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Search Continues for Missing Boeing 777; President to Meet with G-7 Leaders; Devastation in Washington After Mudslide; Tensions on Turkey/Syria Border

Aired March 24, 2014 - 07:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: They spotted objects as well, but this is separate. These are not the same objects.

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. So the Chinese plane saw visually at 33,000 feet, which is high --

BOLDUAN: Very high.

STEVENS: But they saw two objects they described of a relatively big size and several white objects, smaller objects around them. So I've been talking to aviation experts and they say, look, that could be a debris field. They haven't seen pictures but it could be a debris field.

But, again, a P8 Poseidon, one of the most sophisticated planes in the world, U.S. Navy plane, went out and couldn't find anything into that area. So that's the problem. And they mapped it by using these drift models because that seems to be the best way of actually working out where this debris, where these objects will float and they still couldn't find it. So it's very frustrating.

BOLDUAN: Very frustrating. Every time one of these crews go up, I was with one of them, they really think, they hope that they're going to be the ones to find something, because, I'll tell you, even though this is their job, they get it that they're part of something that's really unprecedented.

STEVENS: It is the greatest aviation mystery -- not one of -- the greatest aviation mystery right now ever. And they obviously want to be a part of that. You know, there have been so many theories, which are still, and bizarrely 17 days on, all these theories about what happened, where it could be, it's all still open. We haven't ruled anything out yet.

BOLDUAN: You haven't ruled anything out. Even if we find out where the plane is, we still don't know why it all happened and that's part of the huge investigation that will continue.

STEVENS: And that's why they have to find the plane, to find the whys.

BOLDUAN: We need one first step. We need a break in this mystery. We're going to continue to follow it here obviously. A lot developing overnight and will continue developing nighttime here, morning in New York. Let's head back to New York and get to Michaela.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Kate, thanks so much, really great work there we should tell you as well.

I want to bring in CNN aviation analyst former Department of Transportation inspector Mary Schiavo and Miles O'Brien, CNN aviation analyst. It's great to have you both with us today. There they area. Good morning to both of you. Obviously, a lot of this sent your way. Mary, let's start with you. Interesting, we want to talk about some of these new details emerging now. We're getting more and more specific information. Interesting, Mary, you've been with us since the beginning, the search area honing in on this southern corridor and then we get this news this morning that Australian planes visually spotted two objects, one rectangular, one round. They were able to specify color and a little more detail. This is encouraging.

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: It is encouraging, especially since it's not the same shape kind of shape. We just kept getting these reports of these rectangular masses without color. The round and rectangular, the orange, it could be the floating life rafts. They could be the shoots on the dies. They are brightly colored. Life vests are orange, of course, life rafts are usually yellow. So it's important that we've gotten these clues.

And what's really encouraging is that the numbers are starting to mount up. Yes, there are more people looking, but they match both the satellite coordinates, they march the report in MARSAT who reported a sighting later, of course not at the same time it happened, but a sighting in the area two days after the plane went missing. So it's starting to be cumulative, but they still have to bring it on home. They have to get a piece of wreckage on the ship to confirm and they have to find the black box.

PEREIRA: We're also seeing a little more speed. There's something spotted. We know that there are other planes in the area. We want to bring in Miles and talk to you about some CNN reporting that we have overnight, that the military radar tracked 370 between 1:19 and 2:40 a.m., making a sharp turn over the China Sea but then also changing dramatically its altitude to 12,000 feet. Give us an idea of what scenario matches with a plane suddenly turning and drop being to 12,000 feet.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Michaela, what the military radar was able to discern by detecting that was not inconsistent with what pilots call a high dive, meaning at 35,000 feet you have some sort of catastrophe, decompression, fire, whatever the case, which necessitates getting the plane down to an altitude where you can breathe the air. And 10,000 feet is the number you aim for. A high dive is a very dramatic move. It would involve a turn off of the airway and in this case back to land because presumably they were looking for an emergency landing site as well as a very steep descent.

So what that military radar discovered was not inconsistent with that. The military radar, however, is not as accurate as it would be if you had a transponder returned radar image. If the transponder was off, this is what's called a primary target. Military radar of course is designed to detect altitude without a friendly transponder on the other end of the transaction.

