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Search Narrowing as MH-370 Black Box Batteries Running Out; Families Hold Vigil, Show Distrust of Governments Involved in MH-370 Search; Jeb Bush Takes on Divisive Issue of Immigration; Answering Viewer Questions about MH-370.

Aired April 7, 2014 - 13:30   ET



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

There are new developments that are raising hopes of finding Malaysian Airlines flight 370. We're entering day 32 since the plane disappeared. Here are some of the latest developments. Search crews are following up on their most promising lead so far. A U.S. pinger locator in the Indian Ocean detected not one but two separate signals. Officials say they are consistent with beacons coming from the two plane's black boxes. If authorities pick up the signals again, they could deploy an underwater vehicle to take pictures to confirm the plane has been found. Time though is a major factor. The batteries on the black boxes only have an expected life of about 30 days or so. The head of the joint search committee says, "We hope they keep going a little bit longer, maybe a few extra days." That would certainly help.

With that pinger locator on site, what exactly are its capabilities?

Brian Todd is here. He's been taking a closer look at the technology, what it means, what they're searching for.

This is pretty advanced technology.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's very advanced, Wolf. And we got access to the place that makes the towed pinger locator. This is Phoenix International, in suburban Maryland, near D.C., here. It's got a lot of good capabilities, a lot of very impressive capabilities but also some limitations. This is an extraordinary find if it is the black box for two reasons. Number one, the pinger may be -- the battery life in the pinger may be dying out if it hasn't already. Number two, what we've always been told about the towed pinger locator, is, really, to be most effective, it needs to have a confirmed piece of wreckage already found. We haven't found that yet. The makers say it's got to have that to basically have a starting point. It never had that starting point. They just put it in the water. It was a Hail Mary pass. Now it looks as if it may, may have found signals consistent with the black box. It could be a major find here, Wolf. That's extraordinary for the odds it was up against.

BLITZER: This U.S.-made towed pinger locator, what kind of track record does it have in finding these black boxes?

TODD: It has a good one overall. In the last 18 years, it has been used four times in major air accidents in water, and three of those times, it detected the pingers in question, including the Egypt Air crash in 1999 in the Atlantic Ocean. The only time the manufacturer says it failed was from the 2009 Air France crash in the Atlantic. It went over the black box and did not find the black box. But the manufacture says that's because the actual pinger from those black boxes became separated from the black boxes and they had been damaged. They say the track record is excellent. If this is the find that it could be, the black boxes we're talking about, it's an extraordinary find for this device.

BLITZER: It certainly is.

All right, Brian, thanks very much.

Now that this technology's in place, searching for more signals, what can we expect next?

Art Wright is the operations manager at Williams & Associates, also a retired Navy captain. He's joining us from Seattle.

Thank you very much for coming in.

First, let's talk a little bit about that Chinese signal detected over the weekend. Do you have any confidence that's the real deal?

ART WRIGHT, OPERATIONS MANAGER, WILLIAMS & ASSOCIATES & RETIRED NAVY CAPTAIN: There could only be one black box. The Navy signal seems to be a better signal than the one the Chinese found, and certainly it's a different location.


BLITZER: But there's two black boxes. There's flight data recorder and a cockpit voice recorder. You assume, as do I and everybody else, that both of those black boxes would be relatively near each other, right?

WRIGHT: I would certainly assume that.

BLITZER: You couldn't expect one to be 300 or 400 miles away from the other. That would be most unlikely. So let's assume --


BLITZER: -- you agree with that, right?

WRIGHT: Right.

BLITZER: Let's assume the Chinese -- that that's not realistic. But when the U.S. Navy says they've heard beacons coming for two hours from one site and a few hundred meters away from a second site, one for two hours, one for 15 minutes, that sounds a lot more encouraging to me. I assume to you as well. WRIGHT: That certainly does.

BLITZER: All right. So what happens next? Let's assume, because the U.S. Navy says -- I'll read to you a line of what they say, "Acquisition the two signals is encouraging but we're still only cautiously optimistic. Kept pending confirmation of the black boxes by the PTL" -- the ping, the locator, if you will. That's the towed pinger locator, that's the TPL, again -- "in visual confirmation by the BlueFin-21 side-scan SONAR." So walk us through what's going on now.

