Return to Transcripts main page


Latest Developments on MH370 Search; Is Multi-Country Partnership Hindering MH370 Search; Answering View Questions About MH370; Deal Between U.S., Israel Could Release Jonathan Pollard.

Aired April 1, 2014 - 13:30   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting from Washington.

The search for Malaysia Airlines flight 370, now entering day 26 and there's still no sign of the missing plane. Here's the latest developments. Malaysia's transport ministry today released the transcript of the final communication between the plane and the air traffic controllers that provides no clues about the plane's disappearance. But it does highlight the criticism over Malaysia's handling of this investigation. Ten aircraft, nine ships, covered 46,000 square miles of the southern Indian Ocean today. Search coordinators have not announced any -- any significant finds. And the head of Australia's new joint agency coordination center warns the search could drag on, in his words, "for a very long time."

So is there anything revealing in those transcripts?

Let's bring in Kit Darby, a retired United Airlines pilot who flew for 30 years, also the president of Kit Darby Aviation Consulting.

Kit, thanks very much for coming in. So you've read the transcript. To me, the average layperson, it sounds pretty routine. Did you see anything at all unusual in those conversations?

KIT DARBY, PRESIDENT, KIT DARBY AVIATION CONSULTING & FORMER PILOT: No, Wolf, I have to say. And it's not textbook, but it's perfectly normal. I think the most remarkable thing is that it is so normal prior to someone or something ending all communications.

BLITZER: Is it bothering you that the final words were not necessarily completely standard? It was a little deviation of what the standard final words would be, when you're leaving the Malaysian air space going into Vietnamese air space?

DARBY: No, sir. The read-back of the clearance would have been one thing that would have been missing. But late at night, you know, this is -- shortcuts are taken like this all of the time. I don't think there was any lapse until there was nothing. And then, of course, after that, who knows.

BLITZER: Because the final words were, "Good night, Malaysian 370." In the protocol, what would have been the correct way of leaving Malaysian air space and entering -- if you were doing it, entering Vietnamese air space?

DARBY: Well, on the final goodbye to Malaysia, he would have repeated the frequency given to him. And as he would have checked in, checked in with his altitude, and he would have been acknowledged, and he would be on his way.

BLITZER: Is it important to release the actual audiotapes so we can hear the conversation?

DARBY: Well, I'm sure every bit of real information -- and there is so little real information -- could be reassuring to those searching for every tidbit, certainly the survivors who are desperate for actual information. But I don't believe it will change the outcome in any way.

BLITZER: What does it say to you -- and I've asked this question frequently, but I'm anxious to get your thoughts -- that two minutes after the final "good night" when the pilot or co pilot -- they're not saying who said it, "Good night Malaysian 370," two minutes after that, as they left Malaysian air space, entering Vietnamese air space, all of a sudden, the plane makes the sharp left turn, goes off its course. It's supposed to go towards Beijing, but then makes a left turn, goes over the Malay Peninsula towards the Indian Ocean. What does that say to you, that that started two minutes after the good night?

DARBY: To me, when I look at it as a pilot, I see an aircraft turning around. So several reasons for that. If it was anything attacking the cockpit, anything that was a threat to the airplane, the pilot would want to get the airplane on the ground right away, would turn back toward Malaysia, would descend. We now have some evidence that that descent occurred, and we certainly have the turn. So a normal pilot reaction to any kind of threat. Or, of course, it could be an action of someone either in the cockpit or outside the cockpit taking of the plane and making a nefarious act.

BLITZER: Malaysian sources are telling CNN, they're deeply suspecting some sort of criminal act to make that plane go off its regular route towards Beijing. Are you ready to make that conclusion?

DARBY: No, sir. To me, you know, to turn back and descend would be a normal pilot reaction to an emergency. We have no evidence that there was an emergency. Or a threat. We really can't choose here. If it was a threat, then obviously, it could be a crime. It could simply be the pilot -- at this point, we can't tell the difference between hero and terrorist.

