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Piece of Flight 370 Possibly Found; Agony of Flight 370 Families

Aired March 20, 2014 - 08:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to NEW DAY. I'm Chris Cuomo.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

We are following breaking developments off the coast of Australia.

Nothing definitive but it's being called the best lead in the search for Flight 370 so far. Why? Satellite images now four days old have been analyzed by investigators. They say they show what could be -- could be parts of the missing jet. Certainly, it is debris that is at least partially floating in the water.

There's also some discouraging news. Two of the search planes that have been sent out are now back.

For the latest on that and what the status is of this investigation, let's get to Kate Bolduan in Malaysia -- Kate.


Good morning once again, everyone, from Kuala Lumpur.

Australian officials say those two objects seen in the southern Indian Ocean could be debris from the aircraft. But they also offer a lot of caution at the same time. Right now, we're waiting for more information, but it was found near the search corridor.

So, officials are taking a special interest in it. A Norwegian ship has reached that area, almost 1,500 miles off of coast of Australia. No word if they've spotted anything. But of the four search planes that headed for the location, two turned back with nothing. Two others are battling low visibility. Nightfall has also set in.

The debris is long -- a long way from where the plane went off course. It's about 3300 miles south of where the plane made its hard left turn that we talked about. That's about the distance from Miami to Alaska.

Obviously, many questions still remain. We'll try to get some answers when we can from our experts in the studio and our correspondents around the world.

Let's start with Andrew Stevens who is in Perth, Australia.

Andrew, we see the sun has disappeared behind you. So, is the search still going on now?

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, the search is not going on now. The two aircraft that are still in the air out of the four that have been up today are now returning to base. We have a cameraman on one of those bases, on one of those aircraft. He's expected back hopefully in the next half.

But, so far, what we've heard from the two that have returned -- no trace of the objects, which have been described as new and credible information by none other than the prime minister of Australia.

And there was a tweet from one of the Australian air force planes just about an hour or so ago saying that poor weather conditions meant they did not see any sign of any objects in the water. Low cloud, rain, certainly not helping matters at all. The cold front is sweeping in around that search area.

The objects are now thought to be actually behind that cold front. It's going to make it difficult. We are getting reports there's a commercial vessel in the area, now looking. But it is nightfall there. I'm about 1,500 miles or so southeast of -- northeast, excuse me, of where those objects were found.

Now, what we're waiting for is to get some sort of confirmation if at all, of what they are. That's the big question. Obviously, what is in the water there?

It's going to take a visual sort of eyes on to see, to actually get real concrete information of what's there. We're waiting for high-res definition satellite photos coming to us from commercial satellites. We don't know when -- they are being recalibrated at the moment. We don't know when we'll start seeing any evidence coming out of those.

At the moment, all we've got to go on is the fact that the Australian government, the Australian Maritime Authority that's leading this search says that basically credible information, we're still waiting.

Chris, back to you.

CUOMO: All right. Andrew, thank you very much. Before we know what the debris is, what can we learn? Can crews even find it four days after satellite images captured the debris?

For that, let's bring in Richard Quest.

Obviously, we don't know the answer. But let's design the parameters of what the search is and what the different factors are going into it, Richard.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What do we know and the facts and just put it into the -- the plane left Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. So we'll put a dot just here to start off with. Then we know that the plane flew northwards up to Beijing and it's believed to have done its last known turn just around about here.

Now, from there it does the turn, comes back across the peninsula and way out. And at this point, Chris, there's the sort of last known, which is just roughly there.

Then you've got the northern arc which goes up towards China, India and Kazakhstan, and the southern arc which comes down into the south Indian Ocean. And we never actually thought, frankly, that we would be talking about something far off the Australian coast.

We knew Australia has the privacy of searching this. Malaysia did that last week. And they asked Australia to take over the charge here. But now we know.

So, what do we know? Perth, Australia, is there, which is the main staging point, and the two areas that we're talking about, two little pieces, or very large 24 meters and five meters, they are just about here.

It's roughly 1,500 miles from there to there.

