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Asiana Crash Pilot Warned Four Times; Pope Francis -- "Time's" Person of the Year; Franklin Graham Asks Prayers for Father, Billy; Lost Nevada Family Warmed Rocks to Survive Cold; Elian Gonzales Speaks Against U.S.; More Obamacare Hearings on the Hill; Bipartisan Budget Deal Constructed

Aired December 11, 2013 - 11:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It is Wednesday, January (SIC) 11th. Welcome to "LEGAL VIEW".

And happening right now, a National Transportation Safety Board hearing on the crash of Asiana Airlines plane in San Francisco. That Boeing 777 crash back in July killing three people and injuring 181. And this morning we're learning, get this, that it could have been because the pilots were relying too much on their automated computers to fly and land the plan.

Our Renee Marsh is here to explain it all to us. So Renee, walk me through why we're perhaps just learning about this now and just how serious is it that this could be about reliance on computers?

RENEE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ashleigh, number one, this is serious. This is major information that we now know. And this information was just released by the NTSB just moments before this hearing got underway today.

Here's what we know. We know that Asiana Flight 214 came in too low and too slow at San Francisco's Airport. But now new information from the NTSB is painting a picture about possibly why. We know three major things. I'll tell you, Ashleigh, they are mind boggling. Imagine a few possibilities here. You're a passenger on a plane and a pilot in the cockpit either didn't fully understand how to operate the automated systems in the cockpit, or they weren't probably monitoring the systems.

Any way you look at it, those are very horrifying possibilities.

So, now, based on the information we're getting from the NTSB, we know that investigators are concerned about pilot's overreliance on automated systems in the cockpit, specifically, when it comes to the plane's auto-throttle.

And the auto-throttle is similar to what you would find in vehicle of cruise control. It presets how much power goes to the engine and it also, in turn, sets the speed of the plane.

Now, the NTSB says that Asiana's pilots thought that the auto-throttle was engaged, but it turns out it wasn't, and that caused the plane to fall to a dangerously slow speed. It also suggests a few things, Ashleigh. The pilots didn't recognize the auto-throttle was disengaged, they weren't crosschecking their equipment, or, again, they fully didn't understand how to operate this automated system on the triple 7.

All of those very scary, scary possibilities when you consider this plane had passengers on board.


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And that we all get on planes and assume that the systems are perfect.

Rene Marsh, thank you for that reporting.

I want to move on now, because if that pilot or if that plane crashed because of pilot error, what does it mean for the investigation of this entire incident?

Perhaps the person best to speak to this is Mary Schiavo. She's an aviation attorney, but even more pointedly, she's the former inspector-general of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Ms. Schiavo, thanks so much for being here today.


BANFIELD: I could not believe it when I heard that headline that the pilots may have been relying too much on the automated systems.

I thought everyone relies on those. I thought that's what automated systems were for. Are they actually foul-able?

SCHIAVO: Certainly, the automated systems are there for safety. They're there to protect the planes, the pilots, the passengers. And had it been on, it wouldn't have happened.

But here, since it was off, you know, some criticism is that the pilot relied too much, expecting it to be on. No. You have to be trained in this system and you need to know when the systems are on and off.

And here the pilot was warned four times. They had three people in the cockpit, and they had a first officer seated behind them, and warned them about excessive sink rate. And that means you're losing your altitude and you're losing your airspeed.

Airspeed is altitude. So that not only goes to not knowing your systems, that is the most basic rule in flying. You learn that the first day of flight school, altitude and airspeed.

BANFIELD: Right. And I'm a neophyte here, but when I read those headlines, it's the first thing I assume, too. You know how fast you're coming in. You know how fast you're coming in behind a parked car, for God's sake.

So why, then, is it that this pilot wouldn't have known that the autopilot wasn't on? How does that work?

He was an experienced pilot. It's not like this was his first day at the rodeo.

SCHIAVO: He was pretty new in this plane, but it comes down to training. Now the NTSB, the hearings are going on all day, and they have been questioning Boeing.

And they said, Boeing, was this good enough in the manuals? Did you have enough training? Did you alert the people in the training modules?

And Boeing did say that they moved this from chapter 9 to chapter 4, but that it was always in the manuals and they always trained for it.

