Return to Transcripts main page


Search Ships Arriving At New Debris Site; Interview with Gen. Kevin Short; Thousands of Additional Troops Ready to Invade Ukraine; Interview with Jimmy Carter

Aired March 28, 2014 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Next breaking news at this moment, four search ships arriving at the possible crash site of Flight 370. We have a live update from a commander of the search team.

Plus, new information about the captain and co-pilot. Hear the captain speak in his own words.

More breaking news tonight a very tense phone call between President Obama and Vladimir Putin. Will Obama's warnings stop Russia from invading Ukraine? Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight on this Friday, we begin with the breaking news, search ships at this moment arriving at the possible crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and when I say arriving it's a big search area, but it's a new search area because investigators suddenly shocked the world by saying they think they have been looking in the wrong spot all week.

The new area is 680 miles northeast of where investigators previously said with great certainty that the plane went down. That's just to give you some context here like moving the search area from Philadelphia to Atlanta. This new area is 1150 miles off the western coast of Australia. Still very far, but it is about 400 miles closer to land than previously thought. That's a very significant difference. We'll get into more why in a moment.

But let me tell you right now who is in this new zone. Earlier today, ten search planes flew over it, five spotted possible debris. Now that is where the Australian ships are arriving right now. That's crucial as they get there they can look close and maybe in person at some of this debris. If so could we get the answer?

This image released by China's CCTV shows an object spotted by a search team from New Zealand and as I said we are going to talk to the commander of New Zealand's joint forces in just a moment. First though we begin with Kyung Lah. She was on board an American search plane today and also spotted debris. Kyung, what did you see and from where you were in the air, how certain could you be about what you were looking at?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we were definitely looking at something floating in the water. That I could see from where I was in the plane looking at the camera that was looking down at the plane as well as the spotters telling us that what they saw were white pieces floating on the surface of the water as well as orange rope and then some sort of blue plastic looking type bag.

So that was seen when we were getting into the search area, right as we were descending to about 500 feet and that's immediately what they saw. That was the only spot, though, Erin, where they saw these floating objects and they did alert those ships as you're reporting heading to that area.

BURNETT: Kyung, they obviously were hoping they can get a look at this and tell us what it was. In the last search area planes would see things, ships would go in and stuff wasn't there. They could never actually get that ability. There was so much bad weather, the search called off as you experienced more than once. Are conditions better in this new zone, which is even though it's still incredibly far away from where you are closer?

LAH: They were better yesterday, but as I was asking the captain, the pilot yesterday, does that mean that they are going be good every single day? No. This is still a remote area. Still not very much land stopping the waves, stopping the weather. Still very unpredictable. Certainly what we saw yesterday was a lot better than everything we had been told about the region directly south of that. Water was calm. It was flat. We didn't have much fog at all. So it was a very, very good day and that's perhaps why there was so much sighted on the water.

BURNETT: All right, Kyung Lah, thank you very much. Richard Quest joins me now. We'll be joined by the commander in charge of the New Zealand forces which spotted the debris. Their ships are arriving there at this moment. Richard, here's my question to you. How hopeful are you that this is it. People watching are you kidding me?

First it was up in Kazakhstan maybe in this northern or southern arc. Then it was down in the bottom of the Indian Ocean and these satellite companies said with virtual certainty it's there and now it's another 500 miles away.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN HOST, "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS": What you're looking for is not just one piece of debris. You're looking for lots of debris. You're looking for a debris field. Yesterday and the day before when we heard there were 300 by satellite seen by the Thais and ten by the Japanese that was very hopeful. But we were hopeful because they had the right amount and now the same again. They say they are in the right area. That's your starting point. Now we have five planes all seeing something. That is exactly what you are looking for when you try to interpret is this where it really is.

BURNETT: Interesting, though, in the course of context what we've been reporting this week. The amount of garbage in this part of the world. Richard is here with me, but I want to bring in now Vice Marshal Kevin Short, commander of New Zealand's joint forces part of the search team. Vice Marshal Short, thank you for joining us. I know that you are in the middle of this important mission. Ships are arriving in the search zone as we speak. What more can you tell us?