CUOMO: And let's put that in context. We have viewers in the U.S. We have viewers around the world.

QUEST: Right.

CUOMO: How far is this in terms of where these planes have to travel back and forth just to search at all?

QUEST: All right. The best -- the best information, roughly, give or take, you are talking about a distance of 1,500 miles, give or take, which is New York to Dallas. Or in international terms, that's about London to Moscow, London to Istanbul.

Now, bear in mind what these searchers have to do, Chris. They have to fly from here in moderate to difficult weather. They have to get out of here. So, you are already looking at a fuel burn. You're looking at a question of how long you can stay in the sky. You look at all those sort of issues. You search for as long as you can, an hour or two whatever you can, and then you have to fly back to Perth.

So, it's a distance of about 1500 miles. And they've obviously got this merchant ship in the region.

CUOMO: A Norwegian merchant ship says they'll help volunteer with the search. They were first to this zone where they were looking. Remember, that information is four days old but they've had to use the math to coordinate where it would be now.

QUEST: Right. And to do that, you're talking about where would the route have been on this southern arc? How would it have come from up there, right the way down here and where -- even if this debris is found and, you know, the merchant ship can't find it, the P3 that's been up overnight can't find it. So, so far, let's assume they do manage to find it. You are then working on, where did it come from?

What we know is it's about, roughly, 25 planes, 18 ships in this vast area. But, Chris, as the searchers said from the oil -- from the search authority says, this is -- I don't want to be disrespectful, but this is the end of the earth. This is absolutely middle of nowhere.

CUOMO: They are saying it's the most challenging of all things. It's far. It's remote. And it's very deep. And you are in the storm season so it's in climate there as well.

QUEST: Right.

CUOMO: High seas, they are benefiting from warmer weather for those who want to hold out for survivability. There is that. But it's a tough set of constraints.

QUEST: But you do have searchers. You've got these planes coming and -- planes and boats coming from all the way up in Japan, right up in the north. Right the way down. You have them coming from India, you've got Malaysia, you've got Indonesia.

You've got all this -- these assets coming into the area, even the U.K. is sending assets and the United States here as well.

The U.S., of course, has the USS Kidd, which was based up here, in the northern part of the Indian Ocean, they transferred many of their air assets to Perth, specifically for this reason. They moved them to Perth so they would be able to have a range to search this area.

But I don't think anybody really expected that they were going to have to actually search.

CUOMO: That it would go this far in this amount of time.

QUEST: No. As one searcher put it, this is bold. It is deep. And it is remote.

CUOMO: And it is on the outer most arc of what they were drawing there in the realm of possibility of search areas but also, look, another caveat here about why it's a possibility why it's just a lead. It's the right word because it's going to be, where it leads. This would be just the beginning of the search not where the plane landed.

QUEST: And also look what they are looking at over here. You are talking about really -- I mean, 24 meters by five meters, two different areas. One theory now going around this morning is that actually, you know, I don't want to be the person to bring bad news by any means but there is a suggestion that these are cargo.

CUOMO: Right. But they would be unusually large cargo containers. Indra Petersons has been looking at that. Not areas of expertise. But they are usually smaller than this.

There are some this size, but it's unusual. There are these gyres they are talking about, which is sweeping currents. There is one in that area. That does catch a lot of sea debris. Could be a container. But we don't know.

QUEST: Just -- move a second, but what we really come down to with all of this, bearing in mind what the searchers said last night and what the head of the authority and what the prime minister of Australia said, this -- having started way up here, what this really comes down to is the best lead they've got. And it may be remote. It may be tangential, it maybe difficult, but this is the best lead they've got at the moment.

CUOMO: And it also, to be frank, is pretty much first also they've had. I mean, they've been triangulating a lot of data. In terms of feel like they have something to go out and look at, this is somewhat unique in the scope of this search.

And again, we qualify it because that's the reasonable thing to do under these circumstances. To call it a lead would to be call it a possibility. And that's really the fairest assessment at this point.

