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WSJ: Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 Probe Sharpens Focus On Sabotage; U.S. Officials: Plane Likely Crashed In Indian Ocean

Aired March 14, 2014 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST, OUTFRONT: The United States using unprecedented technology along with Malaysian authorities to determine where this flight is, they say it was pinging back and forth to satellites up to five times, one time an hour. They never got that sixth ping. And that is why they believe at this time that it flew on for about five hours after losing contact with the ground.

Our breaking news coverage continues with Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone.

For the first time in the week since Malaysia airlines flight 370 vanished, there are striking new developments that could finally point to some answers. We're talking about new pieces of information about what happened to the 777 after traffic controllers lost contact with signals from its radar transponder.

Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr reporting on a classified analysis of electronic and satellite data suggesting the airliner made a left turn then flew either northwest into the bay of Bengal or southwest into the wider Indian ocean before likely crashing into the sea. That is one of the developments.

The second item ties in adding details about how the jet was flying. Reporting that Malaysian military radar showed the plane climbing to 45,000 feet soon after disappearing from civilian radar screens. It then reportedly descends unevenly to 23,000 feet approaching Penang island, then begins climbing again as it heads into the Indian ocean.

The "New York Times" newspaper citing American officials and others familiar with the investigation said the plane also altered course more than once as if still under the command of someone. The question obviously is who and why.

Barbara Starr joins us.

Barbara, as I said the U.S. has put together this new classified analysis outlining the two distinct possible flight paths. What more can you tell us?


This is in conjunction with Malaysian authorities, the FAA, the NTSB and military imagery and radar specialists. Everyone putting their heads together, looking at all the data. And what they have calculated is that these two search boxes in the ocean that you showed a moment ago essentially these two areas are now the most likely areas where the plane might have disappeared finally. It flew for about five hours. It sent some pings, if you will, to a satellite, the satellite analyzed those. There were also some radar returns that showed it was headed in this direction over the Indian ocean.

What this finally tells us is that they don't have to look over the entire Indian ocean which is massive. This begins to narrow the search. What they still cannot explain, however, is this erratic flight path. It did fly in multiple directions. The question of the radar is still out there. But it begins to narrow the search. It begins to give them more of an idea where to look.

COOPER: And Barbara, I want to bring in Michael Schmidt, reporter for the "New York Times," one of the reporters who wrote the story about the change in direction and also the multiple altitudes.

Michael, did these erratic altitude changes seem to give credence to the theory of what might have happened to the flight? And can you explain more what you know about the altitude changes and course of direction changes?

MICHAEL SCHMIDT, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, what it does, what it could suggest, and obviously, there's so much here that we don't know, is that someone was actually flying the plane manually. And who was that person and why were they doing that? So, this sort of opens up all these questions in that area.

But the other thing we've been told is that pings coming off the Rolls Royce engines from the plane show that it fell 40,000 feet in the span of a minute. And when American officials were told this, they said this doesn't make any sense. They said they couldn't believe that it fell that fast in such a short period of time. Such a large thing. So what's happened is that the American officials are looking at all this stuff, and they can't really make heads or tails of any of it. And in some ways we're all looking for clarity here. But all this stuff just raises more questions.

COOPER: So let me just drill down on that. The pings from one of the communications devices indicate that the plane essentially plummets 40,000 feet in the span of a minute. Is that even possible?

SCHMIDT: Well, American officials didn't believe it when they were told it. They said it didn't make any sense to them. And what happens is that the Americans only have so much insight into the investigation. And the only stuff they really have is the stuff that's coming off the radar and their own sort of military imagery and such.

The investigative information that the Malaysian have about folks that were on the plane and other things that may have gone into that has not really been shared with folks here in Washington and that's begun to frustrate them. So the U.S. only has so much visibility into what's going on. COOPER: And just -- I mean, I just want to highlight what you just said. Because Michael, that's a stunning part of the story that you wrote for the "New York Times" today that essentially the sharing of information has been far less than probably a lot of people in the United States believe, that officials that you've heard from have been very frustrated by the lack of information they've been getting from Malaysian authorities.

SCHMIDT: Because the NTSB and FAA have so much experience in this. They have ways of getting information from different manufacturers and such that receive basically pings that came off of this plane. So in that sense they have some information. And that information the U.S. says it has gotten better and better over the past few days and they anticipate will get better going into the weekend. But in the investigative side, the Malaysian have sort of kept the U.S. at a distance. And the U.S. basically says well, you know, we're incredibly good at this stuff. We've done a lot of this before. Why don't you let us in? But that really hasn't happened yet.

