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Breaking News

Alaska Airlines Plane Crashes Off Coast of California

Aired January 31, 2000 - 8:04 p.m. ET


JIM MORET, CNN ANCHOR: As we reported, an MD-80 jetliner, an Alaska Airlines airliner has gone down off the coast of Los Angeles approximately 20 miles northwest of Los Angeles. You're looking at live pictures now courtesy of CNN affiliate KCBS here in Los Angeles..

JOHN OVERALL, KCBS: All right. This is obviously for folks at home. This is -- what we're doing now is this is like a giant puzzle, and we will slowly be putting the pieces of this puzzle together. What we can tell you looking at the map there, Point Mugu is where this plane went in. The Alaska Airlines went in off of Point Mugu, according to the FAA.

Right now, all the ships in the area have been hailed to go to this area for a search-and-rescue operation to try and find anybody who could have survived this crash.

What we can tell you -- this is coming to us from Pamela Wright (ph) -- 59 degrees the temperature out there. Air turbulence potential, though, was listed as moderate to severe. That's coming from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

GRETCHEN CARR, KCBS: And we have this information in from Alaska Airlines. This afternoon, they had four scheduled flights from Puerto Vallarta to San Francisco. Two of those would have been direct flights straight through and two others making plane changes in Los Angeles.

We do not know at this point whether -- what the situation is with this airplane. But we do have a flight number for you. I believe it is flight No. 261. And this was an MD-80: We are getting confirmation from the FAA this afternoon.

OVERALL: Michael Boyd is on the phone with us. He's an aviational expert.

While we're looking at these pictures of what we believe to be a search-and-rescue operation right now under way, Michael, if you can hear me, let's talk a little bit about, if a plane comes out of any kind of cruising altitude -- and I'm assuming that is above 20,000 feet. And obviously, we have our fingers crossed and our prayers being said that they will find survivors. But what is the likelihood with the plane making such a violent impact into the ocean?

We've seen this before. What are the chances? MICHAEL BOYD, AVIATION EXPERT: Not real promising. An airplane, you know, truth be known, is a rather fragile structure. And you know, impact -- I mean, a baggage cart hitting an airplane can dent it pretty badly, let alone hitting a solid object, which is what the ocean basically is when you hit it at about 200 knots or whatever it may have hit. It would disintegrate pretty quickly.

OVERALL: So with a plane like this, the only -- the only chance it really has is if it makes some sort of gradual descent. If there was some sort of catastrophic malfunction and they knew they were going down, the only real attempt then to make -- to maximize any kind of likelihood that people would survive is to bring it down slowly and try and skid it across the top of the water.

BOYD: Basically ditch it. And that has been done with smaller versions of that aircraft. But if that had happened, we probably would have heard, you know, mayday calls from the crew.

OVERALL: I would have thought that, too.

CARR: And at this point, we're hearing nothing from the FAA that they heard nothing prior to this plane going down. But of course, that will continue to unfold this afternoon as well.

We are getting in from the Associated Press information this was believed to have gone -- it's believed that the plane went down at about 3:45 this afternoon.

OVERALL: And again, what we're doing, obviously -- this is a giant puzzle, as I've said. And some people are saying it's a 737. We're getting confirmation this was an MD-80, Alaska Air, from Puerto Vallarta en route to San Francisco.

Whether or not it stopped over at LAX is unclear. Mike, that would be a big key to this puzzle here, is if this plane had stopped over at LAX and had taken off from LAX going to San Francisco. It would have made a gradual descent. It would not have been at cruising altitude, would it have?

BOYD: No, it'd probably be still climbing at that point. But you know, that can be pretty well determined what the routing of the airplane was.

Let's just see here. If you -- I can look that up right now while we're doing that.

CARR: Mike, why don't we put you on hold for just a second there? Stay with us, if you would.

BOYD: Sure.

CARR: We're going back to go back to Aaron Fitzgerald.

Aaron, we are watching your live picture here, and it is some sobering evidence that, in fact, this plane appears to have broken to pieces. AARON FITZGERALD, KCBS: There really doesn't appear to be much left of the aircraft itself. There's very, very small pieces of debris in the water, what appears to be a slick of jet fuel here. There would have been, if this plane had just taken off, there would have been quite a bit of jet fuel on board. Obviously, that's perhaps the slick we're looking at.

We just saw a moment ago the arrival of a Navy P-3 Orion helping in the search. But now that they have located what appears to be the crash site, there may not be much that that fixed-wing aircraft can do unless he's equipped with an infrared device so he can perhaps scan for any survivors in this wreckage.

That's what they appear to be doing on the ground. They have a small launch with three guys onboard trying to get through the wreckage and look and see if they can do anything for anyone, if anyone has survived this tremendous impact. It certainly doesn't look like it at this point unfortunately.

OVERALL: And this is -- I guess this is what they call the debris field. And again, we've seen with other flights that have gone down over -- especially those that went down off the coast, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), with the Pan Am flight, there was a much larger debris field. There were larger pieces of the airplane. This looks like this thing disintegrated.

FITZGERALD: We don't -- this doesn't appear to be a field of aircraft wreckage. More items onboard: loose cushions and things like that. We haven't seen any pieces as far as pieces of cowling or control surfaces or wing surfaces, anything like that.

As you can see how big -- you can see how big this field is, though. That's a very large helicopter that's been turned into a spec among the -- among the debris. As we go wider, you can see that it's being pushed now by the current a little bit to the east or toward shore there. You saw the Navy aircraft go through the screen in the top. And what they're probably doing here is making sure that they don't have any survivors floating in the water in need of rescue. They have rescue swimmers onboard these Coast Guard helicopters.

This thing is equipped to do exactly what they're doing here: low-level hover work over the water. They can lock it into position and basically lower crew members or they can jump out if need be.

It doesn't appear that they've found anything. They continue to comb back and forth in a north-south pattern over the whole wreckage field.

OVERALL: Aaron, stand by. We have some information now. We can update some folks.

Again, this was an Alaska Airlines Flight 261 originating out of Puerto Vallarta. Its destination was San Francisco. It went down off the coast of Point Mugu, which is about 60 miles as the crow flies north of Los Angeles.

We are being told, it is believed at this point, that 60 people were aboard that plane: this information coming to us via the FAA.

