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THE SITUATION ROOM
Mystery of Flight 370
Aired March 14, 2014 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: She broke this story of this classified intelligence analysis of what happened to Flight 370.
Tell us what you have learned.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it is an analysis. It's the best information they have right now. Nothing is proven.
But a classified analysis in conjunction, a team, the Malaysians, the United States Federal Aviation Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board and military imagery analysts, all put their heads together, looked at every piece of data. They're looking at radar data. They're looking at the satellite pings that we have talked about.
And look at the map. Here's what they have come up with. When the plane crossed back over the Malay Peninsula and flew to the west -- and they believe they have a radar hit showing that happened -- it went in possibly one of two directions according to the analysis.
It may, may have turned to the northwest and flown into the Bay of Bengal off the coast of India. That is an area now that the Indian military and the United States are both searching. There is a plausible additional flight path, we are told, that it turned and flew to the southeast.
This is an area that the U.S. Navy ship is also searching with its helicopters. What all of these people -- what all these assets are really looking for is any indication on the surface of the ocean of a debris field. They're looking with their sonar to see if they can distinguish anything that is not the water that is not supposed to be there.
What this analysis tells us, Wolf, is they have begun to at least narrow down the vast area of the Indian Ocean that they think it is most likely the plane went down in -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Barbara, thanks very much, Barbara Starr with that report.
Flight 370, investigators can't afford to ignore any possibility right now, including concerns about lithium batteries in the cargo hold, and they also want to question the pilots of this aircraft.
Let's bring in our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown. She's working this part of the story for us -- Pamela.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right.
Wolf, there's so many more unknowns than knowns at this point. As everything is being scrutinized from the passengers to the cargo to the crew, we have learned that the pilots only started working together on the Boeing 777 fairly recently.
BROWN (voice-over): "All right, good night," those were the last words heard from the cockpit of Flight 370. While we don't know whose voice that was, one of the first questions for investigators, who were the two men at the controls of Flight 370, the pilots, first officer 27-year-old Fariq About Hamid, who was new to the controls of the Boeing 777, and 53-year-old Zaharie Ahmad Shah, seen here in a YouTube video he posted with his own flight simulator in the background.
TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think, certainly, if it was here in the United States, the pilots, all information about them would be looked at very closely. And that would include the searches of their residences, to search for their computers, what kind of e-mail traffic they have, cell phone traffic.
BROWN: But Malaysian police say they have not searched their homes, despite early reports they did.
DATUK SERI HISHAMMUDDIN HUSSEIN, MALAYSIAN TRANSPORT MINISTER: Reports suggesting that Malaysian police searched the homes of the MH370 crew are now true.
BROWN: Investigators are also looking at the pilots' past behavior. A passenger on a flight co-piloted by Hamid told CNN's Piers Morgan Hamid let her and her friend take pictures and even smoke in the cockpit.
If the pilots didn't do anything to sabotage the plane, what about the rest of the crew and the passengers? Despite Chinese reports raising concern about a passenger of Uighur descent on the flight, one official tells CNN it wasn't a pervasive concern for investigators.
FUENTES: Do any of the names match up to any of the databases? That would be the National Crime Information Center. Do they have a criminal record? Do they have any information on any of the watch lists that may come up? Is there anything about their travel documents or attempts to apply for visas in the United States? BROWN: Officials tell CNN, so far, they haven't found any terrorism connections with the plane's passengers. That covers the "who". Now, the "what". The cargo -- investigators are looking into concerns that lithium batteries in the cargo that have caused previous crashes could have played a role.
FUENTES: You could have something on the aircraft that doesn't cause a catastrophic explosion but maybe causes a fire and fire is extremely dangerous. It may have led to power failure and other problems going on.
BROWN: One official says at this point, investigators have no reason to believe any of the cargo was put on the plane with any malicious or criminal intent. If the batteries on the plane did cause a fire, that still doesn't explain other anomalies, like the pings, indicating that the plane may have flown for five hours towards the Indian Ocean.