BLITZER: Well, what -- let's talk a little bit about the notion that if, in fact, there was an emergency, some mechanical problem, wouldn't there have been a way to at least communicate with ground control, with air traffic controllers, May Day, May Day, we've got a big problem here?

DARBY: There are many ways to communicate, on the ACARS, several different radios, there's many ways to communicate. But I'll tell you, the old aviate, navigate and communicate, if the pilot has got his hands full, the last thing he's going to do is communicate. He's going to get it under control and then he's going to communicate.

And there is also the possibility of small errors operating the intercom panel, you know, relatively inexperienced pilot -- a -- what could be a life-threatening situation. A small mistakes could be made that would limit the initial communication. But certainly over the long term, over the life of this flight, there would be no justification for no communication.

BLITZER: Kit Darby, thanks very much for joining us.

DARBY: Thank you.

BLITZER: There's much more ahead on the search for flight 370, including questions about the operation itself, whether a lack of communication delayed the discovery of the right search zone. That's coming up.


BLITZER: More than a dozen countries are now taking part in the search for flight 370, but that partnership may have actually hindered the search.

Brian Todd has been taking a closer look at possible communication breakdowns.

What do you see?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have seen the communication problems that the Malaysian government has had with the reporters and the public in trying to disseminate the information. Now a new report saying that there was a problem coordinating the two, at least two investigative teams, in this investigation. The "Wall Street Journal" today reporting it was a lack of coordination between the teams that actually led them to search that wrong area, presumably the wrong area, of the southern Indian Ocean. And that first initial big search, about 1,500 miles southwest of Perth. The journalists citing people familiar with the matter saying that to determine the plane's path, one team was calculating the speed and the fuel consumption rate of the plane based on radar, and the plane's past performance, while another team worked separately, using pretty much just satellite data, and it was only after the information from both those teams was merged, that they actually shifted the search area, 700 miles to the northeast, where the search area is right now. But that they wasted several precious days in the other area, because simply they didn't coordinate the information between the two teams. And that is, of course, a criticism of the way the Malaysians are handling information, disseminating information.

We have tried to get response from the joint coordination center in Australia, tried to get response from the Malaysians. No immediate response to that. But the Malaysian transportation minister has said, look, we have done the best we could with the information we've gotten. That this is kind of an evolving process. They have defended their handling of this. But this is a kind of damning report on their coordination or lack thereof in getting these teams, these investigative teams to actually share the information, cross reference it and come up with the best data.

BLITZER: Australians are now leading the investigation, the search investigation, right?

TODD: You know, it would seem that. They're clearly taking the lead from Perth, in that joint coordination center that they have just set up, by the way, three weeks in. It is Australian vessels and planes out there really in force more than any other nation's resources. Yes, you get the impression the Australians are leading this, but the Malaysians are part of it, and the Malaysians have to be part of it, of course.

But again, we have seen these criticisms all along, Wolf, in the three weeks -- three-plus weeks that we have been into this of how the Malaysians are handling this. This is another point of criticism and we're trying to get some response.

BLITZER: All right, Brian, thanks very much.

We're also here to answer your questions about the search for flight 370. Send us your questions to Twitter. Use #370Qs. Our experts will offer responses. That's coming up next.


BLITZER: Every day, we receive hundreds of questions from our viewers who want a better understanding about what it is that is not being done in the search for flight 370.

Let's bring back our panel of experts to tackle some of these questions, our aviation analysts, Mark Weiss and Peter Goelz; and our CNN law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes.

Let's get right to the questions.

Tom, Tony tweets, "Why this long before releasing the transcript to the public? No doubt the Malaysian authority hindered success of the search."

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST & FORMER FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR: Great question. I have no idea why they waited this long.

BLITZER: They should have released it right away. Two-and-a-half pages, basically.

FUENTES: Yes, they should.

BLITZER: Mark, here's a question from you. This is from Paul, a pilot. Isn't it true that lots of information can be developed from the recording? I have detected alarms, engine speed and dialogue in cases.

MARK WEISS, CNN AVIATION ANALYST & FORMER PILOT: Yes. You can absolutely get a lot of the information from the recordings. We just need to have those recordings.


