Return to Transcripts main page


Planes Report No Debris Found; U.S. Expands Russia Sanctions for Annexing Crimea

Aired March 21, 2014 - 06:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's about the most inaccessible spot on the face of the earth.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news. Planes returning from over the Indian Ocean at this hour after looking for possible debris from Flight 370. The Australians urging caution this morning.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: We take you inside those planes trolling the seas and talk to the U.S. Navy about what they're finding. Plus, here in Malaysia, families grappling with new information and speaking out to us.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Also breaking, Russia's parliament officially makes Crimea theirs as President Obama ramps up sanctions against Russia and now Putin is striking back at U.S. lawmakers. We have their response.

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY starts now.

Good morning. Welcome to NEW DAY. It is Friday, March 21st, 6:00 in the East. We begin with breaking news. Planes are returning to Australia after searching the Indian Ocean for debris possibly linked to Malaysia Flight 370. So far they are returning empty handed. Five planes made their way to the search field. Two are still out there.

Now minutes ago, we learned China is sending ships and planes down to help as the search intensifies. For more on that, let's go to Kate Bolduan in Malaysia -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Good morning, everyone. Good morning, Chris. We're coming to you live from Kuala Lumpur, about 3,000 miles north of where those planes are searching right now. The intrigue was sparked when Australia's prime minister suggested debris west of Perth could be from the plane. But today he backtracked a bit saying it may not have anything to do with the missing jetliner.

Everyone involved offering healthy dose of caution here and almost two weeks after the plane dropped off the Malaysia is now saying crews need more equipment to locate data and voice recorders. As Chris mentioned no luck so far for three of the search planes combing the Indian Ocean. We're monitoring progress of two others as we speak.

So for more on the latest developments, let's go to Perth, Australia, where the planes are returning. CNN's Andrew Stevens has the very latest from there. Andrew, are you seeing any signs of progress out there?

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No progress. Just about an hour away from sundown here. We are just waiting for the second of five flights to return. The first one got in an hour or so ago. The pilot actually spoke to us, which was a rare departure from protocol here. He said conditions were excellent but no sign. That's worrying. Great conditions, visibility very good, but still no sign at all. It just underpins just how many challenges this search is facing.


STEVENS (voice-over): The search intensifying overnight in the Southern Indian Ocean, one of the most remote locations on earth. Five planes scouring the area to get a closer look, pieces of debris revealed in these satellite images. Four military aircraft including one U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon plane and a civilian Gulfstream jet went on staggered intervals to the area some 1500 miles south west of Perth, Australia.

It takes the search planes roughly four hours to fly to the search zone. Each plane will only have two critical hour to comb the area before making the four-hour journey back. While critical evidence, the Australian prime minister warned that the debris spotted may not be related to MH 370.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It may be a container that's fallen off the ship. We just don't know. But we owe it to the families to do everything we can to try to resolve what is as yet an extraordinary riddle.

STEVENS: Searchers in the race against time to find the plane's data recorders, the so-called black box. Malaysian authorities say the search and rescue teams need more specialized equipment to listen to the plane's locater beacons before their batteries run out and their signals go silent.

Meteorologists predicting the next 48 hours will be ideal for exploring the search zone before more bad weather moves in. Another challenge, the depth of the ocean about three miles. So deep that sophisticated deep sea equipment like sonar buoys are needed to locate other debris below the surface.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About the most inaccessible spot you can imagine on the face of the earth. If there's anything down there, we will find it.


STEVENS: I have to say every day passes hopes fade of an early breakthrough to this. We've now also getting sea access as well. Ships are converging on that area. Interestingly the Chinese Navy sending two vessels. They'll also sending an ice breaker which last seen in Antarctica. That's now in Perth heading out to the search zone today. The Australian warship is expected there tomorrow. Eyes on the sea going to be vitally important to this. That really wraps up from tomorrow.

BOLDUAN: It sure does seem like maybe the excitement and enthusiasm and hope from yesterday has dulled a bit, Andrew, but the search continues as you said. They will look and see if they can find anything out there. Such a challenge. Andrew Stevens in Perth, Australia watching the search for us. Thanks, Andrew.

I also spoke just moments ago with Lieutenant Commander Adam Chance. He is the officer in charge of the P-8 Poseidon that is helping search for Flight 370. He flew one of the first missions in Kuala Lumpur and he is now overseeing the operations in Perth.


