Return to Transcripts main page


Malaysia: China Has Satellite Images Of Floating Object 74 Feet Long, 43 Feet Wide; U.S. Reassesses Ties with Russia

Aired March 22, 2014 - 08:00   ET


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: We are so grateful for your company. Let's get you started here at 8:00 on a Saturday. I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Victor Blackwell. Let's start with the breaking news that we have learned this morning in the search for Flight 370. China has new satellite images showing this. A large object, they call it a suspicious floating object in the Southern Indian Ocean. Malaysian transportation minister actually revealed the development in a news conference a short time ago.

Someone handed him this note what appeared to be just a ripped sheet of paper and he read it out to the reporters there at this daily news briefing. The object is 74 feet long, 43 feet wide. China plans to send ships out to find out exactly what this is.

PAUL: We are talking about six planes, both military and corporate jets have already been scouring the waters of Southern Indian Ocean today where two pieces of debris were spotted six days ago where they are believed to be. We should point out that is just 75 miles from where this new piece or object that they found via satellite is. So fairly close together. We are talking about 75 miles apart, but we do know a couple of the Australian ships or planes have come back already today and reported no significant sightings.

BLACKWELL: Yes, but that was also without the knowledge of this possibly being there. The Chinese releasing more information later. The Norwegian cargo ship in the area, that was diverted and now is asking to take part in the search or being asked. British, Australian and Chinese and Malaysian ships are heading there as well.

PAUL: The primary focus is now the southern arc of the search area as we were saying. Probably the most remote, really, part of the planet, as some people were calling it. One man -- one official, I think, verified it as one of the most inhospitable places on earth.

BLACKWELL: A London newspaper, the "Telegraph" says that it obtained a transcript of nearly an hour, 54 minutes to be more precise here, of communications between co-pilot and air traffic controllers before contact was lost. Now the exchanges were routine. We learned from Malaysian officials this morning, actually the CEO of Malaysia Airlines that what was published by "The Telegraph" is not accurate.

Now they did not elaborate beyond what was inaccurate or what was wrong with the transcript. Was it a major inaccuracy? Was it just something that was missed in the transition or the conversion from English to Mandarin to English, that translation, you could possibly lose a few things. We hopefully will learn more.

PAUL: Yes, and speaking of that, you know, China, as we said, sending ships to investigate this new mysterious or suspect floating object in the South Indian Ocean.

Let's bring in CNN's Paula Chiou. She is live for us from Beijing right now. What can you tell us, Pauline, anymore? I mean, China said this press conference a couple of hours ago or the minister there in Malaysia said that the Chinese would be announcing more on this satellite image in a couple of hours. We have yet to hear anything. We are waiting. Have you heard anything yet?

PAULINE CHIOU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We haven't heard anything yet. We have been monitoring the state news channels and also the state news agencies and CCTV. We are still waiting to hear what comes out of those outlets, but here is what we know so far. The satellite image was taken on Tuesday, march 18th, at noon time. That is four days ago. So you have to keep in mind the drift and the currents and where it might be today.

We do know that that it is 22 meters by 13 meters. This information is so new, you mentioned that news conference out of Kuala Lumpur at 5:30 local time. It was so new that someone handed a piece of paper to the acting transportation minister. When he read out the dimensions, he actually made a mistake and had to issue a correction after the news conference.

That's how new this information was and also, the state news agency here in China, confirmed that the Chinese embassy --

BLACKWELL: All right, we obviously have lost audio there with Pauline Chiou in Beijing. But of course, we are going to get more as we cover the breaking news this morning that the Chinese satellites found this floating object. Let's bring in CNN aviation analyst, Miles O'Brien and Mary Schiavo. We've got Mary on the phone. Miles, good morning to you.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Good morning, Victor. Good morning, Christi.

PAUL: Good morning, Miles. Good to see you.

BLACKWELL: We just a few moments ago had John Hansman on, aeronautics professor at MIT. He was skeptical based on the dimensions of this object that it's part of 777. When you hear 72 feet long and 42 feet wide. What is your level of skepticism?

