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Anguished Families Wait; Theories of the Missing Malaysian Flight; The Search for Flight 370; Five Planes Find No Debris

Aired March 21, 2014 - 08:30   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone. We are live in Malaysia this morning.

And breaking just moments ago, search planes looking for debris from Flight 370, they've come back. They've found nothing. They're expected to be back out again to try once again tomorrow.

Meantime, Malaysian authorities confirming some CNN reporting this morning that the jet was carrying some lithium ion batteries, but they say that the batteries were packed properly. Those batteries, it's important to note, they are known to overheat and sometimes catch fire. That's why it's important to look at if they were on the cargo manifest.

Despite today's search coming up empty, even the possibility of debris is bringing a range of emotions really for the passenger's families. I spoke with one man whose son is not only missing but is also of particular interest to the police because of his background as an aviation engineer. Selamat Omar says he is sure his son had nothing to do with it, that he welcomes the investigation and says the police have yet to contact him.


BOLDUAN: On some level, do you hope that this is not the plane?

BOLDUAN (voice-over): For some of the families of those on board Flight 370, the discovery of possible debris is being met with despair. But for others, hope.

Selamat Omar says he still believes his son is alive, but with the new developments in the search, he's preparing for any eventual outcome. His son, Khairul Amri, is an aviation engineer who was a passenger on board.

BOLDUAN (on camera): As the days pass, does it get harder or is it just the same?

"The sadness is still there," he says, "but I'm trying to stay strong."

All of the families of the 239 people on Flight 370 struggle with the same emotions in their own way. Some venting anger at the Malaysian government. And in Beijing Thursday, paramedics were called to the family's hotel when news of possibly discovering the plane's debris broke. There were fears that some might commit suicide. Here in Malaysia, many families are staying at one hotel, watching, waiting for any new detail.

BOLDUAN: Mr. Selamat, I look at you and you are standing so strong. You're waiting for concrete information. Have you yet allowed yourself to cry over the fear of losing your son?

BOLDUAN (voice-over): He says he feels extremely depressed, but being with other families makes it more bearable, calms his soul.


BOLDUAN: Now I asked Mr. Selamat if this is the plane that they find off of Australia, will he go to Perth? He told me, absolutely. And he also said that Malaysia Airlines has promised him that if any part of the plane is found, they will be all flown to that location.

Until then, of course, he remains at that hotel. He says he will stay at that hotel because that's where he can get the information the fastest, and he waits.

We'll be covering much more on the search from here on Kuala Lumpur. But for now, let's get back to John Berman for the five things to know for your new day.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much, Kate.

Number one, nothing found by those five planes searching near Australia for debris that could be linked to Malaysia Flight 370. The airline also confirms the plane was carrying lithium ion batteries, which have been known to catch fire, but they stress they were packed properly and airlines carry them all the time.

Crimea now officially part of the Russian Federation. Moscow's parliament approving the treaty, annexing Crimea. And President Vladimir Putin has now signed that into law.

Nine people, including some children, killed in an attack at a popular luxury hotel in Kabul. Police say four teenagers entered the Serena Hotel and started shooting Thursday. Afghan security forces returned fire, killing them.

GM's CEO Mary Barra has been called to Washington. Barra is set to testify next month before Congress as part of an investigation into the automaker's handling of a flawed ignition switch.

And number five, First Lady Michelle Obama seeing Chinese education up close and personal, visiting a high school in Beijing today to kick off a week-long trip, where she'll focus on education and cultural exchange.

We're always updating the five things you need to know. So go to for the very latest.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, thanks, J.B.

Coming up on NEW DAY, separating the outlandish from the plausible. Our job is to test information that comes out of the investigation, separate fact from fiction as we all wait to find out what happened to Flight 370. We will go through it with our best experts.


CUOMO: All right, welcome back to NEW DAY.

Five planes flew over the Indian Ocean today. They were searching for debris from Flight 370. The bottom line is, nobody has found anything yet except for those satellite images from five days ago, which may or may not be parts of this plane. This is likely to add fuel to the many theories about what happened to Flight 370. Our job is to put them to the test. Let's figure out what factual basis there is for all of these different understandings that are coming out of the understanding. To do that we have Jeff Wise, an aviation journalist with and a contributing editor to "Popular Mechanics" magazine. He's also the author of "Extreme Fear." We also have Robert Goyer, editor in chief of "Flying" magazine.