COOPER: So Michael, again from your reporting from multiple sources you're hearing that the plane after it lost contact and was supposed to be around 35,000 feet. It went up above 40,000 feet, which is my understanding is above the level that the 777 is supposed to be flying at. What would happen at that level? I mean, is that a dangerous level?

SCHMIDT: What I believe would happen is that the oxygen masks would come down because the air is too thin up there. And at some point that oxygen would run out and everyone on the plane would die. So the question is whether was the plane taken up that high to kill everyone on board or was it just a mistake that it went up that high? Why was it up that high? And then why did it go back down to around 20,000 feet below where that plane should have been flying and then it goes back up again? So we all want clarity here. But unfortunately this just baffles me even more.

COOPER: And Barbara Starr, from what you are hearing from U.S. officials, they -- I don't want to put words in your mouth -- in terms of where they believe this flight ended up, what are you hearing?

STARR: Well, let me say that as they look at the radar data they're very familiar with these variations in the altitude. They believe at this point, U.S. officials believe that radar data from the Malaysians may not be accurate. That the plane was flying too far away from the military radars that picked up these altitude readings for those readings to be accurate.

What they do believe is that it went out into the Indian ocean, and they now believe that there is a very great likelihood, a great probability that the plane crashed somewhere into the water, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Barbara Starr, appreciate your reporting. Michael Schmidt, it is good to have you on as well.

Joining us now is airline pilot Ron Brown, also Dave Gallo with the (INAUDIBLE), which co-led the search for airplanes flight 477 and former CIA officer and CNN national security analyst Bob Baer.

Ron, these altitude changes that the "New York Times" first reported today, the Barbara Starr has been following up on, the altitude changes and course changes, does that require a human being to make those changes?

RON BROWN, AIRPLANE PILOT: Most of the time it does. But I'd like to take two seconds to say thank you for having me on your show and your crew. Really appreciate that you put a pilot that has experience in this area to represent the guys that are flying now and the guys that have flown in the past and asking our point of view. And the answer to your question is, most of the time if you see erratic changes in altitude and direction someone is controlling the airplane.

COOPER: And when you say someone is controlling it, that has to be controlling it from on board. I mean, it's not something that can be done by remote somewhere else that somebody could hack into a system or something like that.

BROWN: Well, that sounds a little Hollywood to me. But yes, it would have to be some -- Hollywood's great at entertaining us. But the real fact is and common sense that I don't think it could have been controlled by someone outside the aircraft. I think it was controlled inside. And I don't think that the computer itself, the auto pilot, was making changes like that. A human being had to be making inputs, either doing it manually or manipulating the controls of the auto pilot such as heading and direction. So the answer to your question is yes, I think it is a person.

COOPER: Bob, you agree that the plane was most definitely redirected by a person?

ROBERT BAER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think absolutely. I mean, you look at all the circumstances, the turning off the transponder, the flight direction. I also agree that it's probably crashed into the Indian ocean somewhere. But the real fear all along was if we've gone all these days and not known what happened to this plane, is what if somebody had grabbed it as some sort of weapon and continued on to Europe or the United States. And I think that was always very unlikely but it was always a possibility the intelligence community was looking at.

COOPER: There's also questions of course if this plane was flown back over Malaysia, how did it get across Malaysian air space without raising any huge red flags or anybody sending up any jets to figure out what's going on, if military radar in Malaysia was watching it?

David, you say that despite having narrowed down these two paths that Barbara Starr was just reporting on that it's still far too big of an area for an effective search, correct?

DAVID GALLO, CO-LED THE SEARCH FOR AIRPLANES FLIGHT 477: Well, this is very hopeful that they've got it down to these places. The other search areas was bigger in space than the entire north Atlantic ocean. So this is hopeful. But you know, I have to question the idea that they're saying that the plane crashed. That's the word that's been used several times, crashed. Where does that information come from? How do you reconcile those two areas which are not all that far away? It is 1500 miles away maybe with the idea that the plane was airborne for five hours plus? I mean, what was this guy or guys, what were they doing for all that time? Just zigzagging back and forth? You know, it doesn't make sense that the plane would be airborne that amount of time and only have gotten that far unless I'm missing something.

COOPER: No, I understand your question. I want to try to follow up on that. We're going to take a quick break.

Bob, David and Ron, just stay with us because we actually have more breaking news on the growing possibility of some kind of human involvement, whether sabotage or we don't know frankly, but of human control of the airport. We're going to talk to a reporter from the "Wall Street Journal" about what his sources are now telling him. It's a story that has just broken in the last few minutes. Stay with us.


