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The Mystery of Flight 370 -- New Reports on Waypoint Data, Satellite Pings; Kerry Meets With Lavrov; Inside the Cockpit of a Boeing 777; Flight 370 Search Expands into Indian Ocean

Aired March 14, 2014 - 11:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN CO-ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm John Berman.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN CO-ANCHOR: And I'm Michaela Pereira. It is 11:00 a.m. in the East, of course, 8:00 a.m. out west.

Now, this hour, we are awaiting comments from Secretary of State John Kerry. He is currently in London to work on finding a solution to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

You can see the podium there, empty. Well, there is somebody in front of those flags. We will bring the comments to you from him when they happen

BERMAN: Meanwhile, @ THIS HOUR, the search area is expanding dramatically to the east and west trying to unravel that mystery of what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 with 239 people on board. It disappeared almost seven days ago now.

Here are the latest leads. Reuters news agency reporting the belief among some that the plane was being deliberately flown toward the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean.

Now, that is hundreds of miles northwest of the plane's last known location between Malaysia and Vietnam. The report is based on military radar data from unnamed sources.

Now, add to the information that CNN got from a senior U.S. official who says there is a significant likelihood that the plane is now at the bottom of the Indian Ocean, that theory based on electronic signals, satellite pings that the plane kept sending after it lost contact, indicating it had kept flying for as long as five hours.

PEREIRA: And now, Chinese researchers are saying that they recorded a sea-floor event, a seismic event, in the waters around Malaysia and Vietnam about an hour and a half after the plane's last definitive sighting on civilian radar.

Now, that would put the jet back on the other side of the Malaysian Peninsula on the eastern side. For its part, the Malaysian government is not confirming anything. In fact, just hours ago, officials announced the hunt for the plane is spreading deeper, both, as, John, you mentioned, west to the Indian Ocean and farther east to the South China Sea.

So, obviously, this has now become one of the biggest mysteries in aviation.

BERMAN: We have so many angles to explore @ THIS HOUR. So, joining us are national security expert Aaron Cohen, he's founder of IMS Counterterror, and Mary Schiavo, former inspector general of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

And, Mary, I want to start with you. This new information that CNN is reporting about pints, the satellite pings, couple that with the information from Reuters about the idea that this plane was somehow being navigated via waypoints in the Andaman Islands.

To you, what does that tell us and what does that not tell us?

MARY SCHIAVO, FORMER INSPECTOR GENERAL, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION: I think what we have to focus on is what the data is. The data is just, in the case of the transponder stopped transmitting. We have no evidence that somebody turned it off, only that we have no more data.

The same thing with the messaging system from the plane, it stopped. And then we have five waypoints, the one on the island just to the west of Malaysia and then the four data points from the satellite.

So, the most logical thing is to say, for whatever reason, there is no more data and the plane was continuing on that path.

Can the plane do it by itself on autopilot? Yes, it can. Could the plane have done it with pilots flying it? Yes, it can.

However, by looking at those data points, are they in a straight line from the last known position where we know we had a pilot turn the plane? If they are in a straight line, you could have a Payne Stewart situation.

If there is deviation like to get set up to land somewhere, presumably, if some of the theories about it was being taken somewhere, you'd have to change your heading, because you don't fly in a straight line to land a plane.

So, there is much you can learn from just six data points, but what you can't learn is why. Was it turned off or was there a catastrophic event where it stopped transmitting?

So, they have a good place to search. I'd go right straight down that line and search there.

PEREIRA: So, Aaron, let's bring you in. Give us the flip side. Give us the other side of the argument that there was intention, that there was deliberation, that there was somebody determined to bring that jetliner down?

AARON COHEN, FOUNDER, IMS COUNTERTERROR SCHOOL: The flip side is that there is just no coincidences when it comes to terror. The fact is, is that there were waypoints, which means that whoever was flying the plane was proficient in handling an aircraft. That requires a very high-level of training.

The other non-coincidental or obvious fact that we look to like at in the security industry is the fact that the actual -- or the actual contact with the tower had been cut off, which means that somebody physically had to have stopped or cut off that communication so that signal could no longer reached tower. The civilian tower lost communication.

The other red flag indicators that we would look at would specifically be based on the fact that there were waypoints heading toward a Middle Eastern route or a Middle Eastern passage way which is used to get to Europe and the Middle East.

