Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Pinger Locaters to Be Used if Wreckage Found; Mystery of Flight 370; Crisis in Ukraine
Aired March 25, 2014 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Jim, thanks very much.
Happening now, the mystery of Flight 370. Aircraft, they're getting ready to take off, ships will head back into the search zone after violent weather slows the hunt for the missing airliner. Time is running out to find the plane's so-called black boxes, as pinger batteries run down, the U.S. sends what's called a pinger locator to help find those vital flight and data recorders. You're going to see how it works.
And grieving and the furious -- hundreds of relatives and friends of passengers storming the Malaysian embassy in Beijing. They are demanding firm evidence their loved ones are lost forever.
So why is China now starting its own investigation?
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We begin with a race against time to find a trace of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
Here are the latest developments.
As a new day begins in the South Indian Ocean, ships and planes, they are ready to head back into the search zone after violent seas and gale force winds cost precious hours in the hunt for the missing airliner.
A pinger locator sent by the United States is due to arrive in Australia shortly and will help searchers listen for signals coming from the plane's black boxes.
But the batteries powering those signals, they are running down, and it will take days to get the device into the so-called search zone.
Our reporters and analysts are standing by around the world, as well as here in Washington, with the kind of coverage that only CNN can deliver.
Let's begin with our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown -- Pamela, what's the very latest?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Malaysian officials are scrambling to defend their controversial conclusion about the plane, and that it went down in the Southern Indian Ocean. This is as new investigations into the missing flight are now just beginning and pressure mounts from passengers' family members.
BROWN (voice-over): With anguished family members of the 153 Chinese passengers now demanding hard evidence that Flight 370 is lost, even protesting outside of the Malaysian embassy in Beijing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I don't think that this kind of government, a liar and even a murderer, can solve anything. I don't believe they could solve anything.
BROWN: Today, CNN learned the Chinese is launching its own inquiry, demanding to see the satellite data that led Malaysian authorities to conclude Flight 370 crashed in the Southern Indian Ocean before finding a single piece of wreckage.
Under mounting pressure, the British company that analyzed that satellite data, Inmarsat, released more of its analysis today, in an attempt to explain why it believes the plane went down 1,500 miles off the coast of Australia. And tonight, the Malaysian government is making a move that some believe is too little too late, expanding its inquiry.
HISHAMMUDDIN BIN HUSSEIN, MALAYSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER: The Malaysian investigation has set up an international working group comprising of agencies with expertise in satellite communication and aircraft performance to take this work forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Meantime, officials tell CNN the Malaysian Air Force is opening up its own separate investigation, even though it was criticized early on for its role in not scrambling jets after spotting Flight 370's erratic flight path.
And back in the United States, sources say the FBI continues to dig into the background of the plane's two pilots. But after a day of rumor and tabloid speculation about the men, Malaysia Airlines the Malaysian government gave a rare interview with the BBC, defending them, especially veteran captain, Zaharie Shah.
AHMAD JAUHARI YAHYA, the Malaysian government, MALAYSIAN AIRLINES: Based on their records, they have been quite exemplary. The pilot, the captain, has 18,000 hours, has been with Malaysia Airlines, I think, for more than 30 years. So he's also an examiner for the 777. So there's no disciplinary record or anything.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BROWN: And at today's press conference, Malaysian officials refused to answer questions about the pilots. They did say they're still waiting for information from the hard drive of the captain's simulator and the pilots' laptops that British and U.S. forensics experts have been working to recover -- Wolf.
BLITZER: They're working and working. No success yet.
All right, thanks very much, Pamela Brown.
With investigators now working on several fronts, a key focus is whether someone intentionally caused the Malaysian airliner to disappear.
Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara So there are.
She's looking into this part of the story -- Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you know, Malaysian officials said several days ago it might have been deliberate action, their words, that brought down the airliner.
The question now, is the U.S. coming around to that way of thinking?
STARR (voice-over): Some U.S. officials say experts are beginning to suggest someone in the cockpit could have deliberately brought down Flight 370.