O'BRIEN: I am trying to figure out what piece that would be and I've got do a little more mathematics. But if you look at the dimensions of the plane right there, try to imagine something of that size. Where would it come from? I am skeptical. It is floating around in the Indian Ocean.

Having said that, it is perfect sense to check this out given its location and the possibility it might have something to do with this incident. I think, you know, we have to proceed and keep a grain of salt handy for this one.

PAUL: Mary Schiavo is on the phone with us as well. Mary, as we continue to watch these pieces come in, you know, the satellite images and this is now to count, the fourth object that in the scope of the last 15 days since the flight disappeared and hasn't been found, do you have any concerns or fears that we're just on a wild goose chase and maybe we're looking in the wrong area that we have abandoned other areas that deserve some attention?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST (via telephone): Well, no, for a few reasons. Yesterday or two days ago, Inmarsat, the satellite company that released some of these images out of Great Britain. They released information two days after what would have been the crash of the plane if it crashed in that area. That something was there. That there was something there in the area where the debris would have migrated from.

I think they are searching in the right place and regardless of what the size of the image they have, I agree, this sounds a little big. Previous sightings would have fit a wing size. These are composite wings and sealed on the inside. Remember there is a fuel tank. I was hoping it was a wing. This may be too big for that. I think they are looking in the right place. I think the northern route, there were two ways this plane could have gone.

I think the northern route is impossible. We know it did not go through Thai air space. So I think they are looking in the right place. This seems it could be a conglomeration of items. You know, if the wiring and a lot of times on crash sites, it is all balled together. That's possible.

BLACKWELL: Let's pull that thread, Miles. I have so many people who are sending us questions through Twitter and we have been asking our viewers to submit their questions to us for days. They identify all the things in and on board a plane that would float. Do you suspect that when the debris field is found, it will be more than just a piece of one wing? Wouldn't you expect we see seats and several pieces of the plane, luggage even?

O'BRIEN: Yes. Obviously the seat cushions are obviously the first thing that comes to mind. I don't know if you recall in the case of the Air France crash a few years ago in the Atlantic, one of the big pieces that was found was the vertical stabilizer. That was a piece of composite, which has a honeycomb structure inside which has pockets. That is something that could float.

The 777 is virtually all an aluminum. It is a little different kind of thing. Wings are designed to carry fuel. Would they float? You know, that's hard to say because of the way the fuel gets in and out of the wings and that is a place the water can get in.

What pieces float? It is kind of hard to predict. You know the engines will not float for sure. It is possible some of the control surfaces that Mary alluded to would float made of composite. Something this big, what would be that big that would float? PAUL: There are, Mary, I want to go back to you with this because there is talk this incident could prompt some changes when it comes to, you know, what's on a plane and resources to find it. They are talking about cameras in the cockpit and real-time streaming of communication and flight information. I think I read something where you were saying those just -- that airlines are so cost sensitive they would not consider those things. Do you think this mystery, this vanishing flight that has everybody baffled? How can we lose an entire plane? Will this change that at all?

SCHIAVO: You know, I would have thought that September 11th, 2001 would have changed it because the issue in this discussion about having streaming data from the black boxes and from the plane either on board video or continuous data flow, that was discussed way back in 2001. If you recall, the hijackers there turned off the transponders in the two planes that hit the World Trade Center, they were completely destroyed. The black boxes did not survive that intense fire.

Having this information streamed so we know where the planes are and what is going on and a missing plane or a hijacked plane or stolen plane or mystery plane like this would be no longer. Here we are now, 13 or 14 years later and we are having the same discussion. The reason the airlines don't do it is they say it costs too much money for one.

For two, the regulators have not required it. If we have the change, the Federal Aviation Administration for the U.S. and the Civil Aviation Organization for the world will have to mandate it. They have to say do it or they won't.

BLACKWELL: There is one other piece of news that came out in the news conference this morning that Miles, I want to get your response too and your thoughts on very quickly. That the Malaysia Airline CEO said the transcript published by the U.K. newspaper, the "Telegraph" was not accurate. We had pilots here on CNN for the past 15 days.

When the transcript came out yesterday, a few said the last phrase, all right, good night, would not be in coordination with the International Civil Aviation Organization. That that's not what a pilot would say when entering or exiting international waters. What is your thought on that element from the Malaysia Airline CEO?