Mr. Goyer, thank you. Mr. Wise, thank you.

OK. So, let's begin this, all right. Mechanical failure is what we're going to start with here. Jeff, I'll start with you because you're standing next to me. What is the factual basis for the notion that what happened to Flight 370 involved mechanical failure?

JEFF WISE, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Very little. Very little to none. We have no evidence that there has been mechanical failure. It looks pretty certain, according to investigators, that the initial deviation from the planned flight route was a deliberate act, was intentional. Whether there was mechanical failure later in the proceedings, we don't know, but there's no evidence of that.

CUOMO: All right. So, when we look at the transponder, OK, the transponder -

WISE: Right.

CUOMO: Gets turned off. It had to -- do we know that it had to be turned off?

WISE: Right. So it was turned off at least 18 minutes before the route deviation took place.

CUOMO: And we know that it was manually turned off how? Because that's the issue. It went off. Do we know that it was turned off?

WISE: Well, the - well, it wasn't - oh, I'm sorry, the transponder, yes. The transponder was turned off within the cockpit. So that was - that happened before the route was changed and so we know that it had to have been done deliberately.

CUOMO: So it's not that. The ACARS gets knocked out.

WISE: Again, same situation, had to be manually turned off.

CUOMO: Had to be? Couldn't have been a fire?

How about you, Robert Goyer, on that? We believe, from the investigators, the transponder turned off manually. The ACARS somehow disabled manually. Do you accept that basis or do you think it's just as likely it could have happened because of some mass decompression or other event?

ROBERT GOYER, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "FLYING" MAGAZINE: No, I think it's really unlikely that it happened because of some kind of a - of a fire, a decompression or explosion. And I haven't seen that they have details that they know that it was manually turned off. I don't know how you would know that. It's very easy to turn off a transponder manually. It's not much harder to turn off the ACARS through the flight management system interface.

CUOMO: All right.

GOYER: I think it's far more likely that it was done, you know, just by the pilots.

CUOMO: So ACARS goes. The last basis would be cargo, that they were carrying something improperly, perhaps hazmat. We heard about the lithium batteries. We have not had the manifest released. We just heard from the investigators, Malaysian officials, yes we've looked at the manifest, yes we have small batteries involved, yes they were properly stored. Do we accept that information and is this something that still needs analysis, Jeff?

WISE: Well, listen, there could have been some problem with these things, but they couldn't have happened before they deviated from the flight because they said "good night" and so there was no distress indicated at that time and so we have to rule that out.

CUOMO: So we rule that out.

All right, so let's move on to the next one. The next one is terrorism. Mr. Goyer, we start with you. Do you believe that there is any factual basis for a belief that this has something to do with terrorism?

GOYER: You know, there are some suggestion that it could, but that's a long way away from saying that there's any kind of evidence that it did. Some of the flight profile changes might suggest that the flight was commandeered. Was it by one of the pilot or by an intruder? It would be more likely that it was one of the - by one of the pilots. But, again, there's no evidence for that either way. The altitude changes that we saw could have suggested a struggle for the controls, if those reports are really accurate. And at this point, we don't really know how good that radar data is.

CUOMO: Right.

GOYER: From (ph) the investigators themselves (INAUDIBLE).

CUOMO: There's not enough factual basis to understand how high or how low the plain was. It's speculative. So they don't know. And most importantly, I've written down "chatter." Terrorist groups like to talk about what they've done. We know that from all intelligence experts.

WISE: Right.

CUOMO: There's been no chatter here. And you would suspect that there would be. The notion that, well, this was just a test to see if they could get away with it. That offends reason as well to intelligence experts -

WISE: Yes.

CUOMO: Because you wouldn't try something that's going to raise so much attention to a suggested plot and then foil your chances to do it again. The passports, Jeff Wise, do you believe that flying with stolen passports is suggestive of terrorism, or do you think the uninitiated are just being clued in to a gap of security?