GENERAL KEVIN SHORT, NEW ZEALAND DEFENCE FORCE (via telephone): Well, there are four ships arriving in the search area, the likely area where the debris has been located. At first light in that area and also aircraft, series of aircraft going out, and the first aircraft is a Chinese 76 followed by Australian P3. What they need to do is actually direct, relocate the debris and then direct the ships to the exact location?

BURNETT: Can you tell us about the debris that the planes have seen how much as we were just talking here about a need for a debris field there was that one image that Chinese television put out about debris spotted by one of your planes, Vice Admiral. How much have you seen?

SHORT: Our crew has found 11 objects. Most of those objects about one meter in cross section, rectangular, white. It's very indistinguishable from the air. Also picked up an orange floating buoy. They are all within the search area. Other aircraft found objects quite a ways from it, hundreds of miles away from it and that's not unusual with the vision of objects within the ocean because of wind and currents.

BURNETT: Absolutely. Vice Marshal, my colleague, Richard Quest, has a question.

QUEST: Sir, quick question. You obviously are going to get there and find what you can. Will you identify the object on board the ship or is it intended just to retrieve it, bring it back and wait for identification there?

SHORT: I think it's important to note this will take several hours just to match the location of the debris to the ships coming on station. So it will take a few hours for that to occur and then the retrieval process. Those on board the ship if they can will give a full description back to Pierce where they have the headquarters describing the object, you know, three-dimensional colors construct, whatever it's made of. They will do that on sight. Ultimately, it will be analysis of objects back at Pierce before they can definitely say.

BURNETT: I guess the final question to you then is comparing this site to the last site that everybody was so certain was the right place from what you've seen so far, are you encouraged this will be it?

SHORT: Yes, it is encouraging to see that this debris has been found, the latest analyzed position. It is quite a long way to the north. But that's based on re-analyzing the satellite information and the speed with which the aircraft was flying and saying this is probably as far south as it got. Now finding debris also gives more hope. There's five aircraft who actually located debris within the search area.

BURNETT: All right, well, thank you very much, Vice Marshall Short. We appreciate your taking the time. Obviously more optimism on this than we have had in the entire week looking in the other search zone. We'll see what they get. Those ships right now are arriving in that zone.

OUTFRONT next for days the search was focused on what may be the wrong part of the Indian Ocean. Are investigators back to square one or not?

Plus five planes spotting debris from the air. Are they seeing pieces of Flight 370 or are they seeing ocean garbage? Because remember yesterday it was hundreds and hundreds of pieces. It wasn't the plane it was garbage. One of the most advanced labs in the world shows us how crack a black box.


BURNETT: Breaking news tonight, the search for missing Malaysia Airline Flight 370, search ships are now at a possible crash site. They are zoning in on the exact coordinates of debris found earlier today. It's a new site announced after investigators said they have been looking in the wrong place all week. Now here's how they made this determination and bear with me because a lot of you are throwing your hands up in the air.

But they say now with new data from radar and satellite they believe the plane was traveling faster than initially thought in the early part of its flight. So it was going faster and they say -- we don't have new information on altitude, but said it burned more fuel at that point. Then in the later part of the flight it didn't have as much fuel as they thought. So it could only have gotten as far as the new search area that you see on your screen, which is about 500 miles away from the old search area, a distance of between Philadelphia and Atlanta.

Richard Quest and CNN aviation analyst, Les Abend, also a 777 pilot and Miles O'Brien, joining me plus Steven Wood, a former CIA analyst and satellite imagery expert. Great to have all of you with us. Miles, you were one of those people throwing your hand up in the air. I can only imagine because you have been shall I say a little bit frustrated with the satellite company, Inmarsat, on which all of this data was built for the original search area. Now here we are, it was apparently not right.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Yes, I sure hope those arcs are right. We don't know about the data that underlies it. Proprietary, whatever, the investigation, they deferred it. They didn't release to it the public so we don't know. But put it in the stack of all the things that we don't have public access to, and you got a pretty big stack.

As for the altitude that's an interesting point. We have CNN has reported the plane was down to 12,000 feet. We had numbers all over the map. Is that true or not? If it was going as fast as it was, 400 knots true air speed nautical miles per hour, if that's a case it will burn more gas than going slower. We do know that much.