And even if everything lines up, all the guess work and they are right, they are still only at the beginning. But at least it would be a sign. Nobody wants this information, though bittersweet, than the families. So, they'll be paying attention to this very closely.

Richard will be here throughout the morning.

Let's get back to Kate in Kuala Lumpur. She has the latest on how family members are dealing with the evolution of this -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Chris. For the families of the passengers on that flight, it's been now an almost nearly two-week, just full of -- two weeks long of a nightmare. They are angry, frustrated and feeling helpless.

David McKenzie is in Beijing where many of the families have gathered.

David, how are the families cope with the news of this possibility?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, one man just came out of a conference room here, and he said he doesn't believe that this evidence shows that the plane has been found. He's convinced that the plane landed somewhere and that perhaps it was hijacked and that his loved one is OK.

So people still clinging on to hope here in Beijing. Hundreds of the families waiting in this hotel. They've been doing it for more than a week, of course, Kate. And they are really not saying much in terms of whether they think this is or isn't the final answer for them.

Of course, Malaysian authorities tonight saying in the region saying that they want to give information, they want closure for the families, but that information, they just cannot give them at this time.

As Richard said, it's a lead, at best. It's a credible lead. But they're waiting here and wanting to know more. There are ambulances on the scene and a dozen paramedics in case the news comes. Some psychologists saying because of all these changes in the story from leads to leads to disappearing that when the news comes, they believe that the news will be so traumatic that it could be overwhelming.

So, it's a case of waiting and being ready to help when that news does finally arrive if it does.

Chris, back to you.

CUOMO: For the families, it's going to be difficult to hear just about anything that comes out of it and to be certain, the waiting is probably more painful than anything else.

Let's get more perspective on this. Let's bring in 777 pilot and CNN aviation analyst, Mr. Les Abend. From Des Moines, Iowa, a pilot and former international captain from Northwest Airlines, David Funk.

Les, good to have you. David, good to have you.

All right. Let's just kind of reset here and get a sense of why this is even a possibility.

Les, I'll start with you. Once they put together the satellite handshakes and radar pings and what they know about the turn and what they heard from Thailand about whether or not they had any record of this plane, Flight 370, entering their air space, they wound up having two main ideas about what could happen. One was the plane took off from about here and then started to go north. And the other one was that it went south.

Now, they are focusing on south. Let's talk about why, Les. Why is north less plausible based on what we know at this point?

LES ABEND, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, you know, it's hard to say. I mean, everything, of course, as we speculation.

But, you know, if we had the scenario with a mechanical situation that I've been speculating about, that, you know, the airplane, eventually, crew got overcome by potentially smoke or hypoxia situations, if you want to go that direction, it seems to be more likely the plane may have continued on that westerly heading and then perhaps on its own started, because of winds, may have jet stream type winds may have started to turn itself toward the south.

CUOMO: Now, fair point of observation, David, let me bring you in here. That if it had gone north, the big rationale for why that is less plausible for people in the investigation is that we would have known. Someone would have said something if it had entered that type of air space between the sophistication of India and Pakistan and the paranoia and all the sovereignty issues and people on the ground that the idea of it landing seems to be as remote as any possibility.

Fair appraisal? DAVID FUNK, PILOT: Absolutely. The likelihood that this airplane is on the ground by landing somewhere is virtually no. Far more likely it did go south. Otherwise we'd have other collaborating data points.

Now, if it turns out this debris is from the airplane, the best news is now that we can bring in our very sophisticated signals intelligence airplanes that will be able to hear the pinger from those flight data recorder and digital -- excuse me, the cockpit voice recorders that they are sending out the signal.

If we can get a hit on that, now it's more like an Air France situation where we're strictly in the recovery effort. However, the only easy day was going to be yesterday under the conditions on the ocean that they'll have to work.

CUOMO: The one up side Indra Petersons was telling us about, the water is unseasonably warm, about 60 degrees Fahrenheit for those holding out hope for survivability.

But, you know, you mentioned Air France, Les. In that situation, found the plane relatively quickly, took years, though, to recover things.