WISE: Look, that particular data point looked very enticing at the beginning. I feel that it's been investigated and ruled out at this point.

CUOMO: All right, so that's out. So that leaves us with pilot sabotage, pilot action. Sabotage may be a little bit of a jaundice reckoning. But when we think about the pilots, do you think that there is a factual basis that's come out of the investigation to look at them?

WISE: I'm going to throw in a word here that hasn't been used very much and I think it's important to use it because are we calling it hijacking? Are we calling it sabotage? Are we calling it some kind of mutiny? The world in maritime law is barratry (ph). Barratry is when the captain of a vessel commandeers it to sink it or to cause it harm. I think that - that's maybe what we're talking about here. It's -

CUOMO: I'm not writing that down, because I can't spell it. But I will - I will write this down, which is that the coms -

WISE: Right.

CUOMO: They turned off the coms.

WISE: Right. Right. Exactly.

CUOMO: They believe it was done manually, factually to test it.

WISE: Right.

CUOMO: Is there a good basis you can think of, Mr. Goyer, why you would turn these things off that has good intent as opposed to bad intent?

GOYER: No, Chris. Absolutely none. It's something that only - someone would only do if they had ill intent.

CUOMO: OK. So now another big factor is that a waypoint was added, they believe it was added before. You know, that this was somehow premeditated. It has also been suggested that a good pilot may put in a waypoint that just in case something happens I want to have a place to go. You see the waypoint, the adding of a waypoint, Mr. Wise and Mr. Goyer, you see the waypoint as an indication of a problem, that pilots did something wrong, true?

WISE: I would.

CUOMO: Mr. Goyer?

GOYER: Yes, absolutely. You know, I fly on these kinds -- not on commercial airliners, but on business jets all the time with the same kinds of flight management systems and you never add a waypoint into the flight plan unless you have some intention of going there. Never.

CUOMO: All right. So you say never. I've had other pilots say, I might do it. Mr. Funk (ph) says that he might do it because he's just being -- you know, he's just being careful about what might happen. And let me ask you this, Mr. Wise -

WISE: Sure.

CUOMO: As a point of conjecture. If you are going to ditch my aircraft, if that's your plan -

WISE: Right.

CUOMO: Why would you program in a route to nowhere? Why wouldn't you simply turn the yolk, the steering wheel of the airplane, and go where you want to go?

WISE: This is the big problem. This is the big black hole that all this analysis falls into, motive. What were these people trying to accomplish? And I haven't heard any really compelling evidence or even really good story for trying to come up with something that they wanted to achieve.

CUOMO: Goyer, can you do any better on what I just suggested? Why would you put in a route to nowhere? If you wanted to ditch the airplane, just ditch it.

GOYER: Yes, well, putting in the route really does suggest that it was a professional pilot who did it because we tend to do things in the way we're used to doing them. Putting in the route is standard operating procedure for these guys, so they would have done it that way.

In terms of the motive, it is. It really suggests that perhaps that the plan wasn't carefully thought out, that there was some kind of impairment, some kind of episode, manic or psychotic episode that took place and that it wound up happening as it happened in a way that just out of -- got out of their control and spiraled down.

CUOMO: I will say this. I understand you on coms. They have to look at what was deleted off of the hard drive for the simulator. They have a cell phone call they have to look at with the pilot. Those are all relevant.

The waypoint gets the most attention for what bothers people about what the pilots did. I am least impressed by this because I cannot get my head around, from a testing perspective of information as a reporter, why you program in a route to nowhere if your intention is to just ditch the aircraft. I don't understand why you would have done that instead of just doing that manually. I don't get it yet, but this something we can't understand until there are more facts that come out.

WISE: We don't know what they've done. We don't know what they started to do. We don't know what they did. We don't know where they are.

CUOMO: True.

WISE: What they are capable of. What their grievance is, if any, or mental state.

CUOMO: And we may never know because the conversations get recorded over by the monitoring devices in the plane. They only give you the last two hours. So we may never know.

WISE: If we ever find the black box. We have no knowledge if we will.


Mr. Goyer, Mr. Wise, thank you for this.

WISE: Thank you.

