Return to Transcripts main page


Five Planes Find No Debris; U.S. Expands Sanctions Against Key Russian Officials

Aired March 21, 2014 - 08:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If there's any wreckage on the surface of the ocean, I'm confident that we'd be able to find it.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news. Planes returning from the Indian Ocean. No debris from Flight 370 spotted yet. And Malaysia now asking the U.S. for help.

How long could the search go on?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: U.S. Navy playing a key role in the search. We talked to what they're seeing. While here in Malaysia, families are demanding action, begging for answers. We'll hear from them this morning.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking this morning: Russia moving to cement its grip on Crimea with a final vote, as the West prepares even more sanctions against President Putin and his inner circle.

CUOMO: You're 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. It is Friday, March 21st, now 8:00 in the East.

And we begin with breaking news, no debris found and hours of searching by several planes near Australia in the search for Malaysia Flight 370.

Five planes went out today, all have now left the search area with no shred of proof of anything in the water.

For the latest, let's get to Kate Bolduan in Malaysia -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Good morning, everyone. Nine thousand miles searched but nothing to show for it for five planes scouring the vast waters of the Indian Ocean. The final plane and American one reported in just minutes -- just minutes ago saying nothing was found when they reported in.

Also this morning, Malaysian authorities con if I recalling, CNN reporting, that the jet was carrying lithium ion batteries but they were packed correctly, they say. The batteries, it's important to know, why we know this in particular is the batteries are known to overheat and sometimes catch fire.

Well, now, Australia's prime minister who has suggested the debris could be from the plane has backtracked a bit, saying it may not have anything to do with the missing jet liner.

So, for more on the search, let's get right back to CNN's Andrew Stevens in Perth, Australia.

Andrew, no debris found at all. So frustrating. More resources on the way.

But the sun has set in Australia as it has here. Do we expect a similar search tomorrow?

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The P8 is still in the air and it's going to be landing very, very soon, Kate.

But as you say, it has been a frustrating and disappointing day here. The really worrying thing about this search that no one saw any object during is the fact that visibility was very, very good. Conditions were just about perfect. That's what the pilots have been telling us today.

We've got some rare access to the great conditions. Still nothing in the water. But even with that good visibility, there are still enormous challenges facing the searches.


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 P8 Poseidon plane and a civilian Gulfstream jet went on staggered intervals to the area some 1,500 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 hours to comb the area before making the four-hour journey back. While credible evidence, the Australian prime minister warned that the debris spotted may not be related to MH370.

TONY ABBOTT, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: 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.

But 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.

ABBOTT: It's 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: Tony Abbott talking about that, Kate. So many major challenges facing the search. The pilots saying they're going out day after day, 15-hour day for them, they turn around. They're determined to go out there until they find something.

But the new move in this search is going to be getting ships into that area. They are starting to assemble. The Australian warship will get there tomorrow. There's one commercial vessel out there. More on its way including the Chinese are coming. We're hearing an ice breaker which is currently here in Perth supposedly on its way back to Beijing is going to be diverted, leaving Perth today, later tonight, for that debris zone.

So eyeballs on ships over the sea. That will be critical in locating that --

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much. Great work.

Andrew, thank you so very much. Dealing with this delay. We continue to fight all of these technical issues. Thank you so much, Andrew.

Right now, a U.S. plane, the P8 Poseidon, we talked about this is flying back from the search zone.

I spoke with a person in charge of P8 operations in Perth, the Navy Lieutenant Commander Adam Schantz. Here's a bit of our conversation.


BOLDUAN: We know that weather was a bit of a problem yesterday for search efforts. Today, we're told conditions are quite a bit better. How would you describe how the search is going?

LT. COMMANDER ADAM SCHANTZ (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?

SCHANTZ: 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?

SCHANTZ: 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 1,500 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?

SCHANTZ: 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.

SCHANTZ: 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?

SCHANTZ: 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 Schantz, thank you so much, Commander, for jumping on the phone. Good luck with the search.

SCHANTZ: Thank you.


BOLDUAN: It is not just the vast area that they are attempting to search by air. Andrew Stevens noted a moment ago, it's also the depth of the ocean that they need to try to search to see some of the debris.

Andrew even noting, Chris, three miles deep in some places. If you can imagine the huge challenges that they face here, but the search continues.

I'll send it back to you in New York.