O'BRIEN: Well, as far as the transcript, we have no way of verifying that transcript that comes from "The Telegraph." We don't know what their sources were on that. I've said it repeatedly. Why the Malaysians don't release an accurate transcript at least. What I would like to do is listen to those air traffic control conversations with the crew.

Now that last statement from the crew, "all right, good night." It is slightly off the norm because he did not repeat the frequency he was assigned. Saying, all right, good night, is OK, but he didn't repeat the frequency. But if you look at the way that transcript built up to that moment, there was probably some frustration building in the cockpit because he was trying to get the controllers to respond to him about his the altitude.

I think he wanted a different altitude. By the time he said good night, he was not getting good service if you will from air traffic control and I think it was a terse moment. Now that is all based on the transcript that we don't know is completely accurate. But having said all that, that would explain why he didn't repeat the frequency, he might have just been frustrated.

BLACKWELL: Yes, hearing the inflection and hearing the time between all of this would actually help in determining what the intent was by saying all right, good night. Miles O'Brien and Mary Schiavo, thank you both.

O'BRIEN: You're welcome.

SCHIAVO: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Coming up on NEW DAY, of course, much more on this breaking news as we await to hear, we wait to hear what is coming from the Chinese, the Malaysian authorities said that they are going to announce the breaking news we have been covering this morning. Hopefully more details about the suspicious floating object in the Southern Indian Ocean.

PAUL: And investigators, too, want to know what the pilot deleted from his flight simulator in the days leading up to the plane's disappearance. Is there anything that can help to solve this aviation mystery?

BLACKWELL: Plus, the western leaders are worried about Russia and are sending international monitors to Ukraine to keep an eye on that situation. We'll take a look in a moment.


BLACKWELL: The breaking news this morning, investigators trying to find a possible pieces of debris. We know them now from the Chinese satellites only to be suspicious floating object here. This one was released this morning by Malaysian officials saying that Chinese officials found this four days ago.

This happens as crews from around the world, 26 countries are assisting in the search from the item found in the Southern Indian Ocean six days ago by Australian officials. You see the coordinates here, 44 degrees, 57 minutes, 29 seconds south of the equator, 90 degrees 13 minutes 43 seconds east of the meridian. That is where it was on March 18th. The waters are so rough, who knows where it is right now.

PAUL: That's just one of the questions, it is not just because this is a huge area that they have to scour, but Alexandria Field is live in New York with more on what their other hindrances are. So Alexandra, what are you learning?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the horizon, a small window of opportunity opening in one of the world's most remote and punishing regions, 20 foot waves forecast to subside this weekend as searchers scour a daunting swath of the South Indian Ocean for any sign of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and it's 239 passengers.

TONY ABBOTT, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: It is the most inaccessible spot you could imagine on the face of the earth.

FIELD: It's 1,400 miles off the coast of Australia, the aerial search can last just a few hours at a time before pilots have to head back and refuel.

CHRISTINE DENNISON, EXPEDITIONS LOGISTICS EXPERT: That is in the middle of nowhere. They are working with weather patterns that can hamper any operation or sea operation.

FIELD: A NASA simulation shows currents and turbulence if the two floating objects spotted by satellite spotted by plane, the currents could push farther apart. Some oceanographers say this could be anywhere in a 15,000 square mile area such as Belgium. The sea floor sits more than 9,000 feet down. Deeper than most submarines go. The mid ocean ridge rising from it making the search more difficult.

(on camera): The depth is a factor here. Describe what it would look like down there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like the Rocky Mountains.

DENNISON: It is so challenging and for so many, it is hard to wrap your mind around what they are doing and how difficult it is.

FIELD (voice-over): If the objects in the satellite images can be found, if they are from Flight 370, if researchers can use the ocean's currents to zero in on the plane's data recorder, finding it among those peaks and valleys could be even harder still.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it is in a deeper channel that is more of a challenge.


FIELD: And oceanographers tell us that some of those deeper channels are actually thousands of feet deep, which is why it would be so difficult to hear the pinging from a data recorder if the recorder was lodged in one of those channels. The Malaysian government has already requested extra equipment, which would help them detect that pinging noise, but Christi, Victor, we know there is time pressure here because those signals are set to stop in about two weeks now.