As for a cause why this plane went down, absolutely no idea at this point, and there were no, as to the best of our knowledge, signals or radio for help from anybody in the control tower telling us they got any mayday calls from this plane at all. All we heard was that a plane had gone down and that ships were being hailed in the area to converge on this area to help with the search and rescue.

CARR: And we believe that what you are looking at, these live pictures on our screen, is the debris field from that MD-80 that went down off Point Mugu this afternoon.

John Huck is standing by, a reporter, and has some more information for us on MD-80s: their safety record in the past.

John, anything on that.

JOHN HUCK, KCBS: Well, Gretchen, this is a widely used airplane. But we have done kind of a search through our archives on the MD-80, and we've pulled up some information that we recorded here in December of 1988.

Three jets belonging to Alaska Airlines, three MD-80s, were the target of a federal probe back in December of 1988. The Department of Transportation, the U.S. attorney and the FBI took maintenance records of the three MD-80 jets. They were stationed in Oakland at the time. The airline officials at the time were told that they were needed for a grand jury investigation in a Northern California court.

Alaska Air officials cooperated at that time. But they say all the planes have good safety records. And of course, it is way too early to draw any kind of link between what happened in December of 1998 (sic) and this accident off Point Mugu. But it's certainly something that the FAA is going to look at now and NTSB investigators as well as they make their way now the West Coast to commence what will undoubtedly be a very intensive and probably lengthy investigation -- Gretchen? John?

OVERALL: John, thanks very much for that.

We do have Michael Boyd, who's an aviational expert, on the line with us as well, who is very familiar with the MD-80s. We want to bring you back, if we could, at this point.

Michael, let's talk about two scenarios. One, if this plane had just come from Puerto Vallarta and probably had not changed its course as far as its altitude, and then the second thought on this is, if it did land in Los Angeles for a layover and then was on its way to San Francisco, might that explain where a problem would occur if it was getting to its altitude and then experienced some soft of catastrophic malfunction?

BOYD: Well, it could, but Flight 261 is scheduled as a nonstop flight MD-80.

OVERALL: That helps. BOYD: So stopping there, I don't think -- it probably did not stop in Los Angeles or anywhere else on the way. But it would be -- I think one could safely assume that something catastrophic happened that precluded the crew from doing anything other than what they were doing.

I mean, obviously there was no mayday call, so it was probably in cruise and it was probably in a normal configuration, and something happened.

OVERALL: And there are things we can rule out, I mean, as investigators will do and as we are trying to do, as you rule things out, you can rule out engine failure, because you're already in flight. Two, you're way above where birds are flying, so you're not going to have a flame-out with -- I mean, what are the kinds of things you'll be looking or will investigators be looking at to try to pinpoint what could cause a plane to come out of cruising altitude and go into something like this where nobody even has a chance to hail for help.

BOYD: Well, I think a bird is probably out. But you know, an engine, an engine is a moving -- a piece of moving parts and machinery burning fuel. And I wouldn't totally rule out the potential of something going wrong with the engine, although that is real rare to happen in flight. It's happened but it's rare.

CARR: Mike, what about the possibility of air turbulence? We heard from our weather department here that there was the potential for moderate to severe air turbulence in the area at the time that this flight would have been passing through there.

BOYD: It's always a possibility. There have been instances where airplanes have literally been torn apart within sight of the ground. It happened in Tokyo in '64 where a big 707 got totally torn apart. It was clear turbulence. Whether that can happen here is something else again. It's possible, but it's a distant possibility.

OVERALL: Can we also rule out midair collision with a smaller plane, given the fact that the MD-80, the ceiling on that is much higher than most of the small planes fly?

BOYD: Well, you could. But remember, corporate jets fly, you know, at 40,000 and 50,000 feet, too. So, that's always a possibility, and again we have an air traffic control system that anything could happen too.

I think that's a very distant possibility, but I wouldn't rule it out right now.

CARR: We've heard over the past several years many reports of planes experiencing severe air turbulence to the point where even many of the passengers have been injured, especially those not wearing seat belts on the plane. But in general, almost every case, the pilots are able to gain control of the plane due to the altitude. They have got plenty of airspace to maneuver in.

Would this be surprising to you if that were a possible cause?

BOYD: Well, not really. Usually, when something happens with clearer turbulence, it's not just people getting knocked out of seats. The danger happens when a piece of the airplane gets ripped off, you know, due to the turbulence. In that case, the pilot might not have any control. That's happened in the past, too, where turbulence has ripped engines off, ripped whole wings off of airplanes.

OVERALL: Yes, Michael, thanks very much. Just stand by for us as you've done. And we do appreciate all your time on this.

Again, this is all a lot of speculation because we really don't know exactly what happened here. All we do know is that Flight 261, going from Puerto Vallarta to San Francisco on Alaska Airlines, went down. And there were no mayday calls made. There were no problems or no deviation of courses requested by the pilot, anybody in air traffic control. The plane just went down, disappeared.

CARR: You're looking at a live picture of where the Coast Guard has focused its search area, what we believe to be the debris field from that MD-80 Alaska Airlines Flight 261. What we do know now is it was scheduled to fly direct, leaving Puerto Vallarta at 3:30 this afternoon, and it had a scheduled arrival in San Francisco at 5:05 p.m. this afternoon. And that was a flight that is normally a regularly scheduled flight. It goes seven days a week from Puerto Vallarta to San Francisco.

We have Aaron Fitzgerald, who is over the scene there, giving us the video of the Coast Guard helicopter there conducting what we presume is a search-and-rescue operation -- Aaron.

FITZGERALD: Well, they previously were working in a north-south pattern back and forth over the debris field. And now, they've pulled it into a hover on what appears to be the northern end of the debris field. They're not getting into the water and it doesn't look as though they have any survivors below them in the water. They be looking at some piece of equipment.

We did see what appeared to be the tail cone of the plane earlier, which is the first time that we have been able to identify what appeared to be any of the aircraft parts. Prior to that, it looked like mostly things that would have been onboard.

But it doesn't look like Coast Guard helicopter is going to continue on to search. They have found something in the water and they are now hovering in this sport just at the north end of the debris field.

