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New Developments on Flight 370; Families Called to Meeting; NASA Helps in Search; Malaysia PM: Flight 370 Lost in Indian Ocean, No Survivors

Aired March 24, 2014 - 09:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: They're usually in the morning. So how unusual is this?

JIM CLANCY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Well, you know, the only time that we got a lot of news was from the prime minister himself. There's a very clear pecking order in the Malaysian government. We have watched as different agencies, whether it was, you know, civilian air traffic or civilian aviation, the defense ministry, other groups, they tend to vie for the power. But the prime minister is there. He has made all of the major announcements. So we're expecting to hear something significant from him.

It is what we want to hear? Is it that they've located the plane? I don't think we can be sure. I think we have to wait and listen to what he has to say. We do know that the families, according to some of our sources, have been advised that he's going to be making a statement. They're going to be informed first, perhaps, given a better hint of what's going on here. That's another thing that the Malaysians have put in place because they want it known that they are putting the families first. They are considering their feelings, they're all- important.

The families are beside themselves, as you well know. Some of them driven to the point of illness because they've had such a roller coaster ride of emotions here. So there's very much at stake. And we're waiting to see whether we have our first verified clue as to the whereabouts of Flight 370 and the 239 souls that were aboard when it disappeared in the early hour of the morning of December (ph) 8th. Just vanished on a moonless night in calm, still air.

Back to you.

COSTELLO: Well, the only real thing that came out of the press conference this morning was that the Australian prime minister did make a phone call to the Malaysian prime minister about wreckage spotted by an Australian navy plane. And, of course, an Australian ship is trying to find that particular debris right now. So maybe this news conference will tell us more about that particular debris.

CLANCY: Carol, that's what I'm thinking because the prime minister tweeted that -- you know, showed himself on the phone. He said, you know, I talked with Tony Abbott, the Australian prime minister. An Australian ship should be there within a couple of hours and be able to tell us what they have found, what is that debris. Now, are they going to tell us that it's been confirmed, linked to Flight 370? We don't know that yet. The suspense, of course, is building. We're in day, what, 17, Carol, and there's just so many people that have ridden this up and down. The press conferences, the normally scheduled ones, have become really an exercise in repeating what the search areas are, how many people are cooperating. We're not learning anything new really about the investigation into who may have been involved or what may have been the motives.

They're holding those cards very close to their chest. The only thing they're revealing is how this search is going and they're saying, before we can go ahead with any kind of investigation, tell you people anything, we need some hard evidence. That's the flight data recorders. Is this a link to those recorders? Is this a link to unraveling the mystery of Flight 370? Well, we may be about to find out, Carol.

COSTELLO: I know, I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Jim Clancy, stand by.

I want to bring back in our aviation analyst, Mary Schiavo, right now to talk more about that debris. That debris that investigators think is so very important.

And, Mary, the reason they think that debris is important is because of the shape and the color.

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: That's right.

COSTELLO: The circular object is gray or green and the rectangular object is orange. Tell us why that's important

SCHIAVO: Well, the gray/green is the color of the inside of the aircraft. A great number of pieces of metal and other things in the aircraft are of gray/green color. Everything from the metal in the fuselage and pieces of the mechanical parts, et cetera (ph). And then orange or bright yellow are the color of the emergency escape slides, the life rafts inside the plane. The life vests, but they wouldn't be that big. So there are many things that are those colors that could be a signal that it's not something that has fallen off a ship but rather that it's something from out of a plane.

COSTELLO: The other thing they talked about in the press conference this morning, and I'm talking about Malaysian investigators, was the co-pilot and his relative inexperience of flying this Boeing 777. I believe this was his first flight in such a plane unsupervised. Might that mean anything?

SCHIAVO: Well, I wouldn't say unsupervised. He had an 18,000 hour captain with him. And while it's a - you know, it's a divergent amount of experience, it's a very, very experienced captain with a very junior captain. That's a lot of hours in the cockpit of the two combined. So often you do try to bring a junior captain up and along with the senior captain. And I've actually worked many cases where there was this disparity, including many times there's a check airman and a very senior captain with a more junior captain. It doesn't necessarily mean that there's, you know, there was anything wrong with either one, or that he had just (INAUDIBLE) to this giant aircraft that was just turned over to him. It wouldn't be that way at all, particularly if they used good what's call crew resource management and that's a requirement in the United States and that's a practice where the pilots must challenge each other. They must, you know, if something doesn't seem right, they must ask a question and they both must do it so they're both actively involved in the piloting and the -- really the airmanship of this plane. So I don't think that the pairing of a really senior guy with a really junior guy was necessarily telling and I wouldn't read anything into that right now.

