Return to Transcripts main page


U.S. Navy Expands Search Area for Missing Jet; Can High-Tech Equipment Find Missing Jet; Seventh Fleet Heads to Indian Ocean.

Aired March 13, 2014 - 13:30   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Only a few moments ago, the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, said the U.S. Navy is now expanding the search area for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane. Listen to what he just said.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: On the missing Malaysian plane, there have been some reporting that U.S. investigators have received some type of indication that the plane may have flew for another four hours or so after it was last -- sent a signal about where it was. There's now seems to be some questions about the veracity of those reports. Can you provide any clarity about what U.S. investigators have been able to determine about that?

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I can tell you that the investigation is ongoing and it is being led by the Malaysian government. U.S. Air safety officials are in Kuala Lumpur working closely with the Malaysian government on the investigation.

There are a number of possible scenarios that are being investigated as to what happened to the flight. And we are not in a position at this time to make conclusions about what happened, unfortunately. But we're actively participating in the search. And, again, we're -- we -- in an investigation led by the Malaysian government, and information that involves many nations with many assets, are following leads where we find them. And it's my understanding that based on some new information that's not necessarily conclusive, but new information, an additional search area may be open in the Indian Ocean.


BLITZER: That's a pretty significant development if the U.S. Navy's Seventh Fleet is now moving that search operation toward the Indian Ocean.

Let's discuss what we just heard. Tom Haueter is joining us right now. He's a former NTSB investigator.

What do you make of what we just heard from Jay Carney, by the way?

TOM HAUETER, FORMER NTSB INVESTIGATOR: Well, I understand that the NTSB investigators they're working with the Malaysian investigators. And based on looking at radar data they have, they believe the search area should be expanded. I haven't heard where exactly, but they show expansion --


BLITZER: Yesterday, one of the commanders of the U.S. Navy Seventh Fleet said they were moving that search area west of Malaysian. And now we're hearing from the White House they're moving it all the way into the Indian Ocean. So if you lose the transponder at one point, but then the plane is continuing to fly, reverse course, fly over Malaysia and head towards the Indian Ocean, what does that say to you?

HAUETER: Well, it could be anything. Clearly, there could be some type of incapacitation of pilots, they reprogrammed it to get back and kept on going.


BLITZER: So one theory the pilots actually turned off the transponders.

HAUETER: No, let's say there's some type of massive event happened on the airplane and they want to get back to Kuala Lumpur, they reprogram and change and the pilot becomes completely incapacitated and kept ongoing.

BLITZER: We've seen a case before where because they didn't turn on the oxygen system the whole crew was incapacitated, the airplane flew to its destination, circled to the airport, ran out of fuel and crashed.

HAUETER: That's one scenario.

BLITZER: You've studied this closely over the past six days, right?

HAUETER: Oh, I've looked at it all.

BLITZER: Give me your sense. What is your hunch right now?

HAUETER: There's just not enough data.

BLITZER: And did you -- are you critical of the Malaysian authorities? Are you critical -- who are you critical of if anyone?

HAUETER: Having been in this position before, I'm not --


BLITZER: Been an investigator yourself.

HAUETER: I've been an investigator myself. I'm not critical of anyone because you have to work with the data you have. So they're grabbing data as quickly as they can from many sources. Not all the data is compatible with each other. It takes time. So I'm glad that the NTSB guys are there, I know they're super and they'll give the full cooperation to the investigation.

BLITZER: Here's what so many people have asked me over these past six days. This is one of the highest tech planes out there, a Boeing 777.


BLITZER: It's got all sorts of high-tech equipment.


BLITZER: But you can't find this plane? It simply vanishes? How is that possible in this day and age when we all have cell phones and anybody -- you have your cell phone, everybody can find out exactly where you are?

HAUETER: Well, the simple answer is it's a big ocean. So if you turn off the electronics, you don't have the transponder, you can't communicate, everything is happening, you can't do it. Sad to say, but, yeah --


BLITZER: It sounds almost crazy that in this day and age you can't find a huge plane like that.

HAUETER: It does sound crazy, but once again, it's a big ocean. I take a look once again Air France 447 happened that many years ago in south Atlantic. That was very difficult to find. But that airplane was sending back data to its operator, giving its latitude and longitude.


BLITZER: Is that radar -- the radar detections coming from the Malaysian air force is talking about, is that reliable?

HAUETER: The Malaysians have radar systems, but once your turn off the transponder, all you have is a dot with no altitude or any other information. And it's a sea of dots because it sees birds and everything else. It's terrible.