BURNETT: Right. Interesting as Miles points out we've heard different altitudes. Today when they said it was going faster at the beginning of the flight there was no new altitude information. It's a big question. Steven, my curiosity comes from the Malaysian government. We're so confident about that old search area. They were going off that satellite data. The vice president on this show told me it was per reviewed data. Carefully looked at. He couldn't have gotten more confident. My question to you as an expert in this did they make a huge mistake or is there another explanation for shifting the search zone 500 miles?

STEVEN WOOD, FOUNDER, DIGITALGLOBE ANALYZING CENTER: To me it's a couple of things. First was it a huge mistake? I don't feel comfortable saying that. This is the type of technology to the best of my knowledge that's never been intended for this type of purpose before. So very much like Richard Quest and I were talking about this morning along with David Soucie, this is typical for an investigation where you continue to explore all possible information.

From the satellite imagery perspective, we're now looking at a new area. All the objects and debris we've been looking at in the past few days, which I think everybody felt comfortable that there was debris, but not whether it was related to the plane. We're looking at a new area. We got more information. This is part of the way the investigation has to unfold.

BURNETT: Les, do you think they are looking at the right spot now because obviously as we were talking in our commercial break, we are missing some crucial data here things like altitude, at what altitude was the speed.

LES ABEND, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: I think they are looking at the right spot for the wrong reasons. I'm just a pilot and I went through basic trigonometry. They established this by making an assumption the airplane was traveling at such a speed and at such altitude. If it was down 12,000 feet I originally thought it would burn a lot more fuel, but it wouldn't just a little bit more and it's going slower therefore it would travel a less of a distance because it's going slower and I want may get to the same spot that they are at the moment.

BURNETT: I'm curious, Steven, with your expertise in satellite imagery from the CIA, it would seem people's expectations from the satellite images may be better. Everything we saw was grainy and hard to interpret. Aren't satellites capable of a lot more and if for some reason they weren't why weren't drones over this? Drones were able to see Osama Bin Laden walking through his garden eating an orange. You would think they could see something more specific here.

WOOD: First from the satellite perspective you have to understand there's a range of different capabilities even with satellites. Some of the imagery released earlier in the week, it came from a U.S. company called Digital Globe. They can provide imagery at 50 centimeters resolution. That's a U.S. law and they are controlled on what they can do. So 50 centimeters is better than two feet, about 19 inches in resolution. The data in a typical image and frankly the stereotype that people have in their brains about what satellites can or cannot do it's fostered by looking at imagery of your house.

That came from an airplane. Most of the United States those images come from satellite, but also airplanes that are flying significantly lower and therefore, have much better resolution. So, first of all, different capability, different type of area. Again, the surface like we spoke about last night, you're looking at a very difficult area. It's an ocean. You're not is going to see those kind of features we're familiar seeing with land, with an office, with buildings. Do I still have time to talk to you about the drones?

BURNETT: Get Richard in here first and then do I want to ask you about the drones.

WOOD: Please.

QUEST: I want to come back to this idea of the original search, original Inmarsat data what they told us last week and I'll take a contrarian view on this. Yes, they got the wrong place, but they also got the right theory that since had to be refined. What they told us last week --

BURNETT: Meaning it flew until it ran out of fuel.

QUEST: It flew in the southern corridor. They told us last week we have a technique that proves it went south and it went into the southern corridor. And that we can then rule out the northern corridor and they were right so far as we can tell.

ABEND: By finding habits of other airplanes.

QUEST: Correct. So that information that Inmarsat/Boeing/Malaysians whatever told us last week seems to be correct. What they got wrong was the exact position. I can hear somebody saying that's rather important. Yes, it is rather important, but they always said it needed to be refined and that's why they set up the international working group.

BURNETT: Steven, let me ask you quickly about drones. Could a drone find this more quickly?

WOOD: I don't know if it could have found it any more quickly. As Richard was saying, they had to refine the search area and as additional information is brought to bear I think now that all kinds of different assets what we heard about the P3 flying in the region, vessels coming to the region, that's what's ultimately needed the most physically retrieve the debris, investigate it and find this missing airplane.