MARK WEISS, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: They just don't fall out of the sky. And it would really take a -- multiple failures of multiple systems for me to believe that this is what could have occurred.
STARR: The idea of a deliberate act is not being ruled out by the U.S., in part because of what evidence has not emerged. If the plane was in trouble, experts say, there should have been time for the pilots to send a mayday after the plane turned and flew west, but no call was heard.
So was it a terrorist attack?
U.S. officials say there's been no claim of responsibility, so for now, they don't think it's a likely scenario.
What about a hijacking?
Again, experts say there likely would have been time for the pilots to make a call.
So why not some kind of mechanical failure?
WEISS: If you had an emergency, if you had an explosive decompression, if you had a fire, those are catastrophic events that you want to get that airplane on the ground as quickly as possible, at the nearest suitable airport and point of time.
STARR: But instead, whoever was at the controls appears to have deliberately have abandoned the flight path for Beijing and first made a deliberate left hand turn just before Vietnam. Then, the plane flew over the Indian Ocean and appears to have flown south, until it ran out of gas.
WEISS: To me, that said that person or persons in the cockpit were really deliberately trying to take that airplane and put it somewhere where no one would find it.
STARR: At this point, no one can say if someone entered the cockpit from the passenger cabin or the pilot or co-pilot might have been involved.
U.S. investigators have compiled profiles of the two pilots based on interviews with friends, neighbors and family members conducted by Malaysian officials and a search of their online activities. There is no evidence so far they did anything wrong.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
STARR: And, you know, Wolf, I do think we can't say it often enough, the reality is, at this point, nobody knows what happened to Flight 370 -- Wolf.
BLITZER: That is the reality, unfortunately.
All right, thanks very much, Barbara.
Not everyone, by the way, is convinced the crash was caused by malicious intent. There are some in the U.S. law enforcement community who say a catastrophic accident is more likely. We're going to explore that possibility later this hour, as well.
In the meantime, let's bring in our CNN aviation analyst, Miles O'Brien; our aviation analyst, Peter Goelz, a former managing director of the National Transportation Safety Board; along with CNN law enforcement analyst, the former FBI assistant director, Tom Fuentes -- you know, Peter, all of a sudden Malaysia announces they want an international working group to figure this out. We're now in week three.
What's going on here?
PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: That's called being behind the curve once again. They had an international working group. It was called the Akao Process, the investigative group. Had they involved all of the interested parties in the investigation in a transparent way from day one, they would not be facing all of the problems they're facing today.
China has a perfect right to ask to see the data that confirms this flight to the south. And they should have seen it weeks ago.
BLITZER: And the family members certainly have that right, as well.
BLITZER: You know, Miles, it's only, what, 12 or 13 or 14 days maximum left before those pingers for this flight data recorder, it's called a black box but it's actually orange. There's a good chance, given the bad weather in the region, given the fact that it's going to take several days for that pinger locator to get out there, we -- we're not going to get to that noise, that beeping sound, in time.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, let's assume, for a moment, the weather clears up and the searchers get lucky and they do find some wreckage. It's drifted now for more than two weeks. And so we have to figure out what the drift is. And so the wreckage that is beneath the sea is not going to be right beneath any wreckage that is found, for sure. The range on these pingers is about two miles at the bottom of the ocean there, at 10,000 feet, about two miles. So finding that device while it is still pinging, boy, a lot of things have to stack up in your favor and not much (INAUDIBLE).
BLITZER: Even if the range were five miles, it's still...
BLITZER: -- you know, a difficult -- a very difficult chore.
O'BRIEN: Exactly. I wouldn't put a lot of hope in hearing that thing pinging. You can -- they didn't find it in Air France, and it was a much narrower search.
BLITZER: It took two years to find it.
O'BRIEN: It took two years and it was luck that found it.
BLITZER: When you say luck, what does that mean?
O'BRIEN: Well, I mean they -- they were looking in the area. It happened to be on a particular (INAUDIBLE)...
BLITZER: That certainly was a much smaller area than...
O'BRIEN: It was a smaller...