PEREIRA: Let me ask you about that 12,000 foot descent or to 12,000 feet. It also would put you below the heavily traveled traffic route, correct? So that speaks to somebody who is an aviator at the helm, correct?

O'BRIEN: Yes. I think the procedure, when you have this sort of situation, the first thing you're supposed to do is get down and take a left turn or right turn off of the air way where there might be other traffic. So you're going to get out of the way and you're going to get down. And in this case one more step, you want to get back toward land. That is what we're seeing with this report. You know, obviously we have to put the caveat on here that we've had a lot of dead ends along the way, but this reporting does indicate that something different happened than what we've been thinking.

PEREIRA: Also new, Mary, the Malaysians are saying there was no change in the flight path before last contact. I want you to explain the significance because I think people at home are going to say this conflicts with information we had before. Talk about why this is significant to us.

SCHIAVO: Well, the folks at home would be right. It does conflict with information we had before. But here's the significance on this. Before there was an indication or somebody had said the pilots changed their heading 12 minutes before their last communication. So if you were changing your heading and you were no longer headed to Beijing, you were headed somewhere else, it would be logical to assume something was wrong, you had a mechanical problem, a fire explosion, a decompression, a hijacking, something. But in those 12 minutes from the change of the heading being dialed into the computer and the time when you have your last report, people say, well, why didn't the pilots report a problem? Why didn't they squawk the hijack code or call a mayday. Now that we learn they did not program that in 12 minutes before their last communication, things start to make more sense. And at the last communication it appears they are didn't realize or whatever it was hadn't started yet, they just didn't realize they were headed for a problem.

PEREIRA: So this really speaks to intent. We've been hearing this word on CNN a lot, "nefarious." So this feels less nefarious to the two of you, Mary?

SCHIAVO: It does to me, less nefarious.


O'BRIEN: I agree, I totally agree.

PEREIRA: So let's talk about the investigation. It's been interesting talking to a lot of our colleagues and talking to a lot of you, frustration obviously from families, and we understand that, frustration from investigators, from searchers, but even from our friends in the media about the contradiction by Malaysian authorities, whether it's the change of altitude, whether it's the search area expanding or shrinking. Why do you believe there is such confusion surrounding even the basic facts, Miles?

O'BRIEN: I think frankly the Malaysian authorities don't have a lot of experience running an investigation like this. In the U.S. we have the template of an NTSB style investigation. There is very strict protocols and the release of information is done in a very prescribed manner. The NTSB has had a lot of experience doing this and is a model for how this should work. The Malaysian, it's been chaotic and incomplete, and the fact that we're finding out this important information dribbles out 16 or 17 days later is, frankly, inexcusable.

PEREIRA: Mary, you seem to be nodding. Of course we know you've been on the front line of some of those investigation.

SCHIAVO: Yes. And I think the problem also comes in the secrecy. The National Transportation Safety Board, they have protocols. And they have to brief the families. And I have seen accident investigations where there's just as many unknowns and we've had to go down so many different routes. TWA 800, we thought it was initially an explosion, a bomb. It was an explosion, not a bomb.

But the difference is every day the NTSB says this is what we know today, this is what we know today. And so when you get information through back channels, people think you're secreting something out, where if they just lay it all out and, frankly, it would probably be a lot better and more people would come forward and you have more information.

PEREIRA: We certainly know that there's a lot that we need to learn and investigators needs to learn so we can prevent -- if this was mechanical, as the two of you seem to be leaning towards, how we can prevent something like this from happening again. But first, let's find that debris, let's get the flight data records. Miles O'Brien, everyone here at CNN sends love to you. Good to have you on our air. Mary Schiavo, you've been working so hard, thanks for joining us once again.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We'll much more on the search for flight 370 coming up. But let's check some other top stories right now, beginning with the crisis in Ukraine, which really is already overshadowing a major nuclear summit in the Hague in the Netherlands.