BURNETT: Thanks to all. Of course, you'll be with us as we continue through the hour and we ask more of these questions. Speed and altitude are important. How about this question. Maybe investigators know answers to a lot of these questions and have an idea about what exactly happened here and haven't told the world. Search teams are working in a new territory tonight or this morning as it off the coast of Perth. What is it like underneath the ocean and what's floating in this water there is a pretty incredible answer. I promise and does the captain's path on the internet tell us anything about what may have happened in the cockpit?


BURNETT: Breaking news in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane. Search ships have reached what investigators say is the crash site. It's nearly 700 miles, I'm sorry, I misspoke earlier northeast of the previous search site. The target area shifted after a new analysis of the plane's speed that ended up if it ran until it went out of fuel then it would have crashed about 700 miles north.

Here's what these ships are looking for. This image released by China's CCTV, possible debris spotted by a search team from New Zealand and as you just heard from the New Zealand search commander on our show, they are right now trying to recover that with a ship in the water.

Chad Myers is OUTFRONT. Now Chad, this is not the first time there has been considered a potential search area, right?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That is correct. I went back and I looked at the Malaysian press conference Tuesday morning our time, Tuesday evening their time and this is the map that was part of the press conference. It said from Inmarsat and from the Malaysian government with a constant 490 trek the trek would have taken it down to this part of the arc. Assuming a different speed 400 knots the track would have taken it over here. Guess what.

This is the first place they looked and now they are looking right here. A different set of assumptions. Assume means because that's what we're doing a lot of assumptions to get to these search areas and now to this search area. From where we spotted debris on satellite almost 1,000 miles away.

BURNETT: Incredible. When you were talking about the prior zone it was there's volcanoes under the water, never been mapped before. The area they are looking now is much more well-known. Incredibly remote.

MYERS: Correct. There are some areas especially the northern part that would be about 6,000 to 7,000 feet. I'll take you down, but not get you under water. This lighter area one mile, little bit more, 6,000 to 7,000 feet. Then there's the trench. Some spots 20,000 feet deep. Think about that. That's four miles down there. Down here this is about 12,000 to 13,000 feet deep. Get you right down this is rugged. This was a couple of volcanoes sure I get it. This is deep. This is rugged.

If a plane is it issuing this way or a black box sitting on that side you would never hear the ping because the ping is not going in that direction it's blocked by the ocean floor and this goes on for miles and miles and miles right along the trench.

BURNETT: Chad, quickly, before you go. They saw these objects hundreds of them in the old zone that now may perhaps be garbage. There's places on the planet where garbage accumulates. That other zone was not one of them. Where they are looking now is?

MYERS: This whole circulation in the Southern Indian Ocean goes around in a big circle. What gets in there stays in there. What we had was that circle here and then going around. So we assume this would move a little bit more. Now in the middle of this is like being in the middle of a hurricane. It doesn't move much or middle of a high pressure because that's essentially what it is. What stays in this spot isn't going very far and there's no way the data down here, the data we saw from those satellites 1,000 miles no way that the drift could have taint up there to this new site. They are not related at all.

BURNETT: All right, Chad Myers, thank you. OUTFRONT next, new information about the captain of Flight 370. What people who knew him are saying tonight.

More breaking news, Vladimir Putin called President Obama today. What did he say?


BURNETT: More breaking news about Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Search ships are now at the possible crash site for the missing passenger jet. They are trying to hone (sic) in on the exact coordinates which were visible from an airplane earlier today.

Officials now say Flight 370 went down about 680 miles northeast of where investigators initially thought. The plane disappeared three weeks ago tonight. It was literally almost to this minute when we got the first notification from Malaysia Airlines about a missing plane and we reported it on this program about 10 minutes later once we confirmed it.

Investigators have been focused on the pilots after determining the plane vanished because of a deliberate action from inside the cockpit. But still everything is on the table. Malaysia Airlines confirmed today that all new pilots are subjected to a psychological examination. Of course it's unclear if the captain and first officer of Flight 370 were recently evaluated or not.