BOLDUAN: Lieutenant Commander Adam Chance is joining me now. Lieutenant Commander, thank you for jumping on the phone. I know that you're very busy overseeing operations in Perth. We know that weather was a big problem yesterday for search efforts. Today we're told conditions were quite a bit better. How would you describe how the search is going?

LT. COMMANDER ADAM CHANCE (via telephone): Going good, doing what they are supposed to do, like you said. We were challenged by the weather yesterday with low cloud ceilings. Today, we had much better conditions out there. So today is going good. We're covering a lot of area today and getting a lot of searching done.

BOLDUAN: So I think a lot of people wonder just exactly how you conduct a search. We know it takes four hours to get out there and then you have two hours to search the area. What exactly do you look for?

CHANCE: Anything out of the ordinary. Most generally looking at the ocean, rather monotonous and pretty much the same. Anything not supposed to be out there generally stands out. Looking for any kind of debris, anything that's not manmade -- not natural that's man made is something that could be a clue.

BOLDUAN: Now the Australian prime minister said today, he called it one of the most inaccessible places on earth that you are having to go and search. What are the challenges that you would say your search team and the other search teams really are facing?

CHANCE: The biggest one is just extreme remoteness of the area. Like you said, we're talking about three to four hours to get out there. Roughly 1500 miles out there. The aircraft, no alternate, nowhere else out there to land. Having to manage their fuel very carefully out there to ensure they get back with plenty reserve gas.

BOLDUAN: If this is the plane that is out there, are you confident that you'll be able to find it?

CHANCE: If there's any wreckage on the surface of the ocean and it's out there, yes, I'm confident we'll be able to find it?

BOLDUAN: I think all in all, everyone is waiting for any clue. Would you say that the search is going well, or would you say it is just status quo because the big question hasn't been answered yet, which is where is the plane.

CHANCE: I think the search is going well if you define the searches. We're out there trying to figure out if the aircraft is actually there or not. We've been able to successfully clear tens of thousands of square miles of ocean.

BOLDUAN: What's your big message to our American viewers who are watching this, everyone wanting the same thing, have resolution, find the plane or at least figure out what the debris is. What's your big message?

CHANCE: The American public should be proud of the men and women that we have out here. Our maintenance professionals are working hard to keep these airplanes flying, get on mission, get on the search area on time every day. Our air crew is out there diligently working to search all the areas, and we all want the same thing, closure for these families.

BOLDUAN: Lieutenant Commander Adam Chance, thank you so much, Commander, for jumping on the phone. Good luck with the search.


BOLDUAN: He says they have cleared tens of thousands of square miles of ocean already, but you know so well that there's so many tens of thousands more miles that need to be covered. As the prime minister called it, one of the most inaccessible places on earth, but the search continues. Lieutenant Commander Adam Chance is trying to help out with that. We'll have much more from Kuala Lumpur coming up in just a bit. Back to you in the studio, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Kate, so let's discuss why this search is so complex and what we can expect going forward. We have two of our experts in this morning. Mr. Jeff Wise is a CNN aviation analyst. He writes about aviation for, and is a contributing editor of "Popular Mechanics" magazine. He is also the author of "Extreme Fear."

We have Mr. David Soucie, CNN safety analyst, he is a former FAA inspector and the author of "Why Planes Crash." All right, so help me this morning. There are two things that have been introduced into the search. The Malaysians are asking for help in different ways. They are asking for -- help me with this, the pinger locator hydrophones they are asking for. What is this?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: It's a device designed to specifically key in on 340 megahertz signal coming from the pingers.

CUOMO: The pingers are with the black box. That's what they emit and you'll have to hear it. You use these devices to help hear it. SOUCIE: What's pinging is the underwater locator beacon. It's attached to the black box. It's designed to stay with it. Just as hardy and can sustain just as much damage and Gs as the box itself. Once it's underneath there, it sends out a signal. Not a large signal. It can only go about 3 kilometers. If you think 3 kilometers, we could be potentially at 14,000, 15,000 feet. So you have to get under water closer to the device. So how they do that, they send out -- called tow fish. What the tow fish does, hang onto a cable. It can be as long as 55,000 feet.

CUOMO: Fifty five thousand feet of cable.

SOUCIE: To drag this because if you think about the angle from the ship that's towing it, this has to be way down here to 6,000 feet.

CUOMO: They have like 10 miles of cable behind them dragging this thing so that it can get the required depth. The longer the tow line, the deeper under water, better chance of hearing what may be buried deep in the water.

SOUCIE: Correct. But there's real challenges with that. You have that much cable. You think about towing that, all that distance, five miles behind you. Try making a turn when you've got something five miles behind you.