BLITZER: -- than the Indian Ocean.
O'BRIEN: -- they had a smaller area to start with and it was -- it was located in a place, the proximity where it was found, at the top of a trench, was helpful to them.
BLITZER: Did you get a clearer understanding today, Tom, from the Malaysian government or Malaysia Airlines, why, if there's anything beyond that Inmarsat satellite reconstructed data, why they decided to end this whole situation, as far as the families are concerned, and tell all those people their loved ones are dead?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: No, I still don't understand. I mean they had to have assumed that there was going to be an outcry, particularly from the families in China who are waiting for their loved ones.
And so why not -- I just don't understand. I agree with Peter, that why wouldn't you have included an international working group in the first place? You know, the Chinese have a robust space program. They have some of the top engineers, scientists, software technicians in the world.
Well, why wouldn't you bring them in on that?
They have expertise that would have helped in this. And if nothing else, if all of the mathematical computations were done by the Inmarsat technicians, this is kind of like high school mathematics -- show us the work.
BLITZER: If this were an NTSB -- and you conducted these investigations, a National Transportation Safety Board investigation, the -- all the transcripts, if not the actual audio of what the crew were saying to ground control, that would have been released by now.
GOELZ: It would have been released within a week of the event. And -- but all of the factual data would be agreed upon by the parties. So Boeing. Rolls Royce, China, the U.K. all would have agreed on factual statements that then would have been made public.
So it's not just the Malaysian government saying that this is a fact, it is an international group that would have said, we've looked at this, this is a fact and this is what we're acting on.
BLITZER: The chairman, the the Malaysian government of Malaysian Airlines, he was asked today if he was going to resign as a result of this.
Here's what he said.
YAHYA: Will I resign?
It's a personal -- it's a personal basically decision. We'll take it later.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We'll take it later. There's a lot of pressure on him to resign.
O'BRIEN: You can imagine why. Of course, a lot of the heat rightly belongs with the government officials
Responsible for this investigation.
You know, talk -- I was talking yesterday to a former NTSB chairman here in the U.S., Jim Hall. And he said, you know, a country that flies a 777 should be able to demonstrate the capability to conduct a proper and thorough investigation. And if they can't, there should be a memorandum of understanding in advance that another country would take the lead, whether it would be Australia in this case or New Zealand -- both of them plenty of capability, or the U.K., for that matter. And that would have solved a lot of things. And so maybe -- maybe countries that fly these sophisticated airliners -- and as they are exported across the -- into the Third World, maybe this is an idea that should be adopted, because this is, after all, something that the whole world needs to know about. We are collectively interested in this. And if a nation can't support an investigation, we're all left in the dark.
BLITZER: And I heard you today. You were outraged. And I was outraged, as well. The prime minister of Malaysia, 24 hours or so ago, he makes this announcement that the plane is in the waters of the Indian Ocean.
Why is he making that announcement?
O'BRIEN: I just think the idea of politicians running in front of cameras and trying to analyze aviation accidents is a horrible idea.
You know, what is his expertise?
With all due respect to the prime minister, and for that matter, the prime minister of Australia got in the mix on this, as well. And it's led us down some rabbit holes, quite frankly.
You watch a U.S.-style investigation and it's left to the expertise, the investigators and the people who in the trenches, as it were.
And to tick this up to the political level, I think is a bad idea.
BLITZER: Because if this investigation were here, Peter, it would be the NTSB, the FAA, if there was a criminal investigation, it would be the FBI who would be making these kinds of announcements, not the political leadership.
GOELZ: No. They would all be involved from the beginning, not knowing. You look at any major air crash in the U.S. and, you know, it's not known immediately whether it's mechanical or terrorism or criminal or suicide. All of those things are unknown at the time. So you proceed full speed on all areas, on all fronts, until you do establish what actually occurred.
BLITZER: And, Peter, they were hoping, the prime minister of Malaysia, to get those families out of the hotels, move on, end the political pressure. They miscalculated.
GOELZ: It might have worked in Kuala Lumpur. It did not work in Beijing.