President Obama and other major world leaders now planning to hold emergency G-7 talks as Russia's hold tightens on Crimea. Overnight Russian troops stormed and seized a Ukrainian naval base there. As many as 80 Ukrainian troops were captured. I want to get to White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski who is near the Hague this morning.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. President Obama arrived in the Netherlands this morning and met with the prime minister. Soon he'll meet with China as well as leaders of the G-7, note the exclusion of Russia. This is about meeting with America's strongest partners.

Some of these meetings were planned prior, and the president is here for the nuclear security summit that he started three years ago. The situation in Ukraine will dominate these discussions. Maybe it's easy for some, especially in America, to say how is that our problem? What Russia has done here, essentially invaded its neighbor and taken over part of it, in the view of the west, Russia sees it much differently, it changes the game for the allies, the question being what can or should be done about it?

And I think what will be interesting to hear in these talks is if the escalation of the situation will lead to more action by the west, what exactly would be escalation at this point? Would Russia's staying in Crimea equal that? And by the same token, what at this point would be de-escalation, since it's not as if Russia is going to leave? John?

BERMAN: Yes, some key clarifications needed. Michelle Kosinski for us in the Netherlands, a lot going on there today. A lot going on here as well. Let's go to Christine Romans for some of these other top stories.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, you guys. Searchers in Washington state looking for signs of life after a monster mud slide wiped out a neighborhood. This happened over the weekend about an hour from Seattle. At least eight people were killed, several are still missing. Rescuers have been frantically searching for survivors trapped in the mud and debris, but the unstable ground has made the search mission dangerous.

In South Africa, it's week four of the Oscar Pistorius trial. Both sides have returned to court after a sudden adjournment put the trial on hold. A neighbor is on the stand this morning describing screaming and gunshots she heard the night Reeva Steenkamp was killed. Prosecutors say they plan to wrap up their case this week.

We're learning about another NSA spying target, the Chinese telecom giant Huawei. Documents leaked by Edward Snowden and reported by the "New York Times" suggest the NSA monitored hacking directly into its network and monitored communication between the company's top executives. The U.S. has long suspected Huawei of having ties to the Chinese military. Finding evidence was reportedly one goal of this operation code-named "Shot Giant."

Officials say a nearly 200,000 gallon oil spill off the coast of Galveston, Texas, has now been contained. Emergency crews racing to clean up this oily mess, which is reportedly washing up on nearby beaches. Dozens of vehicles including cruise ships remain stranded. Not clear when the waterway will be open.

PEREIRA: Christine Romans doing well, despite having a little bit of a bug.

ROMANS: It is spring. It's going to snow but I'll ignore that and power through.

PEREIRA: I think we're all going to ignore that.

Coming up, it's 13 minutes past the hour. Crews looking for flight 370 have spotted some objects in the southern Indian Ocean. Here's the question and the hope, could it be a big break in the search? We're going to speak to a woman who helped search for Air France flight 447 when it crashed in the Atlantic back in 2009.

BERMAN: And inside politics, Michelle Obama is in China in what has been billed as a cultural mission. We'll look at the very pointed things she said about freedom of speech and freedom of religion. That's next.


PEREIRA: All right, welcome back to NEW DAY. We're covering breaking news for the ongoing search for Flight 370. Overnight, Australian and Chinese search crews reported spotting objects in the southern Indian Ocean. We could very well know within hours if it actually is plane from the debris. We understand there's a naval ship headed there now.

I'm joined by former Navy operation research analyst Colleen Keller. She's also a senior analyst for Metron. And we know that she helped with the search for Air France Flight, 447, which crashed into the Atlantic in 2009.

Here on set with me, David Funk, a pilot and former international captain for Northwest Airlines, really a delight to have you both with us.

Colleen, let's start with you. Obviously, this is some encouraging news. Although you try not to get hopes up too high that this debris has been spotted, not just on radar or satellite but visually seen from a search plane.

COLLEEN KELLER, FORMER OPERATION RESEARCH ANALYST, U.S. NAVY: Yeah, we've been waiting for a break like this. It's very important to get our hands on some debris. It's still not clear it's debris from the aircraft. But we have to verify every piece of junk we see out there and check it out to make sure that it's -- to discount it if it not part of the aircraft.