COOPER: Welcome back. More on the breaking news report.

The "Wall Street Journal" just broke a story reporting that investigators are sharpening their focus on sabotage. The paper citing aviation and industry officials.

Michael Pastor of the journal joins us now with details -- sorry, Andy Pasztor with details.

Andy, so just minutes ago you posted a story for the "Wall Street Journal," some really staggering new details about that first turn the plane took. What can you tell us?

ANDY PASZTOR, REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: So this investigation appears to be moving very quickly toward a law enforcement or terrorism path. Every day it's harder and harder to come up with a credible argument that this was an accident. And what we're putting on the web site and will put in tomorrow's paper are some details about what the investigators suspect was happening on that plane, some deliberate actions.

In the space of six hours, someone or a group turned off three different signaling systems on that aircraft to hide its location. And investigators also believe that about an hour after takeoff, just after the transponders stopped operating, someone manually made the aircraft turn to the left.

And in addition to that, there are strong suspicions that in order to disable one of the signaling systems, someone had to go down to the lower portion of the aircraft, leave the cockpit and disable that system. And so therefore of course that presumes that someone it may have been in the cockpit to control or to monitor the plane.

So these are all aspects that the investigators are really actively looking at, and it just adds much more ammunition to the notion that this is some kind of sabotage, terrorism, whatever you want to call it, but not an accident.

COOPER: And then of course it raises questions about who would have been involved and was it the flight crew themselves or somebody, passengers on board the plane who tried to commandeer the plane. And that we simply don't know, correct?

PASZTOR: Well, that's right. It's very early. And I think everyone who's been looking at this agrees that investigators have a very long way to go to determine that. And also your viewers should be aware that just because it becomes a criminal investigation, some of the challenges will not disappear. They'll get a lot worse.

If the Malaysians are heading up the investigation as is likely, their track record has not been stellar in leading the investigation so far. And so, it is really going to be a tough task to make sure that it is thorough and efficient and accurate investigation.

And just today, Malaysian officials I think gave out the stunning information that they weren't sure that the plane had actually flown for five hours after the transponder was lost, when everyone else is basically looking at that data and they feel pretty certain. They feel certain thought flew for that period of time. And the search is now more than 1,000 miles to the west over a huge area neither Indian ocean.

COOPER: So Andy, I just want to reiterate what you have just said just for our viewers who are just turning in to this. Because this is, again, the first time we are hearing this and it is significant. You posted it online It is going to be in the paper tomorrow.

Based on your reporting, which literally just posted in the last few minutes, all your sources are telling you the plane was manually -- had to have been manually turned and that perhaps based on what the succession of communications devices being turned off, that likely two people had to have somehow been involved. Someone to remain in the cockpit, someone to go below and turn off one of the communication devices.

PASZTOR: Certainly more than one person. I mean, it's very unclear who they are, where they were headed, what their purposes were. And it's very unclear where the plane is currently. And there's only one incontrovertible fact in all of this speculation. If the aircraft went into the water, there has to be some debris somewhere. We may not be looking in the right place. If it went into the water something floats from the overhead bin, from the galley, life rafts, life preservers, seat cushions. It is impossible not to find debris if this 250-ton aircraft crashed into the water no matter what trajectory it took to get there.

COOPER: And Andy, are you hearing from officials they still believe it likely ended up in the water? Barbara Starr had reported based on her sources that's what she'd been hearing. David Gallo, right before the break, asked the question, how do we know that? How are people coming to that belief? My understanding, and I don't know if you have heard or you know from your sources, is that because the pings stopped at a certain point they're making I think the assumption they'd be able to tell whether it was on the ground or not. Is that your understanding?

PASZTOR: Well, that's right. We have to be very precise. The pings stopped and the aircraft was still intact. There are two possibilities only. Either it crashed into the water of a deliberate act, or because something it happened on the plane, or it landed somewhere. I would say most of the investigators and folks who have been watching this would say the less likely option is that it landed somewhere. But it is an option. And you should also remember that at the time of the last transmission of a signal to a satellite, the plane probably had about an hour's worth of fuel left.

So it's not as though it was constrained if it wanted to fly and had the ability to fly further on it could still travel many hundreds of miles in whatever direction. We don't know what direction from that point.

COOPER: And that brings us to David Gallo's point earlier. I do want to bring in our panel, Ron Brown, Dave Gallo and Bob Baer.

Ron first of all, what do you make of what you're hearing from Andy?