PAUL: Alexandra Field, thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: Still to come on NEW DAY, CNN's Martin Savidge is in that flight simulator.

PAUL: He is about to take on one of the more controversial theories too about what exactly happened to flight 370. Hi, Martin.

MARTIN: Good morning, Christi. Good morning, Victor. Yes, we are just taking off and we are going to go over something that sounds like science fiction, but actually aviation experts say might be possible, something called a zombie plane. We will demonstrate right after this.


BLACKWELL: Of course, we are monitoring this morning's breaking news, the Chinese government has spotted a floating object of interest in the search for Flight 370. Here's a look at that satellite image. It is dated March 18th. This is where it was four days ago. We want to get to one of the theories people are talking about as to what happened to this flight 15 days ago.

PAUL: Fifteen days ago. CNN's Martin Savidge is live with us from a flight simulator in Ontario. Martin, I understand you are taking on a theory a lot of people question, but pilots say it's possible? Martin, can you hear us?

BLACKWELL: All right, so obviously we are having audio problems. Hopefully we can get that fixed. Martin Savidge is taking on a zombie theory.

PAUL: It is hard to imagine this plane would just be flying for seven hours with nobody at the controls. Who knows what would have happened to the passengers at that point. So, I think we have Martin with us now. Martin? Martin, can you hear us?

SAVIDGE: Here we are in the cockpit and in this simulation, guys, we decided we are -- the flight that took off from Kuala Lumpur, that's Malaysia Airlines 370. We loaded everything in on that particular flight. We are a 777 just as they were with the fuel and weight. At the night they flew, it was as they got to cruise altitude. About 35,000 feet. This is the point, and I love to demonstrate this, where you get to do this, which is that very famous everyone knows sound of the seatbelt sign has now come on. It is also you can simulate this.

You get the announcement from the flight crew. It is saying we have reached cruise altitude. You can relax. This was probably the time that we began to see the first problems with the aircraft. Should be the safest time.

MITCHELL CASADO, PILOT TRAINER: The most uneventful time of flight.

SAVIDGE: But we think this is the time things had gone wrong. It may have started with something like this. That's a fire alarm. It would be an indication that there was a fire somewhere on board the aircraft. The readout on the screen would tell the pilots what was on fire. In this scenario, say it is a fire in the cargo hold. Something is burning. Smoke might start filling the cockpit.

Then, the pilots would communicate. We would then decide, you takeover the aircraft and Mitchell would begin to start turning the plane. Remember, there was the sharp turn. Turning the plane back to where we took off from or in the direction of the nearest airport. Alarms would go off because we are descending very, very quickly. We try to do this and try to put the oxygen masks on. The smoke could be building.

It could suddenly become very hard to see the controls and hard to breathe. In this scenario, at some point, we eventually, though, would level off. The plane would come back under some kind of control and eventually we could get the plane back on automatic pilot, but that is it. Because we become overwhelmed by smoke and we pass out and we are unconscious and the passengers are somehow incapacitated. Now we are on course headed south with a load of how much fuel?

CASADO: About seven hours' worth of fuel.

SAVIDGE: That means we could head down to where the debris was found and this plane would fly by itself. A ghost plane, a zombie plane, some say a plane without a brain.

PAUL: My goodness. Martin Savidge and Mitchell Casado there, thank you so much. We appreciate the information. It seems farfetched, but a lot of people are saying anything is possible.

BLACKWELL: It has happened in the past with other flights that crashed. What also seems like an impossible task, searching for the jetliner, in an ocean, I mean, it went from the South China Sea now to the Indian Ocean especially when this is an area considered one of the most remote and treacherous on earth. We will take a look at the challenges ahead.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

PAUL: Take a nice deep breath. You made it to Saturday. I know we are really working for you here this morning. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell.

Breaking news actually by the hour now in the search for Flight 370 -- let's get you a quick update on what we've learned this morning.

China says it has new satellite images showing -- and you see it here -- a large object floating in the southern Indian Ocean. Dimensions here -- 74 feet by 43 feet and the Chinese are planning to send ships to find it.