So the NTSB will be looking at whether it was sufficient enough in the training, whether Boeing had a training module that was good enough, if the airline had a training module good enough.

That's the NTSB's job to make recommendations to maybe improve the training, the awareness, the monitoring of these electronics system.

But responsibility-wise, it's Asiana. You must have pilots that are trained. They must know their systems.

And, so, outside of the NTSB and legally, they -- people will be looking to Asiana, maybe Boeing.

And, of course. the hearing hasn't yet addressed San Francisco and what their role was in the runway construction, the markings, and, of course, the tragic injury and killing of a young girl by the fire department.

BANFIELD: It's distressing nonetheless, and we haven't even touched on the culture.

I know in prior crashes before, the Korean culture of deference has played in. I don't know whether they're going to get to that in this instance or not, but just -- can you give me about 20 seconds or so on whether this is still a problem in 2013, deference in the cockpit to your seniors?

SCHIAVO: Absolutely. Still a huge problem. The U.S. has addressed it with crew resource management and you must challenge, challenge, challenge.

But I worked the KAL crash in Guam, as well. and there the culture was a real problem, and in some cultures, they just will not challenge their superiors.

And, fortunately for us in the cockpit, we don't have a problem with that. Americans challenge everyone. But other cultures, they just will not. And here it could have been a very fatal mistake.

BANFIELD: All right, Mary Schiavo, good to talk to you. Thanks for your insight. Do appreciate it. SCHIAVO: Thank you.

BANFIELD: So, moving on to some other top news today, after nine months on the job, Pope Francis, getting quite an honor, he's been christened "Time's" Person of Year.

The magazine says the first Latin American pontiff is a, quote, "superstar poised to transform a place that measures changes by the century." That would be the Vatican, which says that the pope does not look for honors but is happy if his message is simply received.

The Reverend Billy Graham's son is asking people to pray for his dad. Franklin Graham says his father, shown here on his 95th birthday last month, is extremely weak, but that his vital signs are good.

Graham spent two days in the hospital recently for a respiratory infection before returning to his North Carolina home.

Bidding goodbye to an anti-apartheid icon, today marks the first of three days Nelson Mandela's body will lie in state at the seat of South Africa's government.

Long lines are expected to form from the very early hours of the morning tomorrow and Friday, as well.

And also this hour, a memorial service at the National Cathedral, Vice President Joe Biden is one of the speakers slotted in to speak.

Coming up just ahead, staying warm by burning a spare tire and heating rocks, brilliant, simply brilliant, and basic survival, too, the skills that kept a Nevada family alive while stranded in 20-below temperatures.


BANFIELD: Welcome back.

They spent 48 hours in subzero temperatures, in fact, 20-below-zero temperatures, and yet not one member of this family of six had frostbite.

Rescuers found James Glanton, his girlfriend and four children, alive and safe after their SUV slid down an embankment on its top and ended in a crevice 15 miles from Lovelock, Nevada.

Dad did such a great job, apparently the kids didn't even seem to be bothered. They just figured they were out camping, and yet all these people cheering when they came back and went straight into the hospital.

Stephanie Elam is live in Lovelock, Nevada. Stephanie, this has just been such a great story in terms of the ending we didn't expect, but it's not over yet.

Where's the family now? Are they talking yet? And are they OK?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're waking up. That's what they're doing at this point.

But, yes, they are, all in all, OK. They had a little bit of hypothermia, some dehydration. but everybody came into the hospital walking and talking, eating, drinking, all the things that they would need to be doing, the doctors said.

So, they spent the night here for observation. Hopefully, they got a good night's rest. We're understanding that they're waking up. But, all in all, they're expected to leave the hospital today.

BANFIELD: And what about just general statements and comments? Do we know if they're -- first of all, do they have any idea what a big deal this has been and how many people knew that their -- that they had this plight?

ELAM: That's what everyone wants to find out. We know that they're just waking up. Everyone wants to hear from the family, so we're hoping to see that maybe they'll make a statement at this point.

What we did hear is that this was viewed as a Christmas miracle. This is a small, rural community where we are, out here in the northwestern part of Nevada, so everyone here efforting the search efforts to find this family.

So, they're looking at this as a Christmas miracle and looking at it as a little extra blessing, going into the Christmas holiday.

