Nightly News | March 08, 2014
>>> two-thirds on-board the missing plane are from china. tonight in beijing distraught families and friends have gathered at a hotel to wait for answers. cnbc's eunice yoon is there.
>> reporter: lester , patience here in beijing is wearing thin about 36 hours after flight mh 370 went missing. hundreds of family members and friends of the passengers have been hold up in the hotel behind me where malaysia airlines has set up a makeshift crisis center. about 100 airline staffers have arrived to assist the families who are desperately waiting for any information about their loved ones. many here feel that they've been left in the dark and are demanding more frequent updates from the airlines. now people are starting to lose hope that they might not see their family members alive again. airline authorities have said that the rescue operation in the south china sea is still ongoing. the u.s. has dispatched a ship and aircraft to the area and china has also sent in naval vessels . and with the sun now rising, the air mission, which has been suspended overnight, has now resumed as government and people continue to hope to find any signs of the missing plane. lester ?
>> u nice yoon on the ground for us in beijing , thank you.
>>> i'm joined now by nbc news aviation expert and former airline pilot john cox , and nbc news counterterrorism analyst might be michael leiter . john, let me start with you. we keep hearing about this possibility of a catastrophic break-up. is there anything short of the the plane coming apart, an explosion, to explain a sudden and complete loss of communications?
>> lester , there are several possibilities. something as simple as a major electrical problem could mean that the airplane could not transmit and couldn't be seen on radar. so it is very early at this stage to draw any conclusions. the debris field could very well tell us a lot, the size of the debris field and how it has interacted with the winds with the lighter components, papers and things, for example, in comparison to the heavier objects such as landing gear or engines.
>> michael, i'm having trouble getting my head wrapped around the idea that in a post-9/11 world you can get on an airplane with a stolen passport, one stolen one, or even two years ago. but that said, what kind of alarm bells has that started ringing at intelligence agencies around the world?
>> lester , it definitely changed how intelligence organizations in the u.s. and globally looked at this. prior to the stolen passport issue this was a tragedy but folks mostly said, probably something mechanical with the plane. with this, there's at least one element which makes them very concerned. they know that people were on that plane who shouldn't have been using those papers. what they don't know is what they were up to. were they simply criminals who were using stolen passports or were they on that plane to do something nefarious. that's where the intelligence community are digging in now.
>> john, this was an overnight flight. it is a pretty heavy traffic route up and down asia. 35,000 feet, presumably clear. wouldn't you expect that another crew would have seen some kind of a flash had there been an explosion?
>> i think, lester , if there were an explosion, there would be debris that could be seen by potentially some long-range radar. there would be other reports of ships or other aircraft. so i'm not convinced at all that we've got an in-flight explosion here. i think we're going to learn more as the course of the day goes on and the aerial search begins to put together this debris field.
>> all right, john cox . michael leiter , thanks. we appreciate it.