COSTELLO: All right, Mary Schiavo, our CNN aviation analyst. Thanks so much.

We're waiting to hear from Malaysia's prime minister in just about 25 minutes. He's expected to announce some new developments in the investigation. I'll being right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: We are still waiting to hear from Malaysia's prime minister. He's going to hold a news conference in just about 20 minutes, 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time. He's expected to announce new developments in that missing airliner investigation.

In the meantime, our Sarah Sidner is in Kuala Lumpur. She's outside the hotel where the families are waiting to hear any bit of information.

And I understand, Sarah, that Malaysian authorities are already meeting with the families, is that right?

SARAH SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): That's what we understand. I've been in the same hotel with the families for a few days now and we've seen them go through without saying a word. There are tears shed. We saw a woman who completely broke down one morning and had to be comforted by some of the other family members there who were also waiting for word of their loved ones on that missing Flight MH-370. So it has been really, really tough for these families. They have waited so long, given so many false leads, given a lot of false hope.

Some of them are resigned to what they think has happened. The worst news for them, obviously would be that these are pieces of the planes. We do not yet know that. We do know that they have been called. It is unusual for them to be called this last minute and --

COSTELLO: Sarah, you still there?

All right, we lost Sarah, but she was saying it's unusual for Malaysian authorities to call this meeting together with the families and then call for a news conference moments later. So they're meeting with the families. We understand they met with the families at 9:30 Eastern Time. That's our time. And they're telling the family whatever new bit of information they have. And then at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time, the Malaysian prime minister will announce it to the world.

All right, the United States is trying to help in any way it can. NASA is ramping up American resources to help search for that missing flight. The space agency says it will reposition some of its satellites to help look for possible crash sites. NASA officials also plan to examine data collected from cameras on the International Space Station for potential clues.

Joining us now to discuss this is CNN tech analyst Brett Larson. He's also editor of techbytes.com.

Welcome. Tell us what NASA is planning to do.

BRETT LARSON, CNN TECH ANALYST: Hey, good to see you, Carol.

Yes, you know, you would think in this day and age where everything happens instantly, these things would be a lot quicker. But they are actually a very slow process. Now, NASA is saying that they're going to move some of their existing satellites that are used to take those constant images of the earth that we're all very fond of, they're going to move them, reposition them to that area to help search for debris. And then they're going to go back through this archive of data that they already have from these satellites and start looking through that to see if they too can start to find these objects floating there in the sea.

And, you know, this process that we've been hearing about, you know, when we see those images of that debris in the ocean, it seems like that would be such a simple thing to find. But it's actually a very complicated process of looking through miles and miles and miles of ocean to find something that is actually an object and not just, you know, an aberration on the camera lens or a light reflection or a cloud shadow or some such thing.

COSTELLO: Has NASA ever used their satellite technology in this way?

LARSON: Not that we're aware of that they would be using it to search for debris. You know, this is the satellite technology that we use that we're familiar with, with things like Google Maps, these amazing pictures of, you know, the tops of Kilimanjaro or these amazing changes in the coastlines of the planet after massive storms or things like that. So this is definitely a first for NASA to be getting in there with this satellite that was, you know, initially part of a completely different project but is still very workable and still, you know, in use today, taking great resolution pictures of our planet.

COSTELLO: You know, I know a lot of people have asked, in particular you because you're an expert in such things, how it's possible to lose a Boeing 777 in the age of satellites and cell phones. You talked before about a satellite network called Iridium (ph) -

LARSON: Yes.

COSTELLO: That has the capability to provide real-time information in the air. How does that work? LARSON: Right. It is - it is the question that we've all been scratching our heads about. How do we lose the, you know, this giant commercial airliner. Now, the Iridium system was set up back in the late '90s as a sat phone system, a way for us to make phone calls from pretty much every corner of the globe quite literally. Now they're sort of re-launching it, rebranding it, if you will, to not only provide the satellite phone technology, but also provide this immediate real-time location information about airplanes. The company saying that they're starting to launch these new satellites that will have this capability starting in 2015. They'll have all 66 of these satellites, which is a lot of satellites to have to replace, to provide this sort of service.

Had something like this been in place for this incident with the missing Malaysian airline flight, even going back 2009 with the missing Air France plane, it would have given us a faster turnaround time to start to search for this missing aircraft.

