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Bluefin-21 Robotic Sub Starts Search for MH370; Sea Conditions Bluefin-21 Will Work In; Russian Ship Makes Close Pay to U.S. Ship; Tensions Rising in Ukraine.

Aired April 14, 2014 - 11:30   ET



MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: 30 minutes after the hour. @ THIS HOUR, a robotic submarine is searching for the flight 370 for the first time since the jetliner vanished. It has been 38 days, folks. The U.S. Navy's Bluefin-21 uses SONAR to produce a three dimensional map of the sea floor. Each mission takes 24 hours to complete. So searching the entire area could take as long as two months. With the Bluefin in, the towed pinger located is out because no pings have been detected in six days. Authorities say only one device can search under water at a time.

Also today, authorities announced that an oil slick has been spotted in the search zone but the source has not been determined, and a sample will be tested.

So many questions for, David Soucie, CNN's safety analyst, author of the book "Why Planes Crash."

Good to have you with us. I have so many questions. I hardly know where to start. You and I were chatting off camera. We heard Angus Houston from Australia urging caution and saying, it's going to take some time. You're optimistic.

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST & AUTHOR: I am because I can be. He's not in a position where he can. He's been very good about this. I've been saying before about accident investigations. The key to a good investigation is not to draw conclusions for people but to provide them with the facts which he has done. He's done a really good job of that. I really admire him for how he handled that.

PEREIRA: So why are the facts making you feel positive?


SOUCIE: He's not drawing a conclusion based on the facts but what I'm looking at is that for two hours they received a solid ping. All these other pings that they have received are artifacts. They're bounces. They're not solid. They're not saying, I'm here. I did some math, we did some calculations and based on a three-mile radius of that ping, we're going to say it's somewhere within three miles from that solid line that went through. So you visualize a dome around that pinger, so somewhere in that dome is this two-mile stretch. So if you look at it with two different options, it's either on this side of that stretch or the other side of that stretch.

PEREIRA: You feel that the Bluefin is going to see something?

SOUCIE: I do. The only limitation with the Bluefin is it's altitude -- depth. I'm used to altitude.

PEREIRA: Altitude.

SOUCIE: At its depth. I'm used to altitude.

PEREIRA: Right. Right.

SOUCIE: I've heard from other experts in this field it's going to have a faint image. The SONAR is not going to be a crisp image because it will be about 1500 feet off the bottom of that ocean.

PEREIRA: A faint image of something is better than no image or nothing.

SOUCIE: There you go. That's why I'm confident. Because we haven't seen debris, I'm confident that we've got some pretty big pieces in there. The fact that it's that far off the ground and that it's going to have the SONAR on it, I think the fact that we'll have some big pieces down there, I think we're going to learn quickly what's down there.

PEREIRA: You really think so?

SOUCIE: I really do.

PEREIRA: The oil slick, is it something to you or not?

SOUCIE: You can learn a lot from oil slicks, particularly on this airplane. This airplane has specific oils that they use in it. And it has an oil-to-fuel cooler. It controls the temperature of the oil through using the fuel to keep it cool. If you have a rupture of the oil, most likely it's going to have fuel with it as well. So you can learn a lot from that. If it's not that it's probably hydraulic fluid which in this it's nonflammable. It's not what you use in a ship.

PEREIRA: The testing, is that a fairly quick turn around?

SOUCIE: I've heard it's about four hours. I don't know if that's on board the ship. They might have to get that back to the land.

PEREIRA: We've been talking so much about what we can learn from this. There are many lessons to be learned. At this stage in the investigation, 38 days in, with the deployment of the various technologies they're using, do you think we'll learn something for next time about how soon to deploy some of this technology, about how to use some of this technology?

SOUCIE: I think what we've learned more about rather than this post accident investigation, we've learned more about what we can do to prevent it.

PEREIRA: Sure. Which is the more important aspect.

SOUCIE: Absolutely, it is. I'm so impressed with the international aviation community on this because, just after we started working on this and making known a few things like the 30-day pingers, why didn't we do something about that?


