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Search Continues for Malaysian Airlines Plane; Russian Troops Continue Exercises Along Ukraine Border; Did Missing Plane Fly Towards Andaman Islands?

Aired March 14, 2014 - 07:00   ET


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: So, meanwhile, what does the U.S. intelligence community have to say about all this? Let's bring back CNN Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Michaela. Why is the search widening? There is some specific information. Sources are telling us those blips from the aircraft have been looked at by analysts. That satellite data that received those blips began to calculate the fact that the plane likely flew four to five hours out into the Indian Ocean. They matched it to airframe and engines that correlated with this aircraft and the aircraft that was not showing a transponder signal, all of that put together is what led them to believe it is the Malaysian Airlines aircraft that they are looking for out in the Indian Ocean. They believe it's on the bottom of the ocean now.

What is the latest? The U.S. Navy airplane has now completed its first sweep 1,000 miles to the east, 1,000 miles out into the Indian Ocean. It reports finding nothing. The U.S. destroyer also there, its helicopters will fly. All of the U.S. attention now focused on this area of the Indian Ocean east of Malaysia. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Barbara, thank you very much for the reporting. We're chasing down all these different threads and we'll continue to do so as reports and developments certainly don't make it any easier for the families waiting for answers. They deserve it most of all because they are the ones waiting on information about their loved ones. Now Pauline Chu is in Beijing where the flight was headed and the frustration is just starting to boil over. Pauline?

PAULINE CHU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, it's been such a challenging week for these relatives. And 500 to 700 family members gather at this hotel behind me every day trying to get some sort of grip on any sort of information from these family briefings. Yesterday, I spoke with a man whose son was on that flight. His only son had been in Malaysia for work for four months and was very excited to come back home. Mr. Lee today told me that his heart is broken. He said "My tears have run dry. And at this point I'm hoping that this plane was hijacked because at the very least in that scenario there could be a chance that my son might be alive."

I also spoke with another family member. His mother was on the flight. He asked me with tears in his eye, how can you lose a plane and how can you not find a plane after seven days. So Chris Michaela, these are the very straightforward answers that these relatives are hoping to have answers to at some point very soon.

CUOMO: They need them and they deserve them. Pauline, Thank you for the reporting. The disappearance of this flight is now one of the biggest mysteries in aviation history. Let's analyze the outstanding questions. We have Fran Townsend, CNN National Security analyst, we have Richard Quest, CNN International Business correspondent and host of "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS," and Mr. David Soucie, former FAA inspector and author of "Why Planes Crash, an Accident Investigator Fights for Safe Skis." It's great to have everybody here.

Fran, let's deal with this kind of overarching issue. Reports keep coming out. There's really one main theory to unpack, which is, is there good solid reason to believe that the plane made a dramatic shift in path and that then something else happened that wound up leading to the plane going down? Are we comfortable with at least that as a theory?

FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I think we're comfortable based on the radar data. What we're getting now the technical data points that the plane did make this turn. We know that from the radar track. I don't think we have confirmed by technical data or, sort of, you know, a source that's willing to be named that they're confirming that the plane went down.

Look, I think everything -- it's the logical conclusion. But we ought to be clear about when we're drawing conclusions and when we're looking at facts. We don't have the facts yet that the plane went down. We expect that what we're going to get, and that's what we're beginning to hear out of the investigation, but they haven't confirmed it yet.

PEREIRA: Richard Quest, so little facts, and I see you shaking your head. You want to jump in. Go ahead.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN HOST, "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS": Maybe because Fran is right, so little facts. And on this core fact of did the plane make a turn, there are these radar pings which is not a radar track. It just means something was trying to communicate "I'm here." We know the Malaysians this morning did say they are still extending the search into the South China Sea. Now that's on the eastern side of the search area.

PEREIRA: Not on the west.

QUEST: Not on the western side. So back to Fran's very important point, we don't have facts. And I think that at this point we -- we've got more information, we've got minor pieces of this puzzle, but we are certainly a long way of seeing a picture from it.

CUOMO: One of the points of fascination is the timing of the turnoff of the communication equipment on board. What do you make of that? Is this something that suggests deliberate action or coiled it have been a massive decompression event on the plane? DAVID SOUCIE, FORMER FAA INSPECTOR: I've been saying all along that I thought that because everything went out at once that it had to be intentional. But this new information about 14 minutes later would explain something to me about a mechanical failure, because what would happen there is if a bus came offline, if something happened to turn the transponders off, then later other things were turned off 14 minutes later, that would tell me there was some kind of failure that had to be reacted to. And 14 minutes would give you time to transfer the bus power, to deploy the emergency generator. Those kinds of things take a little time.