PEREIRA: Does it sound hopeful to you? They had more descriptive words they used when they were talking about it. They talked about color and shape and size. It wasn't just sort of a murky black and white image on a satellite.

KELLER: Yeah, the previous big pieces sure looked like conex boxes, the kinds of things that fall off of ships regularly and float around for quite a while before they sink.

This -- the fact that it's got color is really intriguing, although I have to caution everybody: there's a lot of junk out there. And it's amazing we haven't found more, to me, at least. So I'm still withholding judgment until we get our hands on it.

PEREIRA: I want to ask you a few more questions, then David, I'm going to bring you in as well.

In terms of -- so let's say they get there. Their first -- give us the order of events. This is the challenge even to now to relocate physically what was spotted, correct? KELLER: Yeah, from what I gathered, they dropped the flares. That'll help hone in the ship onto the debris. I figured they'd mark it in some way. They'll pick it up. They'll bring it on board. They'll probably have to describe it in great detail to somebody who would know what the pieces of the aircraft look.


KELLER: They won't know conclusively if it's from -- it's not going to have, you know, the name of the aircraft printed on the side of it, so, unfortunately.

PEREIRA: If only it were that easy.

KELLER: So they'll probably have to bring it back or put it in a helicopter or something and get it back. So it may be several days or a week before we find out conclusively what it is.

But if we do determine it's from the aircraft, then the fun starts. It's going to be quite a chore to figure out where it came from, and that's really what we're trying to do here, figure out what the impact (ph) point of the aircraft on the surface of the ocean is, so we can get the underwater locator beacon -- I'm sorry, the towed pinger locators in the water, the hydrophones that you keep talking about to really find the wreckage on the bottom.

PEREIRA: Yeah, we keep talking about this. And it makes sense the way we say it. But when you realize the painstaking operation that all of that involves, it was great having Kate Bolduan up with one of the search teams so that she could visualize some of the visuals of what they are looking at.

David, I want to talk to you about this -- the report that came in overnight. CNN's reporting that the military radar tracked 370 between these two specific points in time, 1:19 a.m. and 2:40, and talking about this change in altitude and the turn, which we've talked about before in the air. But this drop to 12,000 feet, we just talked with Miles O'Brien. You're a pilot. Give us a scenario that you would do that, how you do it and why you do it.

DAVID FUNK, FORMER CAPTAIN, NORTHWEST AIRLINES: It's real simple. The first thing the captain may have done if they had a problem and they knew it, they obviously turned back towards land. So I -- you know, I still follow it's more likely an accident than an intervention by an outside force on the crew (ph) of some nature.

The descent to 12,000 would occur if you had a fire or smoke in the airplane, you're going to start going to the nearest suitable airport in a descent. Now, in the course of that, they lost control. When the captain set the altitude he wanted to descend to initially, that may have been 12,000 feet. He's probably going to use an even number like that, get right down to 12,000 feet, turn towards the nearest airport. If the auto pilot failed at that point, that would actually explain the wide variances in altitude we saw later as the airplane was just kind of flying along. PEREIRA: And would it also explain the distance? Because -- OK, we take that information, fast forward to where this debris, this debris -- and again, we don't know if it is -- that debris is spotted. That is a very long distance in the south Indian Ocean.

FUNK: Absolutely.

PEREIRA: Would that explain --

FUNK: It would. And if they slowed the airplane down to 250 knots, then the airplane would fly a very long time, almost the same amount of time as it flew -- would fly at a higher altitude, but it's going to go a lot slower to extend the fuel range.

So none of this is out of the realm of something that's possible. The airplane may have climbed back up on its own, you know, because it was trimmed for a high speed or whatever and wound up back at high altitude. You know, without knowing the speed indication that the military radar had of the aircraft over the ground, we can't really surmise that at this point.

PEREIRA: Because, again, this is -- the capacity of that radar that far away from land is very limited, correct?

FUNK: It is. And, you know, at 12,000 feet, it could be from 12,000 feet. It could have been up to 20,000 feet, you know, plus or minus 8,000. And up at 46,000, it may have been as low as 25 and as high as 46. It could have been up in that 30 range. It may have only been, you know, literally porpoising between the mid or low 20,000 feet range up into the high 30,000.