SOUCIE: And now I've heard from my connections in the airlines that they're already saying, even though it's not mandated, even though the regulations haven't been put in place, it's only for aircraft from 2015 forward, they've already started doing it.

PEREIRA: That's great.

SOUCIE: Isn't that awesome?

PEREIRA: That's impressive.

SOUCIE: It puts them in a situation saying we knew we would have done this and now we're doing it. I'm very proud of our community.

PEREIRA: It's going to be interesting to see what more comes out of this on all levels, search and rescue, investigation, communication between nations. We've seen that being criticize.

SOUCIE: Yes. Yes.

PEREIRA: David Soucie, thank you so much for that. Good to have you with us.

SOUCIE: Thank you, Michaela.

PEREIRA: We're answering questions about the search and the mysteries the surrounding this flight. Tweet your questions #370qs or look us up on Facebook. You can like us.

Let's get a look at some of the other stories happening @ THIS HOUR.

In Kansas, the community has gathered for an emotional vigil to remember the victim's of Sunday's shooting. Three people were gunned down when a gunman opened fire on two Jewish facilities. The suspect, Frazier Glenn Allen, is due in court today. Officials say the 73- year-old has long-held ties to white supremacist groups and the Justice Department is looking to see if a federal hate crime law applies in this case.

Tempers have cooled finally over a cattle dispute that threatened to turn violent in Nevada. The Bureau of Land Management started rounding up cattle owned by a family that's been ranching in the area since the 1800s. The BLM said Cliven Bundy's cattle were grazing illegally on federal land and that he owned the government about a billion dollars in back fees. Armed militia groups however sided with Bundy. Rather than risk violence, the BLM called off the roundup and returned 300 head of cattle. A San Francisco 49ers football player has been arrested for allegedly making a bomb threat at LAX. Police say Alden Smith became belligerent, storming away from a TSA screening area, hinting he had a bomb. Police took Smith into custody after they say he refused to cooperate. The team's general manager told the Sacramento newspaper they're disappointed but they're not going to further comment.

Wildlife officers in central Florida shot and killed a bear they believe mauled a woman outside her home. Her husband said she encountered five bears going through their trash and one of them attacked her. She's recovering from bite marks to her head, arm and leg. And three other bears were trapped and also put down. A break ahead. Ahead @ THIS HOUR, the search for flight 370 moves deeper under water. We're going to take a look at the conditions Bluefin-21 would have to deal with deep down.



CAPT. MARK MATTHEWS, U.S. NAVY: So a side-scan SONAR sends out an acoustic signal in the water and listens for it to bounce back and return to the SONAR.


PEREIRA: After 38 days, the search for flight 370 moves deep under water now. I want to show you the Bluefin-21 submarine. We have graphical images of it here. It's going to start scanning the area on the ocean floor where the pings were heard.

Tom Foreman is in Washington and joins us to give us an idea of how of this and how it works -- Tom?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Michaela. The Bluefin is a remarkable piece of technology. So far, we've seen the tow pinger locator so we can listen below the surface. With the Bluefin, you're talking about getting down here and moving around. It's not listening at all. It's mapping by sending out sonic signals and recording what comes back in an elaborate and fancy way. It goes about two and a half miles down, and back and forth in a long, slow process and downloads all that data. When it works properly, when you get hit in the right position, it produces remarkably great images of what the ocean looks like in that area -- Michaela?

PEREIRA: This is the thing that's so interesting that we've been hearing from the very beginning of the search that this is an inaccessible area and Angus Houston adding that this area is new to man. We know very little about it.

FOREMAN: It's like a lot of the deep ocean. There are many places we don't know a whole lot about. Once you get down there, you're in the deep ocean. That's for sure.