BLITZER: Bottom line not that reliable. But the U.S. Navy moving ships west of Malaysia and may be heading towards the Indian Ocean, which is a significant development.

HAUETER: That does seem to be significant.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Tom, for joining us.

HAUETER: Thank you.

BLITZER: Tom Haueter, former NTSB investigator.

Up next, in this high-tech era, why haven't search crews been able to find the missing jet? We'll talk to an aviation expert who says finding wreckage is often like finding a needle in a haystack. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The White House now saying the U.S. Navy is expanding its search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet plane and may, repeat, may be moving ships as far west as the Indian Ocean. You can see where the transponders lost communications with ground stations. And then if -- they're investigating. They're moving these ships toward the Indian Ocean as Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, just said, they may be moving them towards the Indian Ocean. That is a very, very significant development.

Officials certainly across the globe, they're analyzing a lot of information including a lot of satellite feeds and dozens of ships and planes are scouring this greatly expanded search area right now both day and night. But so far, nothing has been found. It's a question a lot of people are asking, why?

Joining us now is Jim Matthews, executive editor of "Aviation Week" an intelligence network.

What's the answer, Jim?

JIM MATTHEWS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AVIATION WEEK: Wolf, if what you said is true then the haystack just got a lot bigger. So that is really the big problem that they have right now. If you look at the probability of containment, every time you make that area larger, you might increase the probability that you have found the area where that thing went down but you have decreased the probability of detection because you have a larger area to search. And even if you have 40 aircraft, the most they're going to be able to search is perhaps a mile, mile and a half sweep. So, times 40 aircraft, that's 40 miles at a time.

BLITZER: So the transponder goes down for whatever reason, either mechanical failure or somebody turns that transponder off -- there's two of them actually.


BLITZER: And then after that, except for some radar blips, if you will, there's nothing that can be sent from a Boeing 777 that would indicate mayday, mayday, or anything else?

MATTHEWS: Not really, no.

BLITZER: That sounds like -- that sounds crazy to me.

MATTHEWS: Well, I mean, the systems are coming online. But we're not quite there yet. If you have, say, 80SB, for example, that sends a tremendous wealth of information, but right now you have to have a ground station to receive it. And so that didn't -- that wasn't true in this case.

BLITZER: Because the so-called black boxes, the flight data recorder, voice recorder, they have -- they can ping for, what, 30 days? Even if they're really deep below sea level? MATTHEWS: They can if they've survived and they're in a place where the signal will be reached. They could be blocked. There's all kinds of things that could affect them.

BLITZER: So even if you've lost total electrical power for the plane, those black boxes should still work?

MATTHEWS: They should, yes.

BLITZER: What's your hunch right now that happened?

MATTHEWS: I don't have a hunch. All we know is there's a plane missing and the search area has expanded to a point where this is going to be a very, very long search.

BLITZER: Who should take the lead in this search? I know it's a Malaysian government, it's its plane, but should the U.S. really be in charge?

MATTHEWS: I don't think so. I mean, if everyone were cooperating, it really wouldn't matter who was in charge. If you bring enough search professionals together, they don't care what shirts they wear or flags they're flying, they want to find the aircraft.

BLITZER: Now the U.S. Navy may be moving all the way west toward the Indian Ocean to keep searching for this missing plane.

Jim Mathews, thank you for joining us.

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

BLITZER: We'll take a quick break. More of the mystery surrounding this plane right after this.


BLITZER: Just to repeat breaking news this hour, the White House now confirming that the U.S. Navy's Seventh Fleet -- ships from the Seventh Fleet in the Pacific, they may now be heading towards the Indian Ocean as this expanded search continues now to grow and grow and grow.

Let's go to Malaysia's capital of Kuala Lumpur. Our own Saima Mohsin is standing by.

Saima, what are officials saying to you about this expanded search and it may be actually heading all the way west from Malaysia towards the Indian Ocean?

SAIMA MOHSIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Wolf. What we understand is that the Indian navy's also now joining that search operation, a massive search operation. More than a dozen countries involved, of course, including the United States, Australia, New Zealand, all the neighboring countries, of course, around Malaysia. But what is instead of narrowing down the search, they are expanding it each and every day as time goes on further and further. Obviously, there has been a long agonizing wait for the families and friends of those on board flight MH 370. They want to locate exactly where this plane is. As time goes on, they failed to.

We started the search to the east of Malaysia where we believe the plane was heading on the course as usual for Beijing. Then we learned that this radar might have picked up an air turn. Did the flight head back over Malaysia to the west?