PAUL: The air search though for the two pieces of debris spotted by satellites six days ago is wrapping up its third day as well. No signs of that debris still at this point. But we're talking about six flights, four military, two corporate jets have been involved today. We know that two of those Australian flights did come back and say they did not see anything of high significance. But we don't believe that they were in this particular area because this satellite image that you're seeing just coming from Chinese officials a couple hours ago. BLACKWELL: Yes, as you know 26 countries involved in the search and investigation. A multinational flotilla is being deployed in the search of the southern Indian Ocean. Norwegian cargo ships is already in the area after being diverted, British, Australian, Malaysian and Chinese ships as well as we've said they are also on the way.

PAUL: So here is the thing if the debris spotted by satellite is found and it is determined to be part of that plane, in this remote location, what's next? An ocean search -- I mean that's a daunting task on a good day.


PAUL: And then you add to it the area we're talking about, one of, as I said, the most remote places on earth. Take a look at this flight path that they believe the flight took here. We're talking about deep, deep ocean -- very strong winds, powerful currents and turbulent water.

So logistically, to search this area, it is a nightmare. Because there is no land wrapped around this, there's nothing to buffer the storms that hit that area every day or so.

BLACKWELL: Let's get some context from the people who know this work best. Randy Patfield, licensed pilot and CEO of Aviation International News and Van Gurley former naval oceanographer and the senior manager at Metron Scientific Solutions.

I want to start with you Van can you explain for us and it's hard to put in context that when you're talking about an ocean the challenges of the search and especially considering these conditions.

VAN GURLEY FORMER NAVAL OCEANOGRAPHER: Well it's good to be with you this morning. And thanks for the chance to talk about this. Everyone is focused right now on finding the debris field if there is one in the south and that's the first step.

But we should remember this is going to be a long drawn out process if in fact the things that have been spotted and reported on satellites are confirmed to be part of a debris field. Then it's not the end of the search, it's actually the beginning of the search.

The next steps that are going to be required are to carefully and methodically go in and recover those -- all the objects that may be found and keep track of where they are and where they're picked up. So that the next step can begin where the oceanographers will come in and looking at the current and weather patterns try to backtrack from the location that the objects are found on where the plane likely impacted the ocean back on the 8th March if that in fact is what happened.

Once we have a better idea of where the plane likely impacted, then it's a matter of going to listen for the underwater locator beacons. Those are transponders that have about a 30 day battery life put out a very high frequency pulse at 37.5 kilohertz so that's above the range of human hearing but we have very specialized looking devices that can find them.

Unfortunately because of the way physics and the ocean work the range in which we can hear those pingers is very constrained only about two or three miles. So given that we're talking about two miles of ocean depth, you'll have to get a ship out there and deploy these sensors on a long cable and tow it across the sea floor and listen for those objects.

In the best scenario, it would be us finding those pingers or picking up those signals before the batteries die which again they are rated at 30 days, 30-to-35 days is what the manufacturer says we should expect out of that.

And that's exactly the scenario that we went through with Air France 447. My company Metron was involved with the French BEA and it's sort of putting together the pieces so we knew where to focus the search. Because then the really laborious process starts and that's putting ocean sleds on the bottom with site scan looking sonar or autonomous underwater vehicles that will roam around and finally map the ocean bottom looking for any debris, any features so eventually we can find that aircraft.

PAUL: All right, well Randy, I want to go to you next. Because we know that if the plane did go down in the water, the angle at which it goes down as I understand it makes a big difference in the way that the plane is going to break apart and the debris is going to scatter. Is that correct? I mean when we're looking at the image today from the Chinese satellite and we're seeing one image of an object, would you believe that we should be seeing more than that?

RANDY PATFIELD, CEO, AVIATION INTERNATIONAL NEWS: At this point, Christi, I would say probably not.

BLACKWELL: Do you expect that this, considering the dimensions, 72 feet by 43 feet would be part of a 777?

