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Search Continues for Possible Remains of Missing Malaysian Plane; Diagnoses of Childhood Autism Increasing; New Plane Sent to New Search Area

Aired March 28, 2014 - 07:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Some have been careful not to cast too much suspicion on them, but now they're saying they're changing their policies going forward.

JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I didn't understand he was changing policy so much, but saying they go under some level of psychological testing as well as is done by the aviation medical doctors. And he was saying it was done on a basis of every year or perhaps twice a year depending on the age of the pilot. Very clear on that. Of course, there's been a lot of speculation about the pilots and what role they might have played in all of this because they have control of the plane. They were the last ones known to be in control of flight 370. So natural that the focus would be on them, and their psychological status, of course, is a part of that. Now, we have the chairman -- rather the CEO of Malaysia air spelling it out perfectly, they do get tested at least annually. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Jim Clancy at Kuala Lumpur for us. Thank you so much.

Let's bring in two experts to go over all the information we've gotten in the last few minutes. David Soucie, a CNN safety analyst and the author of "Why Planes Crash," he's a former FAA inspector, and also David Funk of Laird and Associates and a former international captain at Northwest Airlines. Let's start, David Funk, with what Jim Clancy was talking about, this information coming from the Malaysia Airlines CEO about psychological tests. Unclear if there's a new level of testing or confirming they do go through testing. What's your take on this?

DAVID FUNK, FORMER INTERNATIONAL CAPTAIN, NORTHWEST AIRLINES: Probably the addition of testing. I do know that the rest of the world has very much lagged behind, and when I say the rest of the world, I mean outside the U.S., Australia, Britain, Canada, western Europe, psychological testing. In the U.S., we've been doing it as far back as the mid-1980s as a part of the hiring process. Then you have continuing monitoring. If the pilot's doing his job on a normal basis, when you see some incident happen, somebody will pull him aside and say is everything OK. And if the guys need time off to deal with it, the companies in the U.S. in those countries I mentioned are very good about making sure the pilot has that time to deal with personal issues.

BOLDUAN: David Soucie, let's talk about the other news that came out in the last couple of minutes. We have now the new search area, some 680 miles northeast of where we have been focused. Since that refinement happened, the New Zealand air force team, I'm wondering if it's the same team I went up with over the weekend, they've spotted objects. Of course that needs confirmation. And here is the big problem I take from this. The ships that need to get eyes on it, they're still in the old search area and it's going to take them until tomorrow to get there. That could be a problem.

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: It could be. As we noticed before, you can spot things and think you have things. But remember, before we were talking about satellite images and then four or five days come back to it. Now we're talking about just a day afterwards. So I'm very hopeful about this. We have to not lose hope just because this thing has changed a little bit.

BOLDUAN: And also I think you, David Soucie, and you, David Funk, two are on the same page on this, but others are having a differing opinion on what this new search area means. Some are saying that it's depressing because they think the analysis to this point has been wrong. But you guys are not surprised. You think it's common. Please explain.

SOUCIE: It's really common. If you've been in any accident investigation at all, especially if it involves search, it's full of excitement, it's full of hope, and then it's full of disappointment. The important thing, and maybe that's why we're on the same page with this having had this experience, because it's part of the process, the maturing of the team. The team gets together, they have hope, and then they have disappointment. But each time that happens you're cycling it a little bit better, you're getting a little bit better. Every accident investigation is different and you have to learn from every one of them. So I'm still hopeful about this.

BOLDUAN: David Funk, one thing that came out of this new information that they've moved to this new search area, an Australian official was asked what does this mean about the old search area. He essentially said, we're done with it, that it's over, that we have moved on from that. Is it smart?

FUNK: It is if they find something in the new area. If they don't locate anything there, then almost, as David said, you wind up with a disappointment. You have to go back to square one. As I mentioned in previous segments with you guys, you look out at the maximum distance the airplane can fly, you go there first and work your way back closer back towards land.