This means that we could be heading to a country or to a series of countries where a terrorist might want to bring the plane for the purpose of being able to negotiate for hostages, or the simple fact that they may have just wanted to scuttle the plane.

Airplanes are a huge target. We saw it on 9/11. Malaysia in 2001 had an awesome or a terrible airplane incident involving terrorism. This is not the first time.

And then the fact that the Malaysian military had said one thing, which the plane had actually turned 45 degrees to the west and then come back and then retracted that statement, means that there is some kind of cover-up.

I believe it is because they want to avoid what the potential repercussions could be to the airlines industry for Malaysia and that airline, which is very closely connected to the state and the economical crunch of what that could do to that country.

BERMAN: OK, that is a theory. That is, I think, one side, one supposition, that it could have been deliberate, that someone could be behind it. You presented the case for possible terror or hijacking there.

Mary, again, make the other case. Explain to me how those waypoints could have been put in in a benevolent way, a way that does not indicate some deliberate action of terror or thievery.

And, also, explain to me if there could be a mechanical event, some catastrophic event, that could have cut off all the communications?

SCHIAVO: Right. The catastrophic event that would have cut off the communications but not the plane's satellite transmission would be the communications equipment that is right behind the cockpit area. It is kind of the main communications area. It is near the front of the plane.

The satellite antennas, there are several different ones, slightly different, but you would have a catastrophic event there in that area of the plane. It could be a rapid decompression from an explosive event. It could be a power event.

But if you had already experienced that, the last time you had the transmission, the last-known human transmission was normal, and then you had an event occur and turned around, you put your waypoints in to start turning around because you didn't complete it.

We know they went from there to just the west of Malaysia, where they have the one radar tracing and then we have four more points. If this plane was being taken somewhere, they obviously couldn't turn off the data transmission, because we got four more waypoints from the data transmission to the satellite. Where'd it go after the fourth transmission?

The plane had to land somewhere. It's not a helicopter. It couldn't sit down on these islands that we're looking at. And besides, if it headed to the Middle East, those of us who have worked in the defense and security areas, the satellite coverage for the Middle East, we could read the license plate on the Osama bin Laden vehicles, so I think we wouldn't lose it in the Middle East.

PEREIRA: Aaron Cohen, Mary Schiavo, we appreciate you giving some ideas into these theories that we're looking at, so many things to be considered. We appreciate you adding your voices to the conversation.

We'll continue with our coverage of the missing flight, but we want to talk to you about some other stories that we are following @ THIS HOUR.

As we mentioned at the top of the show, John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov are meeting in London today. The secretary of state and the Russian foreign minister are working to try and find a solution to this ongoing crisis over Crimea. So far, they have not reached an agreement.

You can see the live picture on the side of your screen. We are waiting to get these comments from Secretary Kerry. He is going to speak from London. We'll bring that to you as soon as he begins speaking.

BERMAN: Yeah, meanwhile, these discussions are happening as Russia is shipping more troops and armor into Crimea and is repeating his threat to invade other parts of Ukraine.

Western leaders are warning Vladimir Putin about possible sanctions if he doesn't back off from Crimea, but so far, he is showing no signs of withdrawing troops as the region gets ready for a referendum to join Russia, perhaps, on Sunday.

PEREIRA: To South Africa now, it is the end of week two of the "Blade Runner's" murder trial. Prosecutors are trying to prove that Oscar Pistorius murdered his girlfriend and did not mistake her for an intruder.

The top police commander testified today. Now, we should point out this is the same official who resigned after he was accused of mishandling evidence. Defense lawyers pounded on his credibility. This trial is expected to last another week.

BERMAN: An auto safety group says more than 300 people have died because of the defect in GM cars that are part of a recall now. GM is disputing this, saying the company is aware of only 12 deaths associated with a faulty ignition switch that causes cars to shut off and disables airbags.

PEREIRA: We should point out GM's own filings show that the company was aware of a problem at least as early as 2004, but didn't order the recall until February of this year. A congressional committee is now investigating.

Ahead @ THIS HOUR, back to our story, what could have happened inside the cockpit of that missing Flight 370?

We are going to take you inside a flight simulator. We're going to work to try and piece together some of these possibilities.


BERMAN: "All right, good night," those were the last words from Malaysian Airlines Flight 370.