BROWN: So, bottom line here, it seems like you can poke a hole in just about every theory we have about this plane.
I spoke to another law enforcement official today, Wolf. He says investigators are also keenly aware of other theories, like suicidal pilots like what you saw in the Egypt Air crash. They're also looking at whether the oxygen generators may have overheated. We saw that in a plane crash in Florida in '96. So, basically, everything is on the table. They're looking at everything. And a week in, we still don't have the answers that we need.
BLITZER: Yes, as they should. They have got to look at all these options. Thanks very much, Pamela Brown.
Now to another breaking story, "The New York Times" reporting that Flight 370 had sharp, erratic changes in altitude and course.
Brian Todd is working this part of the story for us -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the "New York Times" report, if it's accurate, shows some very dramatic swings of this plane.
It cites U.S. officials and others familiar with the investigation, saying radar signals recorded by the Malaysian military show the plane climbed to 45,000 feet. That's above the approved altitude limit, did that soon after it disappeared from radar right about here.
Then, according to the "Times"' report, it made a sharp turn to the west. The radar track then shows the plane descending unevenly to an altitude of 23,000 feet. That's below the approved cruising level and that was it approached the Malaysian island of Penang. That's right here, this little dot here. That's the Malaysian island of Penang, one of the country's largest and most densely populated islands.
Then, according to the "Times"' sources, the plane turned from a southwesterly course basically here toward a northwest-bound course, climbed to a higher altitude, flew over the Strait of Malacca, toward the Indian Ocean. "The Times" does say the data cited the incomplete, difficult to determine.
But, Wolf, if this report is accurate, some dramatic swings in altitude and tack for this plane, again, climbing to 45,000 shortly after it disappears from radar here, taking a sharp turn to the west, descending unevenly to 23,000 feet as it approaches this small island of Penang, which is actually as far as their archipelago is concerned, is one of their largest and most populated islands, but it's small on the map here.
As it approaches here, descends unevenly to 23,000 feet and then climbs to a higher altitude westerly course over the straight and into the Indian Ocean. Wolf, if this report is accurate, again, a dramatic swing of altitude and tack for this jet.
BLITZER: All that information coming from "The New York Times." Brian, thanks very much.
Let's dig deeper at some of the other various theories about Flight 370, whether this will turn out to be a crash investigation, criminal investigation, a terror investigation.
Our aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh, is here. She's got more on this part of the story.
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
Tonight, we're looking at all of the puzzle pieces. We're asking two main questions. Is there a logical aeronautical explanation or does it point to something more sinister?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The last transmission from the aircraft was at 01:07, which indicated that everything was normal.
MARSH (voice-over): Then no more data about the health of the plane and its engines. We asked two experts to examine the evidence so far on the disappearance of Flight 370, Steve Wallace, a former FAA official skilled at looking at aeronautical explanations for incidents, Christopher Voss, a former FBI agent skilled at looking for nefarious explanations.
CHRIS VOSS, FORMER FBI HOSTAGE NEGOTIATOR: My first thought is, all right, so, is there a catastrophic event that immediately took the plane out of the sky, whether it be some sort of mechanical failure like TWA Flight 800 or whether it be a well-placed bomb like Pan Am 103?
MARSH: Wallace says perhaps there were no problems to report.
STEVEN WALLACE, FORMER DIRECTOR, FAA OFFICE OF ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION: It's unclear to me when the next scheduled transmission of that data -- maybe that packet was sent every few minutes or so, so not something the pilots would normally have any reason to tamper with.
MARSH: Fourteen minutes later, the plane's transponder goes off.
VOSS: Different instruments being shut off at different times, that's really starting to bother me a lot more now.
MARSH (on camera): What does it suggest?
VOSS: It suggests an intentionality on someone's part.
WALLACE: There is no reason ever for a pilot to turn a transponder off, unless the air traffic controller calls him and tells him there's some problem with his data block.
