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New Evidence Flight 370 Changed Course; Why Didn't Flight 370 Passengers Use Cell Phones; Not Having Answers Worse for Families; Flight 370 Investigation Centers on Pilots.

Aired March 18, 2014 - 11:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: It has been 11 days since flight 370 vanished with 239 people on board. @ THIS HOUR, new evidence bolstering the belief that this plane radically changed its course.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: The Thailand military says they were receiving normal flight path and communication data from the Malaysian plane on its planned route until 1:22 a.m. when it disappeared from the radar. Six minutes later, the Thai military detected an unknown signal headed in the opposite direction. So a new report from the "New York Times" suggests someone programmed the plane's computer to make it turn west. What people don't know, no one knows exactly, is who entered those coordinates or when they did. The search has now extended to the waters off Australia and widens to 2.24 million nautical square miles. Crews in that part of the world a searching that area. They are saying it is roughly the size of France. The general manager for Australia's Maritime Emergency Response Division says it is like looking for a needle in a hay stack.


JOHN YOUNG, AUSTRALIA MARITIME SAFETY AUTHORITY: This initial search area was developed working with the United States National Transportation Safety Board as a result of work they have already done on behalf of Malaysia. The area where the aircraft might have entered the water was then corrected by the Rescue Coordination Center here to provide a possible search area that is relevant to efforts to date.


BERMAN: The new information we have today comes from Thailand. Thailand saying its military picked up on its radar, this flight, as it was moving through the area, now, 11 days ago.

Our Tom Foreman is in Washington.

Tom, connect the dots for us now.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'll tell you this. This is the first time, as we bring in our map -- this is the first time we have had radar data since the disappearance that told us something other than these satellite indications. Let's take a look at where it took off, Kuala Lumpur, flew off here 11 days ago and disappeared without a trace. As these search areas have evolved and they have extrapolated data, maybe there is a northern arc or a southern arc, it has persistently been believed that maybe it turned left and headed over to the Strait of Malacca. This would support that theory. If you look at where Thailand is right there, the Strait of Malacca is just over there. That's the strait over there. If it came up in the box on the right and turned, and Thailand tracked it, as they said they have, it would wind up in an area where they said it was all along. This fits into the theories at this point -- John, Michaela?

PEREIRA: Tom, I imagine there are blind spots that the radar wouldn't pick up. Are you able to detect what those would be?

FOREMAN: There are absolutely blind spots. The southern route, a lot of water out there. On the northern route, if you look at it, you fly up through all those areas up there, there are plenty of areas where you would think there would be a blanket of radar coverage, but that is not the case. We've found in some cases, they just weren't covering the area. In some cases, the equipment is not that good. And in some cases, the people running it aren't that good. Or in some cases, not even manned -- Michaela?

PEREIRA: Tom Foreman, illustrating the vast space that they are looking at.

Some of radar is not turned on full time. That's the other piece of information we are cleaning.

Ahead @ THIS HOUR, what exactly did happen aboard that missing jet? The question that so many people at home want to know, why didn't any of the passengers call home? We have some answers coming up next.

BERMAN: Plus, the psychological toll this mystery has to be taking on the family of the passengers. The mystery and limbo, not only do they have to deal with the possibility of tragedy. Right now, they have to deal with the possibility of the unknown. What kind of toll does this take? We will talk about that when we come back.


PEREIRA: Back to our breaking news. From the top of the hour, we are getting news out of Seattle. COMO News, one of the local stations there in Seattle, is reporting it was their news helicopter that crashed beside the Space Needle in Seattle. Two people are now dead. The police department is on scene as are firefighters. They are on the scene. We are working on new details.

BERMAN: We don't know if the two deaths come from people inside the helicopter or on the ground. You can see the situation on the ground with the car and truck obviously destroyed there. There could have been a fair amount of damage to the helicopter and surrounding area.

PEREIRA: And potentially, more injuries.

BERMAN: We will bring you more as we get it in.

PEREIRA: Back to our top story, a question a lot of us have been asking since we found out about the disappearance of the jet. Whatever was happening aboard the plane, why didn't any of the passengers use their cell phones to try in a desperate attempt to reach their loved ones, to reach out for help and call for help?

BERMAN: A tragic reason that so many are asking this question, because you remember when United flight 93 was hijacked on September 11th, some passengers did manage to make calls. On many of those flights, they did on United flight 93. It is how some of those passengers learn that the other flights had been hijacked and there were attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

PEREIRA: Our guest has some answers. Jeff Wise is a familiar face @ THIS HOUR. He is a journalist, a pilot and the author of "Extreme Fear: The Science of Your Mind in Danger."

Jeff, you have written some articles about this. You have some theories about why cell phone calls were not made or at least we don't know that cell phone calls were made.