CUOMO: It's important to test the ideas, because there's a lot of discussion about it and we need to vet. That's the job that we have here, Mic.


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, thanks so much, looking at the investigation.

Now looking at the search. Next up on NEW DAY, we know conditions were good on the high seas today, but those search planes, they came up empty handed today. We're going to take a closer look at the sophisticated military equipment that is being used to help locate this missing flight.


PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

Of course we know that today's search is now over given the fact they're 12 hours ahead of New York at least. Five planes so far have turned up nothing as they look for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the southern Indian Ocean. A massive search operation.

Here to walk us through some of the assets being used, Wes Green, once again, he is here, director of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for BAE Systems, and former U.S. Air Force intelligence officer.

Quite a brigade, if you will, that is heading out there.


PEREIRA: A massive search area, but a massive effort. Conditions, we're told, a little better today out on the water, so that's going to improve things for them. Why don't we take a look at some of the things that are being brought into play.

We've been hearing a lot about this P-3 Orion. Talk to us about some of the strengths this aircraft has.

GREEN: So, the P-3 and then the asset we'll talk about next, the P-8, have - they're great maritime surveillance and surface search aircraft. Meaning, they're meant to get out there, comb the ocean -

PEREIRA: They can go low, too.

GREEN: They can go low. And being low helps with the identification of anything they may be able to see, not just finding something, but able to tell you what that something really is and get the characteristics around what object they may be looking at. So being low, having a sensor suite, like radar -


GREEN: Infrared and then night vision gives you the -

PEREIRA: Gives you a lot of data.

GREEN: A lot of data. A lot of ability to see in different environments or different conditions.

PEREIRA: You'd think that this 10-hour flying time would be fantastic, yet there's some limitations of that.

GREEN: There are. Remember, there's four hours of transit -

PEREIRA: To get out there.

GREEN: To get out there and then get back. So you're really only getting about two hours on station. And remember, this is a propeller driven aircraft, so not quite as fast as the next asset we're going to talk about.

PEREIRA: Let's go to the next asset we're going to talk about because this one is the most advanced.

GREEN: Absolutely. PEREIRA: The antisubmarine and aerial reconnaissance aircraft that they have flying. Long range as well, right?

GREEN: Absolutely. So the P-8, what it gives you is being a turbo fan engine, (INAUDIBLE) jet engine aircraft, what you're really able to get is extended range, extended loiter time and an ability to cover ground faster and then cover wider territory.

PEREIRA: What is it able to detect?

GREEN: So it has a similar sensor suite as the P-3. However, because this is a modernized version of the P-3, you're able to get a greater resolution out of what you're seeing with those sensors that you're looking at.

PEREIRA: OK. Last but not least, let's talk about on the water itself. We know the HMAS, the Australian fleet has sent from their navy has sent "The Success" out there. This is - this is showing the effort that they're throwing every resource they can into the effort to search for this plane.

GREEN: Very much so. And think of this from going large to small.


GREEN: You're going where - the search starts at satellites, it moves into the planes, and then lastly you're moving down to the ships. In a case like the HMAS "Success," you have a vessel now who's going to be out on the waters coordinating, but also able that if they do find something they're going to -

PEREIRA: They can transport it.

GREEN: They can transport it, they can characterize it, they can give you kind of that last step of identification.

PEREIRA: And also providing other support to other search vessels that will be adding to it. Add to that we know that there's a couple of merchant ships that are in the area and they're going to provide support as well.

GREEN: Absolutely.

PEREIRA: OK. It's a big area, but we also know they're putting everything they can into finding this flight. Wes Green, fantastic to have you here.

GREEN: Thank you so much for your time.

PEREIRA: Thanks for looking at these assets with us.

GREEN: Thank you.

PEREIRA: Coming up, searches of the Indian Ocean, they are coming up empty. So far no sign of Flight 370. But we are going to give you the latest on the international effort to solve this mystery. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: Two things for you to know. First, Kate's going to continue her reporting throughout the weekend from Malaysia. Second, it is now time for "Newsroom" and Miss Carol Costello.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks a lot. Have a great weekend.

NEWSROOM starts now.