, including Malaysian officials’ focus on the pilots.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> nbc news terrorism analyst don barelli. good morning to both of you. and don, let me start with you. i want to start with that final radio transmission about 1:20 in the morning from the cockpit. someone we now believe was the co-pilot. says, all right, good night. calm, collected, no emotion. and that transmission came 12 minutes after the acar 's communication system was turned off by someone in that very cockpit. what does it tell us?

>> well, it speaks to the fact that the malaysian authorities have said, this was a deliberate act. next thing is, if it was a deliberate act. number one, who did it? and two, what was the motive? which is why the investigation has turned heavily looking at the pilots or anybody else on that plane that had the capacity to take over and fly.

>> when you talk about the capacity -- because there were a series of steps taken that require a level of expertise not only disabling the communications devices and the transponder, but then the flight path , knowing where they were going in an area that probably was going to evade radar.

>> exactly. and i'm sure an aviation expert like greg could speak to the tactical maneuvers involved to avoid the radar. but again, the deliberate act to avoid detection speaks to -- there is a motive there. we just need to figure out what that motive is.

>> investigators now are talking to the family members and the friends of the pilot and the co-pilot. we should mention these two men did not request to fly together according to the airline. what are they going to hope to glean from their homes, the flight simulator and their family and friends.

>> essentially anything to figure out were there emotional issues? financial issues? i'm a terrorism guy. so naturally, i'm thinking. do they have links to any organized terrorism organization that's been active in southeast asia ? again, that could take time to find those threads of evidence to trace them back to any organized group.

>> and real quickly, in terms of a criminal investigation , some questions about whether this plane could have been landed at some remote destination to be used for another purpose later. your gut on that is?

>> it would take. there's a lot of moving parts to do that. you've got to land a plane in some sovereign country's territory. then you've got to take control of 200 plus passengers. and to what end. and the fact there's no chatter in the intelligence community talking about such a plot, it seems unlikely, but i'm not going to rule it out.

>> greg , let's go inside that cockpit once again. we showed the simulator last week. to turn off the system in this plane is not as simple as the flip of one switch, is it?

>> no, it isn't. because the acar system, it's two parts, matt. it's actually a box that provides information. it's always on. it's always hot, if you will. it's energized. what the pilots can control is the data portion. that is the information that's the repository from the airplane that will eventually be sent over the acar system by a satellite. they can turn that off and they can do that on one of the control heads on the center pedestal in the airplane.

>> they have to follow a sequence of switches that leads to a computer screen that leads to key boards, then information has to be put into that computer. when it comes to the transponder, it's a dial, we showed that, you hold it down and turn it. there is one place you can stop that dial setting 7500. what does that do, greg ?

>> that four-digit code is a universal code that blossoms on an air traffic controller 's radar screen that indicates that the crew in this particular instance has a situation going on in the airplane, a hijacking. and that pilot, if he's under duress, if he's good, he could turn that dial, put that 7500 code in before if he's been told to turn it off, he could get that code in there and send that signal.

>> but they did not do that, indicating they were either told not to do that or didn't want to do it. whichever pilot. greg , with all of your expertise, focus clearly on the pilots right now in your opinion?

>> i believe that for the, you know, the past week. i mean, i've seen too many of these things. and when you have all of these deliberate actions, matt, where the flight track has changed and, of course, now this southerly track, which i've talked about in the past, as well. all of the northerly track countries have said, we don't have this aircraft in any way, shape or form on our radar or any other tracking device . and it's evidence they didn't -- whoever's flying this airplane didn't want to be tracked, didn't want to be identified, and the best place to go is south because there is no radar coverage and little satellite coverage because it's not a volatile area.

>> thanks to both of you. appreciate it very much. let's