Joining me right now, Richard Quest; CNN aviation analysts Miles O'Brien and Les Abend and the editor-in-chief of "Flying" magazine, Robert Goyer.

All right, Robert, what do you make of the situation at this point, the psychological evaluation that's the latest information we have. There's been a dearth of information. Is this something that could be significant?

ROBERT GOYER, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "FLYING" MAGAZINE: Yes, absolutely. It's something that has been an open question with pilots for a long time. When you look at the aircraft, the 777s are remarkable aircraft because it has so many redundant systems. They are all fail-safe systems. If something goes out, something else steps in, often transparently to the pilot, it just takes over the job.

With pilots it's not necessarily the case. We've seen that very tragically, very sadly in a number of instances over the past 15 years where pilots choose to go rogue and they take the aircraft and all the passengers down with them.

So I think it's critical that we learn about the pilots the way they think and the way they might act under stress because this is when it's happened.

Do we know that happened here? No. But we need to look very carefully at this.

BURNETT: Richard, friends and co-workers of the captain told "The Wall Street Journal" -- and I'll quote them -- "the ideal pilot, an invisible" -- "He's an ideal pilot, an invisible pilot." Another person said he was "patient, efficient and far from a political fanatic."

Obviously in recent days we'd heard the opposite from other publications. But this is what we've heard today. People coming to his defense. Saying this was -- he was a good man and a good pilot.

Are we ever going to know what happened or who was involved or do you think --

RICHARD QUEST, CNN HOST: Yes. Oh, yes, yes, yes. The comments today rebalance the man's character from the assassination that's taken place over the last week. And I've been quite clear about that and my views on that.

In terms of -- and we'll find out, you know. It will take time. It may not be this winter, it may be next winter before they can find out. But they will find debris, sooner rather than later I happen to believe, and then it all moves forward to the next stage.

Look, they have to find out not just for the closure of those on board but because the aviation industry needs to know; there are 1,100 777s out there.

BURNETT: Which, and Les, that brings me to your point of view which has been, at least from the beginning you were very adamant you thought it could be mechanical. I know you still think that's possible. But That's the question for the flying public. A lot of people have said to me, look, as someone, people who flies, the 777, anybody who flies has been on that plane, that a pilot suicide or something is much more palatable to a flyer than a 777 that somehow went mechanically rogue.

LES ABEND, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: I get that. But any profession has people with issues with background -- I mean, to label these two awful incidents, you know, Egypt Air, Silk Air, I just don't see it in this particular case.

Now I don't have all the information and the investigation is being conducted -- it should be conducted properly where we do look into the background and it's important to do that.

But at the same token let's not make it public scrutiny that we have to get into the backgrounds of these people so that everybody knows and their families and friends are --


BURNETT: Well, and investigators may know a lot more than we know at this point, Miles. There's a lot of rumor and innuendo and not a lot of facts out there at this point about the pilot or the co-pilot.

But I suppose in the case of suicide the reality may be, this is my question, is whether we'll ever know because if someone doesn't want you to know, if they didn't leave a note and the people around them weren't aware of their state of mind, you might not know.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there's nothing about the culture of being an airline pilot that makes you forthcoming with those sorts of details, if you will . I would say this, though, taking aside the idea of psychological testing.

The idea of the whole system is built to look for pilots who are having trouble. A lot of airlines have do not fly lists, for example . People you've flown with and you know, I'd rather not fly with that guy again.

And if a person is on the do not fly list a lot, they might have a conversation with him. And the fact is, the pilots spend a lot of time with each other episodically and someone who is having trouble might become obvious to others. So there's a network of pilots that look out for each other here.

And Les can attest to this.

BURNETT: Les, but isn't it also different, depending where you're flying? Today a very sharp rebuke by Interpol, the international police organization of Malaysia Airlines, say the past year you didn't check your people, people flying on your planes, against our database of stolen missing passports once. Not a single time. There are airlines with different standards for everything.

ABEND: Of course there are. But these people are vetted and screened in a process that puts them in that position already as pilots, and to add on to what Miles said, we have programs within the airline that monitor ourselves.