There is another helicopter, a second helicopter from the Ventura County sheriff's department that is also onscene. They have picked up a hover on the southern part, and some other vessels, surface vessels -- ships and fishing vessels and some private vessels -- have actually made their way to the crash site now. And they've been advised by the Coast Guard not to move anything that appears to be -- there is a Coast Guard small vessel there with a Ventura County helicopter overhead. They are probably being vectored in by the helicopter if the helicopter crews spot something that would be of interest to the vessels on the ground in terms of perhaps the black box or anything like that. If in fact that was the tail cone that we saw, if the black box was still inside that, they would want to get the crews to that and recover it as soon as they can.

If it's in fact on the surface, that would do a lot for us in terms of unraveling the mystery of what happened to this aircraft. Eventually, everything can be pieced together over time if they can find those data recorders.

There is a flight data recorder and a flight voice -- a cockpit voice recorder, two separate recorders. One records the data of all the control surfaces and the positions and inputs, things like power settings and electrical power. Everything that's mechanically involved in the aircraft is recorded on that recorder. And then the second one records the voice -- the voice conversations in the cockpit. So by piecing those two together they can generally figure out exactly what happened on any crash where those are recoverable. That will be one of the main things.

The first thing that they'll look for, of course, is survivors. But it looks at this point as though that is going to be a slim hope. It appears that most of the debris is very small and has hit at a very, very fast speed: perhaps even near Vertical.



OVERALL: Do we know how deep the water is on that channel right there?

FITZGERALD: I personally don't know. I believe that they fish in this area quite a bit and that divers go down in this area, I'm told. I don't know exactly how deep it is, but that would indicate that perhaps it's relatively shallow in this area.

Judging again our position, it looks as though we are about a mile to the east of the Channel Islands here toward Point Mugu: so closer to the islands than we are to the shoreline itself.

OVERALL: All right, stand by if you would, Aaron.

CARR: Thank you, Aaron. We're going to go back to John Huck now. He has been researching the MD-80s and bringing us up to date on these aircraft.

John, what do you have for us now?

HUCK: Well, Gretchen, let me start off with a little news here. Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura now is on standby to aid in the search-and-rescue operation. A hospital spokesperson sells CBS 2 News that they are on standby. They are monitoring the news coverage, of course. But they simply have not heard any word yet from any of the search-and-rescue teams out in the Pacific.

Right now, though, the MD-80 -- I want to bring you up to date on the MD-80, what kind of airplane this is. It entered into airline service back in 1980 with a maximum capacity of 145 passengers, as you have brought up. It is aviations first plane to offer a digital flight guidance system: 69 airlines around the world use the MD-80s. American Airlines operates the largest number with 260 of the MD-80s in its fleet.

And so Swissair and also Austrian Air are big users, big proponents of the MD-80. That's about all right now from the news room.

Once again, Community Memorial Hospital, though, in Ventura is on standby to receive any survivors that are pulled from the Pacific.

Back to you.

OVERALL: We can only hope that survivors will make it that far.

HUCK: Yes.

OVERALL: John, thanks very much for that.

As I said, this is putting pieces of a big puzzle together. Another piece has just come to us. We are now learning via the Associated Press. Ron Wilson, who is a spokesperson for the San Francisco Airport, said that the jet's crew had reported mechanical difficulties. They did ask to land at LAX. That obviously tells us a lot more about what may have happened or why this plane may have not just come right out of thin air and crashed, which is, as most pilots will tell you, an extremely unlikely scenario.

It usually requires when the plane is either taking off or landing when you have most of your problems, because they begin to discover any kinds of malfunctions or failures with that plane at that time.

Again, this plane originated in Puerto Vallarta. It was going to San Francisco. But now we are learning it had radioed some sort of mechanical problems and was requesting to land in LAX.

CARR: But we do not know at this point and time if the plane was actually turning around to head back to LAX or if it was still en route to San Francisco awaiting notification that it was OK for that flight to turn back. All we do know is that it has, in fact, crashed off the coast of Point Mugu, the Coast Guard out there searching above a debris field. But at this point and time, we have seen no evidence of any survivors and have heard nothing from the Coast Guard that there might in fact be.

OVERALL: Let's just update you in case you're just joining us at this point. Again, it is Flight 261 Alaska Airlines leaving Puerto Vallarta this afternoon. It was supposed to land at San Francisco at 5:05. But just about a half hour ago West Coast time this plane was reported down. It went down just off the coast of Point Mugu, which is about 50 to 60 miles north of Los Angeles. This is near the Channel Islands, if you're familiar with the area, and fortuitous, I guess, because that's where the Coast Guard has one of their main outposts. Also, a Naval station is there. So there are a lot of resources to draw upon for any kind of search and rescue,

But sadly, from we have seen so far from the video that we are getting from Aaron Fitzgerald overhead is this debris is filled with no pieces really larger than about a 5-by-5 piece of wreckage.

CARR: Meantime, Aaron Fitzgerald, as we said, is overhead. And Aaron, it is getting later out there, the sun beginning to set, which, of course, will make it extremely difficult if the Coast Guard is trying to search for any survivors in that water there for them to be able to find them once the sun goes down.

What's the situation?

FITZGERALD: Well, the search definitely takes on a whole new perspective at night. It's a different type of search. Right now, they're conducting a visual search. We're going to switch lenses, get some more light in there. Where they're conducting a visual search right now, they will obviously not be able to do that in a very short time. When the sun goes down and it gets dark, they're going to have to switch to an infrared search, which they are equipped to do.

But that only shows you heat. So, that would only be able to help them in locating survivors. Anyone who still is retaining body heat will have a heat signature on the infrared screen. But you won't be able to see anything else other than that at night.

They do conduct searches at night in lots of instances when they're searching for downed vessels, surface vessels and things like that. So they are equipped for it and they are certainly capable.

But we're getting information from the Coast Guard right now as a matter of fact.

OVERALL: We'll go ahead and let you take that information, Aaron.


OVERALL: The other thing that is probably interesting to point out is the water temperature off this coast is not that cold. So survivability is probably real good. If anybody made it, if this plane was low enough to go rather than straight in and maybe perhaps ditched it, there is a chance people would survive, and that obviously is a chance we're hoping for.

But the water temperature is not the kind that would make somebody go hypothermic almost immediately. It would take quite a while, if that. So there is a very good likelihood, if anybody did survive, the water temperature is not going to be a problem at this point.

We're being joined now by Pamela Wright, who is our weather person.

Pamela, talk to us about the conditions today. Were they optimal for flying or...

PAMELA WRIGHT, KCBS: Well, certainly at the surface there would be nothing to indicate a problem. But oftentimes, what's driving the weather and driving...