CUOMO: Just about everybody, Kate, says they couldn't have picked a worst place than to have to search.

Let's bring in David Soucie and David Funk. David Soucie, CNN safety analyst, former FAA inspector and the author of "Why Planes Crash. David Funk, a pilot, former international captain for Northwest Airlines.

Gentlemen, thank you.

Nothing found. Disappointing but equally not surprising, let's be honest.

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: You know, we all had doubts about it because of the fact we have images before that didn't work out. We all had hope. We all wanted to -- I did. I thought it would hopefully be something, something that these families could hang on to, but unfortunately it doesn't look like we're going there.

CUOMO: Thus far, David Funk. Where do we look on this one? We were probably -- the expectation, right, the anticipation probably more than is warranted by the probabilities of time and what it takes to find something even if you're right in your guesswork.

So are you surprised that they haven't found something and does that mean they won't find something?

DAVID FUNK, PILOT: Well, I'm not they haven't found something. It's a big ocean. They're searching a huge area and there are a lot of places this airplane could be traveling 600 miles an hour traveling across the ground.

But at the same time, every area that they clear reduces the likelihood that -- or, excuse me, it enhances the likelihood that we will find those components that are floating around on the surface if they are. So, I'm just -- I'm the eternal optimist. I believe we will find this airplane and we'll find it in a reasonable period of time, even if it takes us longer than expected.

I have every confidence that our Navy, Australian navy, Indian navies, the Malaysians will continue until they locate this -- you know, the wreckage from the aircraft if it truly is in the water.

CUOMO: So, the sense of urgency has to match the realities of what they're dealing with out there and the practicalities of it and sometimes you have to wait, and that's often the hardest part especially for the families.

So, we'll go to the reporting.

David Soucie, you will remember, last week, I was asking questions about the cargo. Where's the cargo manifest? Is there a chance that they could have been carrying something that was either hazmat, or improperly stored? Maybe that is the basis for the decompression event that's there.

We are told that the Malaysian authorities have the cargo manifest. They are going through it. They have not released it.

They say there were batteries on board, lithium batteries. That is relevant to people because they can be unstable. They can not explode but they can ignite if improperly stored. They say everything was done by the book.

How significant a factor of reporting is this?

SOUCIE: You know, I don't think it's that significant because every accident we've had in history related to cargo creates a massive structural failure as well that's accompanied it. So, if you look at the Value Jet accident, for example, the oxygen generators that were stored in that caused enough of a fire.

If you have a fire or some kind of event in the cargo that's enough to take out the electrical system and sequentially like it did, you know, I don't put a lot of stock in that because if it would have happened, it would have been a catastrophic failure to the level of which we would have seen different information about that aircraft.

We would have known exactly when it went down and we wouldn't have had the subsequent pings we had hours later.

CUOMO: David Funk, do you echo that same rationale?

FUNK: Yes, absolutely. If they had a cargo fire, the airplane would have been lost much closer to ground. The crew would have gotten warnings from the cargo fire warning system. They, I'm sure, would have declared an emergency and diverted to an airport and we'd have communications with them.

You've got to remember, these cargo compartments are quite large and quite far away from the flight deck. So, if there was smoke and fire away or even in the electrical equipment compartment, the crew is going to know about it. They're going to get advanced warning and be able to transfer that to the ground.

That's why I keep coming back to this. We must have had some kind of catastrophic event on the flight deck itself whether that was manmade, or electromechanical, you know, we won't know that for sure. I think it was an electrical fire up in the flight deck.

But I'm not seeing anything that would tell me that the small amount of -- probably very small amount of lithium batteries being carried downstairs in the cargo compartments would have had any impact.

We would have had the airplane in the water or we would have heard about it from the crew.

CUOMO: Final point I want you to weigh in on.

Funk, we'll start with you. The pilot made a phone call eight minutes before takeoff. Relevant, customary, obviously something you want to track down. They want to know who he called and talked to. But the idea of making a phone call eight minutes before takeoff, unusual?

FUNK: Not at all. I talk to my wife moments before takeoff. You see guys do that all the time as they're coordinating end of the trip, getting the day care set. Honey, we're going to make it out of the gate on time. I'll make my flight home tonight.

