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Search for Flight 370; Putin Signs Treaty Making Crimea Part of Russia

Aired March 18, 2014 - 08:00   ET



MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: This would give us some indication where it was, where it was going.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news, Thailand's Air Force announcing it tracked a mysterious radar signal the day Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 vanished. New reports of fishermen spotting the plane. We'll tell you what it means for the search.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Live in Malaysia, where the search for Flight 370 is now covering an area the size of the continental U.S. As a new report says the flight's course was changed in the computer. We talked to a neighbor who knows the co-pilot.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking this morning, Vladimir Putin telling his parliament that Crimea has always been a part of Russia. Now, the Russian president may be preparing some sanction of his own, targeting U.S. senators.

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY continues right now.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan, and Michaela Pereira.

CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to NEW DAY. I'm Chris Cuomo in New York.

Plenty of developments this morning in the Malaysian jet mystery. New radar data shows the plane. We have an expanded search area.

And we have Kate Bolduan most importantly in Kuala Lumpur with this morning's news -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Chris.

Well, that's right. We do have a lot to get to here in Malaysia. We were just hearing about a report from Indonesia saying a group of fishermen claimed they saw a plane go down near the Strait of Malacca, the day the jet vanished. We're working on details on that claim. Of course, anything to narrow the search area would be something everyone wants to know right now.

We've also learned Thailand's air force picked up an unknown radar signal that day. Thai officials say they were tracking Flight 370, it disappeared. But minutes later, a radar saw an unknown object flying back to the west, not sending any data.

Meantime, a needle in a haystack would be a welcome reprieve at this point, as the search yet expands again for the jet, 2.24 million square nautical miles to be exact. That's the new information coming from government officials today. That's about, that's almost as big as the continental United States.

China and Kazakhstan are taking the lead in the northern corridor in the search. Australia and Indonesia are leading in the southern corridor for the search. The U.S. is scaling back its role as other countries help Malaysia, which has been criticized continuously for its response and information it's handing out.

On top of that, more reporting from "The New York Times" this morning seems to confirm that the hard-turn the plane made toward the west was deliberate. Here's a little more.


BOLDUAN (voice-over): New this morning, growing suspicion around Flight 370's pilots. "The New York Times" citing unnamed senior American officials reporting someone in the cockpit likely programmed the missing flight to deliberate turn to the west in the cockpit computer. This person possibly typing seven or eight key strokes into the system to divert the aircraft off its course to Beijing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Someone on the plane put into the computer system that sits between the pilots a new direction for the plane to go in. And that is why the plane. It shows that whoever did this had expertise in flying. And this was not just someone on the plane who grabbed the controls and moved it.

BOLDUAN: Also this morning, China is ramping up its search within its own borders, as Chinese authorities say background checks on their passengers have come back clear. No links to terrorism or hijacking.

Meanwhile, Malaysian authorities under fire for an apparent discrepancy in the missing aircraft's time line. On Monday, the CEO of the airline said the co-pilot's final words from the cockpit at 1:19 a.m., "All right. Good night", could have come before or after the plane's communication system shut off.

The CEO saying the system could have shut off anytime between its last transmission at 1:07 a.m. and 1:37 a.m. when it was supposed to send out another message.

This clarification comes just a day after Malaysian officials said the communication system was disabled before the co-pilot's final message prompting the investigation to shift toward the pilots.

With Australia now heading up the search in the Andaman Sea, the U.S. is scaling back its search in those waters pulling out the USS Kidd and its helicopters. Instead they're basing a P8 aircraft in Australia to help with the search.


BOLDUAN: So, with more on this morning's developments and all the developments really for some kind of much needed context, Jim Clancy is joining us again.

Jim, what is your take on this new information coming from Thai officials. The air force saying they tracked an unknown plane I guess we'll say on their --

JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Unidentified -- it's a real UFO.

BOLDUAN: I know, I didn't want top say it. I guess it is.

But they detected it on the day of the disappearance of the plane. Does this get us anywhere closer?

CLANCY: It confirms what we have from Malaysian radar. The Malaysians tracked the plane, so did Thai now. You have two radar records that show the plane clearly exiting the South China Sea, crossing the Malay Peninsula and then going up the Malacca Strait.

So, it's confirmation. It says, all right, we're pretty sure that this is the plane and we've tracked the right thing. But it doesn't take us anywhere new.

BOLDUAN: At least, yet, getting confirmation rather than --

CLANCY: It means they looked at their records.

BOLDUAN: Yes, I guess we can take. And what also do you make of the fact the search area is expanding once again the size of the continental U.S. is the area that they're looking. It makes me wonder, are they also getting more resources to do this?