We flew out on a search-and-rescue mission C130 plane with the minster for defense. The chief of defense also surveying the area over the strait west of Malaysia. That's left of Malaysia, Wolf. We were asking questions like, why here? This is not the scheduled flight path for the plane. They said look, we have to investigate every possibility and then today we are hearing that it could be further out.

The interesting thing is if they are extending the search to the Indian Ocean perhaps, perhaps these various reports and experts coming out saying did the flight continue for hours on end? Perhaps that may be true. But today, the Malaysian authorities were at pains to refute the claim that came out in the "Wall Street Journal." They said, no, that's not true. This plane was not giving off any kind of data that allows us to believe that it did carry on for hours, aimlessly in the skies.

And we have the search operation expanding and authorities saying, no, the flight didn't carry on for hours on end.

But what the Malaysian authorities are keen to say is that this is an unprecedented crisis. It is a major crisis for them. It is a multinational effort in trying to handle it.

While I was on the flight the other day, as well, with the Malaysian minster for defense and chief of defense, they said, "Look, we are also getting help from intelligence. The Chinese intelligence is helping us. So, too, is the FBI. We are at a loss so far. This is baffling" -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Saima Mohsin, reporting for us. Saima, thanks very much.

I want to clarify, in an interview I did earlier with a key member of the House Homeland Security chair, Peter King, we were talking about when bin Laden and al Qaeda formally took credit for the 9/11 attacks. And we did some checking. In December of 2001, the Pentagon made public a videotape of bin Laden at a dinner with associates in Afghanistan on November 9th, 2001, about two months after 9/11, hailing the outcome of the September 11th attacks, in his words, "exceeding his own optimistic calculations." But he never formally took credit for 9/11 until October of 2004, when a formal videotape was released before the U.S. presidential election, as a lot of us remember at that time. So it clearly took a long time for bin Laden to claim credit for the 9/11 hijackings and the terror attacks that occurred.

We will have much more on the possible expansion of the search into the Indian Ocean. That's coming up. CNN's Tom Fuentes will join us after the break.


BLITZER: We are following breaking news. The U.S. Navy is expanding dramatically the search for the Malaysia Airliner missing now for six days. The White House press secretary telling reporters moments ago that the U.S. Navy has now moved towards the Indian Ocean, as far west as the Indian Ocean to continue the search. It's an expansion.

Our law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes, a former assistant FBI director, is with me.

It would seem to suggest that, for whatever reason, if they are looking in the Indian Ocean, this plane was flying for hours after the tranresponder stopped sending messages back to ground.

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST & FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DEPUTY DIRECTOR: That's right, Wolf. It suggests that maybe they're putting more credence on what the air force official from Malaysia told CNN a couple days ago, that plane had turned and had flown in a western direction.

BLITZER: The exact opposite direction, towards Beijing, and it made a U-turn and flew over and keeps ongoing. Maybe if you hear what the White House is now saying, maybe towards the Indian Ocean.

FUENTES: Right. At the time that plane allegedly disappeared off the radar, we didn't know whether the radar, that was the edge of their tracking capability and the plane kept ongoing, or it could track further, but it didn't. The plane went lower in altitude. So if it kept that direction, it would have overthrown Indonesia into the Indian Ocean. And the depth of the Indian Ocean is much greater than the Strait of Malacca or the Gulf of Thailand where they were looking before. It can be 5,000 feet deep. You want the U.S. Navy with its sophisticated search capability and the hydro phones to be listening for the pings of the black boxes, that may suggest that let others look for debris. We want sensitive equipment in that area in a wider search.

BLITZER: Yesterday, when I spoke to know one of the commanders of the U.S. Navy's Seventh Fleet, he said they are moving at least two destroyers west. He didn't say the Indian Ocean. Today, we hear the words Indian Ocean that suggests what an expansion of this search for the missing airliner.

FUENTES: That's true.

BLITZER: Did we get a hunch why this plane may have been flying with hundreds of miles and hours after it disappeared from any communications?

FUENTES: We don't know for sure. But you have to wonder in the past few hours that the FAA and NTSB experts have been able to look at the information themselves and their interpretation may have led to why they redeploy the Navy --


BLITZER: That review, the radar information, and I suspect as a result of that, they have told the U.S. Navy and the Seventh Fleet, go ahead and expand and go all the way out to the Indian Ocean.

Tom, we will be back later today. Thanks very much for all your help.

I will be back at 5:00 p.m. eastern. A special two-hour edition of "The Situation Room." Thanks very much for watching.

In the meantime, NEWSROOM with Don Lemon starts right now.