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Jet Hunt Shifts as Findings Hint at Longer Flight

Aired March 18, 2014 - 06:30   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The family of Flight 370's co- pilot, Fariq Abdul Hamid, reclusive since the crush of media attention flooded their home on Saturday.


BOLDUAN: Their relative's now infamous last words from the cockpit, "All right. Good night," are still shrouded in mystery. First Officer Hamid is seen here flying a 777, his reflection in the console, just weeks before the Malaysia Airlines flight went missing.

(on-camera): How do you know the family?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know about this family around five years, I think, around five years.

BOLDUAN (voice-over): Along the streets of Shah Alam, a suburb of Kuala Lumpur, the co-pilot's neighbor, a taxi driver, says he doesn't believe the 27-year-old co-pilot would play a role in the flight's disappearance.

"He is a pilot and this is a respected career in Malaysia," he said. "So it is an honor to have a neighbor like this."

The taxi driver describes the co-pilot as ambitious, someone who loved sports cars.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the first thing after he became a pilot, he...

BOLDUAN: "After he became a pilot he bought a GTI Golf, and then he bought a BMW. He is a big fan of cars and I don't think he would do something crazy," he said.

The neighbor says the Hamid family kept to themselves saying he also viewed the father as, quote, "someone important." But he can't forget the most recent conversation he had with his neighbor when he said simply, "My son is lost."

BOLDUAN, (on-camera): When the father talked to you, how did he seem? How did he act?

"He was clearly worried but he was, as a Muslim, he seemed calm and able to accept it," the driver said. "His father asked me to pray for him, pray for his son to be found, for the plane to be found. And I assured him that his son will be fine and that they will find the plane."


BOLDUAN (on-camera): So when I asked the co-pilot's next door neighbor that we spoke with how he thought the Malaysian government was handling (INAUDIBLE) thinks that the government is experienced, he thinks that he's -- thinks the government has been slow to respond, but he also said this is an unprecedented crisis that they're dealing with. So a lot in that conversation, a little bit of color into one of the men that is almost entirely the focus of the investigation right now. We'll have much more on that ahead.

But coming up next on NEW DAY, more breaking news coverage of the search for Flight 370.

Was the Malaysian Airline jetliner hijacked? If so, are we missing clues about who may have done it? Ahead, we're going to talk to a former British Airways pilot who personally foiled an attempted hijacking while he was at the controls.

And also this, new reports say someone may have preprogrammed Flight 370 to intentionally veer off course.

We're going to talk -- we're going to take you live inside a flight simulator to find out how that's done and who could have done it. We'll be back.



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to NEW DAY. We have new details this morning in the search for Flight 370. "The New York Times" is reporting overnight that the plane's flight path and the dramatic turn left was carried out through a computer, most likely programmed by someone in the cockpit.

So how would this work? How reasonable? And joining us once again from the 777 cockpit simulator in Ontario, our CNN's Martin Savidge and pilot Mitchell Casado.

Martin, great to have you again. This is like your home away from home now here in the simulator. So based on this new report from "The New York Times," Martin, just go through with Mitchell and show what this would take, and the level of sophistication, the chances it could be someone other than the pilot. Just take us through all the variables here.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right. What we're talking about here, Chris, now is the focus is on this piece of hardware. It is known as the flight management system. There are actually three of them here. There's one here, there's one right here, and there's one over here. But this is the one we'll focus on right now. It is the heart of the avionics of this aircraft, consider it the brain of the plane. It's used for a lot of functions. Basically because of this system, you don't need a navigator on board and you don't need an engineer on board. It does a lot of the flying. Its primary purpose though is the navigation.

So before takeoff, we programmed, 370 would have programmed everything that is needed to fly this plane from Kuala Lumpur, where we took off, to Beijing.

It's all preset, every waypoint, every turn, everything that is needed to fly this plane is in here. But yesterday we talked about the possibility that somebody could put in an alternate route and quickly access this and change the trajectory of the airplane.

Right, Mitchell?

MITCHELL CASADO, PILOT: That's absolutely correct. So what we've done here, again, like Martin said, we've programmed the route. We just passed the point B-5 (ph). This is the last point where made contact. And we're on our course still to Beijing to Samag (ph). What I'm going to show you is how easy it is to deviate from that course using this computer here.

So our next point after (INAUDIBLE) these are points along the route, OK? They don't have any -- they're not in places; they're just in waypoints in the sky defined by latitude and longitude.