CLANCY: Well, you know, I think it's the reason why you see the USS Kidd coming out of all that because -- you know, these naval ships. That's way too slow. We're in day 11 of this now.

BOLDUAN: There's no time.

CLANCY: They've got a French team here, you know, one of the teams that helped with the Air France jetliner, that disappeared off the coast of Brazil on the way to Paris. They've got them here, and I think they're telling them, you don't have much time because we found our debris field within four days. If you want to find this aircraft, get those flight data recorders, you'll need to hustle.

So, the U.S. is bringing in more planes, putting the ships a side, it would take too long. You've got a lot of other countries, New Zealand, Australia, all of these countries, Japan, South Korea, all pitching in and saying, yes, we're going to give you surveillance, you know, reconnaissance planes that's needed. BOLDUAN: A reminder yet again, 11th day into this. What are they going to be able find on the surface? Many think -- many experts say any big piece of the plane would no longer be floating on the surface at this point.

Jim Clancy -- thanks, Jim.

CLANCY: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right. Chris, over to you.

CUOMO: All right. Let's bring in aviation analyst and former DOT inspector general, Mary Schiavo, and from the Des Moines, Iowa, pilot and former international captain for Northwest Airlines, Mr. David Funk.

It's great to have David Funk there and also to have John Goglia with us here as well.

Now, it's great to have a lot of great minds on this because we need it. Let's start with what we absolutely know, by the way, OK?

U.S. assets -- they did move the USS Kidd away. They are being asked to doing more air surveillance. They've been asked to do this by the Malaysian authorities, and to do it in the Indian Ocean, in the hopes of finding the black box. Australia is taking the lead in the Indian Ocean aspect of it, for obvious reasons of proximity.

What does this mean other than the obvious, Mary? Does this have to mean the obvious, that the Malaysians believe the best chance the plane hit the water in that area?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Yes, the process of elimination, there's discussion the plane, especially if altitude numbers are right -- we don't think they're completely accurate. But if they were flying low at some point, up and down, they just didn't have the fuel to go over the Himalayas and take the northern route.

CUOMO: All right. So, now, the other big headline this morning, Thai authorities. Let's leave the timing aside of why they're just coming forward now, who knows when they came forward with the information? But they say we were tracking a flight, we think it was 370 because of the direction it was going and wasn't transmitting any data.

How helpful can this be in limiting the search area?

JOHN GOGLIA, FMR. BOARD MEMBER, NTSB: Very, very helpful because radar has a definition, a range, that you can clearly see things. And this was primary return. So, that's pretty well known how far the signal will travel. That's going to be very limiting on the northern side how far the airplane went.

CUOMO: So, that's good to have. That takes us to the other citing. We had someone - there was a rumor about someone on an oil rig, now, it's fishermen who were saying it. How much do we invest in this type of thing? GOGLIA: Well, eyewitnesses typically not the most reliable source of information, but this will not be discounted. This needs to be looked at and needs to be followed up, and it will be.

CUOMO: I mean, if it hit the water, it's entirely plausible that somebody saw it, right, Mary?

SCHIAVO: Well, that's right. If fishermen saw it, it's also possible that they can look there. If that's where it went in, there will be debris. So, they can quickly rule it out. And if there's debris, obviously they found it. But easy to rule out.

CUOMO: All right. So, now, we get from where is this plane to what happened in the plane, and the idea of this new report from "The New York Times" that says there was a new coordinate put in. We don't know when. But we know that the ACARS picked up something was put in. We know it was still working. We believe the pilot did it.

Why? Why do we believe that, John?

GOGLIA: Well, there's a number of reasons. But let's not jump to conclusions. If he was flying the auto pilot instead of flying the airplane, he would punch in coordinates. Auto pilot gives the passengers a better ride, it's more efficient. Companies encourage pilots to do that.

So, if it was not an emergency, if such immediate, you know, catastrophic, I'm going to crash, he may fly the auto pilot back by punching in coordinates rather than grabbing the wheel and turning around.

CUOMO: And, David, with the idea of the picture behind you of what the system looks like that they would use to punch in new coordinates -- of course, you all know what that is, but for people at home. Let's play in terms of testing this information. If the ACARS was operative and recorded that this was done -- doesn't that distract from the idea that this was an insurgent, this was a hijacking, because wouldn't they have waited until they turned off or disabled the ACARS system before putting in a new coordinate?