Let me clear this away and talk about what we're dealing with here. In terms of depth, the general area we're talking about can be anywhere from 1.5 miles to, say, three miles, three-plus miles down. Down at this level, it's just above freezing. The water pressure is incredibly intense. There's no light at all. So this is operating in a very inhospitable environment. It's actually very calm down here. That's one of the good points. Once they get a sense of what's going on on the floor, once it gets down there and starts taking pictures, we will have a picture of the floor down here. And it's nice and calm down here.

Part of what makes this so inhospitable though is this range of operation. It has to be operated on the surface by a boat up here. The ship on the surface will have to deploy, operate, and retrieve this thing in conditions that can often be very rough up here, all of which can significantly affect its ability to operate down here with the Bluefin. So even though we're talking about a process that can take days or weeks, all you have to do is have some moderate storms come through and you'll lose day after day after day because they can't put this technology in there if they can't support it up here -- Michaela?

PEREIRA: We already saw how weather played a factor in delaying the search early on. Hopefully, it won't be a factor going forward.

Tom Foreman, thanks so much for that.

Ahead @ THIS HOUR, things are certainly getting intense in the Ukraine. Pro-Russian protestors ignored a deadline to abandon government buildings they had seized. The question is what happens next.


PEREIRA: @ THIS HOUR just into the newsroom, a Russian military plane came very close to a U.S. warship in the Black Sea.

Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon to give us an idea of what we know -- Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: News just coming here at the Pentagon about this encounter that actually happened on Saturday. A Russian air force SU-24 came very close, made 12 passes over a 90- minute period near the "USS Donald Cook," which is on training and maneuvers in the Black Sea. Of course, this is all about Ukraine. The U.S. Navy has put a ship into the Black Sea to reassure the European allies there that are nervous about Russia's moves about Ukraine. On Saturday, the Russians apparently responded, making those 12 passes alongside the "Donald Cook." We are told the Russian plane didn't fly directly over the deck of the U.S. Navy warship but flew close enough to get the attention, that the ship called the Russians and tried to reach the cockpit and say back off. The Pentagon this morning calling this provocative and unprofessional. No indication that the fighter jet had missiles under its wings but this is the kind of military activity that the U.S. does not like to see, of course, because when forces get too close to each other you can have accidents. You can have miscalculation. You can have misinterpretation. This was just not what the U.S. wants to see right now in this area of such heightened tensions -- Michaela? PEREIRA: Heightened tensions clearly being seen as a provocation.

Barbara Starr, thank you so much for that.

We want to stay with the situation in Russia now where pro-Russian protesters in Ukraine have taken over a police building. This is the tenth town in eastern Ukraine where they've occupied government buildings. They're ignoring a government deadline to put down their weapons and get out of those buildings or face a major anti-terror operation. While things have been getting rougher on the streets, there's been no major confrontation yet.

Our Nick Paton Walsh is in Donetsk.

We're curious. I think people are wondering how long this standoff can continue.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it seems to be getting worse. I should just give you something we've noticed very strangely here in the city center of Donetsk. Two helicopters, both seemingly military, one certainly an attack helicopter escorting another flew right over the city center. We can only presume their Ukrainian. But of course, that just reminds people quite how on edge this entire region is. We saw this morning a deadline pass which the interim president of Ukraine said the protesters had to give up their weapons and give up the buildings they've been occupying. No indication they're doing that at all. Instead, we heard from Kiev the suggestion perhaps of holding out the possibility that they might consider a referendum on the future of eastern Ukraine, oddly, to be held on the same day as the presidential election. Surely confusing short for voters. But today, we see those protesters moving further towards the buildings, different towns. Two or three more towns today were reporting difficulties. An extremely tense situation here.

I've just been to the local regional administration here in Donetsk in the city center. It's clear they're not even expecting a siege from police any more. So Ukrainian police officers walking calmly past.

The question here, as we hear this messy response from Kiev, where is the Ukrainian government in all of this -- Carol?

PEREIRA: I don't think -- it's actually, Michaela. No problem, Nick. We know, from afar, it's difficult to tell the voices. Not a problem.

Great reporting, stay safe. Keep us updated on the situation there in Ukraine.