PATFIELD: You know, it's really hard to tell. I was listening to the broadcast earlier and Mary Schiavo and the other person you were interviewing said that it's really hard to find what part of the aircraft would be this size. And I have to agree with them.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Captain -- Captain Gurley, you know I wonder if this -- we talked about -- if this is part of 370, but considering the pattern thus far. If this is not, are the resources there in the south Indian Ocean now to cover this in a reasonable amount of time? I mean, I wonder at what point does someone like yourself who know this quote say that we have to either dramatically maybe exponentially increase the resources or scale back because we are looking for something without a starting point?

GURLEY: Well, that's a great point. And that in fact is one of the issues they are dealing with. There is a mathematical technique called basin search theory that we apply to these problems. And what that tells you to do, is a mathematical way to go in and look at how certain you are of each piece of information and -- and so you don't -- you know the term is "don't play little kid soccer", which is have all of the assets run to one spot and run to another spot.

What I can -- what I think, what I hope the Australians are doing, and they are very professional is that they're keeping their assets fully, so if these satellite images are in fact proven right that's great, that gives us very firm information but if they aren't part of an aircraft that are found then we don't get misled and we continue to search the area.

But it's a very broad area. More ships, more aircraft, would always help. It is encouraging the number of countries that have assets en route to that area, but it's a very, very daunting task they're facing right now.

BLACKWELL: All right Randy Patfield and Captain Van Gurley, thank you so much for your insight.

PAUL: Good to have you with us.

GURLEY: Thanks.

PAUL: Sure.

And still to come, the U.S., as we shift gears here, we're obviously are going to stay on this as we are waiting right now to hear from Chinese officials. They released the satellite and they released a little bit of information. We were told that we would hear from them later today. That was what the defense minister in Malaysia said. So we are waiting to hear from them about more of their findings.

But also looking at what's happening with Russia. I mean the U.S. is worried whether Moscow is planning further incursions into Ukraine. Was Crimea all they needed?


BLACKWELL: And the crisis in Ukraine is anything but over. This weekend, international monitors sent by Europe's security authority are on their way to Ukraine.

PAUL: And this, of course, the day after President Putin officially made Crimea a part of Russia. So monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation are keeping an eye on the human rights situation in that region for six months. But we do know we've been told they will not enter Crimea physically.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Our Erin McPike is at the White House. Erin, President Obama will meet with leaders of the G-7 -- well, the G-8 minus Russia now -- next week to discuss Ukraine. What is on their agenda?

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor, President Obama said just on Thursday that when he meets with European leaders, he wants to discuss, quote, "more severe actions that they could take against Russia especially now that there are signals that Russia is building up a larger military presence that could move through the southern and eastern border of Ukraine. Now, a senior administration official told CNN's Jake Tapper just yesterday, we are very concerned, but it is by no means certain, about potential bigger incursion into Ukraine. However U.S. intelligence suggests that there are about 20,000 Russian forces right now that are assembling that could move very quickly into Ukraine without detection by other countries. And that is why there is a lot of concern about this situation right now.

You know, Russia is simply saying that their military moves are merely military exercises. However, National Security Advisor Susan Rice cast some doubt on that yesterday.


SUSAN RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: It is not clear what that signals. The Russians have stated that they are intending military exercises. Obviously given their past practice and the gap between what they have said and what they have done, we are watching it with skepticism.


MCPIKE: Now Susan Rice also said yesterday, that there are initial signals that sanctions are working, that ratings agencies have downgraded Russia's credit and -- creditworthiness rather -- in the last 24 hours. So there do seem to be some signs that things are working, but obviously this is a more tense situation than it was just a week ago -- Christi and Victor.

PAUL: So Erin, we know that Organization for Security and Cooperation monitors they're going to be arriving there soon. Do we know what their specific role is going to be?

MCPIKE: Well, obviously, they want to protect Ukrainians in the region, especially now that there are so many troop movements. But as you mentioned earlier, they can't go directly into Crimea. So this is something that, of course, President Obama will be discussing with European leaders in the coming week.

PAUL: All right. Erin McPike live for us at the White House there. Erin -- thank you.

BLACKWELL: And still to come, of course, more on this morning's breaking news out of Beijing. A Chinese satellite spotted a floating object. They call it a suspicious floating object. Could this be part of 370? More after this.