PEREIRA: After that, the plane simply flew into the night and disappeared. So, who said those words and what could have happened next? Other questions -- why was the transponder that transmits vital information to the ground turned off?

BERMAN: Our Martin Savidge is in a flight simulator in Mississauga, which is in Ontario, correct?

PEREIRA: Yes, it is. Just outside of Toronto.

BERMAN: Martin, show us what's inside Flight 370, what it looked like. I guess you have it set up for about a minute before its last known point of contact.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Actually, John, a little less than that. Hello, John and Michaela. Let me show you where we are exactly.

B-TODD (ph), the triangle here is us, the airplane. That would be Flight 370. B-TODD is a reference point in the sky. It wasn't on the ground. But it was the last known location in which there was an official report from the aircraft. And we are going -- well, we are just about passing over it now, and Mitchell Casada is the pilot of this flight.

We set this all up to be identical from everything we knew from Flight 370. In other words, we took off from Kuala Lumpur. We have been flying for over 45 minutes. We're at 35,000 feet. We're on automatic pilot.

We, in every way we could, tried to replicate exactly the circumstances and conditions so you could see what it would feel like, even with the night sky, because, of course, it was an overnight flight. But this is the point when they got that last report of information and the "all right, good night." I asked Mitchell here if you thought that was an unusual statement and you said -

MITCHELL CASADO, FLIGHT SIMULATOR PILOT: Not at all. Not at all. It's a very standard -- as you are signing off from one air traffic control center to the next, you say, thanks very much, good night, good morning, whatever salutation is appropriate, and off you go to the next one.

SAVIDGE: So let me point out some important equipment here for you, for your understanding. A lot has been made about the transponder. It's right here. You've got a huge dashboard that belongs to this aircraft. It's a relatively small-looking device, but vitally important, because this is the device, Mitchell, that tells ground controllers who you are.

CASADO: That's right. Who you are, where you came from, where you're going, altitude, air speed, heading.

SAVIDGE: And it's always giving that information out any time ground radar pings on it. But you can turn it off. And let me show you how. It' just three clicks to the left with this small switch and now it's off. It doesn't mean the plane's gone invisible because it's still on radar. It can still be seen.

CASADO: That's right. What we have is we have primary radar, which is just a blip on the screen, no information attached to it. And then we have secondary radar, and that's that list of all those things I gave you earlier about altitude, heading, and speed, that information

SAVIDGE: Now if that goes off, that's a real problem.

CASADO: That is. That is a major problem. That's something we've never -- I have never heard of. I can't think of a single reason why you would turn that off.

SAVIDGE: So, John, it doesn't make sense from the professional point of view as we continue the flight to Beijing which was never completed by 370.

PEREIRA: Well, Martin, one of the other things I would like you and Mitchell to point out to us is, if this plane were to change course, if it was taken off autopilot, I want you to show us how that would happen, first of all, because it surprised me at how easy it is to switch on or off autopilot. And then also, are there failsafes if the direction was changed of the plane?

SAVIDGE: OK, let me show you just the changing of direction. Remember, the flight plan was preprogrammed on this computer right here, much like a Home GPS, but far more complicated. We're flying that plan. We're on that path. But to turn it off, to deviate, I would hit a switch right here on the yoke.

The moment I do that, you can hear the alarm that's triggered. In other words, you don't just turn it off and deviate without somebody knowing. I turn it on and reset it that way.

So that's how you can deviate. But that's how you switch to manual and I presume could change course.

CASADO: Yes. If you turned off - disengaged the autopilot, you would now be reverting to manual control. So we're flying by raw data and it would just be a matter of turning some knobs to point the airplane where you want it to go and just flying the airplane with your hands.

BERMAN: And just, Martin, to reiterate, you never turn the transponder off in flight. I heard Mitchell say you turn it off when you land sometimes. But to turn off in flight, there really would be no reason for that.

SAVIDGE: Right, I think the equation that was given, it would be like suddenly driving the wrong way on a major highway. You don't do that. The one thing you can do with a transponder is say that you were hijacked. It's actually something that was built in as a safety mechanism so the pilot doesn't have to get on the radio if he's got a gun to his head. But that pilot could then just simply clear and enter a special code. This is no that code. But they would enter a code, and immediately their plane is broadcasting, "We're hijacked." And the pilots had to say nothing.

BERMAN: All right, that did not happen here. Martin Savidge, Mitchell, thank you so much for being with us, shedding some light, giving some really amazing view of what was going on in that cockpit.