BROWN: Well, it's very very interesting. But when I talked to you the first night I said there was three things. It was the aircraft, the crew or intervention. And I think we're kind of nailing it down to intervention at the present time. Because this airplane couldn't have done things with a malfunction. This was somebody intervening.

COOPER: It could not have continued to do what it did with major malfunctions on board?

BROWN: That is correct.

COOPER: Bob, what is your take on what you heard? I'm sorry, go ahead, Ron.

BROWN: I was going to say it's just like you driving your car. You know, you take your hand off the steering wheel it's going to go somewhere. But you have to be steering that car down the road. Well, either the pilot or the auto pilot is in control of where that aircraft's going.

COOPER: David, I wanted to get your take on what Andy is just now reporting as well.

GALLO: Well, again, I'm going to come back to that same old thing. OK, I'll accept that. You know, my and our expertise would told is really begins on the water and underneath the water. But we have a vested interest in knowing if we're in the right spot. So all these things play into that.

And the question I'm still going to come back to is, where does the information come from that say the plane crashed? And two, what was the plane -- it doesn't take five hours to get to those two search areas, at least from my calculations. It only takes a couple of hours. So what was the plane doing for the rest of the time? In other words, five hours.

COOPER: Andy, do you have a read on that based on your reporting?

PASZTOR: Well, those are all very good questions and it's early in the investigation. People don't have any answers. But I think it's pretty clear, and it's been publicly stated by the satellite company that received these transmissions, the plane was intact and presumably flying for five hours. Investigators believe it's possible it could have landed somewhere in that interval. Very unlikely to land and take off again. You have to find a runway that's long enough to take off.

So I think the best operating theory currently is that it was flying for those five hours. Where it was flying is not clear. Some of these transmissions to the satellites did give location and altitude and speed. So they're trying to piece all of that together. But I think we have to believe that the most likely scenario is that somewhere it went into the water. But they're keeping open the possibility that it did land somewhere. That can't be ruled out from what we know currently.

COOPER: And Bob Bear in terms of the investigation not the investigation into passengers or crew members or anybody on board the flight really has stopped, I was surprised to learn they haven't searched the home of the pilot. Not in any way -- I'm not casting any aspersions on anybody. But if you are looking at personnel that would seem to be one thing to do.

Clearly with what the "Wall Street Journal" is reporting, what the "New York Times" has now been reporting, Barbara Starr reporting, the investigation into everybody on board that plane takes on continued urgency.

BAER: Absolutely, Anderson. I mean, it's clear that, you know, with the evidence we have so far that a team got on that airplane. It was either the crew coordinating it or a team and hijacked it and the answers is in Kuala Lumpur. But apparently they don't check very well who gets on those airplanes. We still don't know about the two Iranians what their role was. That the fact that Tehran said that there is no connection with terrorism, it doesn't tell me anything. Nor the Malaysians being particularly forthcoming. But it's clearly the answers are there. That's where the FBI and the CIA are going to be asking hard questions. Who were these people who got on the airplane? Because they do have a background that can be traced.

COOPER: Ron, just very briefly, you're an experienced pilot. That altitude change, if in fact the plane did go up above 40,000 feet, is that something that an auto pilot would do? Or that has to be manually done?

BROWN: That has to be manually done. It has to be manually done either by somebody having their hands on the controls or somebody having their hand on the auto pilot and changing the altitude. Because otherwise, if the airplane is on auto pilot it's going to stay at the altitude and stay at the heading thought was given. So to do erratic changes like that, somebody was controlling that airplane and flying it outside the envelope of not knowing what the correct way to fly the airplane was.

COOPER: We will go the break. We got to take another short break. And I'd like you all to just stick around, Andy Pasztor as well. Andy who just broke the story with the "Wall Street Journal" that the focus is sharpening in on the idea of sabotage, that based on the people he is talking to it seems now evident that the plane was manually turned after the communication device was switched off. And authorities are believing that there would have been more than one person involved in that. Someone to stay in the cockpit, someone else to turn off a second communication device which is elsewhere in the aircraft.

We'll take a short break. Our coverage continues in just a moment.


COOPER: Welcome back. We are talking about tonight's breaking developments, indications that flight 370 changed course and altitude sharply several times before heading out into the Indian ocean.

Also, new reporting the "Wall Street Journal" tonight, just broke just at the top of the hour that authorities believe it was manually turned after someone lost contact with it and that someone was needed to go below deck on the 777 to disable on key piece of electronics suggesting a possibility of sabotage.