MARSH (voice-over): But there was no known communication. The other possibility, a massive electrical failure. But you would expect all systems to go at once. Radar suggests the plane may have made a turn.
WALLACE: But that might suggest that there was some unauthorized control of that airplane, either by a pilot or by an intruder.
MARSH: But our criminal investigator isn't terribly concerned. He paints a possible scenario.
VOSS: They're losing the systems. They're worried about keeping the plane in the air at all. They're trying to get someplace where they could put the plane down.
MARSH: Reuters reports military radar may have tracked the plane flying towards India's Andaman Islands following navigation markers.
Was someone flying or were the pilots incapacitated and the plane on autopilot?
(on camera): Can you follow this kind of flight path without someone at the controls? Can autopilot accomplish this?
WALLACE: Autopilot could absolutely accomplish that. You would just -- but it would have to be programmed into the autopilot, and there would be no legitimate reason to program in that flight path, which is sort of zigzagged in random directions.
VOSS: With that much of intention, with a lack of data and a lack of communication from the ground, again, that really begins to trouble me.
MARSH: All right, Wolf, so we know that Flight 370 had several ELTs, legion locator transmitters, on the plane, but none of those activated. You can activate them manually. You can also activate them -- they're also activated upon impact. Again, that did not happen.
So we did ask that FBI agent, you know, what does he make of that? And he said this. As ridiculous as it may sound, and these are his words, he says the fact that those ELTs did not go off, investigators wouldn't be able to rule out the fact that this plane maybe landed safely somewhere, so that's a lead they have to chase down.
But just for some perspective here, those ELTs do not work in water. Even though it made that impact with the water, once it goes down into the water, you would not get a signal and everything would happen so quickly. So, as one person put it tot me, it would make sense that this ELT did not signal.
BLITZER: Remind our viewers again, ELT, what does that stand for?
MARSH: The emergency locator transmitter and that's it right in front of you there.
BLITZER: This is it.
MARSH: And that is to let search-and-rescue essentially know where a crash site is. That did not go off in this flight. If it did indeed make impact with something, they didn't get that signal.
BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much. Rene, don't go too far away.
We're digging deeper right now.
The former pilot and aviation expert Jim Tilmon is joining us. Our national security analyst Frances Townsend is here. Charles Barnett, he is a Boeing 777 pilot.
Chuck, let me start with you.
This report from "The New York Times" that the plane was going at 45,000, then down to 23,000, then back up to 30,000, would that be autopilot or would a pilot have to be in control of those kinds of erratic maneuvers?
CHARLES BENNETT, 777 PILOT: Well, thanks for having me, Wolf.
I think that suggests that an airplane likely out of control. Going up to 45,000 feet is almost 2,000 feet above the surface ceiling of the airplane. The airplane wouldn't want to do that even with a pilot trying to suggest that it go up, with the pilot trying to control the plane to go up there. It does suggest a controllability issue.
BLITZER: That someone was in control if you're going from 45 to 23 and back up to 30. It's not autopilot, right?
BENNETT: It would not be autopilot. And I'm not sure a pilot could make the airplane do that intentionally.
BLITZER: What do you make of this "New York Times" report, Jim?
JIM TILMON, FORMER AMERICAN AIRLINES PILOT: I just feel like this is a situation that has a lot of complexity and a lot of confusion and a lot of things that really just don't make much good sense.
I mean, why would the airplane climb to 45,000 feet and then descend to 23,000 feet? I mean, if there was somebody at the controls making this happen, they really have strange ideas about getting from point A to B.
There's something else going on here. I don't know that those figures are accurate.
BLITZER: Let me interrupt, because Tom Fuentes, former FBI assistant director, our law enforcement analyst, said that would suggest to him that maybe there was a struggle among two pilots, for example, in the cockpit and that's why we saw that erratic behavior.
TILMON: It's certainly a possibility and it's one that I had not considered. I think that that certainly should be something we look into.
But, then again, what happened afterwards? You know, it's like they made this big jump up and down and back up again, and then the airplane continued to fly, and for how long and in which direction? Whatever was happening there in this cockpit was happening because somebody was putting inputs into the control of the airplane.
