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Evidence Points Toward the Cockpit; Plane Flying Low to Avoid Radar; Did Plane Drop to 5,000 Feet?; The Pain of Waiting

Aired March 17, 2014 - 08:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everyone. Time now for the five things you need to know for your new day.

Number one, a report from Malaysia's "New Straits Times" says Flight 370 could have been flying low to avoid radar. And Reuters now reporting that Kazakhstan says it did not detect unsanctioned use of its airspace.

Russia's lower house of parliament plans to take up legislation later this week to formally annex Crimea from Ukraine. Nearly 97 percent of Crimeans voted to join the Russian Federation in Sunday's referendum.

Middle East peace talks resume in Washington today as President Obama sits down with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The U.S. is pushing a framework for additional talks. President Abbas has made clear that he does object to some of the provisions.

A major concession during the Oscar Pistorius murder trial. A crime scene photographer being cross-examined now. Earlier, he admitted that blood splattered pictures he said he took the day after Reeva Steenkamp's death were actually taken weeks later.

And Irish brewer Guinness has pulled its sponsorship of New York City's St. Patrick's Day Parade because gay and lesbian groups remain excluded. Newly elected Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is also skipping his parade for the same reason.

We're always updating the five things you need to know, so go to for the very latest.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, thanks, J.B.

Back now to the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Investigators are now focused on malicious intent, that's their quote, on the disappearance of the 777. Can terror be ruled out? And what about our own investigators? What are they being told and what is not being told to them? Joining us now is Congressman Michael McCaul. He's a Republican from Texas and chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security.

Congressman, thank you for joining us. REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R), TEXAS: Hey, good morning. Thanks for having me.

CUOMO: So let's get to the immediacy of this. As far as you know, has the U.S. been asked for help and is that help being provided?

MCCAUL: We have -- help is being provide. I just got confirmation as of yesterday that the FBI is there assisting. Our Navy is in the Indian Ocean trying to find this aircraft. It could it have come a little bit sooner, I think. But the fact is, it became a criminal investigation really officially just the last couple days. And so that's what we're very focused on.

One thing is clear, as you pointed out, is this is -- was an intentional and deliberate act. It was not an accident on an airplane. You had a transponder that was turned off. You had a flight pattern that was abruptly changed at the last minute. And there are a lot of flags and concerns out there about this. Many unanswered questions. As broadcasted earlier in your program, so many different theories being thrown out there right now. We still really don't know what happened.

CUOMO: So, congressman, one of the thing that we're really focused - it's actually our sole focus, is on testing what comes out to keep as clear a record as possible. The idea that this was someone's work as opposed to the work of something, like a mass decompression event, do you feel confident in that basis from Malaysian investigators that you can say with 100 percent certainty, somebody did this?

MCCAUL: Well, I feel very confident that it was done by somebody intentionally. And that is because the transponder was turned off. That's very significant. Somebody did change the flight program from its original flight pattern. That's very significant. That's not just an accident that happens. And, you know, there are a couple of unanswered questions about these Iranians who got on the plane with stolen passports. The inter (ph) police were not contacted with respect to that. There were one of these what they call uters (ph) on this plane, these Southeast Asian al Qaeda types that, you know, concern us.

I think one of two things happened here, if we're talking about possibilities. And one is that it got turned back for whatever reason we don't know, but it ran out of fuel and it landed in the Indian Ocean, where they're searching today. The other possible theory, but more unlikely, is that it landed somewhere to hook up with potential terrorists to use it as a weapon, as a cruise missile in a future terrorist attack.

CUOMO: What are you hearing on our side of the fence? I mean we're all working our intelligence source. Obviously yours are going to be way better than mine. I'm struck by how little it seems American investigators know, not as a point of criticism, but just as a point of curiosity, what are you hearing about the U.S. suspicions that this was a terrorist act and if they believe that, do they have any kind of notion of who would want to do this?

MCCAUL: They have no ties to terrorism in this, but they're not ruling it out because we've had such little access to the information. The - as you know, the pilot and co-pilot's homes were searched. Laptops were taken. A flight simulator. We want access to that information.

And I think there's a level of frustration. When you're dealing with a sovereign nation, you have to be respectful and it's not terribly sophisticated. We want to push harder to get our federal law enforcement in there and homeland security officials to move forward on this so we can get answers to these questions that remain looming.