Back with our panel, Barbara Starr, Ron Brown, David Gallo, Bob Baer.

Barbara Starr, I want to start with you. You are getting information about the human hand perhaps being involved in this disappearance, which seems to corroborate with what the "Wall Street Journal" is now reporting.

STARR: Right, Anderson. I've spoken just very recently to some U.S. officials. What is going on is in the last 48 hours since they've gotten all this technical data analyzed, the radar return, the blips off the airplane, the satellite data.

The U.S. intelligence community, U.S. national security community, the FAA, NTSB putting it all together, analyzing the technical data. And as they have looked at it now and had the time to look at it, sort through it, what they are coming to is a conclusion I am told. It may, may be harder, they say, to write off the notion that there was not some sort of human intervention in this flight.

This does not go to the notion yet in our reporting of motive, of sabotage, hijacking, whatever you want to call it. But what it does go to is as the U.S. intelligence community has a look at the technical data, they have asked themselves the question, how could it be? How could these changes have happened? What are the reasonable ways these very significant changes in flight path, the erratic part of the flight path, the altitude changes, what can we explain away, what can't we explain away in aerodynamics, in air flight as Mr. Brown will tell you how do these things happen? They look at it and increasingly over the last many hours as they have looked at it, it is becoming harder for them they say to write off the notion that there wasn't some human intervention in this. Not that it goes to motive. They're not there yet.

COOPER: Barbara, I also want to ask you a question, which David Gallo put us a few moments ago. It's an excellent question. Talked to Andy Pastor about it from the "Wall Street Journal" who is also still with us.

But Barbara, you had reported that officials you were talking to believe that the plane ended up in the ocean. How can they believe that if we are led to believe this plane went for some five hours? How are they saying it ended up in the water? They are saying that definitively? What leads them to that conclusion?

STARR: Yes. No. I mean, let me start with this. Nothing is definitive in this story over the last week as we know other than this plane is missing. They have made some calculations based on this technical data and what they believe the flight path would have been if they could have calculated it based on the radar returns, the so- called blips or pings from what they believe the airplane was, an airplane flying out four to five hours over the Indian Ocean.

It was an air frame that matched the description and the engine type on this Malaysia Airlines flight. There was no other aircraft in the region at the time that matched that technical description, that matched the data. The blips coming off the plane. So definitive, no. But good reason to believe it was Malaysia Airlines flying there.

So they have the blips out four to five hours over the ocean. They technically analyze, use computers to figure out the calculation, where was the satellite in relationship to the earth, where were the radar returns, where do the pings come from.

COOPER: How do they get it that didn't end up on land?

STARR: Well, it may well have, Anderson. Again, nothing is definitive. What we are reporting is as time has gone on and they make the calculation, the path takes them in these two ways. There are islands there. There are some pieces of land out in these flight paths. I think logic at the moment that they feel on the U.S. side is that this plane if it landed somewhere would have been noticed. But definitive? No. Our reporting is that there is an increasing likelihood that it went into the water, but nothing is definitive -- Anderson.

COOPER: I also want to bring in John Hansman who is a professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT and Mary Schiavo who is the former Department of Transportation inspector General. She currently represents victims of transportation accidents and their families.

Professor Hansman, given all this new information and a lot of it has just been occurring, we've just heard from the "Wall Street Journal" within the last half hour. The altitude, the course headings, satellite pings, is there any chance in your mind what happened to the plane could still be mechanical?

JOHN HANSMAN, PROFESSOR OF ASTRONAUTICS AND AERONAUTICS, MIT: I think it's less likely. But there's still a chance there may have been some sort of progressive failure that was making it difficult for the airplane to fly in the flight control system. But the fact that if it's true that it took both -- I can understand why it would have trouble if the flight control system and pitch. So maybe climbing and descending. But it's hard to see that and then also the airplane changing course.

So it does sound more like it was being hand flown by someone who was not familiar with the airplane. Jet airplanes of this type are actually very sensitive in pitch. It is not as difficult as you think to climb up and down.

COOPER: Not just changing course once, but more than once according to the "New York Times."

HANSMAN: Exactly. The first course change actually could have made sense because it was a diversion towards an emergency airport. But the multiple course changes don't make sense from a failure problem. And it's hard to see a problem that we would have in the flight control system that would cause this erratic flying that, would allow the airplane to keep going for the five hours.

COOPER: Go ahead, Professor.

HANSMAN: I was also going to say that I'm still troubled by the fact if it was flying for five hours it should have gone further than the search area that they're talking about. So I do think what you would do you would look at the directions and go with the flight speed the airplane was flying. You would propagate that out to a search area, which should have been a little further out than they're showing. So I don't know if there's something I'm missing.