DAVID FUNK, PILOT & FORMER INTERNATIONAL CAPTAIN, NORTHWEST AIRLINES: Well, they would have. But you don't have to punch in coordinates to turn the airplane. You simply reach up, hit the auto pilot, hitting select bug (ph), spin it left to make a left turn. That's what would happen.

So, I'm not sure there's any way in the 777. I mean, there isn't in any other Boeing airplane to determine real time when it happened or what the key strokes were without having the actual airplane. There's no way to do that through date uplinks. We just don't have the bandwidth available around the world to continually transmit that kind of information back to an airplane system operation center.

So, for "The New York Times" to make that statement or U.S. official, I think you're kind of reaching. I'm sure John is probably nodding his head in agreement right now. If the captain needed to turn because he suspected he had a problem, or a problem was developing, he's just going to reach up and hit the heading bug and turn the airplane back towards land. He's going to find a way to get the airplane on the ground.

CUOMO: So, Mary, who does this and why did they do it? If it's so easy to just make these other adjustments, if you don't have to do it this way, who does it and why?

SCHIAVO: Well, captains do it routinely. And that's the easy way to do it. But as the previous guest just said, if you do it that way as opposed to keying in data, then you can't say, based on what we know, just this little bits of data from the plane, you can't say exactly that they stopped right there and keyed it in as opposed to just turning it. And it might have been entered in the system earlier.

So, all we can say it was intentional the plane was turned. But we can't say exactly how it was aimed to this waypoint or even aimed at this waypoint only that absolutely it was turned. That appears to be intentionally.

CUOMO: And then a frequently asked question is something that hopefully you can address. We'll start with you John. Who has the know how to disable the ACARS system in the proper way of going beneath the belly of the plane, assuming it wasn't done by a massive catastrophe that happened in the plane? Do pilots do that routinely? Do they know how to do it?

GOGLIA: Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the pilots would not know how to do that.

CUOMO: So, who would know? What kind of person? What sophistication?

GOGLIA: It really doesn't take a lot of sophistication, just some training and knowledge.

CUOMO: But you do have to be trained?


CUOMO: You can't just go there and start pulling things out and hope to get lucky.

GOGLIA: That's right.

CUOMO: So, David, what does this mean to you? If the ACARS system -- I say if because as a reporter, I just haven't seen the proof it was dismantled, as opposed of being disabled by something else. But assuming it was dismantled, who does that? And -- you know, what do you need to be to do that?

FUNK: Well, we don't typically train pilots to shut systems off that nature. You're just adding things to the training footprint that a pilot would never use in daily line operations. Company test pilot maybe, a guy that picks up the plane from Boeing would know how to do that sort of thing. But not your typical line captain pilot. Now, more importantly, if the ACARS failed and if the transponder failed, and they were not manually shut off, what caused them to fail? Either electrical problem which I talked about previously with the folks at CNN or there was a fire in the cockpit. And with the location of the ACARS, communication radio, control heads, and transponder on that center panel right below throttles, if there was an electrical fire or problem in that area, we would lose that information from the airplane. It doesn't mean they manually shut the switches off. It just meant what we know for sure the time line and time things quit talking to everybody.

Until we recover the airplane, we'll never know for sure what happened.

CUOMO: Important. So, David, at this point, you believe it's still just as likely there was a mass event on this plane that had nothing to do with human intervention?

FUNK: Absolutely. I don't see anything here that tells me -- I'm a security guy by training. It's what I've been doing for 25 years. I typically say this has got to be a terrorist event. But everything here I'm seeing is typical of other electrical fire problems. The sequence of events we're seeing we've seen happen before on air transport category aircraft.

CUOMO: Mary --

FUNK: One thing than another.

CUOMO: David, thank you very much.

Mary, I know that's what you think.

SCHIAVO: I agree.

CUOMO: And, John, your head is on the same page. We still don't know, could go either way?

GOGLIA: I'm an investigator and everything is on the table, until we prove that terrorism (ph) would be taken off the table.

CUOMO: You move off the facts and crumbs aren't there to take you in one direction?


CUOMO: But at least this Thai government information is good. At least it helps get the search area down. It seems clear at least the Malaysian government believes the plane hit the water. They're asking for urgency finding the black box.

We will stay on the coverage of 370, of course, as new developments warrant it. But there's a lot of other news as well. So, let's get to John Berman for that -- John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much, Chris. Breaking overnight, a search and rescue operation off the coast of Japan. Eight Chinese sailors are missing. They were part of the crew onboard a Panamanian registered cargo ship that collided with a South Korean vessel and sank. Twelve members of the Chinese were rescued after the accident. Japan has dispatched nearly a dozen ships and coast guard helicopter to help conduct that search.