BLITZER: I don't think it will work in Kuala Lumpur either.
All right, guys, we'll have you back. Standing by.
Up next, a U.S. device to help searchers find the plane's black boxes due to arrive momentarily in Australia. And there's a race against time to get it out into the Indian Ocean. You're going to see what's going on. And will the U.S. step up its involvement in the search?
I'll get the very latest from a U.S. Navy commander in the region.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: And the breaking news: We're just learning the search for the missing flight will, in fact, get under way very, very soon, as the weather is now improving in the western part of Australia.
Meantime, time is running out to find the flight's flight-and-data recorders. The pingers on those black boxes are powered by batteries that could die in less than two weeks. The U.S. Navy has dispatched a pinger locator to the region to help searchers listen for those crucial sounds.
Our own Brian Todd has been visiting the manufacturer in Largo, Maryland.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, even without a confirmed piece of debris from the plane or a confirmed pinpointed location, search teams want to be ready for that, if and when it happens. They want to be ready to find the crucial black box and the pinger.
Well, this is the crucial piece of equipment that will help them do that, and this has already been sent to the search area.
TODD (voice-over): The U.S. Navy has only two of these high-tech listening devices, and one of them is now heading to the Indian Ocean to help find the missing plane. It's called a towed pinger locater. Its mission: find the plane's black box with the important data recordings before the pingers die out. That's in less than two weeks.
BILL NELSON, PROJECT MANAGER, PHOENIX INTERNATIONAL: Think of your cell phone ringer. If you lose your cell phone, you can call it and you hear the phone ringing. So you narrow down your search.
TODD: CNN had a rare look inside the Maryland facility of Phoenix International, where the toad pinger locator is made. This device helped recover wreckage from Air France Flight 447 in the Atlantic. Project manager Bill Nelson says once plane debris is found, the pinger locater, with a fin on top, is towed slowly through the area. It can go down to 20,000 feet below the surface for hours and miles at a time. It's listening intently for the black box's signal.
(on camera): How far away can it be and pick it up?
NELSON: The outside edge is about two miles. A mile and a half to two miles away, it can detect the sound.
TODD (voice-over): If the pinger's battery is fading, they can still detect it. NELSON: The signal would come up through the umbilical. You can see here's a cable. It runs up through the umbilical and comes into our receiver unit. So we have a speaker on here, and all the power buttons and we can adjust the frequency it's looking for. And out of this box we have a computer set up that graphically represents the signal that you're hearing from the beacon.
TODD: Then, a team on deck deploys Phoenix's other assets. An autonomous underwater vehicle scanned the sea floor, looking for the black box and debris, often using a lawn mower search pattern.
(on camera): Once the towed pinger locater finds the black box, this is the machine that can recover it, this remotely operated vehicle that can go very deep in the ocean with manipulator arms can pick up all sorts of debris and a black box. This one, the Remora 3 (ph), recovered the black box and all of the undersea wreckage for Air France Flight 447. With Flight 370's pinger's battery life ticking down each day, every moment is critical.
NELSON: Until they recover this data, it's still a mystery. They will not know what happened.
TODD: Without a confirmed sighting, why not just deploy a lot of these on a lot of different ships and blanket an entire area of the ocean? Well, the manufacturers say there are just a few of these in the world, and they're very expensive to deploy -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, thank you.
Let's get back to our panel to discuss what we just heard. Once again, our aviation analyst, Miles O'Brien, our aviation analyst; Peter Goelz, the former managing director of the National Transportation Safety Board; and our law enforcement analyst, the former FBI assistant director, Tom Fuentes.
Miles, I don't understand, in this day and age in 2014, you can only detect this little pinger here on this box from two miles away for only 30 days, when it has the whole history of the flight, so much crucial information. Are we living in 1950 right now?
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Yes. In a word we are. You know, and there's great irony here. The air -- some of the aircraft involved in searching for this aircraft, the P-3, for example, has a floating black box capability. How simple is that idea? A redundant floating black box. Why not have one of those for starters?