COOPER: David Gallo I think that also gets to the point you raised earlier. Andy Pastor from the "Wall Street Journal," I want to ask you in terms of your reporting that it was a manual change of direction, how can they know that it was manually done?

ANDY PASZTOR, SCIENCE CORRESPONDENT, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Because the system that sends up some data from the aircraft to a satellite was not switched off at that point. It took them maybe between 14 and 20 minutes or something around that time, whoever was doing this, to make the transponder stop working and then disconnect the satellite communication system.

And in that period of time is when the course change occurred and the data that was relayed up to the satellite, according to the folks we've talked, to indicates that this was a manually -- a manual direction to the flight control computer.

I just want to also maybe answer one of your question why are they searching in the Indian Ocean more than 320,000 square miles. The last signal that was received from the aircraft to the satellite was over the Indian Ocean. So they're starting their search based on the assumption that something happened from that point of view.

And we should also be very aware that whoever was doing this was a very -- well, had some sophisticated knowledge of aircraft and aircraft electronics because to disable these systems in a series of efforts, not at the same time, is not as easy and most pilots would not know precisely what to do to disable them. And once again it indicates it's not likely to be some catastrophic event. It's just too suspicious for that.

COOPER: Let me bring in Ron Brown who is our pilot here with over 30 years experience. On Andy's point there, how difficult is it to fly a 777, to disable these systems? I mean, what level of technical training would one need?

RON BROWN, AIRLINE PILOT: Well, first of all, to fly the 777, the controls in your hands in flying it is like having power steering. It's a very easy, docile airplane to fly and a lot of the big airplanes are that way because it's basically like power steering. Now, the changing of altitudes and stuff that went on, I don't think it dropped as fast as it did in reality.

But somebody that sat down in the seat and took the controls would change altitude like that playing a little bit trying to get the handle of it. But the point that I want to come back and defend the crew is, that if this airplane flew somewhere and landed, they would have need the captain and the first officer to do that.

Because the people that took over in airplane didn't have the skills to really fly that airplane in the proper parameters that it need to be flown in. Now Boeing when they built this airplane they said look, if you fly within these parameters, this airplane is safe and you won't have any problem.

If you fly outside these parameters, the airplane could come apart. This is true with all airplanes that you fly. But to just go out there and fly an airplane, do you need a whole lot of experience? Well, to just fly it straight and level and make some turns, no. But to land it and take it off, yes. You need a lot of training, especially on the particular type airplane that you're flying.

COOPER: You also need a pretty long runway for the 777 if I'm not mistaken, right, Ron?

BROWN: Well, what I was going to tell you was if they flew this airplane somewhere, they'd need a bare minimum of 6,500 to 7,000 feet because this airplane has reversers on the engines and so on down the line. Once again, that would take somebody that knew the aim that was trained on the airport and knew what they were doing. Now, I think that there was probably more than just one or two people. I think there was three or so.

Because you had to have one person that had knowledge that knew how to turn off or make sure the transponders were turned off, knew how to go into the E and E compartment and find those other circuit breakers and turn that after.

So this wasn't just one person hijacking an airplane or two people. I think this was something that was thought out. Where was that airplane going to go? I have no idea. But the simpleness of it is, if you can't find wreckage in the water then somehow this airplane made it somewhere.

COOPER: And the search area as we said is just enormous. I want to talk more about that with Mary Schiavo. We're going to take a quick break. We are going to continue the discussion. There are a lot of dimensions to the story. We're trying to piece it together as best we can. The information is just coming to us really in the last 30, 45 minutes. We're going to continue the conversation next.

Also later we're going to take you inside a flight simulator, run you through various scenarios. Show you what it's like from the cockpit perspective. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Back with the panel. After day and now a night of breaking news including reporting in the "Wall Street Journal" this evening that investigators are now looking more closely of the possibility of sabotage or some kind of cockpit takeover. Mary Schiavo is with us as well as our whole panel.

Mary regarding this wild swings in altitude that seemed to have taken place although there is some question about how accurate some of the altitude information is. You say for you that's the most convincing piece of evidence you've heard that points to human involvement, terrorism, sabotage, whatever it may be.

MARY SCHIAVO, FORMER INSPECTOR GENERAL, U.S. DEPT. OF TRANSPORTATION: Well, the wild flying, the erratic flying would point to some sort of human intervention. But the problem with the data, the most recent data is the plane can't dive that fast. The plane can't even fall out of the sky that fast and we know that from previous accidents. So we know that data is unreliable. We also know the data, the directional data is unreliable because the plane can't be going north and south at the same time.