I'm optimistic with the different aircraft speed and the higher fuel burn rate, they won't get as far. We know when the airplane essentially quit communicating. So working back closer and closer, I'm optimistic. The good thing here is we've got a lot more time on station. The airplanes go out and they've got two hours on station because they're an hour closer each way. And the crew is going to be a lot sharper while they're on station. So I'm optimistic we'll find something in this area if it's there. Hopefully we'll get hands on pieces of airplane in the water which confirms at least now we know the general vicinity. It's time to bring the submersibles in to really start working and doing the tough work underwater. BOLDUAN: What do you make of that same question I had for David? Do you think that it's smart that they're completely giving up on the old search area? You can have it both ways. We had the northern corridor for so long. It seemed clear that nothing was going on up there but there still were assets up there. Do you think it's smart to move only focus on this new area?

SOUCIE: I wouldn't say smart or dumb. I think the question is more about managing resources. And that's what it is, when you make a decision that you stand behind. What it tells me is that the decision they made is they have a high confidence level in the fact that they've got this new search area -- so much so that they've taken all the work we've done before and said, it's not working, let's go someplace else. The fact they said that conclusively and not said, well, we're going to keep searching, that tells me conclusively that they have something that tells them they're in the right place now.

BOLDUAN: David Funk, would you be surprised if they continue to analyze the information they have and refined it further that it would be even more north, more east in a different area? Because you're saying the smart thing they did is go as far out as you're going to go possibly and then work your way back. Do you think they could continue to work their way back?

FUNK: Well, I think they will. But you have to remember, the further east they get, now they start getting into the radar coverage areas that the Australians have. If they didn't see something, if the Aussie radar operators as they go back and double check the tapes didn't see something, it puts it more likely out in the area where it's at.

Remember they're right at the edge of that Australian radar system that's been talked about so much in the news this last week or 10 days. They may have a skin paint or they may have some odd blip out there that's close to what they thought the track of the airplane was brings it a little further north, particularly if they have a speed on that blip as it traveled towards the south-southwest. That could be a huge indicator for us. That could be why we are dealing with a different speed in its entirety.

SOUCIE: We talked about blips on the radar. If you look at a radar screen that doesn't have secondary radar, you don't know what's out there. You just see a lot of dots. So as you analyze more and more and more, if you think of 1,000 different dots in this fox, and every single time you look at it, it changes just a little bit, you pretty have to plot every dot to every other dot to see if there's any correlation between movements. So that's what they're doing. It's no coincidence that about the time they brought the FAA specialists in from the academy in Oklahoma City that this is being refined because that's what they do. They're better at it than anybody in the world.

BOLDUAN: Why weren't they brought in sooner then?

SOUCIE: You have to wonder about that. It goes back to the gelling of the team. Even in the United States, you have Boeing, you have all the different people together, there's cultural differences, there's communication differences. I can only imagine at this international level when you have so many countries involved, the communications, the language, there's so many barriers. Again, I'm feeling confident that they're starting to gel now and get some real action.

BOLDUAN: David Funk, do we need to temper our optimism still with this new search area? I was looking back at the numbers. Even in the new search area where they say the weather conditions are generally better in this area, we're also still looking at sea depths of something over a mile deep to over two-and-a-half deep. We're still looking at seriously deep water to look for debris.

FUNK: Absolutely. The big thing is if we find debris on the surface, that gives us a starting point. As I've said before, the hard work really gets going when you have to go under the ocean and start looking for the components of the airplane. The good news is the components on the airplane, the big pieces are so heavy that when they hit the bottom, they're not moving. Once we locate an engine or a landing gear, we know we're in the vicinity that we will find the balance of the components within a few miles on the floor of the ocean. It will be a big area as it spreads down and the undersea currents get it, but once it hits the bottom, the big pieces will be there. Those are the critical things we need to get our hands on, get photos of, to really analyze what happened.