Of course, we have the technology to have at least latitude and longitude very easily transmitted up to a satellite as these planes fly. And of course, much more telemetry if the airlines chose to do so, and if regulators chose to enforce that.
I mean, when you think about how we're surfing the Internet at 37,000 feet routinely these days, the fact that the aircraft is not identifying where it is on the face of the planet is absolutely outrageous.
BLITZER: It's amazing to me that a plane -- and everybody has been e- mailing for three weeks now, tweeting, e-mailing, questioning, a 777, triple-7 with 239 people on board, one of the most sophisticated jetliners in the world, it can simply vanish in thin air like this and nobody can find it?
PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: This is in reality -- excuse me -- in reality, 30-year-old technology.
BLITZER: This black box?
GOELZ: We have not changed the pinger since the 1970s.
BLITZER: Well, why are they -- haven't...
GOELZ: We have not changed the length of the battery. We -- it has been a frustrating thing for the NTSB.
BLITZER: Who's stopping that?
GOELZ: The industry resists these kinds of changes.
GOELZ: Because they don't see it as financially necessary.
BLITZER: But it could only help the industry make...
BLITZER: We learn from these lessons. We learn from these blunders. If in fact there was a mechanical problem, there's still 1,100 triple- 7s that are flying right now.
BLITZER: And they have not been checked for any problem. We have no idea what the problem was if there was a mechanical problem.
GOELZ: Hopefully from this, the vacuum that this accident is leaving is going to drive the public and drive the industry to action.
BLITZER: I think it's time for a national commission to take a look at recommendations, learn from this, learn from other disasters, and come up with a game plan -- Tom, you worked at the FBI and come up with a game plan so we don't have to go through this kind of ordeal. When I say "we," I specifically mean the families.
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: You're absolutely right. And you know, I have to admit, in my 30 years in the federal government, that I've attended many stupid budget meetings where simple solutions were not allowed and, you know, for other government agencies of the government at large.
You're looking at the cost of equipment here on a $250 million aircraft, and you don't want to pay a few thousand extra to have the capability that Miles just mentioned. It's like buying a Rolls Royce and wanting to save money, not putting a DVD player in it or something.
I mean, the issue is simple. Longer battery, longer pinger capability and a deployable battery for flights, for long-range flights. I guess it could be done.
BLITZER: And Miles, the good news is, as we have now confirmed, the search has resumed. The weather has improved in Perth, Australia, and planes are taking off. Ships will be going out. They're going to resume the search. We're going to have much...
O'BRIEN: Today is the lucky day. Let's hope.
BLITZER: Let's hope. It's already, you know, over there Wednesday morning already in the Indian Ocean.
All right. Guys, stand by. Much more coming up. When we come back, we're learning more details about what may have been Flight 370's final moments and what new satellite data is revealing about what may have been the plane's last communication.
Plus, while some are suggesting malicious intent, the accident theory isn't being ruled out. We have details on that and a lot more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: I want to confirm the breaking news. The first of several surveillance planes from Perth, Australia, has now taken off. It's a Chinese aircraft. This is an international mission that's underway right now. The first Chinese surveillance plane has left. The weather has improved in Western Australia heading out toward the Indian Ocean to look for any, any of the wreckage of this missing Malaysia Airlines flight.
We're also learning new details about what may have been Flight 370's final moments based on new satellite data that has just been released. Our aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh, is working this part of the story for us. She's joining us now with the latest details. Rene?
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, today we learned that there's evidence of another ping that we didn't know about before. A partial electronic transmission detected during what could be the final minutes of Flight 370. Now this new information possibly extends the plane's timeline, but tonight, the experts that analyzed the data are asking questions instead of answering questions because they admit they don't quite understand what this new data means just yet.
MARSH: New satellite data may help unlock the secrets of where Malaysia Flight 370 went down. After disappearing from radar, the Boeing 777 flew south over the Indian Ocean, connecting with the satellite once an hour for six hours. The final ping, as described by Malaysian authorities nearly two weeks ago, happened at 8:11 a.m.