CUOMO: How would you then explain no radio contact during that time?

SOUCIE: The fact that is if something happens dramatic in the cockpit, you have to deal with it. The first thing you do as a pilot is fly that airplane.

PEREIRA: Aviate, navigate, communicate.

SOUCIE: That's right. Everything that you have has to be working properly to maintain flight in that aircraft, so that's the focus.

PEREIRA: I want to talk to you, Richard, we were talking in the office a little earlier about the idea that this plane, one of the ways of looking at it was navigating via way point. That would argue that somebody who was an aviator was at the helm of the plane, or would it not?

QUEST: Not a bit of it. That merely means that the plane was flying a predetermined route. It could have been on autopilot. It could have been by hand. In fact, it probably would have been on autopilot. If a plane is flying a carefully structured route, an interstate of the sky, through its various junctions, that would more likely suggest it was on some form of auto pilot.

But this idea that it was flying a way point path and the way they're doing is, they're starting to look at the route from the pings. They've overlaid it with a map basically. Actually that looks like that's a way point to there, that's a way point to there, this thing is flying a track.

CUOMO: You three may be the experts. But the most helpful thing I've heard so far is Michaela saying "aviate, navigate, communicate." If that is the protocol for people in the air, it may well explain why we didn't hear these radio transmissions that are so frustrating.

Here's my big question that I'd like to hear your three weigh in on. We keep talking about why this would have happened, a major decompressive event, which means something happened onboard the plane that knocked out the people, god forbid, and then made it still able to fly. What do we know, Fran, about what was in the belly of that ship, the manifest of cargo, and whether or not Malaysian Airlines is known for taking care of noxious or hazardous materials the right way?

TOWNSEND: You know, Chris, this has been a controversy since post- 9/11. There's always been concerns around the world about in the belly of passenger planes, the fidelity one has about the cargo and the screening it goes through. Since 9/11, we've done a lot here in the United States to address those concerns. But it's not clear, and there's very little information not only about the cargo but about the investigation apart from the certainly. We focus rightly right now on the search because of the importance of finding the plane and the data recorder, but there are other things going on. It's the investigative steps and material related to all the passengers, the pilots, the cargo.

There's a lot of information that investigators will be looking at right now with the help of their American allies and intelligence services around the world. And those are the sorts of things that the Malaysians are not talking about publicly, either to dismiss concerns like the cargo, or to address them publicly. And I think that's also a very frustrating point for folks.

PEREIRA: That seems to be the word, David, we're using so much is the frustration in the absence of this information that everybody so desperately wants.

SOUCIE: There's a lot of information going on behind the scenes, and their obligated to keep that within the team, because you don't want to get distracted by a bunch of other information. But the point about the weight and balance or inflight decompression, it would have to be a massive decompression to disable the aircraft and the electrical system to the point where the aircraft wouldn't be able to fly. In 1989, a 747, the cargo door came off. The side of a 747 is huge. That aircraft was able to land.

PEREIRA: So many redundancies on board.

SOUCIE: There are, triple redundancies.

QUEST: I'm just going to jump in here, because all these scenarios, your decompression, your cargo door, all these different scenarios are possible, some maybe even be probable. But they don't explain of course why none of the electronic systems -- this is a very modern airliner that was able to send out a distress signal automatically. And we haven't got those warnings.

SOUCIE: That's my point about the door is the decompression theory doesn't carry weight with me, nor does the weight and balance shift.

CUOMO: Here's what we know. Something happened, right? There were 239 souls on board. Their families and loved ones are waiting for answers, so that's why the search has to continue. This panel is very valuable. We're going to keep you here with Michaela and I and get more answers to the questions that are out there about what happened to flight 370. But there is other news this morning, so let's get you to John Berman with a look at that. John?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, thanks, Chris. A large Russian troop buildup underway along Ukraine's eastern border. Ukraine's interim president says he fears a possible large-scale invasion. Those Russian forces are conducting military exercise in at least three key locations. Right now Secretary of State John Kerry is in London meeting with Russia's foreign minister. The goal there is to get Moscow to withdraw its troops from Crimea and not simply annex the peninsula.

Passengers now describing a major scare as a Philadelphia-Ft. Lauderdale flight was taking off. They say there was immediate panic, smoke coming out of an engine, and then a fairly orderly evacuation. Initial reports indicate the U.S. airways flight blew a tire on takeoff and its nose gear collapsed as it made a hard landing. And 149 passengers and five crew members evacuated, no serious injuries reported.

Immigration will be front and center at the White House today. President Obama meets with a group pushing for reform which has stalled in Congress. This comes as the president directed his administration to find, quote, "more humane ways of handling the deportation of immigrants who are in the United States illegally."

