Return to Transcripts main page


Chinese Plane Spots Possible Plane Wreckage; Friends Defend Captain of Missing Flight; Earthquake Shakes Los Angeles Area

Aired March 30, 2014 - 06:00   ET


CHRISTI PAUL, CO-HOST: Are you even out of bed yet? You don't have to be. Sit back and relax. We've got you covered. I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CO-HOST: I'm Victor Blackwell. Ease into the day. It's now 6 a.m. here, and -- on NEW DAY SATURDAY. Thank you for joining us.

PAUL: Yes, glad to have you with us. And we're going to be beginning with some breaking news overnight in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. A Chinese plane now -- you see it; there it is -- has spotted three suspicious objects today in that new search zone for the missing airliner.

BLACKWELL: Now, this latest sighting comes a day after five other pilots saw a few other objects in the same vast swath of the Indian Ocean, although none of the objects has been confirmed as having come from MH-370.

PAUL: That could be happening, though, later today, if some of the ships can get their hands on it.

The new search area is about the size of New Mexico. It's almost 700 miles northeast of where authorities had last focused the search. Now, the shift was based on some new analyst -- analysis, I should say, of radar data.

BLACKWELL: And the Chinese plane was just one of the eight aircraft dispatched to that area today, along with a Chinese ship. Six other ships are expected to join the effort pretty soon.

PAUL: Listen to this. In the meantime, devastated families of missing passengers protested in Beijing today, demanding proof of the claim by Malaysian officials that all lives were lost.

BLACKWELL: Now, you remember last week, the Malaysian prime minister said that Flight 370 ended in the south Indian Ocean. But within a few hours of the meeting, a top Malaysian official, the acting transportation minister, was offering a glimmer of hope to the families there in Kuala Lumpur. Listen.


HISHAMMUDDIN HUSSEIN, MALAYSIAN ACTING TRANSPORTATION MINISTER: Miracles do happen, remote or otherwise. That is the hope that the family members want -- need to convey to the -- not only to the Malaysian government, MAS, but to the world at large. And if it means our prayers, that's not a very difficult request either.


BLACKWELL: Let's bring in CNN's Paula Newton in Perth, Australia, for the latest on the search today.

PAUL: Yes. Paula, good morning to you. Tell -- can you tell us more at this hour about the suspicious objects that the Chinese aircraft spotted?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we saw the Chinese aircraft come in a few hours ago. They said that they saw three objects: one red, one white, one orange. What are they? That's what everyone wants to know.

Clearly, they were quite intrigued by what they saw. But I caution that they were about 1,000 feet above the water. Now, usually, the other surveillance aircraft is about 500 feet above the water. And still, they've spotted things that have no significance still.

At this point, they are hanging onto whatever they can in terms of trying to find some trace of Flight 370. At this point, it's the next phase that becomes crucial. Ships, six on their way, some already on there. It is approaching darkness here.

But in the same time, in about eight hours, those ships can start to scour that ocean surface again, try and find those objects spotted by the Chinese plane, and actually pick them up. And that is the goal here, especially as this investigation enters that next phase.

LEMON: Paula, as you know, the sun sets, it's dusk there. The first plane, I understand, is back at Perth. Returned a short time ago. Any update? Any response to, of course, the question, "Have you seen anything?"

NEWTON: Well, they all are starting to come in right now. Unfortunately, we had the news from the Chinese that was first to come in. But as you say, just a few moments ago, another airplane coming in. The news was not good. They said unfortunately, they hadn't spotted anything.

And you know, I've had to explained to me. I've been in the cockpit of these plane when they weren't flying, and I've had it explained to me exactly what happens. And the problem is, Victor, that even if they spot something, they then try and mark it and still don't have success in spotting it again. I want you to listen now to the pilot explaining exactly the procedure that they follow.


RUSSELL ADAMS, FLIGHT CAPTAIN, RAAF: The first test we go through is everybody on board the aircraft will hear the "mark, mark, mark" call up in the front. And the flight station will drop a smoke for you, a flare, which will smoke for about 45 minutes.

At the same time, the attach (ph) group coordinator is going to use a button on the aircraft system that will drop a GPS point. We'll then attempt to maintain visually contact -- or visual contact with the object that's been seen and reposition the aircraft to get photographs of it. Once we've got photographs of the object, we'll be able to send them off for analysis.


NEWTON: What's interesting here is the fact that, if they're able to take photographs of it, that's all they're able to do. They send it back for processing.

But at the same time, it is the ships now that need to come in to be able to take a good, hard look at what they're seeing, on the top of the surface, and determine if that has anything to do with the missing flight.