MORET: You're looking at photos from KCBS, our affiliate, CNN affiliate. Bringing you up to date, Alaska Airlines Flight 261, originating from Puerto Vallarta, crashed about 20 miles northwest of Los Angeles. , reported down by the FAA at about 3:45 p.m. Pacific Time today.

Here are some shots of the debris field, what has been described by observers as a rather large debris field.

The plane was an MD-80 bound for San Francisco International Airport. According to a spokesperson, Ron Wilson from San Francisco International Airport, the aircraft crew reported mechanical difficulties and asked to land at LAX. The crash site is approximately 20 miles northwest of LAX.

Again, you see search crews in and around the area looking at what has been described as the large debris field of this Alaska Airlines Flight 261.

Joining us by telephone now is Lee Dickinson, a former NTSB board member calling from Washington, D.C.

Sir, bring us up to date on what is happening now with respect to an investigation?


First off, I'm no longer with the NTSB and I'm getting information as you all are. But there...

MORET: But go over the mechanics, if you will, of what happens at this point following a crash and take us through the next couple of hours.

DICKINSON: Sure, sure. The first thing, obviously, the Coast Guard is looking to see if indeed there are any survivors. That's the most important thing right away. Once they get beyond that, one of the things they need to do -- you mentioned earlier that this is an MD-80. I was told earlier than that that this was a Boeing 737. Obviously, that needs to be checked to see exactly what the aircraft was.

After that's determined, most likely what's going on right now is the NTSB, the National Transportation Safety Board here in Washington, D.C., is putting together a team to launch to go to Los Angeles or the area northwest of L.A. to get to the scene as soon as possible, to get organized to try to figure out what happened and more importantly why this accident occurred.

You also mentioned earlier that the crew said that there were some mechanical difficulties. If indeed that is correct, that is something the Safety Board will indeed check out and look into in terms of what was the maintenance history on this aircraft. Was there any information prior to taking off that would give anybody some idea of what may have happened or what may have gone on?

That is something that is very important to be looked at.

Obviously, the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder on either the MD-80 or the Boeing 737 hopefully will be retrieved. That can also provide some clues as to what was going on up to the accident and into the accident itself.

So the idea of trying to figure out specifically as much information as we can early on will give a lot of clues to the safety board in moving forward to investigate the accident.

MORET: And just to clear up a discrepancy, the plane initially was described by the FAA as a Boeing 737 but Alaska Airlines data indicated that the plane was scheduled to be an MD-80 and that's what we are now being told by the FAA: that the flight was an MD-80.

Depending upon the configuration incidentally, the capacity of an MD-80 ranges from 144 to 168 passengers depending upon how the twin engine jet is configured. We do not yet have information as to how many people onboard Flight 261 or how many crew for that matter.

Mr. Dickinson, at this point, when you have information of a mayday or rather problems indicated by the flight crew, as we had here -- the spokesperson from San Francisco International Airport reporting mechanical difficulties -- where do you look after you check the initial scene? Does the FAA then go back or the NTSB go through the various mechanical records and service records for individual planes with each airline?

DICKINSON: What will happen, Jim, is part of what you're saying is indeed correct. A certain group within the NTSB, the National Transportation Safety Board, will specifically look at the mechanical history of this particular airplane. Each airplane, as you probably know, has a tail number so all the information on that aircraft is tracked from day one through in this case the time of the crash.

There will be a group of people that will be looking specifically at the maintenance history on this airplane, that will be looking at airworthiness directives, service bulletins that may have come out from McDonnell Douglas and now Boeing that would deal specifically with the MD-80 to see if those types of things -- either airworthiness directives -- have indeed been satisfied on this airplane.

And again, that's not to say that they haven't, but it's just to make sure that everything was ordered by the government and suggested by the manufacturer was indeed done.

That is just a piece of the puzzle, and that is a part of the information or a part of the analysis and the investigation that will move forward.

MORET: Lee Dickinson, former NTSB board member, calling from Washington, D.C., thank you very much for your comments.

Let's now take live continuing coverage of the crash of Flight 261, Alaska Airlines. We're looking now at KTLA, CNN affiliate here in Los Angeles.

CARR: But we are being told that this one was believed to have been carrying only about 60 passengers on its flight from Puerto Vallarta. This is a regularly scheduled flight that goes seven days a week from Puerto Vallarta nonstop to San Francisco. And they make about four flights a day. This was Flight 261. And it reported trouble somewhere over Point Mugu or a little bit prior to that, requesting that it be allowed to land at LAX.

OVERALL: We are trying to put together as much information as we can. And every time we get a little piece of information that has been confirmed, we are sure to get that to you. We're also looking into the background of the MD-80 aircraft. From all reports we have heard, it is a very reliable aircraft of which there have not been a lot of problems involving this aircraft.

Reporter John Huck is in our newsroom. He's been researching the MD-80, maybe has some more insight for us as well -- John.

HUCK: That's right, Jonathan. If you look at some of the worst plane crashes in recent years, you'll find most of them involve Boeing 747s, either a mechanical problem or in the case of a Pan Am 747 which crashed over Scotland, that was a terrorist bomb.

But if you look at the accidents involving the MD-80s, you'll find most of them were either pilot error -- or many of them were pilot error, including the one in Little Rock. You'll recall that one with 145 people onboard skidded off a runway. NTSB investigators attributed that to pilot error, and that happened last June.

And then there was a near miss between a Delta Airlines L-1011 and an Alaska Airlines MD-80. This was September 7th of 1998. The Delta Airlines L-1011 and MD-80 came within two and a half miles of each other at 25,000 feet, 30 miles southeast of Julian, California. Again, that would have to be attributed to pilot error.

And then in August 16th of 1987, quite awhile ago in Detroit, Michigan, an MD-80 crashed on takeoff. One hundred and fifty-six people died in that crash. We are still ascertaining more information on that crash. Perhaps that will give us some perspective.

But the early conclusion is the MD-80 is a very safe plane involved in very few crashes and even fewer that can be attributed to any problems within the aircraft -- John.