WRIGHT: Right now, the Navy with the pinger locator wants to make one more run, and then they can correlate all that information and come up with a location. That pinger on the aircraft is good for, you know, four to seven miles. So right now if that is indeed the aircraft wreck, the location is pinned down within four to seven miles. And that's --


BLITZER: I was going to say, even if the batteries dry out and stop working, you still have a relatively small area to search.

WRIGHT: That's right. The next step is to get that AUV, the BlueFin, on station and send her down.

BLITZER: Here's what confuses me. Usually, they find those black boxes -- and there are two of them -- after they've spotted some wreckage. In this case, as far as we know, they haven't spotted any wreckage whatsoever. So how unusual is it to find a beacon coming from the flight data and the cockpit voice recorders without spotting any wreckage at all?

WRIGHT: I think somebody in the search area organization knows something that we don't know. I suspect perhaps a small seismic event when the plane hit the water might have been recorded on a very precise seismic recorder, would pinpoint a location. In addition, with the current tables they have in that area, I'm sure, given the location, they could say, if a plane crashed here, the debris would be, at this point, way downstream now, and they can go search that area, maybe find some debris.

BLITZER: I agree with you. I suspect the authorities are on to some information they don't want to share publicly because it might undermine U.S. or other country's sources and methods, how they collect this kind of sensitive information. We don't know this to be true, but I suspect they may have additional information if, in fact, they have located it. It's a huge if -- if they've located these two black boxes.

Art, I want you to stay with us because we have a lot more questions. You're the expert on this subject. We're going to be coming to you. Our viewers have a lot of questions as well. So stand by.

Now, Tuesday, April 8th, in Asia, family members are holding a candlelight vigil to mark one month since the disappearance of flight 370. We're going to Beijing when we come back.


BLITZER: Today, family members of flight 370 passengers are marking one month since the flight disappeared. And this comes as they listen intently to reports of pulse signals being detected in the Indian Ocean. But Sarah Bajc, partner of American passenger, Philip Wood, quote, "Until they physically locate the bulk of the plane with the black box intact and passenger bodies, I won't believe it. A few bits and pieces of wreckage or a pinging that isn't verified could just be planted evidence meant to distract us families of the passengers."

David McKenzie joining us from Beijing.

David, families are marking this one-month disappearance, and I'm sure they're all sickened or heartbroken. Tell us what they're doing in Beijing.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, they're holding this vigil through the night here in Asia, exactly on the time that this flight would have flown a month ago. They're going to be up all night. They've held this candlelit vigil. They've got the shape of a heart and MH-370 and a plane in candles. There are many family members sitting around there praying, not a dry eye in the room, frankly. They're just devastated at this point. Not because necessarily of this latest news, but because they've gone through this month of harrowing experience. All from when this plane originally vanished and didn't arrive here in Beijing in the early morning hours a month ago, up until all the false leads, the hope that they've had over these days that we've been following this, including when they were told that the plane went down. There were ambulances in this hotel taking people off to hospital. Now they're more resigned, exhausted, I have to say, Wolf, just trying to get through day by day. In a way, it feels like the grieving process is starting tonight here in Beijing -- Wolf?

BLITZER: When they hear the U.S. Navy 7th Fleet out in the Pacific say these words that they are "cautiously optimistic," that they may have found the two black boxes, the flight data, the cockpit voice recorders, what are they saying to you about that?

MCKENZIE: Well, they're saying pretty much what Sarah has been saying as well, you know, to the person, that I've spoken to, Wolf, the family members say that they really want concrete evidence before they believe or they know they can have some closure. They've had so many leads over this time, the satellite leads, the data analysis, and now the word that there might be this ping response from the bottom of the ocean. For people who want to know where their loved ones are, what happened to them, these are very kind of non-concrete things. They want to grasp hold of something or see something, a bit of wreckage. And that reflects also what the searchers are saying in Perth. Until that point happens, I don't think these people can have any kind of closure. And they've been stuck in this limbo for days and days and days, 31 days, in fact, as they hold this vigil all through the night, in fact, tracking what exactly they know about what happened to the plane when it happened. So when the sun rises tomorrow here in Beijing, they'll still be there praying for their loved ones, and possibly no closer to knowing the truth, though there might be some hope now they could have closure.