PAUL: All righty. Paula Newton, good to see you this morning. Thank you so very much. We appreciate it.

But you know, the question is what kinds of challenges are search teams up against, specifically in this new area that they're talking about? Let's discuss that and the latest on the investigation with CNN aviation analyst and former inspector general with the U.S. Transportation Department, Mary Schiavo, and CNN safety analyst and author of "Why Planes Crash," David Soucie.

BLACKWELL: So search teams, of course, now focused on this area that's about 600 to 680 miles closer to Perth than where they spent last week. This morning, a Chinese plane was able to spot these suspicious objects. Is this a promising lead? We'll start with you, Mary.

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, it is a promising lead, but they have to -- they have to close this lead out with the next step, which is getting that on board a ship so it can be analyzed. Until it can be actually looked and determined that it's part of the plane. And then look for clues on the wreckage, and every part of the wreckage has a potential to contain clues such as how it crashed, the ripping or tearing of the parts. If there's any explosive residue; was there any burning? All that will reveal the clues. The sightings are where we start. The examination are what we really want to do on those parts.

PAUL: OK. So David, let me ask you: Are there analysts on these ships who can look at things as they retrieve them? Or do they just collect them and get them back to people who will analyze them on shore in Australia?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: They're doing -- they can transmit the photographs. So what they're expecting is to get the photographs, of course, from the aircraft. Once they've located a piece of debris, they'll take photographs at that point. But that doesn't mean it will be identified there. They would have to bring that back to the Perth, probably, to bring it to the experts there.

BLACKWELL: So Mary, just a couple of days ago, I mean there were first that were the 155 objects that were spotted. Then the 300 objects that were spotted, of course, via satellite.

And now this entirely new position of searching. What happened to the hundreds of items that were apparently enough for the Australian prime minister last week to say very credible leads? What happened to all those?

SCHIAVO: They are no longer considered part of the debris field, or a potential debris field. As I understand it, they have abandoned those items. And they're really, according to the currents, isn't a possibility that the two debris fields can be related. So they have said that those debris fields, they believe, are not from, or potentially from the aircraft. And that the new field is where they are looking. And then by analyzing the currents, they said that the old field could not be part of the new field. It's just two separate areas of debris in the ocean.

BLACKWELL: Now, the Malaysians disagree. They say that it's possible that the current could have pushed those items a few hundred miles. I'd imagine, when you have so many countries involved, that's one of the challenges, is that you have each country speaking for their efforts and their resources.

SCHIAVO: Well, and you can kind of -- and we give the Malaysians the benefit of the doubt. You know, they probably don't want to say all that work was for naught, that that's not where they are. And I don't think all that work was for naught. They had to go look. You cannot have leads and investigation and say, "Aah, we don't want to look there." You have to. That's what you do in an investigation. I mean, you come up with -- you know, with dry holes so many times in an investigation.

Particularly one like this, where it's both a civil investigation, for why did the plane crash and what went on, you know, mechanically and with air traffic control and the altitudes? And then what went on on the criminal side? Is there any criminal activity? A very big investigation. And I think they just aren't willing to say to the people there, the families that those two weeks of searching may have been for naught.

PAUL: OK. David, I wanted to ask you something, because here's what I think doesn't add up for a lot of people. There have been a lot of talk this week that there's a belief this was a mechanical issue or there was some kind of fire. Even though, you know, this plane supposedly was traveling faster than they thought it was initially.

How plausible is it to you that a plane could catch fire or have a mechanical issue and then still fly for another five to six hours without any communication being able to be transmitted?

SOUCIE: Well, it's a good question, but in looking at it in the unique compartment, all the communications equipment, the VHF radio, UHF radio, the ACARS, all of that equipment is in one specific rack within there. So if it were something like that, if it was a fire, smoke, anything like that, I would say it would probably be focused in that area where the communications are. Because separate from that are the navigation, the autopilot system. A All that is really kind of in a separate area within that E&E (ph) compartment. So in my mind, it would be exclusively isolated to that part of the aircraft.

BLACKWELL: All right. Mary Schiavo and David Soucie, thank you both.

SCHIAVO: Thank you.

PAUL: So even if search crews, you know, recover debris from Flight 370, there's one question that's remaining: Did this crew deliberately divert the plane for some reason? Up next, why friends and family defend the captain, despite a firestorm of media attention.

Plus, another earthquake jolt, the Los Angeles area. This is the second one in just weeks. We have details on this coming up.