OVERALL: John, thanks very much. And obviously we cold speculate all day long, and there are lots of things now that we hear about this pilot asking to land at LAX because of some mechanical problem aboard the plane. If they come out of the altitude, a cruising altitude, the airspace around where you see, Point Mugu, that's all L.A. -- Los Angeles International Airport airspace. We're talking about very crowded airspace, so the likelihood of a mid-air collision, obviously that comes in, the specter of a mid-air collision comes in to play here as well. The mechanical problem could have been much greater than the pilot had thought. Obviously, you've got some catastrophic problem that could have brought this plane down.

We could go on and on about speculating. At this point, we're just going to try to and stick to the facts with what we know, and that is this plane went down. There was a radio for some mechanical problem. They wanted to divert. They did not want to land in San Francisco, they wanted to go to LAX to get the plane checked out. And, as you've heard, the MD-80 has a very good and reliable background and a track record for a plane that does not have a lot of problems mechanically, certainly not the kind we are reporting now.

CARR: Meantime, it is just a little bit before 5:33 here on the West Coast, and, of course, the sun is beginning to set and it's going to hamper search efforts out there. The Coast Guard has several boats. As we saw, a Coast Guard helicopter out there searching, fishing vessels in the area also coming in to assist in any rescue operation that there might have been. But once again we continue to tell you that there have been no reports from the Coast Guard from anyone, any witnesses that there may be any survivors out there.

OVERALL: Aaron Fitzgerald's overhead in our own Chopper 2.

Aaron, you're picking up radio traffic between Coast Guards, with the fishing vessels, everybody who's aiding in this search. Are you hearing anything at all about the likelihood that anything or anyone has been rescued?

FITZGERALD: We have not heard anything to that effect, no. We -- the last transitions -- transmissions we heard were that several more Coast Guard vessels were in bound. You just saw two that were working on the north side of the debris field. This Coast Guard Dauphine (ph) helicopter, this has been here all along. That one is primarily controlling the search right now. They seem to be going much more slowly.

Their initial search was a very fast, back-and-forth to the north and south motion across the wreckage field, and now they seem to be hovering for longer periods of time in one particular area. They may be conducting an infrared search, we don't know that at this point.

They are also being assisted by the U.S. Navy. We saw them arrive with a P-3 Orion not too long ago. It's a four-engine fixed- wing airplane that's been working back and forth over the area, and we have seen some commercial vessels make their way to the crash site. But now it looks as though most of the vessels are staying outside of the debris field and are starting to congregate a little to the east of the field.

Sorry for going back in and out there, we'll go to a wider picture and show you the area. The two vessels on the bottom of your screen, those are Coast Guard vessels. And then there are several inbound. The one on the left is a commercial fishing vessel that has joined the search. We've heard at least one tuna vessel call in and say they would like to join in and help out if possible.

There's the Navy plane that we talked about earlier. That's been circling over the area. They may serve as the command-and-control ship from this point out for the search. They have more crew members onboard, and they can certainly task things out as far as assigning resources to different tasks on the search.

The helicopter only has a crew of four. They have a pilot, a co- pilot, a rescue swimmer and a crew chief onboard that's also the winch operator. So if there needs to be a rescue, it will most likely be affected by that Coast Guard Dauphine helicopter.

Now this is a Navy helicopter that you're looking at here, this is an H-60, a very heavy, all-purpose utility helicopter. This is the Jayhawk, most likely primarily tasked to anti-submarine warfare, very adept to working over the ocean. That's what it's built -- designed for. They do have infrared on this, and they may be conducting an infrared search at this point. But it looks as though they're staying out to the east oF the crash site and that most of the operations inside the actual debris field are being confined to just Coast Guard personnel right now.

You see again, there's the Coast Guard helicopter working overhead. We believe that one is out of Los Angeles, we're not positive that one. It was here when we got here. It was probably...

MORET: You're watching continuing coverage of a developing story. Alaska Airlines Flight 261, an MD-80 originating from Puerto Vallarta bound for San Francisco crashed approximately 3:45 Pacific time off the coast of Los Angeles, about 20 miles west in between Ventura and Los Angeles. A large debris field, as you see, has been identified. The U.S. Coast Guard has sent helicopters and rescue ships to the area.

The NTSB is sending a go team tonight, including aircraft specialists. According to San Francisco International Airport spokesperson Ron Wilson, the aircraft crew reported mechanical difficulties and asked to land at LAX. This crash occurred approximately 15 to 20 miles northwest of Los Angeles International Airport.

Again, Alaska Airlines Flight 261, an MD-80. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, 60 people were believed to have been aboard the plane. No indication yet whether there are any survivors. The search, as you see around the area, continues.

On the telephone now with us, retired airline captain formerly with Delta Air Lines calling from Valencia, California, Art Cornelius.

Mr. Cornelius, thank you very much for joining us.

ART CORNELIUS, RETIRED AIRLINE CAPTAIN: Glad to be with you, unfortunately.

MORET: Talk about this airspace in and around Los Angeles International Airport. It's a rather crowded airspace, isn't it?

CORNELIUS: It is, however it's very tightly controlled. That particular area is a positive control airspace at the lower altitude. I'm not sure what altitude the Alaska aircraft was last assigned, but obviously he went all the way to the surface, and that's a very tightly controlled area.

MORET: And if a plane is given clearance to make a landing, in this case apparently an emergency landing at Los Angeles International Airport, what are the procedures?

CORNELIUS: He would be vectored probably to a downwind across Santa Monica to make a right-hand turn in for probably the two-four, or if he wanted a -- which is the north set of runways -- or if we wanted a longer runway, he could use the south set of runways. The south set's a little bit longer than the northern, although there's plenty of room on the north side, 10,000 feet of runway.

MORET: And does the location of the crash tell you anything?

CORNELIUS: Really, not a thing. It just depends on where he was. He could have been vectored out there in order to line up for a right-hand downwind for one of the north runways, probably be two-four left, which is a longer runway at 10,285 feet.

MORET: And do you have experience as a captain of an MD-80, sir?

CORNELIUS: No, the MD-80 is an aircraft I've never flown. I flew all the Boeings except the 47, but not the Douglas.

MORET: Are you familiar with the route from Puerto Vallarta to San Francisco?

CORNELIUS: I am to a degree. I used to fly that with Western Airlines and again with Delta Airlines in the 727 coming up out of Puerto Vallarta to Los Angeles and continuing on to San Francisco is just a continuation of the same route.

MORET: And is that a route that would keep you, in some sense, over the water to bring you to this site where we are now?