JEFF WISE, JOURNALIST, PILOT & AUTHOR: Right. I think people get a false idea or misconception of what cell phones can do. In fact, if you are at altitude, you can't make a cell phone call. The signal is too weak. Cell phone towers mostly aim their signal down, because that's where most cell phones are, on the ground. They don't want you to use them in airplanes. At 30,000 feet, you can't use a cell phone.

Now, what about flight 93? People don't remember that, in those days, airplanes used to have these things called air phones. One seat in every row had a phone in the back. You could swipe a credit card. It costs like $7 a minute. They weren't very popular. They wound up being phased out. Most of the calls made from 9/11 were from air phones.

BERMAN: The altitude was a lot lower.

WISE: Only toward the end of the flight when the plane came down below 10,000 feet, even lower, were a few phone calls able to come through.

BERMAN: I want to talk about something that's an awful thing to consider here. If this plane had been taken over, flight 370. What could the people in the cockpit do to make sure that the passengers were subdued or not able to do anything like try to make a phone call?

WISE: Bear in mind, this happened in the middle of the night, which it partly was part of the plot in the first place --


BERMAN: If there was --

(CROSSTALK) WISE: They say it was an intentional act of sabotage. People might disagree with me, but I believe it was clearly a plot. It was clearly an intentional act.


BERMAN: Sorry to interrupt you.


WISE: Sure. So it's over night and most passengers are asleep. They have been told to turn their phones off. You can't tell what direction you are heading just by the motion of your body. It is very disoriented. People might expect they can tell what direction they are headed in, but you really can't. When this plane took its gentle turn to the left -- it might have bumped up to 45,000 feet. It is not clear. But at any rate, they wouldn't know that they had deviated. So the first thing they would know that something was unusual about this flight, potentially, unless there was a fire or some other thing happened, just from the fact of the flight itself, they wouldn't know that they had deviated until they were maybe six hours into the flight, they are expecting to land in Beijing, they are not. It is still dark outside. It's still dark outside. Why? Because they have traveled to a different part of the world and are in a different time zone.

So the answer is, they wouldn't know to answer their cell phone. Second, yes, if they started to the get restless, the captain could have depressurized the cabin. I found it surprising actually that the pilot in charge of a plane has the ability to let the air out essentially. An airplane is a pressurized container of air. They can just vent out that air and reduce to the ambient atmosphere that's around them. So at 35,000 feet, 45,000 feet, you have so little oxygen, that you essentially become hypoxic and pass out, unable to use your cells phones.

Now, if you do that, oxygen masks will drop. However, doing so, you can no longer get out of your seat. You're locked into that mask. Those oxygen masks only work up to two minutes. After that --

PEREIRA: It has been one of the questions we have all seen. You have gotten them. We have gotten them. Our friends are asking us about them. We are all searching for answers, Jess. It goes to that extent. We all want to find this plane.

Jeff Wise, thanks for joining us once again @ THIS HOUR.

BERMAN: Appreciate it.

WISE: thank you.

BERMAN: Ahead for us, how families are coping with the mystery here, not knowing what happened to their loved ones on board Malaysia flight 370.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PEREIRA: If you can, for a minute, try to imagine the roller coaster of emotions the families of these missing plane passengers are going through. We know that group counselors say it is worse than a crash. It is this not knowing what happened and being left in limbo, having no answers at all.

BERMAN: It has to be brutal. It's so bad, one grief counselor says some of the desperate family welcomed the news that this may, may have been some kind of hijacking.


PAUL YIN, GRIEF COORDINATOR: When the word came out that we are basically considering hijacking as the most possible scenario, there was, among many of the families, almost euphoria, because that means they could still be alive. And I heard cheers.


PEREIRA: Psychologist, Jeff Gardere, assistant professor of New York's College of Medicine, join us now.

It seems for us, we are not in the middle of that, only watching on the sidelines. That's a terrible thing to think you would cheer to think of the possibility that your loved one has been hijacked. But there is a chance of survival.

JEFF GARDERE, PSYCHOLOGIST & ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, NEW YORK COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: That's right. That's why I call this the horror and the hope, because you want to hold on to whatever hope there is. It is great that the grief counselors are there. You grieve after you are separated from someone and they die. They can't begin to grieve classically as one would. They don't know what has happened to the bodies, whether the family members are still alive or whether they are perished. What's going on? They are stuck in this limbo.

BERMAN: What would you tell them to do? How would you advise them of how they should be thinking because -- I suppose there is reason to hope but there's also a large likelihood this could end very badly.

GARDERE: You hope for the best, fear for the worse. That's all you can tell them. But the important thing is to talk to one another. They are forming informal families, if you will, because they're all together during the briefings, talking to one another. They're talking to the grief counselors. So just keep that catharsis going, and rely on your spirituality, rely on your religion, anything, anything that takes some of that pressure off of you and allows you to be able to hope as much as you can.

BERMAN: Is it dangerous, though, to hope too much here?

GARDERE: Well, I think the danger -- that's a great question. The danger is that you set yourself up for some sort of a major failure. But at this point, again, this roller coaster of emotions, it's important to try to stay more with the positive than in the negative. We can't write them off as yet. Because we don't know what has happened.