BLACKWELL: The breaking news this morning that investigators have possibly a new lead in the search for the missing Flight 370. Beijing says a Chinese satellite -- here is the image -- spotted a large object floating in the south Indian Ocean.

PAUL: Now, let's face it, this could be a huge discovery, but here's something to keep in mind. Even if this object turns out to be part of that missing jet, there's no guarantee it's going to help searchers get any close to the locator beacon. The batteries on that beacon are at about 50 percent right now. And they're just kind of disintegrating a little bit every day.

BLACKWELL: Michael Fortune, a retired pilot and aviation consultant joins us now for more. I want to start here with this image and the object -- good morning to you first. We have seen several items picked up by satellites from various countries -- false alarms all of them thus far. Considering the dimensions, 72 feet by 43 feet -- does that add or decrease your level of skepticism as you look at this?

MICHAEL FORTUNE, AVIATION CONSULTANT: Well, I -- it doesn't -- I'm not more skeptical. I'm very hopeful that this is a piece of the aircraft if it is in the ocean. That will allow us to start working on finding the aircraft itself. The specialists, the oceanographers who work with the tides and the currents will start their job and try to pinpoint the area where that aircraft may be to include the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder.

And as you correctly said, it's only got about -- it only has about 30 days total battery power to send out its signal. The signal only goes about two miles under water. And we're about are halfway through that battery at this time.

PAUL: Ok. This is what I think people are finding interesting as well. This is about 2,000 miles off the coast of Australia where this was found. It is only 75 miles from other objects that were found by Australian authorities about six days ago. Does that give you hope that maybe these three parts could be related in some way?

FORTUNE: Absolutely it does. It definitely gives me hope. It's -- we need to find this airplane somehow. We need to find the recorders and we need to figure out what happened in this incident. I think a lot of new things will come from this.

Anytime you look at a globe, where you see an ocean, anywhere from about 100 to 200 miles off a coast into the ocean, it's a non-radar environment. When you are in that space, the only way any type of air traffic controller knows where you are if you are not in radar contact is voluntarily through us, the pilots, providing position reports. Those position reports can either come through data links or verbally over radios.

Now, there are some new systems out there now one of it is called AFIS -- it's an Automated Flight Information Recording System -- which tunes in to the reading satellite system. And it can give you real time tracking on where an aircraft is. This incident here will probably lead to some dramatic changes in the industry.

BLACKWELL: You know, you told one of our producers that once we get this flight data recorder -- recorders, that there could be silence. I mean once we get them, there could be very little, if anything. Elaborate on that, if you would.

FORTUNE: Sure, I will. The flight data recorder, if it's recovered, will have the entire flight on it. That will not be a problem. The cockpit voice recorder however, is a different thing. The cockpit voice recorder records continuously throughout the flight on a micro chip. It records all conversations in the cockpit.

And the only problem there -- it's on a two-hour closed loop. So you will only get the last two hours of the flight. So with some of the theories that are out there right now about what happened, the possibility exists that that flight -- excuse me -- the cockpit voice recorder may have nothing but silence on it.

PAUL: Now, I want to get your opinion on something because you mentioned this whole flight could prompt some changes in the industry. One of the things that I know the NTSB had wanted for years according to some of the research that I read they wanted to implement cameras in the cockpit and real-time streaming of communications and flight information. But as I understand it one of the negatives, pilots say that is an invasion of their privacy. Does their invasion of privacy now, do you think as a pilot, get trumped when we see a situation like this?

FORTUNE: Well, I'm all in favor of streaming data, real-time aircraft positioning. However, having a camera in the cockpit, that's a tough question, you know. There's a lot of things that happen and privacy issues and all sorts of issues. It is like having doctors be videotaped for everything they do. They probably would push back also.

That's a difficult question. That one I don't think would happen. However, the real-time tracking of aircraft is what's really important here.

PAUL: Ok. Well, retired pilot, Michael Fortune, we thank you so much for being with us.

FORTUNE: You're welcome. Glad to be here.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, sir.

And thank you for starting your morning with us. Of course, we will see you back here at 10:00 Eastern with much more on the breaking news this morning on missing Flight 370.

PAUL: Coming up right now thought, Michael Smerconish after this quick break.