CORNELIUS: No, normally you'd be further inland. You'd probably go up the central valley and approach San Francisco from that area, probably across Modesto and in.

MORET: Art Cornelius, retired airline captain formerly with Delta Airlines calling us from Valencia, California, thank you for your insight, sir.

CORNELIUS: Of course.

MORET: Let's take you back to KCBS for continuing coverage now of the crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261, an MD-80.

FITZGERALD: ... and going for an aircraft -- an airport that's directly below you won't necessarily save you any time because you can't just nose it over and go straight down for it. You'd have to spiral down anyway. So flying in a straight line back to LAX may be an equal amount of time in the air rather than going for a nearby airport.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Aaron, thank you very much.

Real quick, we want to talk to Pamela Wright (ph) about the -- right now, it is a search and rescue, Until we're told anything different, it's a search and rescue.

WRIGHT: Right.

OVERALL: But talk to us about the weather conditions, because this search is about to be made near impossible. First, you have -- it's going to be dark out there, pitch dark, but then you also have -- the Channel Islands traditionally has its fog and rough season. I mean, talk about what's going to happen there tonight.

WRIGHT: Right. And the winds already are increasing somewhat. And, of course, now we're talking about surface conditions, not what was going on in the upper levels where the plane was. But already has gone from partly cloudy to cloudy officially, and you're right. We are going to see the fog form. That water is fairly warm compared to the air temperature that will form, so that will help in the development of the fog there and of course not help with what they're looking at.

A lot of what you are seeing as far as the roughness of the seas goes is actually coming from the helicopter. Things are pretty stabile out there over the waters, actually. But the winds now from the north to northwest at 10 miles per hour. They'll be up to about 20 over the next hour or so.

CARR: All right, thank you Pamela.

We do want to give you a recap now on the latest information we do have on this plane crash. This is an Alaska Airlines Flight 261. It crashed off Point Mugu a little after 3:00 this afternoon. It is an MD-80. This plane was heading to San Francisco after taking off from Puerto Vallarta.

The crew on board the plane did request that it be able to make a landing at LAX because of mechanical difficulties. We do not know exactly what happened to the plane after that request was made. We are told that as many as 80 people may have been onboard this plane. It has a capacity, an MD-80 has a capacity of about 145 passengers, but we are being told that this one was carrying as many as 80 people.

This is a regularly scheduled flight from Puerto Vallarta to San Francisco. It is non-stop, but this plane, en route to San Francisco, the pilot discovered some sort of a mechanical difficulty, we believe, and requested that it be able to make a return to LAX. Before it did that, it has crashed off the point of -- off Point Mugu.

OVERALL: That's the map you're looking at, and that usually is the way the plane would fly. Puerto Vallarta to San Francisco, pretty much hugging the Pacific West Coast there. It would just stay right along shore.

Let's go to John Huck in our newsroom, who's been doing a little homework on the MD-80.

What more have you learned there, John?

HUCK: Well, John, we've just learned from San Francisco International Airport spokesman Ron Wilson, he is quoted as telling a San Francisco television station that the aircraft crew, as you reported, did indeed radio in mechanical difficulties and asked to land at Los Angeles. And this is him, quoting him right here, "Radar indicates it fell from 17,000 feet and then was lost from radar." Coroner's officials have arrived at the Oxnard Coast Guard Station at about 5:30 this afternoon.

The MD-80, as you mentioned, holds about 140 people, 12 people in first class, 128 people in coach. If you look down the aisle, it has three seats on the left side of the craft, two seats on the right. In the travel industry, the MD-80 is considered, quote, "a reliable workhorse." It's essentially a DC-9 that's been stretched out to accommodate a traveling public that has increased in recent years -- John, Gretchen.

CARR: You have said several times this afternoon this is not a plane that has a high number of problems with it, at least not according to the FAA, correct?

HUCK: That's right. In fact, if you look at some of the worst crashes in airline history, MD-80s simply do not register. At least mechanically, there have been incidents with the MD-80s where pilot error has been involved, but most of the aircraft involved have been larger planes like the 747. So the MD-80 is essentially considered a very safe plane. So it...

OVERALL: OK, John, thanks very much.

You know, looking at these pictures, what is heartening is there are so many ships and helicopters and planes that have made it to the area so quickly. There is a good reason for this. Point Mugu is near a huge Naval station. It's also near a big Coast Guard station. They have plenty of cutters, lots of folks that can go to help, and they're there now. What is disheartening is they have not found one piece of wreckage that is bigger than a 5x5 piece of wreckage.

John, you're back in the newsroom. You have something?

HUCK: That's right, John. I'm just getting this over our urgent wires right now. I'm trying to scan through here really quickly to give you the information we have not brought you right now.

A Coast Guard helicopter, a Navy P-3 airplane and small boats are now scouring this large debris field here, as we can see from our own chopper. They describe the conditions as rolling swells off Point Mugu. Darkness has begun to descend on the search area, and according to these wire reports there are no immediate signs of survivors. But we can pretty much tell that by looking at the pictures. Once again, this flight, 261, was heading to San Francisco. It was reported down 20 miles northwest of Los Angeles International Airport about 3:45 this afternoon.

Just once again, the San Francisco Airport spokesperson has -- was quoted on San Francisco television as describing this airline basically plunging from 17,000 feet and then simply disappearing off radar. If you recall, the EgyptAir flight that went down last October almost followed a similar trajectory. It plunged, it managed to pull up a little bit, and then it simply vanished off the radar. And in the EgyptAir case, we know that in that instance the plane simply disintegrated.

Too early to tell what happened here, of course, but when it disappears off the radar, that is the ominous sight.

Right now, we have just received confirmation that 70 people were onboard...

OVERALL: All right.

HUCK: ... with a crew of five and 65 passengers -- John.

OVERALL: All right, John, thanks very much.

At this point, it probably wouldn't be a good idea to draw any similarities with any other air crash. Each and every air crash has its own characteristics, and absolutely we know no idea what brought this plane down. We want to make that real clear.

But what we do know is this plane had some kind of a mechanical problem. And keep in mind, with pilots, they'll tell you. If they lose an engine, that is not enough of an emergency for them think that they need to get that plane down right away. Planes have made safe travels with just a single engine. So that, for folks who are wondering about major catastrophic failure, what we're talking about for catastrophic failure is maybe a problem with the hydraulics, which you lose all control of your plane, and a peeling off of the pressurized cabin. I mean, we've seen that before with the Hawaiian Air. It peeled apart, but the pilot still was able to get that plane safely on the ground and minimize any kind of loss of life.