But now a new revelation. There may have been another ping. Eight minutes later, the satellite detects something else, this time evidence of a partial connection.
BILL NYE, "THE SCIENCE GUY": So by getting that very last data, that last data point, you have a lot more information about where the plane might be. It's another very important piece of the puzzle.
MARSH: But not even the engineers understand what this means and how it fits into the big picture.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE; At this time, this transmission is not understood and is subject to further ongoing work.
MARSH: Is this partial ping a sign that the plane was still flying, or is it the moment it went down in the Indian Ocean?
JEFF WISE, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: This extra data point is not in itself very definitively conclusive about the fate of the plane. It will allow us, should it come to that, to have a somewhat better -- a somewhat narrower search field.
MARSH: The plane never made its next satellite connection scheduled for 9:15, around the same time the plane would have run out of fuel.
WISE: At the time of that transmission was received, even though it was partial and incomplete and somewhat garbled, presumably the equipment that was sending it was intact. And sometime after that there was an impact, and it stopped functioning completely.
MARSH: The new data helps further plot the flight path of Flight 370. A 12:41 takeoff, then a left turn off course after 1:21 a.m. Flight 370 then flew for more than six hours. Then sometime after 8:11 but before 9:15, the plane went down.
MARSH: All right, Wolf, further analysis is being determined about what additional information can be extracted from this so-called partial handshake. Best case scenario is being able to at least determine the plane's position at the moment it made this partial connection. That would again help crews pinpoint where this plane would be because, as you know, they are searching such a vast area at this point, Wolf.
BLITZER: Rene Marsh, thanks very much. Let's get right to Commander William Marks. He's joining us on the phone right now. He's the spokesman for the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet. He's aboard the USS Blue Ridge.
Commander, thanks very much for joining us. I take it the weather has improved. The first surveillance plane has taken off from Perth. It's a Chinese aircraft. What the U.S. Navy plane, the Poseidon that is there? The P-8, as it is called? CMDR. WILLIAM MARKS, SPOKESMAN, U.S. NAVY'S 7TH FLEET (on the phone): Yes, our P-8 is scheduled to fly a search mission today in the southern Indian Ocean in the potential area of the debris field. So I have here on my list -- just listen to this amazing list. China, South Korea, Japan, India, Australia, and the U.S. and others all flying missions in this southern sector under the lead of Australia but out of Perth here.
That's simply incredible. If you look at the 7th fleet and the countries of this region, to have this type of cooperation and collaboration is extremely encouraging and incredible. So we're glad to be here and to contribute.
BLITZER: So who coordinates the areas where these 12 different surveillance planes, the U.S. P-8, the Chinese, all other planes, who coordinates the areas that they will fly over?
MARKS: Right now it's being led by Australia. It's a very complex coordination. We'll send out what's called an air casting order. That lists all the search sectors, time of launch, and very important, the communication frequencies. So all of that goes into something called an air testing order, or an ATO. What that does is it ensures everything is deconflicted amongst all these countries, amongst all the aircraft so that the entire area is covered. It also allows each country to have maintenance, conduct maintenance and to rest their people on a rotational basis so that when they do rest, the other countries have the search sectors covered.
BLITZER: The U.S. has one surveillance plane as part of this operation, the P-8. Any other U.S. assets, ships deployed in the region right now to try to help?
MARKS: I think the big news for the U.S. Navy and its support, we're moving in two very advanced pieces of equipment. One is called a TPL, or a Toad Pinger Locator. Another is called a blue fin. What they do is when we think we have a good point where we want to search, we will deploy those -- once again, on an Australian vessel under the lead through their coordination. But those pieces of equipment are what most likely will find the black box, if at all, it can be found.
BLITZER: What are you hearing, Commander, about the weather out there? It's relatively okay today. But what about the next few days?
MARKS: Yes, it was rough yesterday. We saw seas six, seven, eight feet or more which is very difficult on some of the ships out there and (INAUDIBLE) aircraft. I do have reports it should get slightly better. That's why we're launching some of these flights today. Hopefully loading on the pinger locator.
