MISSING FLIGHT: Experts Answer Common Questions

MH370 search area over U.S. Map

(CNN) — The mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 raises countless questions. CNN analysts, contributors and correspondents have been searching for answers.

Here are some of the viewer questions posted to Twitter with the hashtag #370Qs and addressed by a panel assembled by CNN’s Don Lemon.

@bibisir asked, “Could pilot depressurize plane to cause passengers to pass out?”

CNN aviation analyst and retired commercial pilot Jim Tilmon: “Yes, it can deprive the cabin of oxygen. And they don’t have to do it for a very long time because you just cannot survive — just a matter of minutes — without oxygen. You go into kind of a hypoxia sleep, and you just don’t wake up. And the crew has, of course, oxygen masks. They have a different source of oxygen that they can use, and they can put that mask on. It’s a full face mask, and they can indeed breathe 100% oxygen for a while. It’s far-fetched. It’s awful to think of, but it is possible … The masks would drop automatically. They do when you go through a certain altitude in the cabin. They automatically drop. The thing is that you have a tiny canister in each one of those overhead bins, and they are your oxygen generators. They only run for a relatively short length of time. That’s why the protocol is if you do have an oxygen problem, you immediately go into a descent to get down into breathable oxygen, so that your passengers are going to be all right. And that’s a pretty good drop — that’s a controlled dive, you might say, to about 14,000 feet.”

@HerbOkam asked, “Is there any possibility of the airplane being completely intact at the bottom of the ocean hence the reason for no floating debris?”

Science writer Jeff Wise: “If it was in one piece, that would imply that the pilot had come in and done a gentle sort of Sullenberger kind of landing like he did on the Hudson where everything is in one piece. The problem with that is that you get the life rafts, deploying the life rafts, which are equipped with emergency locator beacons. In a way, It’s either that or you do a high speed sort of supersonic descent where the thing just breaks into a million pieces. And if your goal is to leave no trace, then you’d be better off like that. That leaves millions of tiny pieces floating around. It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which you ditch or crash in the ocean and there isn’t some trace left.”

@Bevie246 asked, “Are the authorities looking at the possible scenarios should the plane be intact and in the hands of hijackers?”

Former Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Transportation Mary Schiavo: “I certainly hope that they’re looking at that, because there were so many lessons in the investigations after September 11. But one that was clear in the investigation following September 11 and that was the plot, the hints, the clues, it was imagined and imaginable. We had a lot of intelligence, and as soon as it happened, evidence starting pouring in. I got two key pieces of evidence in plain brown envelopes delivered to my office anonymously. Just everyone wanted to help. And here we don’t have that, which is disconcerting, so the authorities, governments around the world really have to dig deep because there doesn’t seem to be any information forthcoming. I’ve called it an eerie silence right now.”

@AdSecurity asked, “Is it possible someone ‘stole’ the plane to use if later on in a terror attack and they wanted us all to believe that it crashed in the ocean?”

Jim Tilmon: “Yes, that’s possible, but there’s so many possibilities that we just have to put this on a long list.”

Former CIA counter-terrorism officer Jeff Beatty: “That certainly is one of the possibilities. There’s about three other scenarios that I’d like to just highlight. One of them could be a high-value cargo. The aircraft might have been taken for a high-value cargo. Now that cargo could possibly be people, high-value people that are on board, or that cargo could possibly be something of great value in the hold. The second one is in the past, we’ve actually had aircraft become the venue for murder … and finally, there’s always ransom.”

@Bobray7425 asked, “If the satellites tracked that plane for 6-7 hours, why don’t they know where it went down? Something doesn’t make sense.”

CNN Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto: “There is a reluctance on the part of some of these countries to share the full extent of their capabilities, radar, satellites, etc., because you have a lot of disputes between these countries, rivalries there, border disputes. Some of them fought wars against each other. They don’t want to make it exactly clear how far and how clearly their satellites see and how extensive and well-monitored their radars are.”

@Sabeeh_Akhan asked, “How is it possible for a plane to simply vanish? Seems like a magician’s trick…”

Mary Schiavo: “Well, actually, when planes cross the ocean, they often vanish. We depend on primary radar and when the radar doesn’t cover it, they vanish.”

Jeff Beatty: “I would have to say that if it went down in the ocean, we may not find it for a long time, if ever. Hopefully, it went down someplace on land. We’ve got a much better chance there.”

@biiaamilo asked, “This is just a thought, and it may be out of the blue, but could it be possible that the plane is in North Korea?”

Jeff Wise: “A quick answer to that is no. If we give credence to this report that came out of the Malaysian prime minister on Saturday, we know pretty well where it is. It’s either in the north or in the south along these two arcs. North Korea is not one of those places. We know very little about what happened, but we know a few things pretty confidently. Of all the scenarios that sill exist, North Korea is not one of them.”

Electronics and radar expert David Stupples: “The aircraft was thought to have turned west and flying over the northern part of Malaysia. If you believe that radar information, then that’s the way it was flying. I think if it was flying up the other way, then it would certainly have been spotted by Vietnamese radar on its flight to North Korea.”

@Lavender4CC asked, “What have we been told about the absence of #MH370 cell phone contact? No photos, texts, calls … That’s incredible!”

Mary Schiavo: “The first question is why not the calls from the plane or calls to and from the plane and that’s because this plane was not equipped with the most modern equipment to have on board wifi and cell phone service, so that means that these cell phones would have to rely upon going near a tower. Now, the plane did pass back over Malaysia, and that was a possibility but it would have had to hit a tower just like anyone else driving around on the ground or being lucky to get a tower. And then, actually, some phone company officials have said that the cell phone ringing was not indicative that the phone was still working, but merely that it was simply ringing through to the area or the switching station to go ahead and meet the cell phone. It didn’t mean the cell phone itself was working.”

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