In this case, all we know, this pilot had called that there was trouble. He wanted to land at LAX. Everybody knew that this plane had declared some kind of an emergency and needed to get down. It was on radar at 17,000 feet and then just disappeared from radar, which means that plane may have just plunged straight into the Pacific.

CARR: This happened at 3:45 p.m. That is two hours ago, and now the sun has gone down over Point Mugu. The Coast Guard out there facing a difficult task tonight as they continue what they hope to be a rescue operation as well. But once again, we have had no indication from the Coast Guard or anyone else that there may be any survivors from this plane. We have seen an immense wreckage field, what appears to be an oil slick in the area. We do want to recap this latest with you now. If you were just joining us at 5:45 this afternoon, this is a plane crash. It is an Alaska Airlines Flight 261. It has crashed off Point Mugu at about 3:45 this afternoon. It is believed to be roughly about 11.5 miles off the coastline and about 20 miles north of LAX.

Now this plane was heading to San Francisco from Puerto Vallarta this afternoon. It was a direct flight and it was en route, well on its way to San Francisco when we are hearing that the pilot reported some sort of a mechanical problem onboard that plane and requested that he be able to turn that plane back around and head back the 20 miles back to LAX and make a safe landing there.

That plane did not make it to LAX. It instead crashed in the Pacific Ocean just off Point Mugu, and the search-and-rescue teams are out there. The Coast Guard out there in force. Many fishing vessels in the area are pooling together to try and see if they can find any survivors in the water. What you are seeing there as the sun is going down and it is getting -- the sun has gone down, I should say, and it is becoming much darker out there. That is what we believe to be the debris field from that MD-80.

OVERALL: At this point, we want to go to Lieutenant Ed Gainer. He is with the Coast Guard. We have him on the phone.

Lieutenant, thanks for taking the time out for us. We appreciate it. Fill us in. What do we know what and what's next?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The plane was shot down by Howard Stern.

OVERALL: Oh, that's very funny. We appreciate that. Thanks very much. It would be nice if we could do a little better screening, but obviously we apologize about these folks. Every now and again they do jump on and try and get their -- that was about four seconds of fame, so that's about it for him.

CARR: Once again, this is a very serious situation out here. We believe that there were as many as 70 people onboard that plane. The latest reports we are getting, 65 people with a crew of five...

MORET: To bring you up to date on some discrepancies, the Coast Guard is reporting that 60 people were believed to be aboard this flight, Alaska Airlines Flight 261 bound from Puerto Vallarta to San Francisco International Airport. According to the FAA, there were 70 people onboard, 65 passengers five crew.

Our CNN affiliates have been reporting that it is an MD-80 aircraft. CNN is still working to confirm the type of plane that was actually involved in this crash, approximately 3:45 p.m. Pacific time, 20 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

According to San Francisco International Airport spokesperson Ron Wilson, the aircraft crew reported mechanical difficulties and asked to land at LAX.

Joining us now by telephone, Susan Coughlin, CNN aviation expert. Walk us through what's going to happen in the next minutes and then hours to come, Susan.

SUSAN COUGHLIN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, obviously, Jim, what the rescue effort is focusing on right now is recovering survivors if there are any. Once they move from the search-and-recovery, search- and-rescue effort, they will move to very quickly recover any significant pieces of the wreckage that they might be able to find. And as everybody knows, primary among them are the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder, which will be, particularly in this case, significant in understanding what the difficulties might have been that the crew discussed with the air traffic controllers.

MORET: Complicating the search-and-rescue efforts obviously is nightfall. And we want to give you the latest weather information, this from CNN's Karen Maginnis in the weather center. She's reporting winds along the coast out of the west-northwest, 15 to 20 knots, water temperature approximately 54 to 55 degrees.

Susan, not horrific circumstances with respect to the search-and- rescue efforts such as we've seen off the coast of the eastern United States?

VERONICA BANDROWSKY, U.S. COAST GUARD: Yes, my name is Veronica Bandrowsky. I was referred from Mark Marino with CNN here in California. I'm with the Coast Guard.

MORET: Yes, what can you tell us?

BANDROWSKY: The information that I have right now is that we have confirmed...

MORET: We apologize. We've lost that phone call. We will get them back.

Let's rejoin KCBS, CNN affiliate, for continuing coverage of the Alaska Airlines crash.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... he might do that. It depends on that situation. But when he says mechanical, it probably is.

OVERALL: In this area off of Point Mugu -- again, I'm not the aviational expert -- but isn't this one of the areas when planes come out of LAX they usually are circling around this area, making it a very crowded space indeed before they venture off and vector to wherever it is they're going.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it could be. My feeling, though, if there was anything to do with a mid-air collision, we would know it by now. Even -- you know, no matter what the FAA would do, we'd know there'd be another airplane involved. So I suspect that might not be the case.

OVERALL: OK, and the only other report that we're hearing -- and it's unconfirmed at this point -- is that the plane came in upside down. Does that tell us anything at all? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It tells us -- yes, it tells us probably that it's stability was -- parts of the empionage, the tail or the wing probably came off. And that's just speculation, but something happened so it wasn't flying. It was just falling probably pretty rapidly, maybe even flipping over.

OVERALL: With an engine failure or an engine flareout, that's not going to cause a plane or a pilot to lose complete control?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, but if you had a catastrophic engine failure of some kind like happened with the Sioux City incident, where it causes an inability to control the airplane, that could happen.

OVERALL: All right, stand by for us, Mike, and we appreciate all the time we've taken with you.

CARR: And this is an aircraft that has, as we've been told by John Huck, our reporter standing by in the newsroom has been researching this all afternoon, has a very good safety record.

John have you got anything more for us?

HUCK: Well, right now, Gretchen, I can update you on the search- and-rescue operation. Calls are going out for any kind of aerial equipment available to assist in the search for survivors. The San Diego Coast Guard station is now sending two helicopters and two cutters, the 110-foot long Island and the 82-foot Point Chico are now heading up there to aid in the search-and-rescue operation.