BLITZER: But as of now, you don't feel you're any closer to any wreckage or debris or this airliner. I heard John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman say here on CNN a little while ago, it's not just looking for a needle in a haystack, not just looking for a haystack. He says, we haven't even found the farm yet where a haystack might exist. Is that your sense, that you're looking but you really don't have any great clues? MARKS: Yes, I would agree with that. And the way I think of it is -- let's say you think you have a piece of debris, even if it's a big chunk. Well, we're 17 days out from the beginning of this. So even if that chunk only moves half a knot an hour, so .05 nautical miles per hour. Just doing some quick math is 10 to 12 miles a day. So that's 150, 200 miles.
So -- and these pingers don't have a huge range, these black boxes. It's only a couple thousand meters. So if you don't have a good starting position, it will be extremely difficult to find the thing.
BLITZER: Has that Toad Pinger locator arrived yet in Perth?
MARKS: The last communication I had was that it was in the air en route. It either should have landed a couple of hours ago or it's landing as we speak. Once it lands, we have to move it to a location where it can be loaded on a vessel, an Australian vessel and get it out to the area, which is a little bit of a haul. So it's not something that we can put on our P-8 or something and fly out there in three hours. It does take a little bit of an effort.
BLITZER: Commander Williams Marks, we'd like to check back with you tomorrow. Thanks again. Thanks to all of the men and women of the U.S. Navy and everyone else involved in this very, very multinational search. Commander William Marks aboard the USS Blue Ridge command ship.
Coming up, some are suggesting malicious intent. Others argue it was all just a horrible accident. We're digging deeper on that theory. That's coming up.
Also, the breaking news. The massive search for the missing flight has resumed after a heavy dose of bad weather. We're going live to the staging area in Perth, Australia. That's right at the top of the hour.
BLITZER: While some say a deliberate act is what likely brought down Flight 370, the counterargument, an accident, hasn't been ruled out. Our senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns is here, and he's got new details on that theory. What are you hearing?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the most disturbing scenario of all is that we may never know what happened aboard Flight 370. Experts say that one theory that is still open is that the plane was lost as result of a horrible accident as opposed to a crash caused by someone's malicious intent.
JOHNS: Without the black box or any piece of wreckage, investigators can't rule out Flight 370 went down in the Indian Ocean because of an accident.
STEVEN CHEALANDER, FORMER AMERICAN AIRLINES PILOT: It sounds to me like there was an incapacitation in the aircraft and that possibly they just flew it on autopilot til it ran out of fuel, and down it came.
JOHNS: According to this theory, the plane reaches altitude and then sometime after the famous "All right, good night" transmission, what called a catastrophic decompression of the plane takes place. No clue what might have caused it but some have theorized it could be as simple as a partially opened door on the plane or sudden smoke or fire causing the pilots to alter their course and seek safe harbor immediately. No mayday call because there was no time.
CLIVE IRVING, CONTRIBUTOR, THE DAILY BEAST: In the first few minutes of this emergency, the pilots had to change course because they were looking for an emergency airport. They were, at some point, overtaken by whatever it was, smoke, fire, or other -- some kind of problem, and that the plane was then left to fly itself after it had been programmed.
JOHNS: The crew would likely have only had seconds to react before losing consciousness. Changes in altitude would have occurred.
IRVING: As far as you can go on the radar track that people have so far, the plane seems to have oscillated and zigzags and that would -- if it lost altitude, that would be consistent with it losing cabin pressure because the first thing a pilot does on a decompression problem is to lose altitude so that the oxygen can return to the cabin again.
JOHNS: Crew and passengers passed out and the plane continues until it runs out of fuel over the Indian Ocean.
Something like this has happened before. A chartered jet carrying golf star Payne Stewart lost cabin pressure while cruising on auto pilot. The people on board suffered hypoxia, incapacitated due to lack of oxygen, but the plane continued flying almost four hours before veering off in a descending spiral and crashing in South Dakota.