You know, that's -- talk to you later. I'll see you in a few days. It could be just a typical goodbye, or he was planning a meeting with a friend up in Beijing the next day, and letting them know, yes, we're going to get out of here, I'll see you tomorrow.

Really not so much. I'm not too sure.

Now, if it was a call made in Pakistan, let's have a talk about it. If it was a routine call, I don't think it's a problem.

CUOMO: Wherever it is, you have to know. We want to consistently be careful with, David Soucie, I keep saying I'm testing the information that comes out of this investigation. Just because something is suggested doesn't make it necessarily relevant or even really interesting beyond initial analysis.

So, when they say he made a phone call, people's eyebrows go up. But really, this is just about checking the boxes they discovered, right?

SOUCIE: Exactly. And all the investigations I run and other investigators as well, we're trained to take those theories, weigh them against the event and you weigh the probability whether that event supports or whether it declines from validity of that assumption so you can use that to determine where the aircraft might be, what was the path, what was the intent? Which is really what you're trying to find out at this point in the investigation.

CUOMO: Right. An interesting observation is as people watch our coverage, they're saying, you keep shading it away from the pilots in my questioning. I am because I believe until you have good, solid factual basis for an allegation against the pilots in this situation, I don't like blaming people for their own demise until you have good reason to go there. I don't see it yet.

SOUCIE: And I think there's a difference in the public and the media what's being said, which is good responsible reporting. What's happening inside the investigation is much more amazing and it's much more you can't discount anything because everything that goes on has a factor, not to the butterfly effect, but everything that has an event that may be linked to a theory has to be looked at. CUOMO: And we've learned that the hard way. Air France 447, the assumption about the black boxes and where they would be, turned out the black boxes were defective, weren't sending out a signal. They had to recalibrate their assumptions if they're going to find the plane. So, everything has to be questioned and challenged.

David Funk, David Soucie, thank you very much -- Mick.

PEREIRA: All right. Chris, thanks so much.

Much more still ahead, of course, on the search for Flight 370.

But we want to return to the breaking news out of Russia. Vladimir Putin has now officially completed the annexation of Crimea signing legislation that makes Crimea part of the Russian Federation. In the meantime, President Obama targeting Putin's inner circle with a new round of sanctions over Russia's annexation of Crimea. Moscow meanwhile has responded with its own black list.

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

It's like a tennis match, isn't it?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right. You know, it's been a strange situation and this back and forth between the U.S. and Russia, making fun of each other and at times, it seems ridiculous, even childish. But these sanctions are just imposed by the White House are serious and what it points to is how terrible relations have become not only between Russia and the U.S., but Russia and the 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 Coats 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: The U.S. and Russia are still trying for diplomacy, but the Russian foreign minister called U.S. sanctions inappropriate, counterproductive, said they will boomerang back on the U.S., and that for every hostile attack, they will respond appropriately, even hinting that they might stop cooperating in talks to end Iran's nuclear program.

Although U.S. officials have discounted that saying that Russia has a pretty big stake in that as well -- Michaela and Chris.

PEREIRA: They know each other's vulnerabilities and weaknesses, so they kind of poke and prod right at those.

CUOMO: Sun Tzu, you never fear battle once you know your enemy.

PEREIRA: Ooh, how about that? I don't know where you get these --

COUMO: John Berman looked at me with a steely gaze once and said I do not know you and do not fear you, but you do not know me and must fear me.


PEREIRA: Michelle Kosinski, thanks so much for that.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I was talking about Sun Tzu Weinstein from Brooklyn.

CUOMO: Oh, a different guy, known as Sunny.

Coming up on NEW DAY, the search for Flight 370 intensifies. But yesterday's optimism is turning in to today's realism. The search planes report no signs of debris in the Indian Ocean so far. We'll show you exactly what the searchers are up against.


CUOMO: Welcome back.

The headline is simple but disappointing. Nothing found. Five planes have now reported back after searching the Indian Ocean for Flight 370 and so far, nothing. No sign of what has been seen in satellite pictures or hoped for, at least.

Let's talk a little bit about how they make the calculations that are involved in where to search. Joined by former Navy operation research analyst, Colleen Keller. She's also senior analyst with Metron. She helped with the search for Air France 447, which crashed into the Atlantic 2009. It took two years to find it, just days to identify the location.

So, similar, but different -- key of what you learned there, Colleen, is that you have to question all assumptions, right? Because there was an issue there with what you assumed about what were then known as black boxes wound up being untrue. Remind us.