General Motors now responding to a report that airbag failures are linked to 333 deaths. General Motors says that is purely speculation. The Center for Auto Safety claims airbag failures in two GM models, the Chevy Cobalt and the Saturn Ion, led to these deaths. GM calls the findings flawed. The auto giant is already being investigated for faulty ignition switches linked to 13 deaths. NBC News reports that GM decided against fixing that problem nine years ago because of the cost.

The retired police captain who allegedly shot and killed a fellow movie patron after a dispute over texting was reportedly also texting just moments yesterday. Court documents claim that 71-year-old Curtis Reeves had just sent a message to his son before shooting a 43-year- old father to death. Reeves is charged with second-degree murder. He has pleaded not guilty, saying he acted in self-defense.

So before we turn back to the very latest on the missing of that flight 370, let's get to meteorologist Indra Petersons for a check of the weather.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Looks like once again we're talking about, a very cold morning today, record lows this morning into the northeast, even freeze warnings down into the south. Raleigh right now 26., D.C. right at that freezing mark at 32. The good news is we are going to be rebounding, meaning temperatures are going up as we head towards the weekend. D.C. will actually jump up to 58. New York City, up to about 46 degrees. We do have a chance for a little clipper, so light rain can be expected tonight through the morning.

The real system, what are we watching? All this moisture in the gulf combining with that cold air mass kind of dropping down. So with that, very typical in the spring. Chance here for severe weather again through Texas tomorrow. We're talking about thunderstorms and even isolated tornados can be in the forecast in Austin, Dallas, definitely in through Houston as well. As we go throughout the weekend all this moisture kind of making its way in towards the mid- Atlantic and the northeast Sunday night in through Monday. Potential here especially through Saint Patrick's day looking for wintery mix and light snow, which means definitely some rain and some light snow come Saint Patty's day. A lot to be watching here over the next couple of days.

PEREIRA: Indra, thank you so very much.

Next up on NEW DAY, we're going to have the very latest for you on the search for flight 370. Is the key to solving this mystery surrounding the plane's disappearance in the cockpit? Who were the pilots behind the controls? We'll also bring back our panel of experts.

CUOMO: Also ahead, a U.S. senator caught with an open mic again. John King goes INSIDE POLITICS with the latest.


PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY. Was the missing plane from Malaysia deliberately flown toward the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean? Reuters says it was according to radar data. Officials also confirming to CNN that flight 370 sent signals for hours after losing contact. And now, as search crews turn their attention to the Indian Ocean, investigators are turning to the pilots. Who are they? What exactly happened inside that cockpit?

CNN's Pamela Brown is in Washington with more on that. Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Michaela. Good morning to you.

You know, all the unanswered questions about what happened to flight 370 and why it possibly changed course have put the two pilots and their previous behavior squarely into focus. We still have a lot to learn about them, but what we do know is what was said in the cockpit right before the plane vanished gives few includes.


BROWN (voice-over): All right, good night. Those are the words heard from the cockpit of Malaysia Airlines flight 370. What we don't know is who in the cockpit said them. Was it 53-year-old captain Zulazri Mohd Ahnuar or 27-year-old first officer Fariq Ab Hamid, or someone else? Like everything with flight 370, the meaning of the words and the pilots themselves are a mystery.

Just weeks ago, our CNN's Richard Quest was granted legal access into the cockpit with first officer Fariq Ab Hamid seen in this exclusive video. It wasn't the first time Hamid had a guest in the cockpit.

JONTI ROOS, INVITED INTO COCKPIT: Air hostess came to us and asked us if we would like to move into the cockpit. After which we did, that's where we spent the flight.

BROWN: Jonti Roos told CNN's Piers Morgan that while on vacation, she a her friend flew from Thailand to Malaysia on a plane piloted by Hamid and another pilot, taking these photos and smoking cigarettes in the cockpit. After hearing Roos' story, Malaysia Airlines said, "We are shocked by these allegations."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, everyone. BROWN: We don't know as much about the pilot captain Zulazri. In this YouTube video he shows an interest in home improvement. Sources told CNN that police have been outside Zulazri's home every day since flight 370 vanished. They have not yet entered or searched the home according to Malaysian officials.

With new information from U.S. officials saying flight 370 may have flown up to five hours after the last contact with the pilots, there are more theories and questions about what happened. Was there mechanical and communications failure? Could it have been a suicide crash by one of the pilots? Or did someone enter the cockpit and take over the plane?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There seems to be a real trail that leads to something taking that aircraft. That doesn't just happen by accident.