BLITZER: We'll check back with you, David. Thanks very much.

David McKenzie, our man in Beijing.

We'll have much more coverage of the search for flight 370 and all the new developments. That's coming up.

Also, another story we're following, Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, is he going to run for president of the United States? If he is, he's taking on, right now, an issue that has divided the GOP.


BLITZER: The former Florida Governor Jeb Bush's name often comes up when Republicans start talking about presidential contenders. If he does run, Bush is tackling head-on one of the deep issues dividing the GOP, illegal immigration. Speaking at an event celebrating the 25th anniversary of his father's presidency, Bush says people who come to the United States illegally are often looking for a way to give their families a better life.


JEB BUSH, (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: Yes, they broke the law, but it's not a felony. It's kind of -- it's an act of love. It's an act of commitment to your family.


BLITZER: Our chief congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is here with me watching this.

That's pretty bold if, in fact, he wants to win that Republican nomination taking on an issue like this.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It sure is. Look, it is something that Jeb Bush believes, has been outspoken about for a long time. But as you said, given the context of where we are right now, parsing everything that any of these potential candidates say, especially Jeb Bush, who is really holding his cards close to the vest, it's fascinating. He is talking about this issue of illegal immigration in a way that no other potential Republican candidate is, as a humanitarian issue, not a criminal issue. Those close to him say, for obvious reasons, he lives it every day. He lives in Miami. He speaks Spanish. His wife is Mexican-American. He's immersed himself even as a two-term governor in Florida in these issues. And he definitely is different from so many people, most of the people in his own party. It really does show you, as you mentioned, that if he does decide to run, you are going to see a very robust debate inside the Republican Party about very big issues that have been divisive. And really, look what happened to the party when his brother was president and he tried to push this issue.

BLITZER: A lot of Republicans know they lost Florida twice --

BASH: Exactly.

BLITZER: -- to President Obama. Florida, a key Electoral College state. If they're going to win the election, they have to carry Florida, a few other states, Ohio, for example, as well.


BASH: Exactly. And on a national level, it's why you see so many big donors, establish Republicans look towards him, as Christie has had trouble in New Jersey, the other front runner --


BLITZER: I want you to listen to what Jeb Bush said about 2016.

BASH: Sure.


BUSH: I go about my business each day trying to avoid having to think about it. I've got a lot of work today. And I have a fulfilled life. And at some point, pretty soon -- you know, it won't be a year from now --



BUSH: End of the year, I'll make a decision.


BLITZER: That sounds like somebody who is seriously thinking about running for that Republican nomination. And he was very popular in Florida.

BASH: Very popular in Florida. Seriously considering it. But what I thought was fascinating about that was that he said he goes through his life every day trying to avoid having to think about it. He's coming across as somebody who does not have the fire in the belly, which is making a lot of Republicans say, oh, he is not going to do it at the end of the day. The flip side, I talked to a source close to him just today, who said that is just Jeb Bush. He is a very disciplined person who has a very full professional life right now, working on these education issues and other issues, and that he goes through things methodically and he isn't going to decide until later.

The other thing that was striking was the way he really went after the process in that answer. He, at another point, said that he doesn't want to get into small-ball political campaign tactics, which is what you see in today's day and age. He wants to have a big policy debate. Unclear if it's in 2016. But that's the kind of forum for a Jeb Bush.


BLITZER: A moderate Republican popular in Florida, will be popular in Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina, and some of the early primary caucus states.

All right, we have a lot to assess in the coming months.

Thanks very much.

BASH: Thanks.

BLITZER: Let's take a quick look at what the markets are doing today. Not so good. The Dow is down about 145 points. Investors are struggling after Friday when the Dow dropped a full 1 percent. Nest up for Wall Street, some important earnings later this week, including Alcoa, a couple of banks, JPMorgan-Chase and Wells Fargo.

