TODAY | March 19, 2014
>>> flight 370. this is confounding the experts in the field not to mention the investigators.
>> a lot of you have sent us your questions to try to answer them. tom casey a former american airlines pilot who flew the 777, former ntsb investigator, former secret service agent who served on the details of the last three presidents. nice to have you with us. boy, did we get a lot of questions about cell phones . people wanted to know why we can't track them. aaron 011 asked, can't you track all the flight 370 passengers' cell phones .
>> you can't. because above about 2,000 feet, you've got to remember, that the signal coming off a cell phone is line of sight . it's got to ping a tower. above about 2,000 feet, the fact the phone is only about 5 watts , doesn't have enough energy.
>> a lot of people wondered if this landed somewhere, wouldn't that be a clue?
>> yes, that's correct. it would ping. and we would track certain we were looking for. we would track their cell phones and pings off the towers and through the network provider, they can tell you where the location of the person. however, assuming there are towers where the plane is landing, wherever it may have landed.
>> if we're in a row moemote area, may not have that.
>> popular questions, terrorism. interesting though, they weren't asking questions did a terrorist get on the plane and blow it up. is there concern it's been stolen to be used at a later date as a weapon or a bomb?
>> that's a great question. only because no one has taken any credibility for it yet. if it is terrorism, why hasn't anybody raised their hand? so one of the theorys is because perhaps there's something to be used -- they're going to use -- there's a greater plan, basically in place and there's more to follow.
>> tom, seems somewhat fanciful. how could you really pull this off as a practical matter?
>> well, as a practical matter, you could pull it off. the big question is why. you could take a gps. you don't have to have a great deal of knowledge about the airplane if you hijacked it, for example. you get in the cockpit, take out a hand held gps, preprogram to discrete location, take it across the border and drop off into the mountains.
>> and you have to hope nobody saw this plane land at that discreet location. and what happened to the passengers once they got to the ground?
>> of course.
>> and 239 people is no easy feat.
>> plus, we have a lot of eyes in the sky looking for something out of the ordinary, like a 777 being where it shouldn't be.
>> could it have been as simple as a fire in the cockpit?
>> that's a strenuous theory. that's reasoning back ward to make something out of nothing, in my view. is it possible? but way out on the fringe.
>> the theory is, what, the fire starts, smoke incapacitates the crew on a turn around.
>> because you have such a short time line . you're not going to have this blazing fire from a wire fire. wires burn very slow and recently with all the new aircraft, they have to have self-extinguishing wire. the actual insulation can't continue to burn and can't put off noxious fumes.
>> why would the transponder go off in different orders if there were a fire?
>> they wouldn't. and anyway, it takes about a nanosecond to get a may day out.
>> the crew had an airplane on fire, yet they were able to call air traffic control and say we've got smoke in the cabin, smoke in the cockpit, we're coming back to miami.
>> one of the things we hear in our society is hackers. hackers. great believer 41 asked, can the computerized route be controlled from either the electronics cavity beneath the cockpit where a person could've hid. and we add to that, what about from the ground. can you hack into a plane's navigation system from the ground?
>> no. and i'll tell you, there's such a thing as a whiskey compass. lindbergh used it to get to paris. and if the plan begun to suddenly turn because of external control, the captain would reference the compass to the false heading, and figure out that something was happening.
>> i don't understand the whiskey compass.
>> just a little compass that the boy scouts carry. and every airplane has it. when you take the runway, you have to check the runway direction against the whiskey compass. means a heading of 140, planes have taken off in the wrong runway in the fog because of a detriment. they didn't check the compass.
>> and the faa requires these pieces of equipment, the avianics be shielded.
>> if the flight crew feels threatened outside the cockpit, is there a way for them to communicate with the ground? if something's going on in the cockpit, can they alert authorities on the ground there's a problem?
>> the flight attendant?
>> why not?
>> they don't have a radio.
>> should there be a radio?
>> they have an intercom to call the cockpit and the cockpit would make that call. should they have a radio?
>> in this day in age after 9/11 given what happened in the back, yes, because at least it gives you another form of communication. people are trying to get in there and commandeer the aircraft.
>> can i ask a quickie that's my own personal question. even if it crashed into the ocean, wouldn't the debris field be so far dispersed, i don't know if it would be impossible to find, but much, much harder to find.
>> especially in the indian ocean sea state . from what we know now, the sea is very rough. that wreckage would be thousands of miles from origin.
>> isn't that better for searchers? because you're better off to pick off a stray piece of wreckage?
>> no, if you remember 447, they have big debris fields, now this is spreading out. instead of a cluster of debris, you only have a door. that's going to be very hard to find.
>> this thing continues to go on, we'll bring you guys back and answer more questions and talk about more comments from our viewers. thank you, all. we appreciate it.