Ahead for us @ THIS HOUR, how are investigators using those pings to determine where the jet is now? What's the likelihood they'll ever even find this plane? A former FAA investigators answers those questions next.


BERMAN: All right, welcome back everyone. One of the big issues this morning is this report from Reuters suggesting that there's some evidence that Flight 370 might have been heading in the direction of the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean. Now, some people have wondered whether this suggests some intentions by someone to land on those islands.

PEREIRA: Earlier today on CNN we spoke with journalist Dennis Giles. He's the editor of the newspaper "The Andaman Chronicle". Giles says there is a 24-hour surveillance at the only spot where a 777 could land on those islands.


DENNIS GILES, EDITOR, "THE ANDAMAN CHRONICLE" (via telephone): There are no chances that such a big aircraft coming towards Andaman can be missed. Apart from these four airstrips, it cannot land in any other island.

(END AUDIO CLIP) BERMAN: All right, U.S. authorities are telling CNN that electronic pings were coming from the jet for several hours after air traffic controllers last made contact. That suggests the plane likely flew much further than previously thought.

PEREIRA: So the search thus has expanded out into the Indian Ocean. One official says, quote, "There is probably a significant likelihood that that aircraft is at the bottom of the Indian Ocean," based on information Malaysia has shared with the U.S.

Joining us is aviation consultant Steve Wallace. He is the former director of the FAA's Office of Accident Investigation. This is just the kind of thing that you're very familiar with and looking into. As a former investigator, what does all of this pinging indicate to you, the pinging that was coming from the plane hours after it went off radar?

STEVE WALLACE, AVIATION CONSULTANT: Well, Michaela, first of all, this pinging, just like the turn on the radar the first day, the Chinese floating debris satellite photo the second day -- the information seems to be just sort of coming out incrementally. So this really is a poorly organized and poorly directed investigation up to this point. So this amounts to a new bit of information.

I would point out that this airplane was fueled for a flight to Beijing. Well, that flight, that fuel, includes very substantial additional margins which are required under the regulation. So that airplane could fly to Beijing and plus probably for quite a long distance after that. So you draw a great big arc as to where it could be.

BERMAN: And I've heard that now officials are saying this changes the search from the area of a chessboard to a football field. That's got to make things very, very difficult. How do you pinpoint, then, exactly where this plane is?

WALLACE: Well, you use the best information -- and it's just been very difficult, to me, it seems to me that to get that best information before the best experts who are there in the area waiting to help. But now, incrementally, it seems to be getting - we seem to be getting the best information before the best experts.

But this may be one of the most challenging aircraft investigations of all time. I remain optimistic that it will be solved to a high degree of certainty just because the track record on solving transport accidents is so good.

PEREIRA: You know, we look to the Air France flight. We know how long it took them to find that wreckage. Talk to us about timeline on this. You said you feel hopeful. What - is it soon? Is it imminent? Do you feel that we're getting closer? Because it seems as though, instead of zeroing in on a search field, they're broadening it?

WALLACE: Well, you are right and that makes it terribly challenging. Of course, the aircraft recorders, the cockpit voice (ph) recorder and the flight data recorder, those are in the back of the airplane. And they are equipped with pinger devices which transmit a signal that can be picked up on a sonar system. But audible for a few miles. They really need to refine the search area to try to locate those pings.

I think we have to also remain open here to the possibility that this could just be something we haven't seen before in aircraft accidents. Before accidents are now so rare that it's more typically that each one is different.

PEREIRA: Right. They do take on a different personality, a different footprint, if you will. And it's interesting - and we want to say thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it. Steve Wallace, excellent interpretation of what we know and what we don't know.

It's so important to remember that we need to know for two reasons -- one, for the families, right? The closure that they need. And the other thing, so we can prevent this from happening again. That's why investigators are so anxious to know what happened.

BERMAN" And he said something I haven't really heard said before in quite that way. There's the possibility one of the reasons we're so confused is because something happened to this plane that we have never seen happen before. We don't know what it may have been but some kind of failure we have just never seen happen before.

PEREIRA: Ahead @ THIS HOUR, officials, as we know, expanding that search area as they get new information on the path of Flight 370. What about the question of terrorism? Did terrorists have anything to do with this disappearance. We'll ask our experts to weigh in.