So I think the problem here is to sort out what data is reliable and what isn't. You know, factually speaking it's impossible that they both are. I know the plane can't dive that fast. It literally would come apart.

COOPER: Andy Pasztor from the "Wall Street Journal" and again you've just broken this story, what about that? I mean, how accurate do the officials you're talking, how accurate do they feel the data is? Because as Mary points out, the idea of -- and everybody has been raising suspicions about this idea the plane plunging some 40,000 feet. There's other data as well.

PASZTOR: Now, of course, we're talking about two different things, Anderson. The wild swings in altitude come from radar data that the Malaysians have put together, which is I would say significantly suspect just because of some technical issues and the distance from the radar to begin with. But the information that the plane is sending to the satellite, that's much more specific and I think much more accurate. It's rudimentary.

It doesn't give you a really good sense of exactly where it is and what it's doing, but it does provide some help. And the only good news so far in this whole scenario is that that information coming off the plane, there's significantly more information in this accident than there was several years ago when an Air France jetliner crashed into the Atlantic.

So we have made some advances in technology and there have been some decisions made to enhance these systems. So at least we have a little bit more information about what this plane was -- where it was and what it was doing than we would have had years ago.

COOPER: David Gallo, you co-led the Air France Flight 447 investigation. You are from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. "New York Times" had reported a short time ago earlier today about the slow pace of information being shared from Malaysian authorities to U.S. officials and to others, that a number of officials, the "New York Times" talked to in Washington, were frustrated by the pace of that.

That it has gotten better over the last several days, but it's been very frustrating. Sharing information in something like this is critical, particularly when you have U.S., which has high technology ships in the region searching. They need that information.

DAVID GALLO: CO-LED SEARCH FOR AIR FRANCE FLIGHT 447: Well, also as Barbara said there's nothing definitive about this but there's missing plane. If it was just about the missing plane, this would be one of the most horrific SAT questions ever devised. But it's not just about the missing plane, there is 239 passengers on that plane.

When you're that room, in that control room of the few people that know what's going on, we always felt that Air France 447 it was important to get some information out to the public and the families and the loved ones of the victims because they needed to know that things were moving forward.

But we were very, very careful not to let too much filter in or put something out there that was speculative. I think a lot of the confusion that we see going on right now the suspicion is self- generated. There's about 50 people that I think have a good handle on what's really going on, probably.

And there is about 2 billion people that think they are either experts, self-proclaimed or otherwise that think they need to say something about this. You know, it's not helpful when you have to sit here and sort about where is the information coming from? Is it real? Is it bogus?

And I think that causes a lot of the confusion. So during Air France 447, I felt like we -- I didn't totally appreciate the way the French BEA, their version of the NTSB, was so tight with the information. But now I do. Now I get it. COOPER: It makes sense. Bob Baer, in terms of the investigation into personnel, which has been taking place but which certainly will continue if not quicken given the reporting by the "Wall Street Journal" of the idea that the investigation is sharpening on some sort of criminal investigation, some form of sabotage, you want to hear more information Malaysian authorities about the crew, about the people on board this plane.

ROBERT BAER, FORMER CIA OFFICER: As well as the Chinese. I mean, we actually need to see the data. We need to know their cell phone numbers, we need to know their e-mail addresses. We need to know all that stuff. That would be run through algorithms into the big data stuff. It would give us an idea if there's some stray phone call would explain the political bent of the possible hijackers or whoever did this intervention.

And without that, we're not even going to begin to get the motivation. And motivation is sort of key in this. We can assume that the hijackers, whoever took this airplane, are irrational, but they may have political connections, which we need to get to right away.

COOPER: Does it make sense to you from an investigation standpoint they would not have already searched the home of the pilot who had a flight simulator in his house and others?

BAER: I don't believe that. I think they went to his home. They've been there already. They've gone through his stuff. The Malays don't want to talk about the possibility one of their own citizens brought this plane down or hijacked it. They're very sensitive about this. Remember that 9/11 in a sense started in Malaysia with a meeting in Kuala Lumpur.

Two of the hijackers left and move and went to San Diego. They're still sensitive about that. They have an Islamic fundamentalist problem there, which they don't want to come out and admit to the whole world.