I don't think the airplane was programmed to automatically do that on autopilot or whatever. Somebody was in that cockpit and created all this up and down and change of course and change of altitude. Something else was going on in that cockpit.
BLITZER: Yes, I think everyone seems to think that it's less and less likely mechanical failure, more and more likely some individual or individuals responsible for that kind of erratic flight maneuver, maneuvers.
Fran Townsend, I know you're well-plugged-in. What's your instinct tell you right now? What's the latest you're hearing?
FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Wolf, between the zigzagging formation, the change in altitude, I think the end of today's sort of takeaway on the story is, I think most investigators have come to the conclusion that this was not a catastrophic mechanical failure.
They're now focused on who was in the cockpit, how many people were in the cockpit, and what was going on there when the transponders each get turned off, 15 minutes apart, when the plane is making these turns, when it's changing altitude. Could it have been a struggle? Yes. But that's just a theory. You don't know whether it's one individual or there are several individuals involved.
And we certainly don't know what the motivation was.
BLITZER: Let me bring Richard Quest into this conversation as well.
Richard, the report that lithium batteries were in the cargo hold, we know other crashes have been linked to lithium batteries. What do you make of this development? RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think it's a very interesting other piece of the jigsaw to put on the table, because a fire involving lithium batteries is exactly the sort of incident that could overwhelm the jetliner, causing the pilots to want to head back to the coast and back over land.
And there again you end up with this scenario of a series of events that overwhelmed the capacity of the pilots flying the plane. What is really significant as we come to the end of this week, Wolf, is that we have started to get some really useful, good information.
Now, it doesn't matter whether it's come as a result of it being handed to the -- interpreted by the NTSB and the Americans or the Europeans or the Malaysians. It really doesn't matter. The fact is, we end the week with a much better idea of the scenarios of where this plane is than we did at the beginning of the week.
And although we don't know exactly, Wolf, we are in an immeasurably better position than we were 24, 48, 72 hours ago.
BLITZER: Richard Quest, I want everyone to stand by. We're going to continue our special report here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We will also get reaction from Malaysia to the breaking news the flight, the Flight 370 investigation.
And we will also check in on the families of the missing passengers and the crew members. They have been in agonizing limbo now for a week and there's no end in sight.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news.
U.S. officials now say a classified analysis of electronic and satellite information calculates, together with Malaysian authorities, that the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 likely, likely crashed somewhere in the Indian Ocean, possibly in one of two flight paths.
CNN is told the analysis was conducted by the FAA, the NTSB, the Defense Department, along with the Malaysian government, key word likely, no certainty, still not certainty yet.
Let's go to Kuala Lumpur right now.
CNN's Andrew Stevens has been all over this story for us.
Andrew, what's the latest there in Malaysia?
ANDREW STEVENS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, like you say, likely but not certain, but it certainly fits in with the theories, the stories that we have been reporting out of Kuala Lumpur about how this Flight 370 did in fact go back across the Malaysian Peninsula out into the Straits of Malacca.
Judy we had the story on Tuesday quoting the Malaysian air force saying that they had picked up this blip, it was unidentified, now the pings which are also unidentified. But it all does fit the pattern. Interestingly, just 24 hours ago, the Malaysian government was still saying, we're searching both sides of Malaysia, the west and the east. They're still looking in the South China Sea.
But over the past 24 hours, definitely the theories, the information, the intelligence is moving very, very firmly towards those areas that Barbara's been talking about. The Malaysians themselves are being very, as you know, reticent about developing the story certainly here in Kuala Lumpur officially.
You talk to them at the press conference. For example, we were speaking a few hours ago about the pings which have been picked up. I put that to the Malaysian head of the Defense Department. He said -- all he said was, we're aware of those media reports. We will not comment until we get further information.
It's been the same story all along here, very frustrating. They are being very, very cautious. There have been a lot of complaints, as you know, about the handling of the information and about working with some of their allies in this search. But perhaps now we're getting a real focus.