PEREIRA: That's so interesting.

Colleen, I'm curious, you know, we want to take a cautionary tone when we even say something like this, but we're going into our third week. The families are beyond desperate. Investigators are frustrated. We also know there's a finite amount of time on the battery life within the flight data recorder. And we also know that it takes funds to do all of this searching.

You obviously have been through scenarios like this. At what point do you think it's gonna turn into a cold case? Do you feel confident we're going to get an answer at all?

KELLER: That's always the hardest part, to decide when to suspend the search and tell the families you've done your best and you have to give up. I sense a big will here to continue on.


KELLER: They really have to exhaust all possibilities. So a normal search would go maybe three weeks, and if nothing new came up, they'd just tell them we're really sorry; that's all we can do. But I think they're going to go as long as they can. It's going to be a lot more than the three weeks we've seen already. So we're in -- we're in this for a bit of the long haul. PEREIRA: Well, certainly, with this new information overnight and this morning, that's certainly putting, if you will, fuel in their tank.

Colleen Keller, I want to say thank you to you. And David Funk, always a pleasure to have you both on our air. Thanks so much.

KELLER: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right, next up on NEW DAY, the weather conditions, ocean currents such a big factor in this search for flight 370. Will searchers find these objects that were spotted or could weather delay things even more? We'll take a look at what they can expect really in the next few hours next.

And on Inside Politics, we will look at the talk show host's internet stunt involving three generations of Clintons. You will not want to miss this.


PEREIRA: Almost half past the hour. Welcome back to NEW DAY.

Let's get to Christine Romans who's got a look at your headlines this morning.

ROMANS: Good morning, you guys.

Pilots in Australia spotting two objects floating in the south Indian Ocean just hours after Chinese pilots reported a similar sighting. It is not clear if the debris came from Malaysia Airlines flight 370.

Australian officials say we could have confirmation within hours. CNN has also learned from a source close to the investigation that flight 370 descended to an altitude of 12,000 feet after making that now infamous left turn. That's when it vanished from radar.

We're also learning more about the co-pilot. It was Fariq Abdul Hamid's sixth flight on a 777 and his first solo flight as a co-pilot, Malaysian authorities saying they don't see any problems with him.

A nuclear summit between President Obama and dozens of other world leaders may take a backseat to emergency G-7 talk over the crisis in Ukraine. Russian troops stormed and seized a Ukrainian naval base on the peninsula overnight, between 60 and 80 troops captured. On Saturday, pro-Russian forces seized an air force base taking a top commander into custody.

Total devastation in rural Washington state. A giant mud slide wiped out a neighborhood over the weekend, wiped it out. Crews have pulled eight bodies from the square mile of mud and debris. They've been hoping to find some survivors here. Several people were critically hurt, including a baby. Officials think heavy rainfall made the ground unstable and triggered that slide. The mud is 15 feet deep in some places. Tensions are on the rise on the Turkey/Syria border after a Turkish fighter jet shot down a Syrian warplane. Officials in Turkey say that the pilots of two planes were warned repeatedly Sunday before one crossed into their airspace and was shot down. The Syrian government says the planes were targeting rebel groups. Hostilities on the border have been red hot since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, and this just escalating that.

BERMAN: No, a very tense situation there.

ROMANS: Absolutely.

BERMAN: Always a tense situation in our nation's capital, which is why we go to one man to calm things down and explain it all for us. Let's go Inside Politics now on NEW DAY with John King.

Good morning, John.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Mr. Berman, that's a bar I cannot reach, calming down Washington.

A lot driving our day Inside Politics. Let's get right to it, and we'll begin with the president overseas. You guys have talked a bit about this. He's trying to deal with the crisis in Ukraine with his European allies.

With me this morning to share their reporting and their insights, Margaret Teller (ph) of Bloomberg News and Mona Rajul (ph) of "Politico".

Let's start, Margaret, with the president. Listen here. The president says he's united. The European allies, the United States are united.