BLITZER: And if there is tension in the voices, you can maybe discern that, as well.

WEISS: You can tell the stress level sometimes. As was brought out earlier, this was the first flight for the first officer with a very senior captain, so he may have been a little more stressed. But really would depend on how stressed he would have been.

BLITZER: Because you could compare those audiotapes with previous flights they both had to see if there is any change in their voice, if you want to go that way.

Peter, Adam tweets, "Can the SAT go to original position to recreate ping scenario with current flights Malaysia to Beijing, establishing a reference"?

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST & FORMER NTSB MANAGING DIRECTOR: Well, I think it can go to the -- the satellite can go to the original position. It can retrace its path. But it can't retrace the path of the aircraft.

BLITZER: Because it did make that sharp left turn.

GOELZ: That's right.

BLITZER: For whatever reason.

Tom, Chadwell asks, how long before the MH-370 search returns to the previous area, and when will Inmarsat release ping data for independent review?

FUENTES: I don't know the answer to either one of those. Inmarsat, of course, is providing the information to the Malaysians and the results of their analysis.

As far as the search areas, one other thing about the search area is that, unlike a crash on land, you have an area that's moving. And even if you search one day and everything is clear, it doesn't mean that debris doesn't drift in another day and you have to go back to where you've already searched once. So, the idea of how many years this is going to take to search the ocean on the surface, anyway, they're going to have to go back and research.

BLITZER: Could take forever.

Peter, Kay writes, when a Boeing 777 crashes into the ocean, does it create seismic data? If so, wouldn't that tell where it crashed?

GOELZ: Well, it certainly creates a sound and a noise. It does not create seismic data. In TWA flight 800, there were listening devices that did pick up the sound of the aircraft hitting the water. But these devices were in relatively shallow water, and picked up the sound. In this case, unlikely.

BLITZER: Jake writes this -- Mark, I'll ask you to go on this one -- what changes will be implemented for future air travels technology. Because a bunch of changes should be coming forward. I've said publicly I think they need some sort of international or presidential commission to learn from the lessons of Malaysian flight 370 to make sure whatever happened doesn't happen again.

WEISS: Jake, you know, the situation is this. NTSB and all the other investigating agencies will come up with a probable cause. Now it's going to be up to the governments to have pressure put upon them by the traveling public, by the airline organizations, by aviation organizations to make something happen. We know that technology exists to prevent this type of prolonged agony from continuing on in the future. And I think Wolf is absolutely right.

BLITZER: Peter, I think two changes should go forward as quickly as possible. Making it impossible to turn off the transponder in the cockpit. You could turn it off if you're on the ground but when you're at an elevation, you can't turn off the transponder. That would be a relatively easy change. And the other one is Livestream, the flight data and voice recorders, so even if the plane is lost and you lose those black boxes, you'll still have that information.

GOELZ: Yes. And there have been questions raised about live streaming in terms of the data pipe and whether this would overload the satellites, but those questions can really be addressed now. And you can do it if the plane leaves into an unusual attitude or violates its flight plan and then the streaming begins. There's a number of ways you can address that. But, Wolf, you're right. There's no reason not to have those two changes almost immediately.

BLITZER: I think they should look at putting a video camera in the cockpit, too, but I know pilots don't like that.

All right, we'll continue this tomorrow, as we always do. Thanks very much.

I'll have much more coverage of the mystery of flight 370. That's coming up.

Also, a spy and a political pawn. Israel and the United States now discussing the fate of Jonathan Jay Pollard. What would his release mean to the peace process? We'll take a closer look.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: The White House has just announced that 7,041,000 people have signed up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act. That from the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, just moments ago. They've reached their anticipated goal of seven million. The White House making that announcement. The president will be speaking about it at 4:15 p.m. eastern from the Rose Garden at the White House. We'll have live coverage. Once again, according to the White House, 7,041,000 people have signed up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

We'll have much more on that. We'll have much more on the flight 370 coming up.