Whether the answer is ever known on Flight 370 depends on what debris gets recovered. Dials and gauges, conditions of passengers' remains, even the engines would hold clues to the condition of the aircraft on impact.
CHEALANDER: We can find out whether the engines were operating at the time, whether it was fuel starvation.
JOHNS: One thing that might help solve the mystery is if Malaysian officials ever get enough information to rule the disappearance of the plane an accident. Such a conclusion would likely affect any potential litigation on behalf of the passengers and that likely in turn would lead to a closer look at the plane's maintenance and inspection records.
BLITZER: And if there was a problem with that 777, they've got to figure out what it was. There are 1100 777s -- Boeing 777s flying around the world right now. JOHNS: Absolutely.
BLITZER: So if there is some sort of problem, they've got to find out what it is.
Joe Johns, thanks very much.
Just ahead, after violent weather caused searchers pressure hours, the search has now resumed for Flight 370. A Chinese surveillance plane has just taken off from Perth, Australia. Eleven others, including a U.S. P-8 Poseidon, getting ready to take off. U.S. officials, they suspect this could be a good day given the weather conditions.
And relatives of passengers stormed the Malaysian embassy in Beijing. They're demanding proof their loved ones are lost forever. You're going to hear from a family member, why they're so angry and so upset at the Malaysian government.
BLITZER: We'll get back to our special coverage of the Flight 370 mystery in just a moment. But first another major story we're following, the crisis in Ukraine.
President Obama on the world stage taking a direct swipe at the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and warning him there will be additional costs if he doesn't comply with the international community.
Our senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta is traveling with the president near the Hague right now. He's joining us with new details.
The president was pretty blunt today, wasn't he -- Jim.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. President Obama sent another stern warning to Vladimir Putin telling the Russian leader that the U.S. would defend any NATO allies against any kind of Russian invasion. He also said sanctions would be ramped up if Moscow decides to send troops into other parts of Ukraine.
As for the fate of Crimea, the president did say it is not a done deal, that that peninsula will forever be a part of Russia. But he did acknowledge that basically Moscow is controlling the facts on the ground in Crimea.
Another key moment during this press conference earlier today, Wolf, came when the president defended his criticism of his old 2012 campaign rival Mitt Romney.
You'll remember, Wolf, he said it to you, when Mitt Romney came on the SITUATION ROOM and said that Russia is the top geopolitical foe of the United States. The president said he was right in that criticism back then and he's right now.
Here's what the president had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors, not out of strength but out of weakness. They don't pose the number one national security threat to the United States.
I continue to be much more concerned when it comes to our security with the prospect of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Now a senior administration official tells us the president was not referring to any new intelligence that was coming in when he talked about that prospect of a nuclear weapon going off in New York City. He was talking about the threat of nuclear terrorism which happened to be the subject of this nuclear security summit in the Netherlands.
Meanwhile, the other reason why this was on the president's mind, during the summit here world leaders were shown basically an interactive exercise where dirty bomb were to go off in a -- in an unknown city, what would those leaders do. The president was a part of that exercise. That's part of the reason why it was on his mind.
And this visit to Europe and Saudi Arabia this week, it's only going to get more busy for the president, Wolf. He is going to give a speech on European security tomorrow. He's going to talk again about Russia, talk again about Ukraine and then it's on to Rome to meet the Pope on Thursday -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And among other things, he spoke also about reforms he's proposing for NSA surveillance. What did he say?
ACOSTA: That's right. He confirmed basically what we've known pretty much all day long, Wolf, that the U.S. is now saying that the NSA is going to get out of the business of collecting that bulk phone metadata over at the National Security Agency, instead the leading proposal at this point from the administration is to have the phone companies hold on to that data for the NSA to look at when they need to.
The president is expected to unveil that proposal within the next couple of days -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim Acosta in the Hague for us. Thank you.
Coming up, our breaking news. The hunt resumes for Flight 370. Can searchers make up for time lost due to violent weather? We're going to live to the region.
And passengers' relatives stormed Malaysia's embassy in China, demanding firm evidence their loved ones are gone. A family member will tell us why they're so upset.