CUOMO: So there is sophistication in that. They are asking for those. They are asking for sonar buoys.

JEFF WISE, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Trying to determine where it is underneath the surface. You can't hear in the water when you're flying over. What you do you take it, you see the guy chucking it out of the plane. What that does, lands in the water. You've got hydrofone in that tube, which is listening. It can then radio up to the airplane circling overhead what it's hearing.

Again, this thing is on the surface because it needs to listen in the water and broadcast up. So if this thing is let's say three miles down and the pinger is only loud enough to be detected from two miles away, you're at a lock.

CUOMO: Something I've been advised about last night, sources in the military. They said, look, our guys are gung-ho, our men and women, whatever job they are appointed to. This is about as difficult a certainly as they can imagine on the surface of the water. They don't believe they are going to be looking for many things on the surface. They believe things will be under water if there at all. There's an area in the Indian Ocean called roaring 40s. How difficult a set of factors are they dealing with in terms of searching the area?

SOUCIE: This roaring 40s is like a garbage path. Everything in the area comes --

CUOMO: Why did you called that? What is the 40s, a latitude designation or something like that?

SOUCIE: I have no idea. I think it just refers to -- WISE: It's 40 grids, south latitude.

CUOMO: You were thinking like the jazz era?

WEIS: I'm 48 years old.

CUOMO: This is known for the location. You're talking about how much debris there is. What are the factors?

SOUCIE: The debris can include shipping containers, something as big as that. It can include just debris, trees, whatever else is out there in the ocean.

CUOMO: They are also just as far from land as you can get anywhere on the globe. The remoteness is a challenge for obviously air travel.

WISE: Exactly. It's very difficult to deploy assets there. Once you do get there, you've got some of the roughest oceans in the world. You've got deep water, stormy. It's an incredibly challenging situation to work in.

CUOMO: They only know where supposed debris was, not where it is, unless they have updated satellite information that we don't know about.

SOUCIE: Exactly. One of the things I'm concerned about is why they haven't doing the in-flight refuelling because these planes are capable of that. If the U.S. can get resources down to do that. I haven't heard anything that being deployed. You're wasting four hours out and back so you don't have much time on site.

CUOMO: Our reporting says that the secretary of defense of the United States has been asked to provide those assets. That will be one of the components of the certainly. One other observation before we leave this part. All of the attention is on this suspected debris as iffy as it is. Does this mean they are distracting themselves from other areas, other potential scenarios? Do you think everything is culminating in this, or do you think they will still be spreading assets?

SOUCIE: We don't know why they are as excited about the search area as they are. We've heard reports that the Malaysians are given radar data from another country that has not been named. We've been told that the Malaysian and American authorities have re-analyzed ping data and determined these two tracks but we haven't got raw data. We can't look over shoulders and figure out if their grounds for enthusiasm is valid or not. When you've got very little to go on, you can get excited about something that's a rather tepid lead.

SOUCIE: It's kind of concerning to me, if this is the best they have, why the resources? It means they don't have anything else. These concerning to me.

WISE: Don't forget they pulled the Kidd away just a few days ago.

CUOMO: The USS Kidd, big search vessels, asked to focus on air efforts. Australia is the lead of the certainly in this area. One of the things as we bring it back to you. One of the factors, a familiar thing is politics, countries what they want to disclose, what they don't, who is helping, who isn't. That all plays out in realtime.

For families it's so agonizing to know there may be more information and there's a little bit of a game going on about what is told and when, very difficult.

Thanks to Jeff and David. We'll be back with you this morning.

Mick, over to you.

PEREIRA: Agonizing and frustrating for these families.

Thanks, Chris.

We'll certainly have more ongoing search for Flight 370.

But, first, Russia cementing its grip on Crimea. The upper house of parliament voting in just the past hour to ratify the treaty absorbing Crimea. The vote was unanimous. Lawmakers in lower house approved it, 443-1.

In the meantime, President Obama expanded sanctions against Russia for annexing Crimea. Moscow responding in kind.

CNN's Michelle Kosinski is live at the White House -- Michelle.


Yes, what we're seeing now is back and forth, each side making fun of the other. At times, it seems ridiculous, almost child-like. But these sanctions just imposed by the White House are serious.

What this all points to is how terrible relations are, not only between Russia and U.S. but Russia and a large part of the world.