BANFIELD: And what are the officials saying? Like the department of public safety, the people who worked so hard that ultimately got the result that they didn't expect to get and were thrilled to get?

ELAM: The thing that they did was they made a lot of decisions that were right. In fact, take a listen to Paul Burke, he's from the Nevada department of public safety, as to what they did right to stay alive and to stay warm.


PAUL BURKE, NEVADA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: As soon as this happened, they stopped, they stayed together. The survivability goes up incredibly high when people stay together.

If they were to separate, if he were to walk away to try to find help, chances are he wouldn't have survived and most likely the family wouldn't have survived.

So, staying together and staying warm, that was the key to their survival.


ELAM: And you know how many times we hear these kind of stories that don't have this outcome, especially after two days out in that sort of bitter cold, so the fact that these people are familiar with the area, they're from here, they know how to live out here, they were dressed to play in the snow, so they did have on warm clothes, all of that working to their aid.

And, obviously, just a very great outcome that everyone's OK.

BANFIELD: Look, I'm from Canada, and I know full well if you go out in the severe winter driving, you take a candle, you take a bunch of other things for your emergency equipment, but that's because I grew up in minus-40.

Typically in Nevada, you don't really have that, but yet this dad knew what to do.

Do we know that he made it up as he went along, the warming of rocks, the burning of the spare tire, et cetera?

ELAM: That's what we want to know. It was very ingenious, this plan to start a fire, warm up the rocks, bring them into the car.

And keep in mind, the car is upside down, so they were actually sitting on the roof inside the car with these warm rocks, keeping their hands warm and keeping the kids engaged so that they weren't caught up. And that was really key here.

BANFIELD: Just amazing.

All right, Stephanie, keep us posted the minute they come out of the hospital, and if they want to speak, clearly we want to get that on the news, as well.

Stephanie Elam, live for us, thank you.

Just ahead, this is an image that few of us will ever forget. Elian Gonzalez, he was the face of an international custody battle when federal agents stormed into his home and into the closet. Look at that terror on his face.

Well, eventually, they took him from the arms of his extended family and set him back to Cuba to be with his dad.

And nearly 14 years later, he's got some pretty harsh words for the United States government.

What he's saying about this country, after the break.


BANFIELD: One of the first stories of my network news career was the story of Elian Gonzalez, one cute little six-year-old boy, who with his mom got in a boat escaping Cuba, coming to the U.S. The boat didn't make it and neither did his mom, but Elian was found floating in an inner tube. Again, six.

The American officials brought him ashore and then they needed to decide what to do. Do they send him back to his dad in Cuba or do they give him to his relatives in America, where they undoubtedly thought his life would be better? And thus was born and international custody battle that started 14 years ago and ended this way. The photo most of the you remember, as federal agents stormed into the relatives' house. made the decision in Miami to return him to his dad in Cuba. Awful picture.

But the result, he went home to his dad. CNN caught up with him now 14 years later in Ecuador, and he is not holding back any opinions about the relations between the United States and his home country, and he is blaming the United States for Cuba's economic troubles and saying a whole lot more about us too. Rosa Flores has the story.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is how the world remembers Elian Gonzalez, a frightened 6-year-old getting pulled from his Miami's family home by federal agents and sent to Cuba to live with his father. That was in 2000. This is him today. He's 20, a cadet at a military school in Cuba studying engineering.

Gonzalez says he hasn't suffered any long lasting psychological trauma from the international custody battle. He spoke to CNN while traveling outside of Cuba for the first time since his ordeal, attending a youth conference in Ecuador. He's now an outspoken Fidel Castro supporter blaming Cuba's economic crisis on the U.S.

He says it's America's unfair blockade that cause a critical economic situation in Cuba and that many have died trying to reach America. His mother was one of them. Back in 1999, she and nine others died trying to reach Florida. Elian survived and was placed with relatives in Miami. The messy aftermath launched worldwide headlines, intensifying the already heated U.S.-Cuba relations.

JANET RENO, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: It's time for this little boy who has been through so much to move on with life at his father's side.

FLORES: Since his return to Cuba he's been hailed a hero. For the past 13 years, Fidel and Raul Castro, regulars at his birthday parties.