If we see somebody -- this was a very small airline comparatively. We have programs not only, you know, that help with certain situations, whether it be family problems, alcohol, whatever it might happen to be, we watch our backs. And we discover these things, irregularities --

BURNETT: So as we're seeking people who know the pilot and the co- pilot here to try to find out more about them, here's one of the few things we've been able to find. This is the captain on YouTube, talking about fixing an air conditioner.


CAPTAIN ZAHARIE AHMAD SHAH, MALAYSIA AIRLINES PILOT: Hi, everyone. This is a YouTube video that I made as a community service after learning a lot from YouTube and forum (ph) and Wikipedia regarding the household air conditioning unit. We're basically talking about the inverter type, 1 horsepower, using the R-420 gens (ph).


ABEND: That's an unstable man? That's a man that's a geek, that enjoys his hobbies. I don't see it in this particular case. I'm not conducting the investigation. You know maybe there's more down deep. But I don't see it.

BURNETT: All right, so --


GOYER: Erin, if I can jump in here for a second.


GOYER: The other night I was saying that I look at this guy and I look at his resume and I look at his outreach, the way he is with his family and it's just remarkable. He seems like not only a model citizen but he seems like a model airman.

But Richard's point about not practicing character assassination, it's something that, as a human being I like, but as an investigator I think you have to ask those hard questions that we don't want to ask because if we don't, we won't find out things that we really need to find out.

So we have to make those tough choices to look into those dark corners and find places, find clues we might not be able to find otherwise.


BURNETT: Right, but Richard, this has happened before. And in the cases it's happened before, I mean, these people have also been considered wonderful paragons of their community.

QUEST: And since when did I say that they shouldn't investigate the background of the pilots, Erin? In fact, on this program last night I specifically said, look at the finances, look at the family, look at everything.

But the investigators do it, not the tittle-tattle of the newspaper --


QUEST: -- spread it around the world that then becomes a matter of scurrilous gossip.

GOYER: That cat's out of the bag. That cat is out of the bag, Richard. In the global community, which is a digital community worldwide outreach, everybody has a say. It's going to happen.

So (INAUDIBLE) it's not going to happen --

QUEST: So let's join in then. Let's all go the party and -- no, I'm sorry. I don't accept that just because one or two people have chosen to then throw somebody's character under the bus that everybody else has to join in on that, too.

GOYER: I've done exactly the opposite here, Richard. I've talked about how amazing a pilot and character he seems to be, but we have to look at the hard questions despite that impression.

BURNETT: People want answers. They want answers no matter what. And I think they want it, obviously, you have to accept the reality in the situation. There may never be a flight recorder data. And so we may not have that to help us when we get to the answer of what happened here.

All right. Thanks to all of you.

Well, speaking of that flight data recorder, unlocking the mystery of what happened here could come down to that if it's found. So we're going to show you exactly how that data is retrieved.

Plus after three weeks of false leads the search for Flight 370 has no end in sight. It's on track to be the most expensive search in history and we have the numbers.



BURNETT: I want to check in with Anderson Cooper with a look at what's coming up on "AC360" on this Friday.

Hey, Anderson.


At the top of the hour we'll check in with Commander William Marks from the U.S. Navy on the latest on the vessels zeroing in on the new search zone, when they're expected to arrive and how air and water units will work together to try to locate the new debris that's been spotted earlier.

Plus family members of those aboard Flight 370 react with frustration and grief to the new search zone. Hundreds staged a walk-out during a briefing. We'll speak to a grief counselor who has been working with the families from the beginning.

And this beautiful little girl, a victim of the mudslide in Washington State along with her grandmother. Unbelievable. The baby's mother, Natasha (ph), remembers both of them and explains the reason she's able to go on amid such utter, unbelievable tragedy. Those stories at the top of the hour, Erin.

BURNETT: All right, Anderson, thank you. We'll see you in just a few moments.

And as the head of the search team for New Zealand just told us on this program, search ships are now at the possible crash site. These are New Zealand ships and they are going in very specifically to a piece of debris that was found. There's growing hope tonight that they will be able to radio back word they have located the debris field from the 777 and perhaps, as he said on this program, you heard, he said, if it's unclear exactly what is it they will take it back for testing.