COSTELLO: Hindsight's always 20-20.

LARSON: Yes, it is.

COSTELLO: Yes. Brett Larson, many thanks.

Again we are waiting to hear from Malaysia's Prime Minister in just oh 15 minutes from now with new developments.

I'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: We are all hoping the debris detected by satellite is the real deal. This latest debris I should say and of course the ships off the coast of Australia can actually find it. If they do the U.S. Pacific Command will be ready to move a black box locator into the region. This is what I'm talking about a pinger locator or a hydrophone, this piece of equipment is able to detect sounds deep under water as in the pings coming from a plane's flight data recorder.

Joining me now on the phone, Commander William Marks with the U.S. Navy Seventh Fleet. He's on board the "USS Blue Ridge" in the Philippine Sea. Welcome, sir.

WILLIAMS MARKS, COMMANDER U.S. NAVY SEVENTH FLEET (via telephone): Hello, thank you for having me.

COSTELLO: Oh thank you so much for being with me. Before we get to the pinger detector I want to talk about this later debris that has everyone so hopeful. One piece of debris is rectangular and gray- green, the other is circular and orange. What does that tell you?

MARKS: Well I'm watching the news reports probably as you are, intrigued and just a little bit hopeful that we can get some solid evidence and confirmation here. What I would call this is this is a testament to this international cooperative effort. You have the United States here, the U.S. Seventh Fleet in a supporting role to the Australian led effort. We have Chinese ships and aircraft out here. The Malaysians are running the operation from the north.

So I haven't seen exactly what they look like. But to me the fact that all these countries are cooperating is such an encouraging situation. I can tell you for these planes, I'm very enthusiastic about getting the images starting tomorrow morning.

So it's about 11:00 here in Asia. And so tomorrow morning when these ships get a lot closer to the area, when the aircraft fly over they should be able to get pretty good visual pictures of what those objects are. So we're all kind of waiting for tomorrow morning to come.

COSTELLO: Oh you're not kidding. And just to interrupt for just a second because we're awaiting this news conference from the Malaysian Prime Minister and they are set up for that right now. That will happen in just about ten minutes.

And we do expect the Prime Minister to talk about this latest debris find. Ok. We're just hearing that the Prime Minister is going to make a statement, no questions. It's even more intrigue.

So let's get back to those objects. They were spotted way up in the air by an Australian plane and these --these guys were able to -- to not only detect them in a huge giant ocean, right, but they were able to detect colors as well.

MARKS: Yes. These planes are very advanced for the Seventh Fleet, the PA8 Poseidon that's the most advanced explorer aircraft in the world. Just to give you an idea of what it can do, if it's flying at an altitude of about 5,000 feet or so, it can use an advance surface radar to pick up something as small as even the size of a basketball. And then it'll get a return on its radar, just a little, tiny blip.

Well then what it can do is lower, it can a use an electro optical camera or an infrared camera depending on the environment, to get a closer look. And then it can even get lower to get a visual I.D. So, essentially someone looking with binoculars.

So it is a layered approach. It all depends on the environment. And these planes are very sophisticated. So right now, I'm sure all the air crews are preparing for tomorrow morning to launch -- once again led by the Australian government in terms of who has what (inaudible) -- and where these planes are flying. But I'm sure everyone is waiting for tomorrow morning to get a plane in the air and get some ships really close to that.

Of course we're also waiting, in case we need to deploy our pinger locator.

COSTELLO: Right the pinger locator, I'm going to bring in Richard Quest for just a second if you can bear with me, Commander I would appreciate it.

So Richard the Prime Minister is setting up for this news conference. He is just going to make a statement. Does that tell you anything, really?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Yes, it does. In the sense that you don't get the Prime Minister coming out to make a statement just to wish everyone good morning and give a sort of situation update.

In the same way that we had the Prime Minister of Malaysia give that first major statement two weeks ago on Saturday when he gave information of the deliberate turn. And he said and he set up the whole concept of the southern corridor. And then we had the Australian Prime Minister who gave us the statement about the first pieces of debris. It turned out they couldn't find them again. But Tony Abbott, giving the information about what they had found.

So for the Malaysian Prime Minister to be coming out this morning and I don't know what he is going to say. We do have these two pieces of debris. One is circular, gray and green. The other is rectangular and orange. One can deduce circular, the gray and the green that tends to be the color of this aircraft fuselage is underneath the paint the raw fuselage, is the gray or it's then painted green. The rectangular parts, well obviously if it is orange, life rafts, life vests, those sort of things.