He says he remembers little about his mother. The youth conference he's attending is known for promoting the very leftist views his mother died trying to protect him from.


BANFIELD: Amazing to see that face this many years later. That was Rosa Flores reporting for us. Keep you up to date on that story as well.

New poll numbers are out. Budget deal is amidst us. And Obamacare. There's so much to keep president and our Wolf Blitzer busy. So coming up, we'll head to D.C.

We're going to take a look at what happens aboard Air Force One, arguably the coolest plane on the planet - well at least the one we know about. And look at the cool pictures inside. We're going to tell you the story behind three first families just sitting around the table chatting, sweat shirts. The whole nine yards.


BANFIELD: The number of the hour, 364,682. That's how many people the Obama administration now says have signed up for health insurance from the start of October through the end of November. Of those, just over 137,000 used the federal exchange and 80 percent of them used No longer the spectacular flop that it started out to be.

More than 227,000 signed up on the exchanges run by the states themselves. That pace is picking up to be sure, but those figures still did not earn Kathleen Sebelius a red carpet greeting this morning when she went back to Capitol Hill. The secretary of Health and Human Services is once again facing a House committee that wants to know what went wrong back in October, what's being done about it now, and what is it all going to cost.


SECY. KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: To date, through the end of October, and I'm giving you the cleanest audited numbers we have, we have obligated $677 million for the total IT costs and have outlaid 319 million of that 677.


BANFIELD: My colleague Joe Johns is watching all of this from his perch at Capitol Hill. So, the secretary made news even before the hearing got started. Take it from there, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPODENT: She did make a bit of news. I think probably the most important thing is she said that she wants the inspector general over there to start taking a very hard and critical look at the issue of procurement. Which we've been told is the root problem of what happened at the initial stages of And procurement is contractors. Hiring contractors, paying them. And we've been told that there are some insider questions, like whether contractors actually get paid more to fail. And the second question is --


JOHNS: Right. Do they get -- well --

BANFIELD: How do I get that job?

JOHNS: Well, at the initial stage you have a goal and a timetable and it doesn't work. So do you have to bring on more people? And how much more are they going to get paid? How much more does your company get paid?

BANFIELD: Stretching it out. Got it.

JOHNS: Because you have to fix it. Those are the kinds of questions that the inspector general in all likelihood is going to get into. And the other question is about whether big contractors are brought in just because they're big and have worked with the government before. And maybe you need smaller, more agile companies to try to do things like at the end the day.

BANFIELD: All right, Joe John, thank you for that. Keep an eye on things down there, and tap in when something else ends up being headline worthy. Joe reporting for us from D.C. Thank you.

Here is a number that's amazing, not just for its size but because a Republican and a Democrat actually agreed on it together, and the beauty shot just begins: 1 trillion 12 billion dollars. That's the bottom line of a federal budget plan that all but erases the dreaded sequester cut, while still reducing the deficit. I know. I think it's all unicorns, too.

But maybe best of all, it buys the nation a two-year reprieve from the government shutdown. Ah the unicorns are disappearing. If Paul Ryan can persuade his fellow House Republicans and Patty Murray, her fellow Senate Democrats to go along with this, then kumbaya. Those two brokered this deal in private in the weeks since the last government shutdown, and barely a month before the next batch of sequester cuts were due to take effect.

I want to bring in Wolf Blitzer, my colleague in D.C., to talk about all of these developments. First of all, I must have blinked because I can't believe how quickly and, it seems, efficiently they came to a deal that only a few weeks prior seemed absolutely impossible. What happened?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: It's 'encouraging as you correctly point out. The word compromise was used positively by both Paul Ryan and Patty Murray when they made the announcement last night. Bipartisanship, these are words that we don't often hear nowadays here in Washington, but they used them in a very positive sense.

They worked really hard together with other members of the House/Senate Conference Committee. They came up with this package. The president, the White House has now praised it. Nancy Pelosi has appraised it. John Boehner has praised it. There are critics on the right and left who don't like various aspects. It still has to be voted on tomorrow in the House of Representatives, and I assume it will pass the Senate and the president will sign it, and then at least for the next two years, including going forward with the midterm election in 2014, we won't have to worry as you point out about another government shutdown.