Of course, finding that elusive flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder, if we're close, we might hear the ping. We can at least get it isolated within a few miles.

BOLDUAN: We'll talk about that in the next hour. First we need to get eyes in that area. We need to get those ships there even though the planes can get there a lot faster. That's going to happen in the next 24 hours. That's a critical move in this search area. David Funk, David Soucie, thanks, guys, thanks very much. Michaela?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Kate, we're going to check some of the day's other big headlines for you now. Officials in Washington state say they expect to deliver painful news later today in the aftermath of that devastating mudslide north of Seattle. Officially 17 people died in Saturday's slide. However eight more bodies have been located. The local fire chief warns that the death toll is about to rise dramatically, 90 people are still listed as missing or unaccounted for.

The Oscar Pistorius murder trial is on hold for 10 days. The so called "blade runner" was expected to testify in his own defense this morning. However the judge ordered a postponement until April 7th because of one of the court assessors is in the hospital. Assessors typically assist South African judges during trial.

President Obama could be in for a cool reception when he meets later this morning with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah in Riyadh. The Saudis have publically complained about the way the White House has handled this crisis in Syria and nuclear talks with Iran. One Saudi official says President Obama didn't stand behind the red lines he drew.

And 6 million and counting, that's how many Americans have now signed up for Obamacare. And with four days to go before the enrollment deadline, the administration says the numbers are surging. On Wednesday of this week the White House says the website had 1.5 million visitors.

The CDC has noted and found a spike in autism cases. A new report found that one out of every 68 children in the U.S. has been diagnosed. We need to point out that is a 30 percent jump from just a couple of years ago. The study does not say why more children are being diagnosed, but it does show that most are male and that a growing number have above average or average intelligence. Researchers found that children are still being diagnosed late, after age four on average, even though autism can be spotted at age two.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I have had this discussion with every set of young parents that I know. It is something that hangs over I think everyone when they're having kids. I have two boys, and it's something that I think everyone, consider it, talk about it. We just want more information.

PEREIRA: Why is this happening and why is it happening to much to our little boys?

BERMAN: Or is it just being diagnosed more. Fascinating.

All right, next up on NEW DAY, breaking news, a new search area and now word that objects have been spotted by a New Zealand P3 Orion search plane. New objects in a new search zone. Richard Quest will be here to explain why these latest developments are so significant.

BOLDUAN: Also ahead, inside politics, Chris Christie says he's not going to change after the political payback scandal that has tarnished his second term. The New Jersey governor says people love his brash style.


BERMAN: All right, welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone. We have a lot of breaking news this morning. In just the last few minutes we learned that a New Zealand P-3 Orion plane did spot objects in the new search zone. No word yet if this could be debris from flight 370. They need to get the surface vessels, the ships in the region. That will happen tomorrow.

Now the relocation of this search area is based on leads provided to investigators largely by the FAA and the NTSB. So here to talk about this, walk through these latest developments, Richard Quest, aviation correspondent and host of "Quest Means Business". And let me tell you, Quest does mean business.

Richard, the new search area, right here on the ground, right here. The red area right there, the old search area. The green area right there, about 700 miles, a little bit less than 700 miles apart, but they got to this new search area by something that happened all the way up there.

RICHARD QUEST, HOST, "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS": Right. Now, this is -- these are the search areas. But we need to begin to explain this by going way back up to the northern part. Because if you look at what the statement said and you follow -- it says the new information is based on analysis of radar data between the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca before radar contact was lost. And that is all the way up here, OK?

BERMAN: All the way up here.

QUEST: That is up over here because that is the -- that is the area where they know the speed and position of the plane. And what they are now saying is the plane -- the aircraft was traveling faster than previously estimated.

So what does this mean? What it means is that the plane burned more fuel here --

BERMAN: So that when it did the southern route, when it finally turned --

QUEST: So when it started its southern route, and it started to come south, it couldn't or didn't travel as far. And that's the analysis that makes the sense this morning.