CUOMO: Post-9/11 it is shocking to so many, including your interviewer today, that airplanes don't have more on them to track them. It seems they have less sophistication to track an airplane than you do my car. Is that something that is a red flag to you as well? And then a second question four, Congressman, Diego Garcia, you have that outpost there in the Indian Ocean, is it reasonable to assume that if, given all the comm (ph) sophistication that you have on Diego Garcia, that you would know if something like this hit the Indian Ocean anywhere near you? Two questions.

MCCAUL: Well, look, I think there's a bit of a -- one thing we don't want to give a playbook to the terrorists. I mean there is obviously a little bit of a dead spot when it comes to satellite coverage in this part of the area. And, I'm sorry, the first question was what again?

CUOMO: The first question is, isn't it a red flag to you that these planes don't have more sophisticated tracking technology on them so you can find them anywhere at any time?

MCCAUL: All right. Well, yes. That's a great question. You know, let me just say this to Americans. Our U.S. carriers have better technology, better equipment.


MCCAUL: They are protected. You're in a part of the world that's a little more primitive and, quite frankly, they had tracking device and some GPS devices that if they paid an additional service -

CUOMO: Right.

MCCAUL: Like you would on a Navistar in your car, than you would have that service. The fact is, Malaysian Air didn't want to pay that service.

CUOMO: You think if this was a United Airlines jet, God forbid, but you think if it were, that you'd know where it is right now?

MCCAUL: I think the tracking would be far more sophisticated and it wouldn't be as much of an issue. I think that's why it's such a mystery because the technology is substandard, subpar to what we have in the United States and now it's in possibly the Indian Ocean that's so vast and so hard to find that it may take many days to come.

CUOMO: Without revealing operational security, obviously, safe to assume we have not heard through our intelligence sources on Diego Garcia or elsewhere that they spotted anything like this plane? We'd know that by now, right?

MCCAUL: I believe so.

CUOMO: Right.

MCCAUL: And the fact is, look, on the northern boundary as well, this is a very important point, there are so many satellite radar detection systems as you go towards Kazakhstan, as you go towards Afghanistan with Bagram Air Force Base there and Pakistan that I feel very confident that had this flight been northbound, it certainly would have been picked up on radar.

CUOMO: Congressman Michael McCaul, we appreciate the perspective this morning on NEW DAY. We'll stay in touch with you so we can get the best information out there. Thank you, sir.

MCCAUL: Thank you so much.

CUOMO: We'll take a quick break here on NEW DAY. When we come back, could this flight, Flight 370, really have dropped to 5,000 feet? Why would they have done that? Would that have made the plane undetected? Well, there's a way to test it. We're going to take you inside a flight simulator and look at what pilots would have seen and whether it would have worked, how possible is it. We'll take you through.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

We continue to test the information coming out of the investigation into Flight 370. Right now it seems to be centering around the cockpit and whether one of the pilots had some reason to sabotage the plane.

Why are we saying that? Because we're hearing about a report from a Malaysian paper that the plane may have dropped quickly to a low altitude, 5,000 feet or below, perhaps to avoid radar. How does that look if you're in the cockpit of a 777? How would it work and would it be effective? Let's get to CNN's Martin Savidge and pilot, Mitchell Casado in Toronto in front of a flight simulator. Martin -- take it away.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right. Christ, what we're trying to do is simulate just what you described getting it down to 5,000 feet and what the difficulties would be to fly it there.

I'll point out something right now. We are actually at about 6,800 feet altitude wise but above the ground we're only 1,400 feet. The reason is we're flying that northern route. We're over Pakistan. This part of Pakistan is extremely mountainous. The terrain is very undulating with a lot of high mountains. We're having to navigate as you can see to sort of pick and choose our way to go through these mountain passes or to clear the mountain tops and, again, that's at about 6,400 feet.

Let's take it even lower because if we're really trying to evade radar you have to do almost (inaudible) of the earth line. This is when you'll start getting all sorts of warnings and alerts because this airplane is so automated and is trying to tell the pilot look if you want to fly this low it must mean you're trying to land. We're not, we're just trying to fly low in order to try to appease the aircraft.

We could lower the landing gear which I'll show you how. Now we got the landing gear down. The problem with this, it quiets some of the alarms but the other problem is now we're really drinking a lot of fuel.

What's the handling of the aircraft like at this level?

MITCHELL CASADO, PILOT TRAINER: It's a lot of (inaudible) -- puts it into the controls very firm and quick and very dangerous because you're low to the ground not a lot of time to react.