PEREIRA: I've got to ask you something that I know a lot of people sitting at home watching @ THIS HOUR with us wondering as well. Post- 9/11, we went through this and now we're going through this again. If you're at all a Nervous Nellie --


GARDERE: That's right.

PEREIRA: It's more real now, the fear of getting on an airplane, especially if you're taking a transatlantic flight, going across these big bodies of water. What do you tell clients, what do you tell people, how to manage that anxiety and how to manage that anxiety and fear and continue to live your life?

GARDERE: Well, I think the most important thing is to admit that it is a very uncertain world, and that anything can, in fact, happen. But again, we just try to look at the more positive of surviving, of being spiritual, not necessarily about religion, but of thinking those positive thoughts that we will see the next moment, we will see the next day. But here's the importance. Enjoying every single day, every moment, because you never know when that will be taken away from you.

PEREIRA: That's actually a very good point. I appreciate that. I might even take that to heart.

BERMAN: Jeff, I've got to say, last thing here, you know, those families dealing with the hope and also the grief at the same time, they also have to be dealing with an enormous amount of anger.

GARDERE: That's right.

BERMAN: That what they're being told right now is very, very confusing.

GARDERE: Well, there is a lot of confusion going on because of all of the different information. This stuff is so mysterious, one of the great mysteries of our time right now, so they don't really know what to think. But there is a lot of anger. There is a lot of rage, because they have been getting conflicting information. And they feel that in some ways some of the governments involved are not telling them everything that they know. Not to mention that they may feel betrayed, because they may begin to think there is an inside job as far as the crew, perhaps, being involved.

PEREIRA: Well --

BERMAN: So many things they have to deal with here.

PEREIRA: If you're a praying person, say a prayer for those families. Send your thoughts and good wishes. They're going to need support in the coming days.

BERMAN: Positive thoughts. PEREIRA: Jeff Gardere, we appreciate you being here. Thanks so much.

BERMAN: Now you can join in the search for Malaysian Airlines flight 370. Thousands of people trying to find the missing airliner by combing over images posted by Digital Globe. The Colorado-based company owns one of the world's most complex satellite networks. But volunteers are needed to search through the thousands of miles worth of images. You can check out to learn more about how you can help.

PEREIRA: Ahead @ THIS HOUR, the latest on the investigation into flight 370. The focus, the two men who were flying that plane.


PEREIRA: Much of the investigation, at least where it currently stands, into what happened to flight 370 surrounds the pilots. Were they heroes trying to save the plane in an emergency, or were they part of a scheme to hijack it or bring down that Boeing 777?

BERMAN: So many questions about them. We want to bring in our senior Washington correspondent, Joe Johns. Joe has been following the investigation.

Joe, we know now that they confiscated the pilot's flight simulator, his personal flight simulator from his house. Of course, they waited a week to do that. But what do we now know about what this might reveal?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: We know a little what they were looking for. Looking for records on the hard drive or software in the simulator that might tell them whether the captain practiced unusual maneuvers or approaches to other airports.

The other issue is whether anyone besides the captain may have trained on that simulator, and if so, investigators want to locate those persons and find out what they know.

That said, there's still nothing the authorities have made public suggesting a motive to take at that plane and fly it off course and is make it disappear.

PEREIRA: And, of course, a lot of pilots here saying that's not uncommon for pilots to have simulator in their own home.

We also know that the pilot has been a supporter of the Malaysian opposition party and that nation jailed the opposition leader just hours before the plane disappeared. Have there been any dots connected in this development?

JOHNS: There really haven't. What we have been told is that the captain, Zaharie Ahmed Shah, was a so-called silent member of Malaysia's People's Justice Party, also known as PKR. It's an opposition party, yes, but nothing to indicate radicalization, say, on the part of the captain. That notion has actually been discredited by the authorities so far. And as far as we know, there is no discernible link to the PKR leader, Anwar Ibrahim (ph).

BERMAN: Joe, you have law enforcement sources here. What's your sense of what authorities think now of how the Malaysian officials are handling the investigation?

JOHNS: Well, there is a bit of concern, because there's a lot of assistance out there that they could be using, and a lot of this information and the investigation has been rather closely held.

That said, once they find a plane, we have been told they're very likely to broaden it out and allow a lot of others in, including more involvement, say, from the FBI and others.

BERMAN: Once they find a plane, wouldn't that be a wonderful thing?

PEREIRA: Wouldn't that be?

Joe Johns, we appreciate it. Thanks for joining us @ THIS HOUR.

BERMAN: Really appreciate it.

Of course, we are following the mystery of flight 370 throughout the day here on CNN.

That's all for us right now AT THIS HOUR. I'm John Berman.

PEREIRA: I'm Michaela Pereira.

"LEGAL VIEW" with Ashleigh Banfield starts right now.