The first chopper is expected to arrive about five minutes from now, about 6:00, the second shortly thereafter. And the ships are expected to get there about 10:00 tonight. The aircraft and cutters are carrying about 35 personnel. None of them are Navy, but this search-and-rescue operation is certainly expanding now, as the sun has already set and darkness has descended off of Point Mugu -- Gretchen, John.

OVERALL: John, thanks very much.

Aaron Fitzgerald has been overhead all afternoon in Chopper 2.

Aaron, you were picking up all the radio traffic going on between the Coast Guard and the fishing boats. What are you hearing?

FITZGERALD: Well, they've actually gone to the next phase now. They're advising vessels to steer clear of this area because they are now searching in the darkness and they don't want to up the risk of a collision on the surface. We did see the arrival of a few more resources. We have a U.S. Coast Guard C-130 overhead now. That's a big, heavy cargo aircraft. He will most likely be relieving the Navy P-3 Orion that we saw.

MORET: Let's rejoin phone conversation with U.S. Coast Guard public affairs spokesperson Veronica Bandrowsky.

Veronica, what can you tell us? BANDROWSKY: Right now, what I can tell you is that we have a lot of assets that are being sent out to the location of the Alaskan airliner.

MORET: And is there any indication whether there are survivors or victims who are identifiable?

BANDROWSKY: Not at this time, sir. Right now, we're getting as many assets out there and completing our search patterns. But I haven't received any report that there are any survivors at this time...

MORET: Is it still...

BANDROWSKY: ... or that we've -- yes.

MORET: Is this still being considered a search-and-recovery effort?

BANDROWSKY: Yes, sir. By all means, it is a search-and-recovery effort. We're out there in the hopes of finding as many people as we can. We are sending all our Coast Guard cutters, helicopters and aircraft out to the sea at this moment.

MORET: And the debris field from our vantage point looks fairly large. Do you have an idea of the actual size of the debris field?

BANDROWSKY: No, sir. I haven't been given the actual size of the debris field out there. I have very limited information at this time, except that we're sending as many assets as we can out there.

MORET: Do you have indication how deep the water is at that location?

BANDROWSKY: At this time, I haven't been given any information on how deep the water is. No, sir.

MORET: OK, and how about the other conditions? We've been reporting winds along the coast of 15 to 20 knots, water temperature about 54 to 55 degrees. Anything you could add to that?

BANDROWSKY: No, sir. That's about all the information that I have. We can state that the winds are about 15 to 20 out there, and the information you have at this point is correct.

MORET: That's public affairs spokesperson for the U.S. Coast Guard Veronica Bandrowsky. Thank you for joining us by telephone.

Let's rejoin Susan Coughlin, CNN aviation analyst.

Based on everything you've heard, what do you expect to happen next, Susan?

COUGHLIN: Well, obviously, as everybody's been saying that the attempts will be made to find out whether there are survivors in this accident. And then if there, once they move from the recovery stage they'll try to recover whatever significant pieces of wreckage might be there. And as you know, flight data recorder, cockpit voice recorder primary among them. And obviously the conditions out there, with not only darkness falling but some wind and the water temperatures being what they are, the possibility that there might be survivors, that window narrows with every minute that goes by.

MORET: And it's not uncommon in situations such as this that in the moments and early hours following a plane crash that the information is sketchy. We've been reporting that our affiliates have identified this plane as an MD-80, but we are still working to confirm that. This is not unusual, is it, Susan?

COUGHLIN: No, it's not, because in the immediate aftermath of any aviation accident, we're going on a lot of hearsay, a lot of preliminary impressions. But obviously, very quickly they'll be able to determine what kind of an airplane it is and then begin the process of looking specifically at that aircraft, not only the type of aircraft but this particular aircraft, and look at the maintenance history and see if any of that lends some early evidence as to where the NTSB goes next with the investigation.

MORET: The U.S. Coast Guard has told us 60 people were believed to have been onboard, the FAA says 70. Among them, 65 passengers, five crew. Based on your experience, the FAA would have more up-to- date information on that type of thing, wouldn't they?

COUGHLIN: Well, actually the FAA would probably be getting it from the operations people at the airport, and so I would imagine that whatever information is coming out of the San Francisco Alaska Airlines office would be fairly reliable because they have the passenger manifest.

MORET: At this point then, it would be preliminary to even focus on the MD-80 in your opinion?

COUGHLIN: Yes, I think it would. I think that if we're talking about the MD-80, everybody's well aware of the aircraft. There are a lot of them in service around the world, both in the United States and internationally, and it's been a reliable aircraft with no significant mechanical or manufacturing anomalies that come to mind.

MORET: And we've been reporting San Francisco International Airport spokesperson Ron Wilson said that the aircraft crew reported mechanical difficulties and asked to land at LAX. This crash site is approximately 20 miles northwest of Los Angeles International Airport. This is, in fact, more information than you often get in the early hours following a crash, isn't it?

COUGHLIN: Well, the conversation with the air traffic controllers would be one that they could retrieve, simply because they had the person in the tower that had the conversation. And the minute they lost contact, they would immediately try to reconstruct whether there had been any conversations between air traffic and the flight crew. And obviously they had made known their concerns about their mechanical status to the air traffic controllers, and that would be passed on fairly quickly. There's no -- they do record the conversations between the air traffic controller and the crew so they'd be able to capture those and retain those, because I'm sure they'll want to go back and listen specifically to the nature of the problem if the crew went into any detail. But obviously, primary in their minds was getting clearance to land at LAX. And I don't know definitively whether they had actually got a clearance or they were waiting for the clearance at the time that the crash happened. But that will all...

MORET: Susan Coughlin, CNN aviation analyst, thank you very much for your time.

Recapping the latest that we know at this point. Alaska Airlines Flight 261 originating from Puerto Vallarta bound for San Francisco International Airport reported down by the FAA 3:45 p.m. Pacific time approximately 20 miles northwest of Los Angeles International Airport. The plane was bound for San Francisco. A spokesperson for San Francisco International Airport, Ron Wilson, says the aircraft crew reported mechanical difficulties and asked to land at LAX. According to the FAA, 70 people were onboard the Alaska airlines flight, 65 passengers, five crew members.

The latest weather information we're getting out of this area where the search-and-rescue operation by the U.S. Coast Guard continues, winds along the coast 15 to 20 knots, water temperature approximately 54 to 55 degrees. That in addition to the darkness obviously complicating this.

CNN's coverage of the crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261 continues now with LARRY KING LIVE.


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