COOPER: Bob Bair, everyone, I want to thank you all for being with us. Andy Pasztor in particular, you've been breaking this story just at the top of the hour and were able to come on the program and talk about it. It's on the "Wall Street Journal" web site right now and it's going to be in the paper tomorrow. We appreciate your reporting.

We're going to take you inside a 777 flight simulator when we come back, use the information we have so far on the plane, try to show you what it's like inside that cockpit what we know. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Welcome back. Covering all the angles in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight. Right now we want to take you inside a cockpit where Martin Savidge has been retracing the final moment before the plane lost contact running through scenarios of what might have happened. Martin joins us now from inside a flight simulator outside Toronto.

Also with me aviation correspondent, Richard Quest who also even flew with the co-pilot of the missing flight for a story that CNN did several weeks ago. We know now the plane reportedly made extreme changes in altitude, climbing to 45,000 feet then dropping 23,000 feet. Is that even possible to recreate on the flight simulator?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's almost impossible. And I'd have to say we tried to run this through the simulator a number of times. It's impossible to make this plane do in the simulator what it's reported to have done at least in the various reports in the paper. We're right now at 45,000 feet. We're well above what would be the maximum operating level for this particular aircraft. And even with all the skill that he has in operating this plane, we're barely in the air.

Let me show you this real quick. This is the line. The upper yellow line that's starting to creep down. That is the fact that we're about to go too fast and the plane could break apart. The bottom line that's rising up to it is actual lit opposite of that. We're about to go so slow we're going to fall out of the air.

He's on the razor's edge of either toppling over the top too fast or too slow we're going to collapse down to the ground. Let me show you what happens if you go over the top now and decide to descend at that rate. Which you couldn't do, 40,000 feet, Mitchell, push us over the top.


SAVIDGE: What you're going to find out there's going to be a tremendous g force that starts to build up. The alarms, the sink rate. What's that telling us?

CASADO: Telling us we're sinking too fast and going too fast. You can hear the air frame.

SAVIDGE: This literally would be where stuff is starting to fall off the airplane. The airplane would begin to break apart in the air. Pieces literally coming off. And if you can level off, which Mitchell will try to do, you pass such a level of G force you can't imagine whether it's even survivable in the back or whether anybody would be conscious. That's why we say when you try to run this through this simulator, it really can't be done.

RICHARD QUEST, AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: The actual numbers of 45,000 and 23,000, Martin, may be slightly off. They sort of admit that the radar capability of the Malaysians might not have been as strong. But the fundamental point of going up and coming down, do the two of you believe that would have been possible in these circumstances albeit not to the extremes?

SAVIDGE: Mitchell? I'm going to put it to you.

CASADO: That is definitely in the realm of the extreme. Going up and down like that, I mean, flying any airplane is all about very smaller smooth corrections. You have passengers in back. You want to make things as smooth as uneventful. Going up and down like a roller coaster, no.

COOPER: We should point out the information about it going up and down more gradually, that information comes from signals that were sent to satellite as opposed to the precipitous drop, which comes from radar, which all along authorities have said they are very skeptical about.

What about, Martin, this new "Wall Street Journal" reporting that the first turn that the plane made after the transponder was turned off after the first transponder was turned off would have had to be manually made, as well of the fact there would have to have been more than one person involved, one to fly the plane, the other to climb down and disable the other reporting equipment.

SAVIDGE: Turning the plane manually that can be done. A lot of the controls Mitchell's been doing so far in the dive and trying to correct us that's been manual. So that's easily done. As far as the part of going down and trying to one person flying the plane while another goes down a hatch which would be about here into the electrical bay, we've talked about this. Some of the electronics, it would require that kind of sophisticated activity. Does it really mean two people? In theory, Mitchell, we could put it on auto pilot.

CASADO: It happened in operational flying all the time. The captain goes to the bathroom or for whatever reason one pilot leaves the cockpit and the other pilot is sitting here monitoring. Not necessarily flying the airplane but monitoring the auto pilot.

SAVIDGE: You could at least in this practical nature put it on auto pilot. Yes, you're going to leave the plane and go down below. It could be done by one.

COOPER: Appreciate you guys being in the cockpit showing us what it's like. Richard just briefly, again they're reiterating. Got to take all this stuff with a grain of salt.

QUEST: Take it with a grain of saw. As we've said all week, you keep looking for pieces of the jigsaw to be put on the table. Tonight we have more pieces of the jigsaw on the table starting to form a picture. That's the significance of what's happened in the last few hours.

COOPER: Based on reporting not only from CNN, but also the "Wall Street Journal" and "New York Times" today. Richard, great to have you. Martin Savidge as well. We'll be right back.