If you look at the numbers and you look at the way they do it, they're now estimating it probably flew south at around 700 knots. But the reason it's significant is because of what happened up by Kuala Lumpur, Straits of Malacca, and the South China Sea. The plane was flying faster here; therefore, it didn't travel as far on the way down.

BERMAN: And this is based on new calculations provided by this newish team that they put together, which includes officials from the FAA and the NTBSB, which begs the question, Richard. You know, we're three weeks into it now. This would have been a helpful calculation three weeks ago.

QUEST: Oh, I think that's just being clever after the event. They are literally at the extremities of what they know and understand. And remember, this is all being done with radar data that's not secondary, in other words, primary radar data, the most basic form of blips on a screen. Then extrapolated with pings from this handshaking business that the plane does. Then knowing that the plane flew for six-odd hours coming down here, it really is a case of saying, "We've got one. We've got one. We've got one. We've got one. Now how much does that add up to?"

BERMAN: Being done with tools not meant to do what they're now being used to do.

QUEST: None of this, no. And that, I think, is the significance of the fact of the difficulty of what they are now engaged in.

BERMAN: Let's talk about this new search area. This search area is much closer to Perth than the old search area. It means that the planes will have a much easier time really flying overhead. QUEST: Two important things about it. They can get to the new search area much more quickly. It won't take as long, which means they can have longer overhead in the new search area, and the weather is better. It's not down here in the roaring 40s. It's not near -- it's not as bad -- still not terribly pleasant this time of the year. But it does mean that they will have more time to search. And we've already seen, of course, that even last night when this news broke, the planes were already on their way and overhead.

BERMAN: If they are right about this search area -- you were just telling me before. If they are right about this new area here right in red, they will likely find out about it much more quickly than they would have in the last area because they can get eyeballs on it much more easily.

QUEST: They can get eyeballs on it much more easily. Those eyeballs can stay on it much longer. And crucially, of course, they now say they believe this is the impact area where the plane went into the water, the crash point, as they called it last night.

BERMAN: And that is a key point because of what Malaysian officials just said this morning. They were asked, quite pointedly, I think by a lot of people, "Does that mean all these satellite images we've been looking at of possible objects on the water, possible debris, is that just nothing? Does that turn out to be complete nonsense." They say no. That could have been drift from the site. Explain that.

QUEST: Right. Two -- the slight contradiction overnight. The Australians said all the ships, all the planes are being moved from the old up to the new.

Today in the statement from Malaysia, they're saying it could be drift from the -- from the old site. So I think we need to give them the benefit of the doubt on that part that they are looking for -- they're basically -- they're basically concentrating everything on the new zone.

BERMAN: Now, one area here that's interesting, you said they think the point of impact could be here.

QUEST: The crash point.

BERMAN: The crash point. Exactly.


BERMAN: If the crash point is here, the currents here are not as strong as you said. So the debris may not have drifted that far from this area, so it might be easier for them to trace back to where the black box is.

QUEST: The implication from what we heard last night -- 1:00 in the morning Eastern time was when they were talking about it when there was a press conference -- the implication being that the amount of drift would not be that great. They said that they've accounted for it. The oceanographers have looked at it, but they kept talking about this new area as being the point of impact, the crash point. And therefore, I suppose you (inaudible) you take your choice on the debris that the French, the Chinese, the Japanese and the Thais all saw. But really, I wouldn't think they're going to waste too much time. Well, we know that --

BERMAN: They say they're not. They're done over there.

QUEST: No, they're done down there. They're looking for new stuff in this new area. And the reason why they think it's there is because of what happened up there.

BERMAN: And if they do find new stuff in this new area --

QUEST: Objects, that's objects.

BERMAN: -- as you so elegantly put it -- objects, they will then be able to get these -- all this technology -- all this technology they have siting in Perth, all these underwater search devices which are not being used yet -- the minute they find debris up here connected to the plane, they'll be able to deploy that stuff under water.