Tonight, a new champion to be crowned in college basketball. Facing off in the final is the University of Connecticut, who came into the tournament as a number-seven seed. But just four years ago, they won it all. On the opposite side, perennial powerhouse Kentucky, they won the title two years ago but, this year, they are led by an all- freshman starting five. They came into the tournament as a number- eight seed.

More coverage coming up on the most promising lead yet in the search for Malaysia Airlines flight 370. Our expert panel, they're here. They will answer your questions about the route the flight took and the search for the wreckage.


BLITZER: Every day we get tons of questions from viewers in the United States and around the world, looking for a better explanation of the search in flight 370.

Let's bring back our panel of experts for their thoughts on the things you are finding hard to understand, like all of us. Our aviation analysts, Mark Weiss and Peter Goelz; our law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes; and also joining us once again from Seattle, retired U.S. Navy captain, Art Wright.

Art, the first question to you from Dpak. Can you experts confirm whether submarine will do better at this point to search?

Do you think a submarine will help?

WRIGHT: A submarine, a manned submarine would not help here. We're using an AUV, which can go down do a 4400-meters depth to search for the wreckage.

BLITZER: You're talking about an unmanned drone, if you will.

WRIGHT: A drone submarine.

BLITZER: A vehicle that could go down. That would be a lot better than a submarine.

Here is a question from Blair for you, Tom. Could the surface scanner shown on Chinese news be a cover for more advanced technology that they don't want others to know about?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST & FORMER FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR: Could be. I thought they had to have more than a sound device on a stick focused on the water, but apparently people are saying that is what they have.

BLITZER: Yeah, all right.

Here is another question for Mark. Vern writes, does the ping area match the out-of-gas scenario, when the plane would have run out of gas where they are finding maybe some pings coming from the two black boxes?

MARK WEISS, CNN AVIATION ANALYST & FORMER PILOT: Vern, it certainly seems that way. If you take the range of the aircraft, and depending on the altitude, that would have been one of the areas to search.

BLITZER: Here's a question from Jeffrey for Peter. How do they triangulate the ping location? Can it be done?

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST & FORMER NTSB DIRECTOR: It can be done but you have got to get a couple of passes over the location where you're picking up the ping.

BLITZER: That's why the U.S. Navy, in the statement they put out, the 7th Fleet said they are cautiously optimistic acquisition of the two signals is encouraging, we are still only cautiously optimistic pending confirmation of the black boxes by the PTL and get a visual confirmation with the BlueFin-21 --


GOELZ: That's right. The "Ocean Shield" is going to get back over and reacquire that thing from a different location and start locking it in.

BLITZER: Art, here is a question from Tammy. Could boxes be separated from the plane? The voice recorder, data recorder, could they be separated from the plane? In other words, the plane being in a totally different location?

WRIGHT: It would not be in a totally different location. The black boxes would be in the wreckage or near the wreckage.

BLITZER: So it would be very close. So if you find the black boxes, you have found the plane?

WRIGHT: You will find the plane, yes.

BLITZER: You agree with that, Mark?

WEISS: Yes, depending on how the aircraft broke up. BLITZER: You assume it did break up, assuming it went into the Indian Ocean and crashed in there?

WEISS: It's like hitting concrete.

BLITZER: There is no way it could have floated in smoothly, Sully Sullenberger image, just floated in?

WEISS: It's not the Hudson.


Here's a question, Mark, for you. Could a flight crew member intent on disappearing the plane have disabled or damaged the black box to leave no record.

WEISS: No, no. They're I the tail of the aircraft.

BLITZER: There is no access from the cockpit or inside the cabin.

WEISS: They're in the tail of the cabin.

BLITZER: If that right?

GOELZ: Yes, it is. But they could have pulled circuit breakers which would have stopped either one of the boxes from working.

BLITZER: All right.

GOELZ: So we don't know.

BLITZER: All right. We have a lot more questions. And we will continue to try to answer questions for all of our viewers.

Thanks to all of you for helping us this hour.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I will be back 5:00 p.m. eastern. Later today, another special edition of "The Situation Room." Until then, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer, in Washington.

NEWSROOM with Brianna Keilar starts right now.