BLACKWELL: Well, remember this investigation into what happened to 370 is multi-fronted. I mean, you've got the teams scouring the Indian Ocean for the pieces, hoping to find debris. But also, the FBI is combing through evidence from the captain's personal flight simulator.

PAUL: Since Flight 370 vanished three weeks ago, I mean, experts have speculated about pilot suicide. And they've questioned whether the crew deliberately took down this plane. That's been one of the big questions.

BLACKWELL: Yes, but despite a media storm -- a firestorm, rather, of media attention, friends and family say that Shah, the captain, built the simulator for one reason. Because he loved to fly.

CNN's Pamela Brown has more. Pamela, good morning.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christi and Victor, sources say the FBI is close to wrapping up mining the data from the hard drive to Captain Zaharie Shah's flight simulator. So far, it has offered few clues about whether Shah deliberately diverted the plane, but those who knew him are speaking to CNN and shedding new light on the captain.


BROWN (voice-over): The man who helped Captain Zaharie Shah build his home flight simulator now also offering CNN a glimpse into the mind of a better pilot who sources say remains a mysterious key figure in the investigation of Flight 370.

HADOS CANTAGLIANAS (PH), KNEW SHAH: It's not unusual to have a simulator at home. He's just very passionate for his hobby. He wanted to make it as close to real as it can be. BROWN: Hados Cantaglianas (ph) sold Shah some of the parts he used to build his simulator. He tells CNN the 53-year-old father was so interested in making the simulator feel real, he wanted a robotic seat like the one seen here that would mimic what it would feel in the cockpit.

ZAHARIE SHAH, CAPTAIN OF FLIGHT 370: It comes in the form of an ejector.

BROWN: Cantaglianas (ph) says he doesn't believe Shah could have been involved.

CANTAGLIANAS (PH): He was very a very serious down-to-earth guy. Even if he was flying, he's a pilot. But I wouldn't think that you would go that far, you know, to turn a plane around and fly for hours just to do something stupid.

BROWN: Overnight, those who knew Shah and his co-pilot, Fariq Hamid, told "The Wall Street Journal" both men lived ordinary lives. One longtime colleague described Shah as, quote, "The ideal pilot, an invisible pilot."

An acquaintance said he was "patient and efficient and far from a political fanatic."

Neighbors of Hamdi said the 27-year-old first officer was friendly and well-mannered and seldom socialized within the community. Still, investigators are focusing on both men, especially Shah, if for no reason than he was in charge in the cockpit.

SETH JONES, RAND CORPORATION: They're interested in his state of his marriage; his views of Malaysian Airlines, which he apparently was unhappy with what he perceived as mismanagement and corruption. They're looking at his views of his son. He was unhappy with his son for his recent unemployment.

BROWN: So far, sources haven't confirmed those concerns to CNN and say interviews with Shah's family, searches of his home and a forensic examination of his hard drive haven't turned up anything that would explain the plane's disappearance.

Though investigators also say a lack of evidence indicating premeditation also doesn't rule out the theory that one of the pilots could have snapped in the cockpit.

PAT MORSEY, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT: Just because there's no previous history does not mean that the individual couldn't have an episode that led them to do something that they would not normally otherwise do. That happens all the time. Unfortunately.


BROWN: And we want to stress again that there is no evidence on any of the pilots whatsoever, according to the sources, though the investigation is ongoing. The CEO of Malaysia Airlines spoke Friday. He did not speak specifically about the co-pilot and pilot, but did say that all new pilots of the airline go through a thorough psychological examination and have follow-up exams depending on certain conditions, such as their age -- Christi and Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right. Pamela Brown, thank you very much, Pamela.

Still to come on NEW DAY, this is a question that, now that the first lawsuit has been filed, that some will ask.

PAUL: It's an abrupt question.

BLACKWELL: It is. It is. What is your life worth to an airline? Seriously, believe it or not, courts, lawyers, airlines, they put a dollar value on a life after death. And not everyone is equal.

PAUL: And also, for some of you waking up to some shaking this morning, quake in Los Angeles. Look at this. A rock slide flipped over this car in one of the city's famed canyons. We're getting in some new video here of what happened inside a Home Depot store, as well. We're going to show you everything next.


PAUL: We're continuing to follow the missing plane, and we'll have some updates for you in just a second, but the other big story we're watching comes out of California today.

BLACKWELL: Yes, 5.1 magnitude earthquake rattled the Los Angeles area last night. And while, you know, there's no major damage or injuries reported, the quake did manage to start a rock slide that -- look at this -- flipped this car.