Authorities say a California man arrested near the border of Canada is an aspiring al Qaeda terrorist. Twenty-year-old Nicholas Teausant appeared in a Seattle court on Monday. He is charged with attempting to provide material support to foreign terrorists. Officials say he hoped to join to Syria to join the al Qaeda militant group. Teausant faces up to 15 years in prison if he is convicted.

Crime scene photos take center stage in day 12 of the Oscar Pistorius murder trial. His defense cross-examining the photographer about the pictures he took and who was with him at the time. The defense is arguing evidence including Pistorius' gun was tampered with or mishandled and that items at the scene were moved.

Army Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair could learn his fate today in the penalty phase of this Fort Bragg court martial. The most serious sex assault charges against Sinclair were dropped as part of a plea deal. They would have required him to register as a sex offender. In exchange, the general pleaded guilty to the lesser charges. Sinclair has admitted to improper relationships with three subordinate officers, including the female captain who accused him of assault.

General Motors issuing another huge recall -- three of them actually -- totaling 1.5 million vehicles. The vast majority, SUV suspected of a wiring defect that could prevent airbags from deploying. In addition, G.M. is recalling 300,000 midsize vans and 64,000 luxury sedans. This all comes as the auto maker is under investigation for his alleged decade-long delay in addressing an ignition problem linked to at least 12 deaths -- Michaela.

PEREIRA: All right. Thank you so much, John.

Let's go back to the search for Flight 370. Search crews we know are looking right now in two corridor, one to the north and one to the south. That encompasses a gigantic swath of the Indian Ocean, 2.24 million square nautical miles.

So, how do authorities know where to narrow their search in the ocean? And once they do, what they can expect as far as weather conditions, maritime conditions certainly come into play here specifically -- Indra.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, there's so much I really want to clarify here. We keep showing you guys these arrows, and what I want to explain again and reiterate, this is not the flight path. What this is the proximate location we can see the last contact with the plane.

Remember, at 8:11 in the morning, there was a hand shake. Not a 8:10, not 8:12. All this is based on just that last satellite interaction with the plane.

Let's go back to why we have that arc. Why are we talking about these two arcs, right? But in order to find GPS, you have three satellites. You look for inner section of all of those satellite loops. That's how you know where something is at one period of time.

Here's the problem, we only had one satellite. So, with that, now you have this big circle. So, why are we searching the entire circle?

Let's go back to that same arc that we're showing you. Unfortunately, there was not enough fuel. We can mark off half that arc. So, we know it's within this vicinity. So, there's a lot to be searching in this region.

But keep in mind, with one satellite, the resolution is also weak. So, along this line along for just 8:11 talking a 100-mile width anywhere along this point of time. So, 8:11, of course, the plane could have been here, here, here, here. That's the concern again.

Now, let's talk about the terrain. Why is that difficult? Well, all the way to the north, you have the Himalayas, you're talking about 100 peaks over 20,000 feet high.

Then down further to the south, of course, you have the ocean. There's a lot of factors to consider as well. One of those being ocean depth. Off the Gulf of Thailand, maybe 100 and 200 feet is the depth there.

But notice what happens as you extend your search. You're talking about depths even as far as 4.5 miles. You're talking about that Java trench 4.6 miles. Unfortunately, that's a big concern, and, of course, you have ocean trenches that play into this.

Remember, that arc, that signal was at 8:11 time. Why do you do when you go forward in time, you have to factor in all conditions that happen in the ocean where that debris could flow forward in time. And, of course, weather also another factor.

Also another factor to the north, it looks like for now, the system is moving out of the area. There's nothing to be concerned with to the north as they search the region further south. Again, still not looking at any weather increment in that region. But you can easily see it's not just the swath they're looking at, but all that plays in that as well.

PEREIRA: Needle in the haystack and then you have to dealing with Mother Nature.

CUOMO: It's going to be tough, especially the U.S. is so great at using sonic buoys. They have to listen for this black box. Sea conditions is going to be very important there.

PEREIRA: Very important. Thanks, Indra.

PETERSONS: Sure. PEREIRA: All right. Next up on NEW DAY: breaking news out of Moscow. Russian President Vladimir Putin ignoring sanctions, moving quickly to take over Crimea. What he just told Russia's political elite.


PEREIRA: Welcome back. We have breaking news out of the Kremlin.

Vladimir Putin has signed a treaty officially making Ukraine's Crimea region part of Russia. The Russian president told his parliament Crimea is always been a part of Russia and the two cannot be separated any longer. Russia's president defying sanctions already imposed by the United States and Europe. In fact, he's reportedly making sanctions of his own, targeting our U.S. senators.