SAVIDGE: You've got to hope Chris that whoever is in control of the aircraft if this was the route they took and this was the altitude they tried to fly that they knew the terrain they were going into. Remember for this simulation we made it daylight. But for that person at that time it would have been nighttime, which means that any of the ground hazards would have been extremely hard to see and without a transponder transmitting, it would have meant that any other aircraft wouldn't know we were here.

CUOMO: What's the difference, Martin, of fuel burn rate flying at this altitude and making these maneuvers from what would happen if it were proper altitude?

SAVIDGE: What's the difference, Mitchell flying at this --

CASADO: Well, you're talking about two separate things. High altitude a lot of time to think about what's happening, very sort of mundane; down here very high-speed unforgiving environment.

CUOMO: What about the fuel burn rate?

CASADO: Fuel burn rate, especially with the gear down you're drinking fuel. Easily 20 percent, 30 percent, 40 percent more fuel burn per hour than up there.

CUOMO: OK. Martin Savidge, Mitchell Casado -- thank you very much. It's actually really interesting to watch to show just how precarious the situation would be. And remember what we just heard about that fuel burn rate. That would mean we don't even know if they would have made it to Pakistan because there hasn't been an adjustment in the fuel that would be reasonable assuming the plane was flying at this lower altitude having a higher burn rate. So, that was very helpful.

Mickey over to you.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: That's right because they have to look on land and at sea right, Chris?

Thanks so much for that. Next up on NEW DAY more of our in depth coverage of the search for Flight 370 -- 239 people missing for ten days now. We're going to take a closer look at the agonizing wait for their loved ones.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone. Continuing our coverage for you from Kuala Lumpur and as the search for missing Flight 370 drags on, it would be a huge understatement to say that the friends and families of those on that flight have been on an emotional roller coaster. They have been through so much already and the days just continue to drag on.

We spoke with some of those families about how they are coping.


BOLDUAN (voice over): 239 lives. Their fates still unknown; for their families, everyday emotional highs and extreme lows. This father waits in desperation for news at his 34 old son. He hardly sleeps he says and never turns off his phone. He hopes and prays the plane will soon be found. He can't bear the thought of losing his only son.

Like him many still hope for a miracle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to pray for them. I hope all of them to come back safe to their families and friends.

BOLDUAN (on camera): The missing flight originated here at Kuala Lumpur Airport where part of the airport now this wall has become a gathering place of sorts -- people from all over the world coming together to leave messages. They call it the "wall of hope".

And if you look, it's even hard to read them at this point. The wall seemingly overwhelmed with the outpouring of support. Take this message from a nine-year-old little girl simply saying, "Please come home, let's pray". A plea and wish shared by hundreds of families who continue to wait.

Some fear the worst and struggle to grieve without knowing exactly what happened to their loved ones. Heartbroken, this father hopes the plane was hijacked because then at least there's hope his son is alive. He says his life will lose all meaning without his only son.

It's been ten days but the Malaysian government working with 24 other countries has yet to reveal any hard evidence of where the plane might be. Instead of narrowing their search it's now expanding and with it frustration is mounting.

This man waits for any news about his son in Kuala Lumpur where family and friends of the missing have been flown by Malaysia Airlines. He tells airlines officials he doesn't want compensation he just want answers. He's angry and exhausted, demanding answers but getting none.

Many others find little comfort in the little information coming from briefings. One man asked those in the crowded room to stand up if they've lost faith in the Malaysian government as well as Malaysia Airlines. More than half of the room stands in agreement.


BOLDUAN: And you really get the sense when you take a look at that wall of hope, it's important that they do keep hope alive for the families and for the whole community and all of them, so many nations now involved in this search. And that wall they are not saying good- bye they are clinging to hope and praying for a miracle.

Now ten days in. You can imagine what these families continue to go through as the minutes and the hours continue to tick by. We'll continue to cover their story and bring it to you, of course, from here as well as New York.

We're going to take another break.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, a timeline is now possibly in dispute in what happened with the plane and the belief that the plane could have possibly dropped to 5,000 feet to try and avoid the radar. We've been showing you it, we've been talking about it, we're going to have the very latest on the Malaysia flight mystery that continues straight ahead.


CUOMO: There are developments in the search for Flight 370. There are developments going on in Ukraine. Let's get you to the "NEWSROOM" and Carol Costello. Carol, good morning.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. And thanks so much.

"NEWSROOM" starts now.