Ahead @ THIS HOUR, back to our top story. Why did search crews work so long to drop the sub into the water to look for flight 370? That's one of your great questions we'll put to one of our experts next.


PEREIRA: Welcome back. So glad you've been getting in on the conversation, joining us with questions on Facebook and Twitter.

Let's bring back our aviation analysts, Jeff Wise and Mary Schiavo.

And you guys can tackle some of them.

Mary, why don't we start with you?

Let's start with the Bluefin unmanned sub that was dropped in the search area this morning. Question, why did they wait so long to deploy it?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: They waited so long to deploy the Bluefin 21 because they wanted to get every last ounce of intelligence out of those pingers. They didn't want to pass up the opportunity to narrow in the search zone by finding pinging whatsoever. They were delayed by both the Malaysian and civil military radar lost track of the plane. Whatever time they did have once they got the Inmarsat data, they had to make the best use of it possible. They wrung every ounce of battery juice they could.

PEREIRA: They certainly did.

All right, Jeff, the next one to you. What's the difference between the Bluefin 21 SONAR and the submarine SONAR? Why can't a submarine do the work faster?

JEFF WISE, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: A submarine is a vessel filled with people and designed to travel through the open sea. A larger and more cumbersome piece of equipment. This Bluefin is an autonomous underwater vehicle. You can program it to follow closely the contours of the subsurface area. You don't have to worry so much about losing it if it runs into something underneath the water. It was likened to a Rumba earlier or to an automatic lawn mower. It is designed to go back and forth. It is suited to the task at hand than a large, cumbersome submarine.

PEREIRA: Another question coming in, this one's from Twitter. Mary, we will put it to you. Why don't cabin crews have a way to send distress call from outside the cockpit in case an incident occurs inside the cockpit?

SCHIAVO: What a great question. You know, we struggled with that. I worked on the 9/11 cases for 11 years. And one of the key pieces of information we had were phone calls from flight attendants who used the GTE air phones and their cell phones to get information out. But there was a lot of disagreement over what kind of communications they wanted to keep, the communications and really the command central, if you will, in the flight deck. But, oh, my goodness, those flight attendants worked mightily to get us intelligence on what they had. It's still that way, unfortunately.

PEREIRA: Do you think there will be a change because of this?

SCHIAVO: Well, probably not. I think they will still center the communications central in the flight deck, but I do think they will lengthen communications capability between the cabin and the flight deck. And I think that they will have streaming data. We must have streaming data from this point forward. There's just no excuse for this frantic search on the bottom of the ocean.

PEREIRA: Jeff, we'll put the last question to you. I think it's a question that many of us have considered. When will the search be considered a failure? This person who put this, Don Mont, said, I think this plane is lost forever.

WISE: That's really the million dollar question right now. I was surprised to hear they decide to call off the surface search. There's still a huge amount of ocean they haven't looked at.

As for this underwater search, the area where the pings were found is actually itself rather small. Should be a matter of a day or two's work for this Bluefin to search that area and find out if anything's there. We heard that the Australians are preparing us to engage in a long drawn-out process. What that exactly would involve, it's not entirely clear. The search area will clearly be larger than the immediate area of the pings. But once that gets played out, once that's looked at and, if nothing is found, we'll really be left high and dry.

PEREIRA: We will.

Jeff Wise, Mary Schiavo, and all our viewers, thank you so much for engaging in this question-and-answer period @ THIS HOUR. We really appreciate it. For those of you at home, why don't you like our new Facebook page? It's pretty nice. We're growing and we'd love for you to be a part of it. Go to facebook/@thishour. So easy. Lots of stuff, behind-the- scenes photos, some stories you'll only see on Facebook. And rumor is John Berman will share some of his favorite Crockpot recipes. That's all I'm hearing. All you have to do is like us on Facebook/@thishour.

That is it for us @ THIS HOUR. You get one half of the team, not so bad.

"LEGAL VIEW" with Pamela Brown, my friend, starts right now. Have a great day, everybody.