But we don't know. We're getting ahead of ourselves. I'm getting ahead of myself here. We are waiting. We're just eight minutes away from when the Prime Minister is due to speak. And that will give us what we need to know.

The fact also, Carol, is that the relatives, the families are being called together in Beijing as David McKenzie has been reporting this morning. So you know with a dose of experience and a sort of a feel for the way these things go, a confluence of events is taking place which would lead us to reasonably conclude that something significant is to be announced this morning.

COSTELLO: Yes you mentioned the families were being called together. Sara Sidner is outside the hotel. Are you in Kuala Lumpur, Sara?

SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Yes. I'm here.

COSTELLO: And you're in front of the hotel where --

SIDNER: I'm actually -- yes I'm actually inside. Basically, what's happened is the families have been called. And they have been talking to the families. So this is an unusual movement.

But generally speaking, you know the families are briefed. They have been very concerned about not getting enough information. For now, the government, the Malaysian Airlines they've been making a concerted effort to try to get them the information before the media, before they have to see it come out on television.

So this is a development. What the development is, we of course don't yet know. We're going to hear from the Prime Minister but just fact that the Prime Minister is going to be speaking, who we don't hear from every day, we hear from the acting transportation minister is also significant.

So what is basically happening at this point that both hotels both leaders (inaudible) in Kuala Lumpur where the families are they are right now in meetings this representative from the government, this representative from the airline.

I can tell you after being in the hotel with the families for several days -- that we have seen them go through so much. We saw a woman just yesterday bursting out in tears inconsolable. People around her holding her, hugging her -- just so many emotions, as you might imagine, when your loved ones are missing and you simply keep coming up with different scenarios, you keep coming up with are they alive, are they ok? Are they not alive? What is going on with them?

And you just -- it's just torture. And that's what they said this has been like torture for them, because they just don't know what the answer is.

And so now, they may be getting some answers. Is it the answer they want to hear? We won't know that until we hear from the Prime Minister but these families have been through 17 days of absolute hell -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Oh, Sara Sidner and I think that's an understatement. So stand by. Five minutes to go -- five minutes to go until the Malaysian Prime Minister makes this statement. Commander Marks, are you still with me?

MARKS: I am.

COSTELLO: You mentioned before that you are excited to possibly get images of this debris in the water tomorrow. You sound certain that you're going to get images of this debris. Why?

MARKS: Well, I can tell you the capabilities of not only the -- our aircraft but of the aircraft of all these countries. For the most part, you can say if they fly over it, they are going to see it. It's a -- it's not a matter of if they can see it. It's just a matter of flying over the right space.

So if they do have a location and they fly over it, there is not much of a doubt that those planes and especially the ships can see whatever it is out there.

COSTELLO: All right Commander Marks, thank you so much. Richard Quest, Sara Sidner. I have to turn it over to New York and Anderson Cooper now. Anderson -- take it away.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, AC360: Carol thanks very much. If you are just joining us, we are waiting for statements to be made by Malaysia's prime minister. We anticipate that in about three minutes from now -- obviously significant. It is nearly 10:00 p.m. in Kuala Lumpur where the base for these operations, for the Malaysian government, the Malaysia Airlines, has been going on.

I am here with our Richard Quest, who has been monitoring developments all morning, all weekend long. There has been sort of a rising sense of anticipation throughout this weekend.

Let's take a look at the statement.

NAJIB RAJAK, PRIME MINISTER OF MALAYSIA (through translator): Good night to everyone. This evening, I was briefed by representatives from the U.K. Accidents Investigation Branch or AAIB. They informed me that INMARSAT, the UK company that provided the satellite data which indicated northern and southern corridors, has been performing further calculations on the data. Using a type of analysis never before used in any investigation of this sort, they have been able to shed more light on MH370's flight path.

Based on the new analysis, INMARSAT and the AAIB, have concluded that MH370 flew along the southern corridor and that its last position was in the middle of the Indian Ocean west of Perth. This is a remote location -- far from any possible landing sites.

It is, therefore, with deep sadness and regret, that I must inform you that according to this new data, Flight MH370 ended in the Southern Indian Ocean. We will be holding a press conference tomorrow with further details.

In the meantime, we wanted to inform you of this new development at the earliest opportunity. We share this information out of a commitment to openness and respect for the families -- two principles which have guided this investigation.