BLITZER: Andrew Stevens in Kuala Lumpur, thank you.
One week ago at this time, Flight 370 was supposed to have arrived in Beijing. People from China account for a vast majority of the passengers presumed -- presumed to have died on the flight, but that's just a presumption. We don't know for sure.
However, some of the families are finding hope in the theories that the plane may actually have been hijacked and landed on ground somewhere safely.
Let's go live to CNN's David McKenzie. He is joining us in Beijing.
David, for the loved ones who are waiting, this is clearly a heart-wrenching experience.
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A heart-wrenching experience, Wolf, and with every day new theories that gives these people some kind of hope, even though one believes that hope has all but vanished.
Now what would be a worst-case scenario for everyone who deals with plane crashes, that of a hijacking or terrorist attack, appears to be what people are saying is their best-case scenario. Several family members we have talked to who are stuck in that hotel here in Beijing saying they hope that the plane was hijacked, because maybe that gives them some hope that their family members are alive, that really tragic hope at this point, exactly seven days, it must be said, since this plan was due to arrive here in Beijing.
We have been following this from the start here, at first shock, then anger and frustration, and now just the desperate clinging to any hope by these family members here in Beijing -- Wolf. BLITZER: David McKenzie in Beijing, thanks very much.
For our North American viewers, by the way, "CROSSFIRE" won't be seen tonight, so we can bring you more of our special SITUATION ROOM report on the mystery of Flight 370.
We will take a quick break -- much more right after this.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: And we're following the breaking news surrounding the mystery of Flight 370.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. We want to once again welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
"The New York Times" is reporting the plane experienced significant changes in altitude after it lost contact with ground control and altered its course more than just once, as if still under the command of a pilot.
Joining us now is Michael Schmidt, he's one of the reporters from "The New York Times" who wrote this story. Also joining us, CNN's Richard Quest. Charles Barnett, he's a 777 pilot, also an aviation attorney.
Michael, thanks very much for coming in. Let's talk a little bit about your report. Give us the upshot. What did you learn?
MICHAEL SCHMIDT, REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Basically, this plane moved in several different directions after it went off of civilian...
BLITZER: After the transponders stopped sending information...
SCHMIDT: Correct, correct.
BLITZER: ... to ground control.
SCHMIDT: At first it goes -- shortly after it goes off the radar, it goes up to 45,000 feet, which is above its normal flying altitude. And then shortly after that, it's down around 20,000 feet, which is below its normal altitude. Now, along with...
BLITZER: Then it goes back up again.
SCHMIDT: Then it goes back up again. And while this is all happening, it is changing directions. It has moved -- it has moved west, it has turned back around and whatever.
So all of this suggests this erraticness that has really led investigators to say, well, who was flying the plane at that point? Was -- it clearly wasn't flying itself. If it was, that certainly, you know -- that certainly doesn't make any sense. And now they're trying to figure out who had control of the plane at that point.
And there's also this information that they received from the engines that shows that the -- that on the engines that the plane fell about 40,000 feet in the span of a minute, but when the U.S. investigators looked at this information, they said, "This doesn't make any sense." So it's a sort of mess of numbers and data that they're trying to figure out.
BLITZER: Where are they getting this information from? If the transponders weren't sending any information, how did they come up with this erratic behavior?
SCHMIDT: Well, what they've relied on is other radar systems, non-civilian radar systems that were picking up different things.
The other thing that they've relied on are pings, these messages, these pings that went out from different equipment on the plane. The Rolls Royce engines sent out pings that went back to Rolls Royce that said that the plane had fallen 40,000 feet in a minute.
And what the -- what I heard today from law enforcement officials here is that the information they're getting has gotten better and better in recent days as different pieces on the plane have sent back different pings to their manufacturers, who were tracking it through satellites. These are not pings that were easily obtainable in the days afterwards, but as time has gone on, that information has gotten better, and they anticipate it will get better going into the weekend.
