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NEW DAY

Plane Spots "Objects" in Search Zone; Plane Search Moves 684 Miles Northeast; Obama Travels to Saudi Arabia

Aired March 28, 2014 - 08:00   ET

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


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Chris Cuomo is off.

Breaking news this hour: objects have been spotted in the new search area for Malaysian Flight 370. A New Zealand search plane says it saw something in the water. The plane is headed back to Australia right now with pictures they obviously took in the search area. And a ship is on the way to confirm what the objects are. But that may not happen until tomorrow.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: You know, Kate mentioned a new search area. The hunt for the missing jet has jumped almost 700 miles northeast. This coming after new analysis of radar data suggested the plane may have gone down sooner because it burned fuel faster. Malaysian officials say the data was refined with help from the agencies from the U.S. and around the world, including the NTSB and the FAA.

Let's get right to the ground in Australia right now. Our Andrew Stevens is live in Perth.

Andrew, what's the latest?

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, I can tell you that that New Zealand airplane has now landed at this air base behind me. We don't know what were on those images. They have been taken, pictures had been taken.

But we need the eyes on identification. The Australians will not get there until late tomorrow, probably tomorrow late afternoon.

But there have been so many twists and turns in this story, and today, a radical new turn.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STEVENS (voice-over): This morning, a major shift in the search for wreckage. Australia moving their focus just over 680 miles northeast of the most recent search area. Australian authorities crediting the shift to what they describe as new and credible radar information.

MARTIN DOLAN, AUSTRALIAN TRANSPORT SAFETY BUREAU: This continuing analysis indicates the plane was traveling faster than was previously estimated, resulting in increased fuel usage and reducing the possible distance it traveled south into the Indian Ocean. STEVENS: This revelation moves the search hundreds of miles closer to Australia's coast giving reconnaissance planes more than the previous one to two hours of search time.

HISHAMMUDDIN HUSSEIN, MALAYSIA ACTING TRANSPORT MINISTER: The new search area, although more focused than before, remains considerable and that the search conditions, although easier than before, remain challenging.

STEVENS: The new search area covering 133,000 square miles, the waters there reaching depths of 2 1/2 miles.

DOLAN: This information needs to be continually adjusted for the length of time elapsed since the aircraft went missing and the likely drift of any wreckage floating on the ocean surface.

STEVENS: The full search back on today after yesterday's tumultuous weather. Dedicated to the search, 10 aircraft and six ships from six countries. Australia also shifting their satellites to focus cameras on the new search area. No satellite sightings of debris just yet.

JOHN YOUNG, AUSTRALIAN MARITIME SAFETY AUTHORITY: We will put data marker buoys that will report back so we know with accuracy where the water is moving and that provides us the best way to keep the search area confined.

STEVENS: Now, 21 days into the investigation reporters ask if the previous search zones were a waste of time.

YOUNG: This is the normal business of search and rescue operations, that new information comes to life, refined analyses take you to a different place. I don't count the original work a waste of time.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEVENS: So, night has now fallen over that search zone. The 10 aircraft, Kate, that have been out there are either back at base or on their way back. New Zealand is the only aircraft that reports seeing any objects.

But interestingly, the Malaysians say the debris, those five separate images of debris that we saw from satellite images may, in fact, still be linked to this investigation. They may have drifted into that new search zone even though it is some 700 miles away. A lot of chat on Twitter saying that looks unlikely. That's what Malaysians have been saying, Kate.

BOLDUAN: You know, they have said that because of the current, they could travel hundreds of miles. We'll have to continue to wait and watch.

Andrew Stevens, leading our coverage in Perth -- Andrew, thanks so much.

Let's bring in and continue this discussion David Soucie, a CNN safety analyst and author of "Why Planes Crash". He's a former FAA inspector. And also, Mary Schiavo, she's a CNN aviation analyst and former inspector general for the Department of Transportation. Also, she represents victims and families following airplane disasters.

David, Mary, great to see you.

Mary, I want to start with you. David and I talked about it in the last hour. New search zone three weeks in though. Does that surprise you?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it does. I mean, ordinarily though, you have so much more information to start with. You have usually a knowledge of where the plane went down. You have data from the plane, which we don't have here because Malaysia didn't subscribe to the service. You often have eyewitnesses. So, starting literally from a blank slate which makes it much more difficult.

But, yes, I can't recall of an investigation where three weeks into it they were still trying to find where the plane actually crashed.

BOLDUAN: Mary, what do you make of the new information? Do you think it tells -- this new information about how fast the plane was going earlier on in the flight, that's how they reached this new calculation, more fuel burn so it can ended up in a different area.

Does that get you any closer to why the plane ended up here?

SCHIAVO: Well, I think it really does. When you're doing an investigation you have to test out so many different theories in the beginning. I mean, it's not speculation, it's testing theories. One by one you narrow them down and you figure out what fits and what doesn't.