KOSINSKI (voice-over): The White House imposed rounds one and two of sanctions, freezing assets, barring entry to some key Russian officials among others. Their first reaction was to laugh, calling the moves hilarious, an honor, saying they don't have any property abroad. One top aide says he just wants to listen to Tupac Shakur and doesn't need a visa for that.

Well, now, come more sanctions against more senior people, Putin cronies the White House calls them, with lots of cash and influence, Putin's banker and his crony bank.

The administration says all be frozen out of doing business in dollars, accounts will be closed. And the next step of sanctions could be more severe, targeting Russian financial services, mining, defense, energy and engineering sectors.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is not our preferred outcome. These sanctions would not only have a significant impact on the Russian economy but could also be disruptive to the global economy.

KOSINSKI: This time, Russia responded with its own sanctions on President Obama's advisers, top lawmakers. House Speaker John Boehner and Senator John McCain call themselves proud to be on Putin's naughty list, of those willing to stand against Putin's aggression.

McCain said, "I guess my spring break in Siberia is off. My secret bank account in Moscow is frozen. Nonetheless, I will never cease my efforts on behalf of freedom, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including Crimea.

Senator Dan Coates tweeted, I will continue to lead efforts to Capitol Hill to bring Putin to his senses. Our nation's leaders almost gleefully using the #sanctionedbyPutin.

Senator Mary Landrieu calling it a badge of honor.


KOSINSKI: And for all of this, U.S. and Russia are still trying diplomacy, though the Russian foreign minister called sanctions, inappropriate, counter-productive. He said they will boomerang back on the U.S. and that for every hostile attack they will respond appropriately.

Europe today is also considering additional sanctions against Russia -- Michaela and Chris.

PEREIRA: Actually, the boomerang is probably a good image for people watching it at home because it seems to be tit for tat, we used before, boomeranging back and forth.

Michelle Kosinski, thank you so much for that.

Diplomacy is needed.

CUOMO: Diplomacy. Seems they are in a situation where there's no obvious leverage. No way to understand how to get Putin, Russia, to do anything they don't want to do at this appoint. They seem to have the upper hand.

PEREIRA: They seem to. Let us switch directions and talk weather. We know something you're watching because the weekend is upon us, my friends. And it's our first spring -- come on, what have you got?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I'm definitely nervous because it's now officially spring, right? There are no excuses. It's been such a rough winter. And today, already, still talking about a little snowmaker, this is the guy I'm nervous about, we're not there yet. But let's start with today, right? Light snow showers, special down in the south, especially the southeast, looking for more of that rain out there today.

Here is why I'm nervous. As we go through the weekend, another pool of cold air dying down to the southeast. Let's take it day by day. Notice you're going to start to see Midwest, talking about temperatures above normal for the day. Look good seeing above normal temperatures.

Then, we go in through Saturday, you'll start to see the Midwest starting to cool off. Still above normal out towards the Northeast and the Southeast.

Then we get in through Sunday. Everyone goes below normal. This cold air still not what I'm nervous about.

Now let's talk about what I'm concerned about. We're talking about another coastal low making its way up the coastline. We know what it is, a nor'easter up here. You start talking about heavy snow again in through Tuesday and Wednesday.

Look at some of these models, you're seeing about five inches, Boston seven inches. This is the lesser of the two. The second weather model, Tuesday and to Wednesday could bring a foot of snow out towards Boston for the middle of next week. This is not anything anyone wants to see.

See why I'm nervous. First cold and snow and more snow and even more snow. Unbelievable we're talking about that going towards, what, April. It's rough.

PEREIRA: I don't have any words for you right now.

PETERSONS: I don't either. Like I said nervous.

PEREIRA: Yes, I get it.

CUOMO: You know, all the other morning shows are predicting good weather towards. You consistently predict bad weather. I mean it's just too much already.

We apologize for what Indra Petersons (IANUDIBLE).

We're going to take a break here on NEW DAY. When we come, ships and planes are combing a remote area of the southern Indian Ocean. You know that. But we're finding new information about what they are doing to conduct this search, what the challenges as they're getting out there into the significant area.

So, what we also know is no sign of Flight 370. Could it be a dead- end? It's something investigators have to face.

We'll talk about it when we come back.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

The search for Flight 370 is intensifying this morning in the south Indian Ocean, looking for those two objects spotted by satellite some 1,500 miles from Perth, Australia. We have five planes that went out looking for them this morning. One is back. An American P8 Poseidon, one of these big search planes is likely to be just arriving at the search zone now.

I'm joined by former Navy operation research analyst Colleen Keller. She's senior analyst for Metron. She helped for Air France Flight 447, which crashed into Atlantic in 2009.