Given how fast this debris is moving under this current operating assumption they are using, finding the black box could be dozens and dozens of miles away if not more, right? That wouldn't have floated at all. In all likelihood would have sunk unless the tail is floating.

ABEND: I doubt very much.

CUOMO: Because that's what's in, right?

ABEND: Yes, I doubt very much the tail would even be floating.

But, you know, the scenario could have been, if it just continued west and then impacted the water somewhere over here and then some of the pieces started to drift that direction.

CUOMO: Fair point. No reason to know that there's a better chance that if the plane was going this way and that's really where the end of fact is and the beginning of speculation is. it could have landed here just as easily as it landed here as well as anywhere else.

ABEND: I don't think the velocity of the current as it is two weeks worth of time.

CUOMO: Now something else, David, weigh in on this. Going from Perth to this area, again, if all the guess work is right, all the speculation is right, they are going about 1500 nautical miles in unpleasant conditions.

FUNK: Right.

CUOMO: We know that there's dozens of aircraft involved and a lot of ships. We have a Norwegian merchant vessel is in the area. How much searching can you do over that distance? What are the constraints?

FUNK: Well, you've got 12 hours of fuel on the aircraft and the crew can -- efficiency takes you 3, 3 1/2 hours to get to the site. Maybe 3 hours on station. You maybe have three hours on station, four hours tops. And then you have to fly back to Perth and then had some reserve fuel when you arrive.

So, it's not optimum. If they are 50 miles off the coast you have a lot more on station time to look. And that's true whether you're flying a P3 or a helicopter. The distance has become much more -- you'd have to have a ship to take the helicopters out there so they can operate.

It's logistically a much more challenging effort at that point. I think really bring in the naval experts on this to answer these questions.

CUOMO: Right, it's going to be about being --


CUOMO: Right, it's going to be about being in the water at the end of the day. That's the safe analysis as being as --

FUNK: Exactly.

CUOMO: Les, last question -- how close do you have to be to hear and pick up the pinging of the box?

ABEND: That's above my pay grade. I think --

CUOMO: We know it's 30 days in duration of the battery life.

ABEND: But my understanding from, speaking to some of the experts who are more familiar with this, I think it's anywhere from five to nine miles.

CUOMO: So, you've got to be close, in other words.

ABEND: Yes, you've got to be very close.

CUOMO: And, again, the margins are so broad here. They could be off dozens and dozens of miles. They believe these two pieces of debris, by the way, are like 15 miles apart.

So, just that, the scale is huge here. Constraints are huge.

ABEND: And it may be submerged, too.

CUOMO: And it could be underwater, the black box.

ABEND: After four days.

CUOMO: Right. The black box, they know these pieces of debris are at least partially floating, may be partially submerged as well. They have to factor that into all their calculations about how quickly these things are moving through the water. It's very sophisticated very quickly and the block box almost assuredly if it hit the water would sink.

So, all these variables at once. That's why this is just being called a lead which for any other term is just a possibility as opposed to probability.

Les, David, thank you very much for the perspective.

Let's take a break here on NEW DAY.

When we come back, from the waters off the coast of Australia, back to the cockpit of Flight 370. What could these new developments mean for the investigation into what happened on board that plane? We're going to talk with two people who spent their careers investigating some of the biggest aviation cases of our time and get their take, coming up.


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Twenty-one minutes past the hour. Welcome back to NEW DAY.

Of course, we are tracking this breaking news this morning in the ongoing search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. These two images are the two objects spotted on radar in the Indian Ocean. They are -- were seen spotted about 1,500 miles off the southwestern coast of Australia.

Want to discuss these images and what they potentially could mean.

Let's bring in Jeffrey Beatty. He is the former FBI special agent, Delta Force officer and former CIA counterterrorism officer.

Steve Moore is also with us. He's joining us from L.A., a retired supervisory FBI agent, also a pilot.

So glad to have both of you, gentlemen, with me.

And I want to ask you both, this new information, the satellite image, is it hopeful? Does it make you hopeful?