Now, will this -- will this tell them exactly where it is? They say no, but it's certainly better off than they were just a few days ago.
BLITZER: After this erratic behavior, 45,000 down to 23 -- 45,000 down to 23,000, back up to 30-something thousand, did it continue flying for four or five hours?
SCHMIDT: It continues on for several more hours and the question is, where does it go at that point and what other information do we have about where it ends up? I mean, obviously if we knew that, we wouldn't be talking.
BLITZER: And some of this information, I don't want you to share confidential sources, coming from Rolls Royce itself, the manufacturer of these engines?
SCHMIDT: I mean, the information that we're relying on is information that's come back to the United States, you know, to U.S. investigators here who are looking at similar stuff to what they're looking at in Malaysia.
But the problem that some people were talking about today in Washington to us was that the Malaysians have not been totally open with the United States about everything that they have and all their investigative leads.
And in this instance, on this information, it's stuff that's coming back to western companies and to the NTSB and the FAA, who have access to it and who are also sharing it with them.
But what the frustrations are on the U.S. side is on the investigative side. They say that the Malaysians are not being open and transparent with them in the way that they had hoped.
BLITZER: Yes, as they would have liked. Hold on for a moment. I want Richard Quest and Chuck Barnett to weigh in.
Richard, first to you, what do you make of this information that "The New York Times" is reporting?
RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, congratulations on this information and on this scoop, for want of a better word. This is good solid reporting. What I make of it, it's very significant, absolutely incredibly significant. Because this gives us the sort of detail that you now need to know to reduce the parameters of what took place.
Once you're getting this very -- I'm assuming it's reliable and we're waiting for confirmation, but I don't doubt "The New York Times" in this respect. Once you start getting this sort of detail, then you can start to pinpoint was it somebody in the cockpit? Was the plane overtaken? Was it just -- remember, planes are designed to fly even if nobody's at the wheel, so to speak. It has a natural inherent stability about it. So was it these areas? Were the pilots literally wrestling with the controls?
And I've got one question for Michael of "The Times." Do you, as a result of this, sir -- well, maybe when Wolf's ready for this, but do you as a result of this, have a preferred option for why this took place?
SCHMIDT: I have no idea. And I -- given all the things that have come out in the past few days, I think it would be naive of me to even speculate on that.
I mean, one thing that we were talking about earlier was that there were a lot of lithium batteries on this plane. I know you guys had reported that they're looking at the lithium batteries. We've been told there were a substantial number of lithium batteries on that plane. What does that mean, you know? And did that have anything to do with it?
BLITZER: And as far as the lithium batteries in the cargo hold, Michael -- and I think this is significant -- if, for example, there was some sort of explosion or fire, lithium batteries have been blamed for that on other crashes, how would that explain this plane continuing to fly for another five hours or so? So even if there was a large box of lithium batteries in their cargo hold, that doesn't explain that.
Chuck Barnett, I'm going to come back to you in a moment. I want to take a quick break. We'll get your take on this new information. The breaking news we're covering in our special SITUATION ROOM report. Much more right after this.
BLITZER: You're watching a SITUATION ROOM special report, "The Mystery of Flight 370." We're following the breaking news, multiple sources telling CNN's Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, the missing plane likely flew one of two paths, likely crashed into the Indian Ocean, although there's no certainty, according to these U.S. officials. One route towards the northwest, another to the south. Whichever way it went, authorities tell CNN the plane likely, once again likely, crashed somewhere in the Indian Ocean.
The other breaking news from "The New York Times," which is reporting the plane experienced significant changes in altitude after it lost contact with ground control, altered its course more than once as if it was still under the command of a pilot or someone in the cockpit.
Joining us once again, Michael Schmidt. He's one of the reporters of "The New York Times" who wrote that story. Also with us, CNN's Richard Quest. Charles Barnett, he's a 777 pilot and an aviation attorney. And also joining us now is the former chief of staff of the FAA, the Federal Aviation Administration, Michael Goldfarb.