QUEST: The moment they find objects here and they can verify -- and remember the ship is not due to be on base until tonight to pick something up. So they -- and Orion, you just been mentioning, John. An Orion has picked up -- has taken photograph of objects in the water. So ships will be on base tonight or during the day. They will pick up whatever they can still find. That will then be very quick. It won't be long. I mean, real quick. You'll pick something up --

BERMAN: And I do want to point out, you know, everyone was very frustrated the satellite images of debris they were not able to verify --

QUEST: This is different.

BERMAN: This is much different.

QUEST: This is a plane saying we've spotted something. But we've been here before. I can't -- I'm stretching my memory (inaudible) planes ever saw --

BERMAN: Planes spotted something, but they didn't think it turned out to be anything.

QUEST: That was a green -- the green --


BERMAN: The plane spotting something here. They will be able to get to (ph) a ship. We assume they'll be able to get the ship right up next to this debris. They will be able to relocate it. We assume they dropped sonobuoys, perhaps from the P-3 Orion, so they can go back --

QUEST: Yes. Yes.

BERMAN: -- and find it very easily. So this, by tomorrow at this time, we could know a lot, lot more.

QUEST: Oh, absolutely. But it all hinges on some extraordinary science, not to say a little bit of art and perhaps a few calculations, you know, which way the wind is blowing. And it all hinges on what happened in that short period of time when they burned the fuel up there.

BERMAN: Richard Quest, always an education. Thank you so much, appreciate it.


BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, those new objects spotted in the water of the newly defined search area -- of course, raise two important questions: is it the plane, and will the weather hold up to allow for ships to get to the new search area to retrieve the potential debris? We're tracking all the challenges ahead for you.

Also on Inside Politics, we're going to take a look at those Obamacare numbers; 6 million enrollments sounds like a lot, but it might not tell the whole story.


PEREIRA: All right. Welcome back to NEW DAY. Let's take a look at your headlines at this hour.

A plane in the new search area for flight 370 has spotted objects in the water. We're awaiting on word on images from the plane to see exactly what it was. The search overnight moved hundreds of miles northeast after further analysis suggested the plane went down earlier because it was traveling faster and burning more fuel. This analysis comes from agencies around the world, including the NTSB and the FAA.

New developments in Ukraine. President Obama warning Russia that it must move back troops from the Ukraine border calling it a possible intimidation tactic or that Russia may have additional plans. The Ukrainian defense officials says close to 100,000 Russian troops are there. The U.N. General Assembly Thursday overwhelmingly approved a resolution rebuking Russia and dismissing the annexation of Crimea as illegal.

Officials in Washington state -- say they expect to deliver grim news today in the aftermath of the devastating mudslide northeast of Seattle. Officially, 17 people have died in Saturday's slide, but eight more bodies have been located. Fire officials there locally warns that the death toll is about to rise dramatically; 90 people are still listed as missing.

One of the busiest -- one of the nation's busiest sea ports is reopened this morning after a massive oil spill shut it down last weekend. Officials in Texas have now lifted all restrictions on marine traffic in the Houston ship channel. It was closed Saturday after a ship collided with an oil barge. Nearly 170,000 gallons of tar-like oil spilled into the water way just south of Houston.

More Clinton White House documents are on the way today. The national archives will release 2,500 pages at about a 1 p.m. Easter today. Those records expected to include papers from the president's speech writer and a domestic policy advisor, as well as documents regarding his farewell address. Some 8,000 pages have been released since February.

BOLDUAN: Is it just be keeps on coming.

BERMAN: Politics from the '90s, which is a good segue.


BOLDUAN: Very good, John.

BERMAN: Right?

PEREIRA: Is there some sort of John King '90s reference being made there?

BOLDUAN: John King, I don't know. I'm here supporting you. I'm backing you up, John King.