Joining me is now CNN chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour.

Good to have you with us, Christiane.

So, I'm curious, you've been listening to comments from the president of Russia. What is your take on what we're hearing from him -- Crimea has always been a part of Russia, that Russia was essentially robbed of Crimea when it went to Ukraine? What do you make of it?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm surprised this is his first address since this referendum, and indeed since a few days before that, when there was such a crisis of whether it would take place or not.

And he has absolutely played the part. This is the world according to Vladimir Putin. He has said again that Crimea has always been part of Russia and was, as you said, Russia was robbed of it after the fall of Soviet Union.

He kept drawing historical analogies to justify what he had done. He talked about United States, and his declaration of independence. He talked about Germany and their reunification after the war, after World War II, after the fall of the wall. And he talked about Kosovo.

Having covered Kosovo, there really is no analogy to Kosovo. There was a genocide underway in Kosovo, which is why the West intervened.

But nonetheless, he did also say to Ukraine and perhaps to the international community is that we don't want to divide Ukraine. Perhaps people are going to take that as a pledge, a promise, not to invade or do any military intervention inside Ukraine proper. Beyond that, it's hard to see where this is going.

The signing ceremony in the Duma today was to officially recognize the independence of Ukraine, of rather Crimea. And he said that he was very pleased to announce to the parliamentarians in his words the city of Crimea and Sevastopol had applied to join the Russian Federation.

Next steps are anybody's guess, but certainly here in London, Europe and presumably United States, more sanctions are being prepared -- Michaela.

PEREIRA: Let's talk about those sanctions. Putin is expected to announce sanctions of his own, and widely expected that they will simply mirror the list that the White House released yesterday. Here's our question to you: any of these sanctions have any teeth?

AMANPOUR: Well, look, it's hard to say what he's going to do. We don't have any confirmation on that right now. But there could be, as there has been in the past, tit for tat measures. You're absolutely right, there could put sanction on U.S. officials, on European officials. You know, it's hard to know where all of this is going.

What is for sure is that, for instance, I talked to a leading German official yesterday because Angela Merkel, the German chancellor is taking the lead on efforts to try to get Putin to somehow come back to diplomatic negotiations. He said, look, we're going to face oil prices going up, but that's a price we're going to have to be prepared to take.

He also said, look, most the balance of trade is in our favor. In other words, we depend much less on Russian exports than Russia depends on European exports. So, it's a two-way street.

A NATO secretary general told me yesterday, though, that they were still very worried about possible moves into Ukraine proper, very worried about Russian military exercises on the borders of Ukraine. And as you know, Vice President Biden is now in that part of the world, in Poland, in the Baltic States, meeting to try and assure those nervous members of NATO of the U.S. full support -- Michaela.

PEREIRA: One of the things that makes one wonder, given the situation in Syria and Iran, the U.S. certainly needs Russia's cooperation. Given this as you were mentioning this tit for tat that's going on, how do we get past this and make sure regions were working towards progress and stability there?

AMANPOUR: Well, Michaela, some says that overstated and overblown now. Yes, Russia has been part of the general international negotiations on Syria and on Iran. But, as you know, Russia has played a role that is not at all in the mode that the West would like on Syria. Many have said it played a destabilizing role at the very best.

I mean, there's literally no progress whatsoever on any of the political matters on any issue regarding Syria. And Russia has not helped in any way solved this diplomatically.

On Iran, the truth of the matter is the majority of the negotiating is between the United States and Iran, also amongst E.U. key members there. If Russia, if anything, has a lot to lose if Iran becomes a member of the international community again, if Iran actually does sign this is deal and keeps to that. And if Iranian natural gas and oil starts to get sold on the international market -- of course, we're talking years away -- but that would pose a very direct threat to Russia's oil and natural gas sales. So, if anything, Russia is -- although it's played the part up until now, it is not necessarily the be-all and end-all in any kind of diplomatic negotiations with Iran, Michaela.

PEREIRA: Yesterday, you said this was like watching the not of a bad movie develop very slowly. Here's another scene for us.


PEREIRA: Christiane Amanpour, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

AMANPOUR: Thank you, Michaela.


CUOMO: Coming up on NEW DAY, a co-pilot's neighbor speaks to Kate Bolduan in a NEW DAY exclusive. He's going to tell us about the conversation he had with the co-pilot's family just after their loved one went missing.

And new information about 370's flight path. "The New York Times" saying the flight plan was altered by computer. Why do they believe that? Who would have done it? We're going to test the theory.