Chuck Barnett, I want you to talk about this "New York Times" story. The plane is detected going up from its normal cruising level, let's say, of about 35,000 feet to 45,000, then going down to 23,000, then back up to 30,000, and then flying for several hours. What do you make of that?
CHARLES BARNETT, 777 PILOT/AVIATION ATTORNEY: Well, it's interesting from an aerodynamic standpoint. The surface ceiling of the airplane is 43,100. If the airplane is up at 45,000 feet, the margin between over-speeding the aircraft, getting into what's sometimes referred to as mach tuck, going way too fast for the airplane, and stalling the airplane becomes very, very small. You're up there in a very dangerous situation. The airplane is likely to come down on its own accord at that point. It can't sustain flight there.
We talked about the stability of the airplane. And most airliners are very stable. What could describe that flight path is something that pilots refer to as a fugoid, where the nose is seeking a trimmed position. And it's sort of like making a paper airplane as a child, and when it goes up in the air and comes back down and goes back up until it finds a comfortable spot as far as air speed goes. An airliner, if it's not controlled by a pilot, can end up doing the same thing.
BLITZER: Michael Goldfarb, what's your analysis?
MICHAEL GOLDFARB, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF, FAA: Wolf, I think that, you know, here we end the week with better defined speculative theories. I think you're seeing the imprint of the NTSB and the FAA helping the Malaysians finally.
But all of this is simply speculation and some data. I think it's good solid evidence that we're beginning to verify what "The New York Times" has reported in terms of the changes in altitude with the military ping of the radar, so we're beginning to get a sense of where this plane goes.
We're also hearing -- and I think this is NTSB's doing -- that the lithium ion batteries, which is an issue in aviation; NTSB doesn't want them carried at all. The rules changed last year to allow 66 pounds of these batteries to be carried. So they're looking clearly at physical, structural causes, as well.
BLITZER: In the cargo hold?
BLITZER: But if there were an explosion or fire of those batteries, couldn't the plane have...
GOLDFARB: Not necessarily.
BLITZER: Could it still fly for hours?
GOLDFARB: We've had planes, catastrophic of Hawaiian Air. Half the fuselage were gone. It landed safely. So if it was a slow explosion or a fire in the cockpit, you could disable ACARs; you could disable the transponder; the pilots could have been disoriented, and yet the plane, if they had made that turn and they had made that heading, the plane could continue on its own. Whether or not the issue of the pilots, something nefarious going on. That's the investigators...
BLITZER: And Michael Schmidt, you're about to report in "The New York Times" that -- and we've reported it earlier on CNN that there were these lithium batteries in the cargo hold, but what you're reporting is that there was a significant amount. Do you know how much?
SCHMIDT: We don't know exactly how much, but they said that it was more than a normal that would be inside the -- in the cargo hold. And these planes can take -- and you probably know this better than I do, an enormous amount of cargo.
SCHMIDT: More so than probably any other passenger plane.
SCHMIDT: So you have a significant load of lithium batteries on this plane and a lot of other -- you know, we don't know what else was in the cargo hold. And this is one thing that they looked at initially in the days after and they thought would be a real key to it. But as we were talking about, the fact that the plane does so many other things...
SCHMIDT: ... takes away from that.
GOLDFARB: But the profile, the subsequent profile that it was caused by catastrophic or some kind of structural is still in line with what could have been a physical...
BLITZER: Guys, we've got to take another quick break, but thanks very much, Michael Schmidt, especially to you. Thanks for your very good reporting.
Just ahead, we'll continue our SITUATION ROOM special report. We have more on the breaking news coming up.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: And we have more breaking news to tell you about in the Flight 370 mystery.
CNN's Tom Foreman has new information on the never before used approach to help determine the most likely location of the plane.
Tom, what are you learning?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In all these mysteries, Wolf, this is the mystery that we've been watching the most lately, which is how they've been trying to use satellites to figure out that this has moved. These are the search areas. We've seen the flight path here that we've talked about so many times. This is the initial search area, more of them.