But there are now rumblings out there that a deal may be close between the United States and Israel on the release of Jonathan Jay Pollard. Pollard, an American civilian government employee working for Naval Intelligence, was convicted of passing U.S. military secrets to Israel. He was sentenced to life in prison back in 1987. Pollard's status was likely part of the discussion between the secretary of state, John Kerry, and the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when they met earlier today. Kerry will be back in Israel tomorrow.

Joining me now is Aaron David Miller, Middle East analyst now with the Wilson International Center here in Washington.

You just wrote a tough piece, a very strong piece for "Time" magazine, "You Can't Trade Pollard for Peace." Why not?

AARON DAVID MILLER, MIDDLE EAST ANALYST & VICE PRESIDENT, NEW INITIATIVES, WILSON INTERNATIONAL CENTER: Well, it's logic. It's compelling logic. Four U.S. presidents -- Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton twice, and George W. Bush twice, when faced with Israeli entreaties, declined to release Pollard. Clinton came close at the Wide River Summit in October of 1998. But neither on security grounds nor was the quo ever worth the quid. So the question you have to ask yourself is, why now? Why would Barack Obama and John Kerry consider doing something that four presidents wouldn't do?

BLITZER: I guess it's partly to keep the peace process with the Palestinians going right now. Because the Israelis are being asked to release dozens, if not hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. Some who have been convicted for terrorism, murder, other crimes. The Israelis are ready to do that. And so what's the big deal if they release Pollard, who served almost 30 years?

MILLER: The big deal is this, it seems to me, that releasing Pollard isn't going to answer the mail with respect to what ails the peace process. What ails the peace process is not the absence of prisoner releases, and it's certainly not Jonathan Pollard. It's fundamental mistrust between Netanyahu and Abbas. We're going to find ourselves three, four, five months from now faced with the same predicament. It seems to me, it's actually pretty compelling, that if you can't get something consequential for Pollard, why trade him? Trade him for time. If you told me we're getting the fix to Jerusalem borders, we're getting a framework agreement, I'd be right there breaking open the champagne. If the president wants to let Pollard go, let him release Pollard on humanitarian grounds. Served long enough, he's ill, let him do that. But don't conflate Jonathan Pollard's apples to peace process's oranges and undermine the morale of the peace process.

BLITZER: As you used to negotiate with the peace process, you're very familiar with all of this. But if this makes it easier for Prime Minister Netanyahu to make the kinds of concessions the Palestinians want, the U.S. want, for domestic political reasons -- because as you know Pollard is a big issue over there in Israel, a lot of Israelis think he was betrayed by the Israeli government itself. If this makes it easier for Netanyahu to make those kinds of concessions, whether settlements or Jerusalem or whatever, wouldn't that be worth it from the U.S. perspective?

MILLER: If the release of Jonathan Pollard would induce the prime minister of Israel to fundamentally change positions on Jerusalem borders, security and refugees --

BLITZER: So-called final status issues.

MILLER: Well, absolutely.


MILLER: But, Wolf, it won't. And you remember in the fall of 2010, the administration, in order to secure a two-month extension of the settlements freeze, willing to give the Israelis F-35s and a lot of other military equipment for a two-month extension. This, Wolf, is a tactic -- I pointed it out in the piece -- in search of a strategy. I have no problem with the Israelis asking. Pollard is like a fallen soldier to them. They abandoned him. As you know, you wrote the book on it. They abandoned him. In 1998, they reclaimed responsibility for him. That their asking is not the problem. The issue is, why are we acquiescing, and to buy time for a process that is fundamentally impaired.

BLITZER: It's not a done deal yet but just talking about this --


MILLER: It sure isn't. And I hope the White House --


BLITZER: We'll see what happens. I remember the Y River (ph) talks.


They got very close, but George Tenet said he would resign if they were --


MILLER: And we got the deal without Pollard.

BLITZER: We'll have much more on this story, much more on all the other day's news coming up.

I'll be back 5:00 p.m. Eastern, a special two-hour edition of "THE SITUATION ROOM."

NEWSROOM with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Wolf Blitzer.