Colleen, thank you for joining us.

And Air France's crash, 447, is relevant to understanding this situation. We keep mentioning it. Why? Why is it a good test case to look at as an analogy to what they're dealing with here?

COLLEEN KELLER, SENIOR ANALYST, METRON INC.: A recent example of an aircraft going wrong, going down and spending an exhaustive certainly to look for it. We're going to use the same resources. We have been looking for the resources to find out what the search area is examining and then if we can find the location, we'll get under water. We'll be doing the same thing here, too.

CUOMO: So, the same dynamics of search were involved there. However, this is arguably more difficult because that one in a couple of days in 2009, you had an idea where the plane was. Of course, it took two years until you were able to figure it all out. But that's an indication of the search.

Here, we don't really have solid, significant basis to even have a guess where the plane is to be fair. Isn't that true?

KELLER: Yes. I'm sorry to say, but in the Air France search, we have indications of maintenance failures from the ACARS system right off the bat, so we kind of knew the situation we were looking at. And the search area we had, the possible containment area was 40 miles radius, probably about as big as your little dots on the map here.

CUOMO: Right. Scaling it out.

So, here, what strikes you most about what's daunting about this is the component of distance. You know, we know now that they're in the Roaring 40s, which is supposedly the most remote water location from on land on the globe.

What does that mean to search efforts?

KELLER: Well, everything in search is about on station time, devoting effort into covering an area and looking, looking, looking. And it takes hours to get to the search area to begin with, so aircraft only have a certain endurance. That means they have less time to spend on station.

CUOMO: Aircraft has endurance, a function of fuel. Humans have endurance also. You had to deal with that in Air France. We haven't been talking about that yet. What is the human fatigue factor?

KELLER: This is the most difficult kind of search. You're staring at the ocean, looking at icecaps, anything that catches your eye. If you look away for one second to sneeze, you might miss a target.

So, doing that for hours, you can imagine. You start to get fatigued and your effectiveness decreases.

CUOMO: We keep pointing to the urgency of getting to the locater beacon before the battery goes out. We believe it's a 30-day window. They are using sonar buoys. They're using this pinger locator, hydroponic, whatever, you know, the devices, the sophisticated name that they drag through the water.

Time is an enemy in this, right? And how close do you have to be even with sophisticated equipment to pick up the signal?

KELLER: One to two miles, pretty generous. Looking at the search area, you know now what I'm trying to say is you have to be right on top of it to look for it.

CUOMO: All right. Now, we're standing on the map so it makes everything a little bit easier scalably. We know that this is where the flight started, this is the best prevailing theory about this turn to the west. We don't really know why. They don't have a lot of information about it. It's veiled in mystery, there are other areas it could be, the plane could be here, right?

KELLER: Absolutely.

CUOMO: They believe because of this location of debris, that's what they believe it is, from old satellite photos, now five days old, that it's about 1,500 miles plus off the coast of Perth, Australia.

This red dot is unbelievably exaggerated in scale of size in terms of what they're looking for. But could it be worse in turn? What would make this worse, more challenging to find that it is right now?

KELLER: Well, as soon as they find that wreckage and it's not the aircraft, we're back to square one. That's my worst nightmare.

I mean, the only reason we're down in the southern hemisphere, as far as I've heard, is that we have a possible wreckage. We may be back looking up in the northern hemisphere again after.

CUOMO: And even if every guest is right, every single guest they've made so far, and they find it and it's debris, it's still just the beginning of what could be months if not longer to find what they need to find.

KELLER: Actually, if they can identify that as aircraft degree, then people like me kick in. We've got an opportunity to reverse drift that debris back to the origin. We've got our estimates of the current, models of the current.

We did this for Air France. We picked up 500 pieces of the aircraft, and we reverse drifted that back and we used that as part of the analysis from where to look.

CUOMO: And great to have you here, because one of the lessons that can be applied is after two years you changed the mathematical model you used for calculation. It went from what took two years to just a matter of days, you wound up having the right search zone, right?

KELLER: Well, don't get me wrong. We still got lucky. But it was a key assumption that we made in the beginning that we ended up revisiting. And that was the breakthrough in the search.

We assume underwater beacon locaters -- I'm sorry, the beacons on black boxes were functioning properly. There's two of them, independent systems. And we gave very good credit to the beacon search right in the beginning. As it turns out, they were both broken, which was highly unlikely. So, we went back and we said, well, perhaps we should revisit this and consider that there was no target during that search.