Local expert weighs in on missing plane - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Local expert weighs in on missing plane

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - A massive search continues in the gulf of Thailand where a Malaysia Airlines plane has vanished.

The jet was headed from Malaysia's capital city to Beijing with 239 people on board -- including three Americans. 

Search crews may have found a possible clue that can help locate the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 that vanished overnight.

Oil streaks have been spotted off the southern coast of Vietnam but still, no signs of the plane. And no clues as to what happened.

The Boeing 777 is considered one of the safest in the world and CBS aviation expert Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger says, at the altitude it was traveling accidents are rare.

"Only a small percentage of accidents happen in the cruise portion of the flight. Most accidents happen in the landing or takeoff portion," Sully said. 

Investigators are looking into two names on the passenger list that match passports stolen in Thailand. Investigators aren't ruling out anything and so far have not made a link to terrorism. 

"The worst thing we can do is immediately jump the gun and say it is an act of terrorism," Dr. Dipak Gupta said. 

Dr. Dipak Gupta is a professor at San Diego State University and specializes in terrorism. He says as much as people want something to blame, "terrorism" should not be thrown around lightly. That said, he adds the way the plane crashed is suspicious. 

"It suddenly went down, the pilot didn't have a chance to call distress. So it must have gone down instantaneously," Dr. Gupta said.

The San Diego-based USS Pinckney has headed toward Vietnam's southern coast to help search. Gupta says the U.S. will probably play a big role in the investigation. 

"It's a cooperative task. Whoever has the hardware. Does Malaysia have the where with all to search deep sea? Probably not," Dr. Gupta said.

Many answers will come when crews find the wreckage, specifically it's black box and voice recorders. But, there's no telling if or when that will happen.

"This harkens back to the June 1st, 2009 crash of Air France 447 into the South Atlantic. And of course that happened over a deep part of the ocean in the middle of the night. It was some time before the wreckage was found...almost two years," Sully said. 

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