So B-3 CT (ph) is our next point after Samag (ph). If I wanted to change the route and go in a different direction like they did, I'm going to pick a waypoint here on the screen. All these little triangles are waypoints. So this one here is Uvuno (ph). So I'm just going to type that in here. E -- sorry -- U-V-U-N-O. OK.

And then I just put it into where the waypoint I should be going to is. It asks me to confirm the coordinates. I do that. I execute it, actually an execute button here. And you can see now the airplane is taking this course off my regular path.

SAVIDGE: So certainly just a series of about, I don't know, eight or nine keystrokes that will send this plane on a complete different course. And it can do it in a way that the passengers aren't necessarily going to feel a really sharp turn. It is just going to gradually get this plane on a totally different course than the one that was originally planned in Beijing.

CUOMO: So it's not so much an invasive maneuver as it is a course change. But, Martin, put it into this context because we keep trying to figure out why the pilots never communicated with the tower, especially given the new information. The whole reason "The New York Times" has this report is because they say they know that the ACARS, the monitoring system, recorded that these strokes were in there.

So assuming the system was still up and working, which is how they got this reporting, what is the reason that they wouldn't be communicating with the tower if it was such a casual change to make?

SAVIDGE: Well, I mean, it would imply that there's obviously some effort on deceit by whoever made the course change. Remember, they're shutting down the transponder. So now the plane is no longer pinging on radar.

Then the next thing they would do later is shut down the ACARS system. But we know that this information came from the ACARS system; it was still active. But a short time later, apparently it went off because we don't know where the plane is now.

CASADO: Yes. That's absolutely correct. And again -- sorry -- go ahead?

CUOMO: So it's just in terms of keeping this, what we believe the sequence of events were. The transponder is off. So there's one line of communication that's gone. That's why the tower isn't hearing anything. They then make this adjustment, it is recorded by the ACARS system. The ACARS system is then later turned off or goes off for some reason.

Knowing that they made a course change, does that give you any insight into whether or not they were dealing with a situation or this was all done intentionally in terms of shutting off the com systems? Does it help or no?

CASADO: Does the course change indicate that they did it intentionally?

CUOMO: Well, that they were dealing with a situation that they couldn't control, like that the transponder went off by itself or are all the systems separate so it doesn't lead you to any conclusion?

CASADO: No, no. The transponder and the course change are completely separate. The course change indicates that somebody did that intentionally. It has nothing to do with the transponder, it's a completely separate system.

SAVIDGE: And remember the time at which this has all happened. They're transitioning from Malaysian airspace into Vietnamese airspace, it's that no-man's-land in the sky.

CUOMO: And to remind people, Martin, when we were talking about how they disabled these systems, the transponder you showed us. It's just a knob turn away.

The ACARS, in terms of dealing with the circuit breakers, there's a lot of electronics under the cockpit back in the passenger section. But there are also breakers there in the cockpit, right?

Have Mitchell show how simple that would be for someone to want to do that as well, in terms of level of sophistication.

SAVIDGE: Well, I mean, there -- ACARS is located in here, it's located in here, it's located in here and here, four systems independent here. So you'd have to start shutting them down. You really couldn't completely turn it off here.

CASADO: No. No, you couldn't completely shut it off unless you went down inside the avionics bay, which is below the aircraft, underneath, in the guts of the airplane. You would have to have a very in-depth knowledge of the architecture of not just this airplane but electronics in general.

You'd almost have to be like an electronics engineer to be able to completely disarm ACARS. You could reduce its functions, simplify its functions, get it back to raw data.

But you couldn't completely shut it down unless you had that kind of -- almost to the point of where you just knew how it's designed.

CUOMO: So that explains why investigators at this point don't know for sure whether somebody had this sophistication and disabled it or there was something else going on in the plane that took out the system.

Fair assumption?

CASADO: Yes, that's a fair assumption. I would -- I would -- the latter seems a lot less likely. You know, it's so sophisticated, there's so many backups. It's designed to not go out. So I would bet on somebody knowing how to disable it.

SAVIDGE: Meanwhile, we're well on our way onto a whole different course.

CUOMO: All right. Martin, Mitchell, thank you very much. Appreciate the time you're spending up there. It's really very helpful for people to put the picture with all these different ideas that they're getting thrown at them. Thank you very much, fellows.

All right. We're going to take a break here now. When we come back on NEW DAY, there are new questions about just what happened on board. We're looking at it ourselves. We understand these little pieces of information.

How do they all fit together? Does it help the suspicion of investigators that this was a big accident that pilots were dealing with or was it something more intentional, was it something hijacking related? We'll speak to a retired British pilot who managed to thwart a takeover of his plane while he was in the cockpit to get a sense of what was that like.