If it's incredibly clear that this is a piece from that plane, we will know and we will know soon.

That message would then set into motion a desperate search to locate the black boxes. As Chad Myers reported, anywhere from 6,000 feet to 22,000 feet underneath the sea. Athena Jones is OutFront with more on how crews will locate and then get information from that data recorder.


JOSEPH KOLLY, NTSB DIRECTOR, RESEARCH AND ENGINEERING: This is one of the more advanced labs in the world and for that reason that's why we tend to help other countries.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here at the National Transportation Safety Board state-of-the-art laboratory, a demonstration of what it takes to get vital information from the all- important black boxes.

This is what the pinging of one of the data recorders sounds like once it's made contact with water. Even after a prolonged period in saltwater, data from these devices is still retrievable.

ERIN GORMLEY, NTSB AEROSPACE ENGINEER: We've had a good success rate with recovery. All of the recorders, you know, go through different stresses and, but overall we've had a very good success rate with water recovery.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you ever not gotten data in a water recovery?

GORMLEY: I can't think of one.

JONES (voice-over): Recorders found in saltwater are first bathed in fresh water and later carefully dried and taken apart to reveal this, the device's memory card. Even a damaged card can be useful, says recorder engineer Erin Gormley.

GORMLEY: The data does jump from chip to chip. So even if you have one corrupt chip because it has cracked or it has gotten some sort of corrosion on it, we still should be able to build the information back.

JONES (voice-over): Information from the flight data recorder's memory card which keeps track of data like the plane's pitch, altitude and speed is downloaded onto a computer system where teams make sense of the data. To us it just looks like zeros and ones.

GORMLEY: We get information from the manufacturer of the aircraft that has a data map and that data map translates all the zeros and ones into actual parameters. JONES (voice-over): For the cockpit voice recorder, a team of six to eight people helps transcribe the device's four channels which pick up not just voices but everything from a door opening to a seat shifting. The work they do here is difficult. But it's key to understand what went wrong in airline disasters.

GORMLEY: We want to make sure this never happens again.

JONES (voice-over): Athena Jones, CNN, Washington.


BURNETT: And now that's how they will get the flight data recorder. But how much is all of this going to cost? We've been tracking this. A new search area, millions of dollars of resources are pouring in from around the world, the price tag getting bigger by the day. And I almost said the word billions and well, that wasn't really a (INAUDIBLE) speaking.

Tom Foreman is OutFront tonight.

And, Tom, how much could this search ultimately end up costing?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Erin, $1 billion, $20 billion, $50 billion to search all of this space. Is that what it could cost, yes, it probably could if you keep all these assets out here trying to cover all of the areas that we've talked about searching, that's why they have to cut it down because in the end nobody can really afford that.

Think about this. If you look at just the latest search zone, that red square up there, that alone is equal to the entire search area for the Air France crash in 2009. That square alone. And that's a fraction of what else we've been talking about here in terms of the overall lay of the land.

Here's the comparison. Air France, even in that tiny space, took two years to find, four searches, at a price tag of $40-$45 million. That's difficult conditions, sure, with all the current flowing like that, Yes, it's in the middle of the ocean. But it's certainly no more difficult than what we're seeing over in this area.

In fact what's going on right now in the Malaysia Air search could be worse if you're down into this area where the currents compete so much, which is where they found those satellite images.

Maybe there's some better choices. But in the end, the uncertainty, the vast amount of space, and the fact that nobody knows how long this is going to go on is the real key here. That's how the money can keep mounting and mounting and mounting and could turn this into the most expensive search in history -- Erin.

BURNETT: Tom, thank you.

More breaking news. A tense phone call between the president and Vladimir Putin and a change in troop levels tonight. We're going to get that breaking news. We're working on it right now. We'll have it after the break.


BURNETT: Breaking news. We have some new developments in Russia with the troop count. Barbara Starr joins me on the phone. She's breaking the story tonight.

Barbara, what do you know?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Erin, good evening; 40,000 Russian troops on the Eastern border with Ukraine, another 25,000 Russian troops at locations inland. All of them, Erin, fully equipped.