PAUL: Nick Valencia joining us now. Nick, in fact, I just got a post on Facebook from somebody named Linda in Riverside County. She said, "It shook us up, and they're we're an hour east of L.A." What do you know?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Far and wide, from Palm Springs, to Riverside, to Orange County. That was the epicenter, about 20 -- I'd say about 20 miles south of downtown Los Angeles.

It was an unusual sequence of events for an earthquake. You have this 3.0 foreshock and then you have this 5.1 earthquake that happened on a busy Friday night. There was a Dodger game going on. Get a lot of people out at restaurants.

We've got this new video that we just got in from our local affiliate that shows some broken water mains. And as you mentioned, Christi, there was no major structural damage. But officials are urging people not to use candles. There could be natural gas lines that are broken. You have that water main break there. And certainly a lot of rattled nerves. This is an area that's pretty used to earthquakes, though. But people are very shaken up, because last week -- a couple weeks ago, guys, you had that earthquake. Now you have another one. So a lot of people on edge a little bit here.

PAUL: Thinking that the big one's coming?


BLACKWELL: But after that first earthquake, everybody is kind of standing and wait for the aftershock?

VALENCIA: That's right. That's right.

And in fact, during a press conference at Cal Tech, there was an aftershock during a press conference. It's pretty amazing. Check this video out.


LUCY JONES, SEISMOLOGIST, U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY: ... depends on where you're feeling it from. Right, well, it's completely where you are. An earthquake of this size lasts for about one second in terms of how the earth is producing energy. If you felt a long slow roll, you're relatively far away from the event. We're having an aftershock now about 2.7.


VALENCIA: They're just kind of taking it in stride there.

PAUL: Yes. She's so -- 2.7 right there.

VALENCIA: So this is on the Puente Hills Fold. It's not the name recognition of San Andreas Fault. But it is an earthquake area, lots of activity there. Back in the late '80s, there was a heavier earthquake there, in '87. Cost millions of dollars of damage; about eight people were killed. So this is a dangerous -- you know, dangerous situation.

And again, no major structural damage. But in a place in Los Angeles, they haven't had a very strong earthquake since the mid-'90s. So people are waiting and kind of...

PAUL: Wondering.

VALENCIA: ... is this a premonition here? You know, is this a precursor of something stronger?


VALENCIA: Hope not.

BLACKWELL: We'll see in just a couple of weeks. Nick Valencia, thank you.

VALENCIA: You got it, Chris.

PAUL: So we are getting more conflicting news. We're wondering is it conflicting news or is it false hope, really, at the end of the day, coming in from Malaysia.

BLACKWELL: Yes. So about a week ago, there was the statement from the Malaysian prime minister that all lives were lost. Well, we're just now being told officials are continuing their search for possible Flight 370 survivors. We'll talk about it.


PAUL: Well, aren't you're up early on a Saturday morning? It's only 6:28, but we're glad that you're with us. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: It's a pleasure to be with you, as well. I'm Victor Blackwell. Let's start this half with five things you need to know for your NEW DAY.

Up first, a Chinese plane has spotted three suspicious objects today in this new search area for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. And five other planes observed some objects in the same vast swath of the Indian Ocean, although none of these objects has been confirmed as being debris from the lost plane. We're going to have much more on the missing plane in about 60 seconds.

No. 2, heavy rain, strong winds, they're hampering rescue work at the site of the Washington state landslide. Look at this. Hundreds of volunteers are there, still looking through the area for any sign of life. But officials are worried the bad weather may cause another landslide. Right now, the official death toll is still at 17 dead and 90 missing.

PAUL: No. 3, the FBI asks a now-dead suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing to be an informant. This is according to court documents found by attorneys representing the sole surviving suspect. The defense says agents approached the accused older brother and asked him to give them information about the Boston Muslim and Chechen communities. The government is denying that, by the way.

No. 4, the security chief for 1 World Trade Center has resigned after an embarrassing string of security breaches. David Velasquez submitted his resignation yesterday. This comes the same week four men were arrested for sliding past security back in September and parachuting from the top of the building. This is allegedly video of that happening.

Two weeks ago, a New Jersey teen snuck past security and climbed to the top of the tower, as well.

BLACKWELL: No. 5, the FBI asking for your help this morning in trying to find whomever points a laser at a Delta flight, temporarily blinding its pilot. The incident happened at New York's LaGuardia Airport back in -- earlier this month. Officials believe the laser beam may have come from a neighborhood in Queens. A $10,000 reward is being offered for tips leading to an arrest.