Plus we're going to expect to hear from Russian President Vladimir Putin as he goes before Parliament to discuss making Crimea part of Russia. He says he's going to defy the U.S. and the European Union. We'll hear from him directly.



MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN HOST: Welcome back to NEW DAY, and back to our coverage of the missing Flight 370. A "New York Times" report this morning indicating that when the plane's path was diverted west, it was carried out by a computer system, which was likely programmed by someone inside the cockpit.

That's raising even more questions about those two pilots at the helm.

But so far, no connection has been found between them and the plane's disappearance. So if the pilots didn't divert the plane, then who did?

Joining us now is retired Captain William Hagan. He's a former British Airways pilot, he himself stopped a brazen hijacking of his aircraft on December 29th, 2000, some 14 years ago, during a flight from England to Nairobi and he is here with us to tell that harrowing tale.

Captain, what a pleasure to have you here today. Take us back 14 years ago.

What happened in your cockpit?

CAPTAIN WILLIAM HAGAN, FORMER BRITISH AIRWAYS PILOT: Well, Michaela, at the time there was one pilot on the controls, Senior First Officer Phil Watson. I was taking my mandatory rest in the bunk which is part of the cockpit area. It's behind the door, so a passenger entering wouldn't really have known that I was in there.

A passenger did enter, because we didn't have a locked cockpit door policy at that time. And he closed the door behind him and moved across towards the -- initially towards the captain seat and faced himself over the central pedestal and onto the lap of the handling pilot.

PEREIRA: Was he armed?

HAGAN: He was in between the -- sorry, the pilot?

PEREIRA: No. Was the man --

HAGAN: No, not particularly.

Oh, armed? Sorry, no, he was not armed. However, he, I believe, had prepared to do what he was achieving.

Anyhow, he placed himself between the controls and the pilot. He grabbed the control column very close to his chest. And in the next few seconds the aircraft went into an extreme loss of control.

Initially we soared upwards and very rapidly entered a significant stall regime. And to recover from that, the co-pilot pushed the assailant forward. And we went into an extreme dive which exceeded 30,000 feet a minute. So it was really extreme.

And it was during that period that I came into the cockpit. I initially hesitated because I didn't think I would be of any assistance and the extreme movement of the aircraft would restrict what I could do and might make things worse. But then eventually I heard the co-pilot calling for help. So I did enter. And my priority was to remove the assailant from the controls. And I attempted various techniques which over a period of probably about one and a half minutes before the inspiration came to me eventually to gouge his eye. Prior to that, I had been aggressively pulling him. But as I was aggressively pulling him upwards and rearwards, he was aggressively pulling the control column of the aircraft, which had an enormous effect on the aircraft flight path.

And in fact, after the dive, it pulled us out of the dive, which was quite pleasing.

PEREIRA: I can imagine.

HAGAN: But then subsequently after a short period of what would have seemed to the passengers near normality, it then brought us back into a second significant stall. And we ended up with perhaps 60 miles an hour below the stall speed of the aircraft. So it was falling at that stage.

PEREIRA: OK. Let me understand here then. So then you've got these extreme movements happening while this struggle is going on inside the cockpit. You're finally able to disable the man and get him under control. That's not your only concern.

Now you have to stabilize the aircraft? That's a difficult thing to do given now what has just happened.

HAGAN: That's absolutely right. That's why the hero of the evening is really actually the co-pilot, Phil Watson, because at one stage we were actually over the vertical, we had 94 degrees of bank and we were very significantly stalled at the time.

The danger was that had that continued overwards -- over, we would have been in an inverted stall, which I think is -- you can't recover from that too much.

PEREIRA: You say that it was really a matter of seconds before that flight could have been lost?

HAGAN: Well, if the rolling movement had continued -- fortunately, Phil, who couldn't see his instruments, but as we turned eastwards, there was a sun beginning to rise, there was a brightness. And he could see that, which gave him a horizon. And he was able to reach underneath the assailant and ultimately position the controls so as to bring the wings level.

PEREIRA: OK. So all of this happens in a matter of a minute. You work in conjunction with your co-pilot. You work together.

Let me ask you, in the course of that -- because we're trying to piece together if the potential that somebody breached the cockpit in the missing Flight 370, if somebody was able to get in and a struggle ensued, you worked together.

Was there communication with the tower? Or your primary concern was right there, what was going on in the cockpit and getting that plane to level out and keep your passengers safe? HAGAN: Absolutely. We say aviate first, navigate second and communicate third. Communications was low on my priority list.