BROWN (on-camera): And right now, officials say they're looking at every possible scenario, including whether the pilots had any psychological issues. So many people are wondering why Malaysian officials haven't searched their homes. Chris and Michaela?

CUOMO: All right, Pamela. Let's get back to our panel.

Now, we have a David Soucie who's an investigator of these flights. He's written a book about how to keep the skies safe. We have Richard Quest. We all know you.

Now, let's pick up on what Pamela's saying here. I think there's one -- all these branches of speculation. Here's a big one. Start with you, Soucie, is there any reason to believe that this was -- this plane was being flown by people as opposed to being flown by itself on autopilot?

DAVID SOUCIE, FLIGHT INVESTIGATOR: I don't think that's -- there's no way to distinguish that in my mind.

CUOMO: Right?

SOUCIE: However --

CUOMO: Because that's the big report out of Reuters this morning, that it was deliberate, that somebody, not some thing made this plane change course. Do you believe we have good reason to believe that?

SOUCIE: Well, certainly. I mean, whether the autopilot stayed on or didn't stay on isn't the issue. The issue is whether or not the aircraft changed course. It doesn't change course on its own, even though it has an automated flight path. You can set those points later and then it will follow those points. But without radio communications, without the communications that we have we know were off, that really wouldn't be possible for it to follow a path. What it would be possible, is to set up the points ahead of time, and then to fly it from point to point to point. But -- but not as far as an automated approach or anything like that. CUOMO: So you're saying somebody had to do it? That's what you're saying.

SOUCIE: Yeah, absolutely.

CUOMO: Somebody had to do something?

SOUCIE: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. There's intent.

PEREIRA: And then the discussion bringing in the Andaman Islands, this archipelago off the coast -- far off the coast of India, closer to Asia if you will. The plane heading in that direction from the information that we're seeing today.

We just spoke to a journalist on those islands today. He says they have heard nothing, that there's an airstrip (ph) very highly unlikely that a plane could actually land there. Should we be looking around the Indian Ocean?


QUEST: Oh, they are. (inaudible) already there. They've done their first sweep. Barbara Starr was reporting it this morning. They have found nothing. They're also looking over in the South China Sea.

I think you do need to keep in mind, you're talking about very small fragments of information here. You're talking about radar pings, which when extrapolated seem to show a route, which seems to show way points, which seems to show design and intent. But these are not firm facts.

PEREIRA: But because there are no firm facts you have to understand why they're claiming --


QUEST: Exactly. Of course I do. But this is why people like David, quite right, he will sit here and tell us that we must row down the expectations. Your decompression theory or possibility, we must row back from these things.

Because what experience has shown is that every time its your decompression theory, your terrorist, frowns (ph) highjacker, your this, it's something completely different, something way off beam, obviously something deep in the technology of the aircraft.

And that's why it's boring to do it, but we keep saying row back.

CUOMO: Well, OK, and one of the ways we do that is by testing the different pieces of information that come out. Mich gave me this morning a report out of China that they had activity on the floor of the sea.

PEREIRA: Seismic activity.

CUOMO: Now, they may have been wrong about what they put out, you know -- the last time, "Oh, this might be the flight." It was something unrelated. But what do you make about this?

SOUCIE: I don't -- I'm no seismologist. However if it's an earthquake, if it's something like that, you could -- I would think you could distinguish that from an aircraft hitting the bottom of the ocean, I would think.

CUOMO: Right?


PEREIRA: In terms of the investigation, I think that's one of the things that we -- because we always go back to those families, right? We look at the 239 passengers on board and the agony of having to wait for those little fragments of information. Is the investigation going the way you believe it should be? Is the communication flowing between all the nations involved, in your estimation?

QUEST: Absolutely. Now it is.

PEREIRA: Now it is.

QUEST: Absolutely. You can hear yesterday's news conference and this morning's news conference. There is a new sense of order, direction, integrity. The information is being released in a timely fashion. There's a way in which it's now happening. The raw data is being shared. They announced that this morning. Data the Malaysians normally would not have shared on security grounds is now being handed over. The Brits are arriving with a AAIB. Rolls-Royce is arriving. We are now starting to see a more traditional-looking investigation taking shape.

PERIERA: Richard Quest, David Soucie, thank you so much for that.

We're going to take a short break here on NEW DAY. We will continue to follow the latest on the search for missing flight 370. And we're going to take you inside the cockpit of a Boeing 777 like the missing Malaysian airliner. We're going to go inside a simulator to see how pilots would prepare for the worst.

CUOMO: Next, we also have the question whether things have gotten worse or any better for embattled New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. How he handled a tough crowd at a townhall is next. John King goes inside politics for you.