Now, it's been moving steadily west, and now we have these new flight areas, new these search areas that the U.S. is focusing on up in the Bay of Bengal and down here.
How do they get here? It has to do with a satellite. There's a satellite out there that's used for commercial purposes that hour by hour pings or does electric handshake with every airplane it can see. That means it basically just says you are there, you are there, you are there.
It's doing that so it has some idea where the clients are in case it needs to reach them later. One hour later, it will do the same electronic handshake again. So, if you have a plane flying along here it has some very vague idea of the arc on the earth that this plane is traveling.
This is not really a locator. It's not really a GPS, but essentially, you're looking at the angle between the satellite and the plane and the earth and you're doing the math, the geometry of it, and it gives you some idea where the plane might be.
There were five pings according to go this official, five pings from this plane to the satellite and that's one of the reasons that they have an idea that the plane was still going and by extrapolating those pings, they have those handshakes, they have an idea that it would be somewhere out here.
The key finding in all of this is if their use of this satellite, it's not really meant to be used this way, you but if their math is right, this gives them some idea where the plane was one hour before it missed the next ping. Because the satellite asked again and there was no answer. So if you take all the information up to that point, now you say we have one dark hour where we have no idea where it was and that gives us at least some better idea of where it was in those other hours when there's really no other information.
Wolf, it's very difficult to explain the technology, we're still trying to define it, but this is where all of that information is coming from that has led U.S. searchers to these waters.
BLITZER: It looks like the worldwide resources and a lot of others really helping to try to unravel this mystery, right, Tom?
FOREMAN: Absolutely. As the officials themselves say, this is an untried idea. They're basically doing math and using the technology that's not meant for this to see if they can squeeze out of it information and when you have no information, it may be immensely helpful.
Right now, they think that it's gotten them at least closer to an answer to the big mystery. Where does it go? What happens?
BLITZER: Tom Foreman, thanks very much.
We're going to have much more of the breaking news coverage coming up here on CNN.
Also, you're watching THE SITUATION ROOM special report, "The Mystery of Flight 370."
First, this "Impact Your World".
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Growing up, actress Wendy Davis thought something was wrong with her.
WENDY DAVIS, ACTRESS: I really had very low self-esteem. And I felt that I was defective. I had a tough time staying seated in class, always found the window next to my desk and the things that were happening outside of the classroom far more interesting.
CUOMO: It wasn't until her daughter Kobi was diagnosed with ADHD that Davis discovered she had it too.
DAVIS: My entire childhood was explained in that moment.
CUOMO: She turned to the Internet and found an organization called Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or CHADD.
DAVIS: They support research. They provide a wealth of information. It was such a relief to read about how many people are living with ADHD.
CUOMO: Through CHADD, Davis shares her story nationwide. Her goal, eliminate the stigma she believes is associated with ADHD.
DAVIS: I think a lot of people sort of keep this ADHD thing in the closet. They don't want their children to share that they have it. Or they don't get a diagnosis at all.
I'm really here for those kids who aren't feeling good about themselves to say that you can be wildly successful.
BLITZER: You've been watching a SITUATION ROOM special report, "The Mystery of Flight 370."
We want to follow the breaking news and reiterate what we've been reporting. Multiple sources telling us Pentagon Barbara Starr saying the plane likely flowing two paths into the Indian Ocean, a northerly path as well as a more southerly path. The north -- towards the northeast and then the other one towards the south. Whichever way the plane went, authorities tell Barbara the plane likely, likely crashed in the ocean but there's no certainty, not yet.
"The New York Times" is reporting, meanwhile, the plane experienced significant changes in altitude after it lost contact with ground control and altered its course more than once as if, as if it was still under the command of a pilot.
We're going to have much more coming up throughout the night here on CNN. You're going to want to stay and watch all of our reporting.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Once again, you can always tweet us if you want @WolfBlitzer. You can always tweet the show @CNNSitRoom.
Thanks very much for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.