JEFFREY BEATTY, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: It makes me hopeful, but also cautious. Because you know, we got excited once before when the Chinese provided an image. I have a feeling that we've seen a degraded image, so the image others have looked at is probably a little bit better than what we're seeing.

PEREIRA: Talk to us about that again, because I heard you mention that earlier in the hour. I think it bears repeating.

BEATTY: Well, you know --

PEREIRA: You don't want to show all your cards. BEATTY: You don't want to show all your cards. You don't want to show your true capability. I think it's kind of funny. The government has to have the best imagery out there, and yet we're bringing in commercial satellites to get better imagery.

So, that just tells you that there are national security interests always running in the background.

PEREIRA: Well, absolutely. And, Steve, that's obviously something the layman doesn't know much about but we certainly have an imagination so we can run with that.

Is there anything to this notion, some are saying they have the prime minister of Australia announced this to his parliament? So, that speaks to them feeling this information was a good lead, a credible lead. What does it say to you?

STEVE MOORE, FORMER FBI SUPERVISORY AGENT: It says that it is probably something that they are willing to put their weight on finally. Everything else up until now has been kind of speculation. I think the Malaysians have been doing that quite a bit. They'll get some little bit of evidence and send it out there as conclusory because they don't want to appear like they are doing nothing when really there hasn't been a lot to go on.

So, I think this is a sign that they have something that they are comfortable with.

PEREIRA: So we know four aircraft have been sent out to the area. Two of -- there are reports emerging two came back essentially empty- handed without spotting the debris. We also know they are certainly up against challenges.

Talk about the international investigation. We know that this is a joint effort, to say the least, Steve.

MOORE: Well, it's a joint effort, but I ran a fly team that worked in an area of the world and the problem we had was that these countries do not want the FBI coming in and helping them. They need the help but they don't want it.

The problem is, they are afraid of bi-catch. What else are we going to see while we're there? And there's a lot of sensitivities to it.

When I was investigating the JW Marriott explosion at -- in Jakarta, we had like four agents allowed to come in, simply because of sensitivities about that. So, it's not easy investigating in that part of the world.

PEREIRA: Jeffrey, we've seen how these layers of sensitivity, we've talked about the cultural differences between some of these nations. In the investigation, there was criticism within the Malaysian government. Now Australia is the one taking the lead on this part of the effort because it was the corridor they were searching.

Do you think that will change it because it's coming from the Australians or do you think that brings another layer of differences that we might not expect here in America?

BEATTY: I think, you know, the Australian cultural perspective in approaching these things is a little bit closer to what Americans are used to than what might happen in Malaysia.

So, I think it will be also smart on the part of the Malaysians to recognize that they are leading a coalition, a team. It's a combined joint operation. And so, very appropriate for them to say we've asked Australia to look and take this lead down in this part of the world. Please continue to do so.

But Australia has also been very respectful and the prime minister, in fact, calling his Malaysian counterpart well in advance to let him know we're going to announce this. Here's the imagery we have.

So, you know, it's not necessarily always perfectly smooth.


BEATTY: But I think good cooperation, all these nations involved, it's going pretty good really.

PEREIRA: Troubling this three or four-day delay in releasing the satellite images, too, or is that par for the course in this kind of investigation?

BEATTY: You know, I'll defer to some others on par for the course for that. My comment would be, I can anticipate some delay due to the national security sensitivities and as Steve was saying, it's not just the Americans that have those sensitivities, but it's every other country that we deal with.

You know, they have a tendency to recognize their own personal national security needs, and they don't want to show what they can and probably more importantly what they can't do to another country.

PEREIRA: That's a fair point to be made.

Jeffrey Beatty, Steve Moore, thank you for joining us. Both gentlemen have spent time in searches like these and you know the sensitivity, you know the urgency as well. Certainly those families are needing answers. We thank you both for joining us here on NEW DAY.

Next up, speaking of the families, every day is agony. We're going to hear from the partner of the American gentleman that was on board that jet. We'll hear from her next.