COLLEEN KELLER, FORMER NAVY OPERATION RESEARCH ANALYST: Yes. The black boxes are equipped with an underwater beacon that sends out an acoustic ping in the water to be detected, and we looked at historical data on black boxes in the past in crashes, and we found that 90 percent of the time, they survive the crash and they were operating correctly.

So, we thought that was pretty good assumption. We gave very good credit to the search listening to the pinging boxes. It turns out this was the one time that it didn't work. Both boxes pingers were broken or failed in the crash and they weren't sending a signal at all.

So, we had to revisit the assumptions and consider that and that's when we came up with the map that led us to the crash.

CUOMO: So, even when it seems that times are darkest, you have to consider everything. So, take us to the map. And go through with us the calculation that led us there. Because as you know, I've been very skeptical how they wound up there with the satellite images.

So, what math is going on that explains the method?

KELLER: So, we're doing a -- well, we want to be doing a process called Bayesian search theory or Bayesian analysis. It takes all the information you have, even conflicting theories, it quantifies the uncertainties in that information and it also gets people to give the confidence in the different theories. You combine that all mathematically and then you lay out what's called a probability map that tells you where the most likely places you should look first.

And then as you search in those places it reduces the likelihood that the aircraft is there. You revise the map with each new search and then new places pop up that you should check out.

CUOMO: So, searching becomes relevant not just to find the plane, that's obviously the goal. Every place you don't find it that feeds into your equation. So, they had to start searching around here on the Strait of Malacca, right?

KELLER: Right.

CUOMO: And the fact that they're now there, does that mean that they believe that this is more likely, or do you think they're just going off the debris picture?

KELLER: Well, it's not clear they're using Bayesian analysis.

I think we're still in the hasty phase of the search.

CUOMO: Hasty phase.

KELLER: Yes, it's a term we use in search theory, where basically they're running from clue to clue. They have to check this out because if that wreckage turns out to be from the aircraft, it really does shift the whole focus --

CUOMO: They're doing more than checking it out. They have shifted the whole search south. That's our understanding.

KELLER: Yes, and that's unfortunate because they're losing focus on where else it could be.

CUOMO: Yes, common sense tells you it's the closest place they last saw. We know it had fuel capacity, but to wind up down here, you're saying they may not be using Bayesian analysis. So, how do you get 1,500 miles off the coast? Just the GPS image?

KELLER: Yes. They have to check that out, that's critical.

But in terms of covering large -- they have not found any wreckage to date. I think that's telling me that the evidence is building that maybe that is not where the aircraft is.

CUOMO: So, do they then go back to the formula and start just calculating? And we looked at these square miles so even that is valuable?


CUOMO: That what they've searched and not found be is valuable so they'll start to refine and start shifting the model elsewhere?

KELLER: I hope they do. That's called negative information and it updates the models. It should bring the areas that they haven't searched as fully back on the table.

CUOMO: Does it mean anything to you because of your experience that they are not focused in this area? I don't like stepping on countries. That it is not here because this is the last place they knew?

KELLER: The only thing I'd say is that's not on the arc. The arc sounds like hard data. So, they're trying to support the arc theory.

CUOMO: And to remind people, the arc theory are these circles that they have, the ranges of coordinating --

KELLER: Satellite detection.

CUOMO: -- hand shakes and radar pings. These are the regions that we think are most likely --

KELLER: It's the ACARS system, registering with the Inmarsat satellite, like your cellphone registers with the cell tower, even though you're not making a call, it's still touching the tower occasionally.

CUOMO: So, the one thing that's positive to take away from not finding the debris yet is at least they're ruling out different areas.

KELLER: Exactly.

CUOMO: Assuming that they're accurate and not just finding it and it's not too deep under the water for them to see it, or register at this point.

KELLER: It could be the wreckage and it sank, we don't know. They have to try to eliminate as much probability in that area as they can.

CUOMO: Colleen, thank you very much.

KELLER: Thank you.

CUOMO: Very frustrating for the families and those looking on. There are a lot of calculations and a lot of challenges as well. We understand that better every day.

Coming up on NEW DAY: this is a cruel wait for word of what happened. The father of an aviation engineer who was on Flight 370 is going to talk about how he and others are trying so hard not to lose hope.