The U.S. believes they're ready to go if and when Vladimir Putin orders them to go into Eastern Ukraine. And as we go into the weekend, that is the real dilemma for U.S. intelligence. They know those troops are ready. They know they're in position. What they do not know tonight is whether Vladimir Putin will order his troops into Ukraine -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right, Barbara, thank you very much. Obviously significant developments, 65,000 troops now as Barbara's reporting.

Also tonight, President Obama spoke on the phone with Russian president Vladimir Putin. According to the White House, Putin initiated the call. President Obama said to Putin that he needs to pull back the troops from the Ukraine border.

It's tough, though. How can he make them do that?

I spoke about the situation earlier with former President Jimmy Carter. We also talked about Carter's new book "A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power."

And I started by asking the former president about the current president's handling of foreign policy.


JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The main criticism I've heard lately about him, and it's almost constant on some channels, is about Crimea. And there was no way that anyone could have prevented Putin from going into Crimea.

The European Union couldn't have, and neither could the United States, even with much more dire threats than an embargo because this was kind of preordained. Putin was going to take Crimea no matter what happened because the Soviets were totally committed to that, the Russians were.

And the Crimean people overwhelmingly wanted to be part of Russia. So that was unassailable. But I think we have to be very bold now in stopping Putin from any further intrusions into Eastern Ukraine.

BURNETT: So you think a military option has to be on the table that involves NATO troops, United States troops?

CARTER: I hope it doesn't, of course. But I think Putin needs to know that's as far as he can go.

BURNETT: I'm curious what you think about this because I know this has to frustrate you on some level. The Right links you to President Obama all the time.

CARTER: I know.

BURNETT: Former Reagan official Oliver North just recently said President Obama showed a failure of leadership with Ukraine. And the quote that he said was, "Putin has been handed by this -- handled this by what is essentially Jimmy Carter on steroids."

How does that make you feel?

CARTER: I don't pay any attention to Oliver North. And I'm kind of sorry to hear you quote him. You know, he was a criminal during the Iran-Contra crisis. And went in -- was convicted of betraying the best interests of our country.

And of course, he's famous now because he's a constant critic of the Democratic Party and the Democrats. But I don't worry about that. As a matter of fact, I don't think anybody could have moved more strongly against the Soviet Union when they went into Afghanistan than I did.

BURNETT: And so again you think it really is about putting a -- drawing a line that Putin knows, believes that if he crosses there will be repercussions?

CARTER: Well, when you make a promise you've got to keep it. You can't make a deadline and then not honor it. And I think that Brezhnev was convinced that what I said I would do. And I would have.

BURNETT: And in your new book, "A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power," you obviously write about women's issues. What made you decide to write this book and focus on women?

CARTER: My wife and I have been in 146 countries. And we saw in The Carter Center's work that all over the world increasingly women were being abused. And so I think that this is the worst crime against humanity and the worst violation of human rights on Earth.

And when -- it sounded like China or India has a limit on the size of families, then if a girl baby is born, they strangle her to death. So that is what's happening all over the world. And I think this is something, too, that's happening very seriously in the United States because one of the worst places in America for sexual abuse is the great university system that we have.

A president of a college and a dean of a college, Harvard or Emory University where I teach or University of Georgia, wherever, are very reluctant to have any revelation of rape on the campus. So they counsel with the girls, don't bring this to the authorities. Let's try to work it out on the campus. And the boys that can get away with it know they can do it. And a few of the boys become serial rapists. And about half the rapes on college campuses in America are done by serial rapists, who do it repeatedly.

BURNETT: You've obviously done so much work on this. And you've been so blessed. You and I were talking before. I don't remember, but I know one of my first moments in life was attending your inauguration.

What are you most proud of?

CARTER: Well, you know, that's a -- speaking in generic terms I would say keeping the peace. I kept my country at peace during very difficult times when I was in the White House. And I helped promote peace between other countries that were potentially at war.


BURNETT: You can see much more of my interview with Jimmy Carter including his comments on the NSA on our blog.

Thanks for wartching. Have a wonderfull weekend.

"AC360" starts now.