PEREIRA: So at what point did you communicate with home base, with anyone else to let them know what had happened and that you were OK?

HAGAN: Well, I communicated with the passengers immediately after the assailant was removed from the cockpit.

PEREIRA: What did you say?

HAGAN: Because I wanted to reassure them that the aircraft was not significantly damaged because when I was in the bunk, that's what I thought initially, that the erratic movement was caused by some sort of damage to the aircraft. So I wanted to reassure people immediately. And so I spoke at that time to the passengers.

Speaking to the company, took place probably five or 10 minutes after we had reestablished. We spoke to air traffic control, telling them where we were, what the problem had been, and that we were going to resume our flight path. Other aircraft were looking out for us. In fact, we probably didn't speak to air traffic control. We spoke to -- on the pilot's emergency frequency.

PEREIRA: To other pilots?

HAGAN: To all parts of the world, works much better than air traffic control.

PEREIRA: Let me ask you, it's amazing the story you've just told us. I think that it's a gripping and harrowing tale.

Given what you experienced and what you know and all of the vast amount of things that we don't know about this missing flight what's your gut tell you about what maybe went wrong here?

HAGAN: Well, my very first impression, because I'm oriented to think that way, is that there was a cockpit intrusion. As to what happened after that cockpit intrusion it's mere speculation. Enough people have speculated already without me adding to it. I don't know who, why or what the result was.

PEREIRA: I think it's an important thing to end on, to tell you I read your account of this. You said prior to this event 14 years ago, you were a pilot. Your chief job was getting that plane safely to its destination, delivering its cargo. You hadn't really given much thought to the human cargo on board.

But that day changed it forever for you, did it not?

HAGAN: Well, I don't remember saying that, but yes, of course it did. As we were plunging earthwards, I felt the enormous responsibility of 400 lives there. I also then added to that when I remembered that family were on board. So I was very angry that this assailant tried to kill my kids and my wife. And that was my main thoughts, my -- I was also aware, trying to be aware of where the ground was, because often I would be over the Himalayas while I was in the bunk. And I was very aware of the height loss at the time.

PEREIRA: That is retired Captain William Hagan, a former British Airways pilot, who survived and navigated his aircraft, he and his co- pilot, to safety after a harrowing ordeal over Nairobi.

Thank you so much for sharing this story with us and giving us a little insight into what happens when something like this goes on inside the cockpit.

Captain Hagan, thank you so much.

HAGAN: Thank you, Michaela.

CUOMO: All right, Mich, just a few minutes before the top of the hour. And there's a lot of news to tell you about this morning.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The entire search area is now 2.24 million square nautical miles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first diversion that the plane made was done by a computer system on the plane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were very clever about the way they slipped out of radar.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governments around the world really have to dig deep.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you look at expanding into the rest of the Indian Ocean, that's such an incredibly huge area.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're basically considering hijacking as the most possible scenario.


CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome back to NEW DAY. There is breaking news, a potential break in the mystery surrounding this Malaysian flight. We now hear that the Thai Air Force says it tracked an unknown flight the day 370 disappeared.

We also know the search area is now growing in size, approximately the same size as Australia.

Also a report in "The New York Times" focuses on orders from the cockpit computer. We're going to break it down with one of "The Times'" writers in just a moment. But first, let's go to Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, that's where Kate Bolduan is standing by with more -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Good morning, of course, Chris, from Malaysia. Before we get to all of that, word is coming in just minutes ago. I believe that you were just talking about it, that Thailand's Air Force has picked up an unknown radar signal the day the jet vanished. You may have just been mentioning that. We've got some communication on our end. Officials say they were tracking Flight 370 when it disappeared before a radar station saw an unknown aircraft flying in the opposite direction just minutes later, not sending out any data.

Meantime, officials here are now expanding the search area to nearly 2.24 million square nautical miles. Just imagine that. That is about the size of the 48 contiguous United States.

The U.S. is also going to be scaling back its role in the search as other countries step up their end of the effort.

Also a "New York Times" report that the plane turned after orders were put into a cockpit computer brings many more questions. Was it one of the pilots who ordered the change? Could it have been done on the ground before takeoff? And what was the motivation behind the change? We'll explore that in a moment.

Also, China says none of its 153 passengers that were on board that flight were involved in any hijacking or terrorism as frustration there boil over with officials. And they're not alone. Relatives of people on the flight are also venting at officials.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

BOLDUAN (voice-over): That woman in Beijing says she wants the truth and doesn't want to be used as a political pawn. That's the very latest. And it continues to develop still today on this 11th day, Chris, after that mystery disappearance of that plane.