This fits the data that we do have, and we don't have a lot of data. But this fits the data better. It conforms more to the point. You don't have to concoct so many -- well, he might have done this, the plane might have done that. This fits it better and really makes more sense.

BOLDUAN: David, I look back at the press conference that was held overnight when they were announcing this new search zone. At one point it was discussed that this was the entry point, the most credible lead that they have for the entry point, the crash site. That's versus maybe the debris field drift that we've also been looking for.

Why is that distinction important here?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Well, because in this zone, as I understand it, there's a lot fewer currents that would be taking the debris further away. So, I noticed during the conference last night they referred to both within the same area. So, I think that that's kind of encouraging that they would be in that the same -- co-located.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about the pros and cons of this new search zone. The pros, at least as far as we know, is it allows for a more linger time because it's closer to the coast of Perth which is a good thing because that's been a challenge. Generally, better weather conditions in that area. That has been a huge problem for the search planes.

I was on one of those flights and any kind of cloud cover really completely ruins visibility. You can see how the conditions change on a moment's notice, but there's still a lot of challenges here. What are they facing?

SOUCIE: Well, what I'm concerned with, the new area, the surface of the floor is much more mountainous, it's rocky. There's areas it could have gotten into ravines and crevices that really didn't exist in the previous area. Although it is closer, the pinger will be able to get there quicker, there's --

BOLDUAN: But couldn't this also pose more problems for the pinger if it's a mountainous area?

SOUCIE: Well, as far as receiving it, absolutely.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

SOUCIE: If you have a mountain on this side or this side of a pinger. It takes it from this kind of a projection down to a projection like this. You've got to be more center over the top as you detect it.

BOLDUAN: As we were talking about, this information, this new analysis came from this international working group, Mary. And they're essentially saying this is a new calculation from information that they had that the plane was traveling faster than first thought burning more fuel. This is early on in the flight.

Talk to me, how is that possible that they didn't have this calculation before?

SCHIAVO: Well, you know, they're complicated computations, and what's important in investigations is as David well knows, too, you learn and you learn about the nature of crashes and investigation by experience one at a time. I mean, after you've done, you know, 15 or 20, you remember things and you know how it's done. Malaysia was approaching this new and they had -- didn't have a lot of experience by bringing in the NTSB, by bringing in the FAA, people like David there, they have so much more experience and I think they were able to glean this from the data.

True, they already had it, but you really have to take a hard look at things sometimes and sometimes you have to just apply the eye of experience and say, you know, this is how it usually works. Let's go back to what we know and let's re-plot these positionings based on what we know and how things usually go.

BOLDUAN: Mary, do you think it's a fair criticism to say if you might not have had the experience needed and the FAA and the NTSB did, why didn't you bring them in sooner?

SCHIAVO: Well, I do think -- I mean, it's a fair observation. I don't know what the Malaysians were thinking or what resources they had on the ground, and of course maybe they didn't realize how very willing the NTSB and the assets of the United States are to help in any crash investigation because we are an aviation nation. And when something goes wrong in aviation, it's very important to the United States because we all fly all the time.

BOLDUAN: And so we also have the new news, David, of these objects being spotted by the New Zealand air force team out there. This is the first day they're searching the new search zone. They've spotted some new objects -- cautious, of course -- they could be some objects, maybe not the debris field, that's got to be promising.

SOUCIE: It is. You know, I've been accused of wearing rose-colored glasses, you know, trying to see this thing. But there are times you have to do that.

I can't imagine what these families are going through. As frustrating as we're saying, oh, we wasted this time, we're doing this. You know, being with these families, you just feel for them and you get frustrated for them and you want to push, you want to push. But that's the hard thing about the accident investigation, you have to temper everything you do, and you have to weigh things.

Like Mary was saying about the facts you have you have to deal with. But each level -- each fact has a level of confidence that comes with it as well, and you can't let emotions drive whether or not you're going to go this way or that way, or you should hurry and get things done. It has to be slow, it has to be methodical, it has to be a controlled process.

BOLDUAN: Yes, as you said, it comes with highs and lows, and it comes with disappointment as you do refine this information. But, again, we will find the plane. That's the first step. But, first, we've got to get ships out there, which could be another 24 hours, to get eyes on this object that this New Zealand team has spotted, at least a promising time there.

David Soucie, Mary Schiavo, thank you so much, guys.

John?

BERMAN: Thanks, Kate.

We'll have much more on the breaking news just ahead. But, first, in a few short hours President Obama will arrive in Saudi Arabia for a high stakes head to head meeting with King Abdullah. This is the last stop in a week-long trip abroad. This could be the president's most delicate meeting yet. The two allies have been somewhat at odds lately on a range of issues that do affect the stability in that region and beyond.

CNN's Michelle Kosinski is in Rome with more -- Michelle.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John.

Right, next stop, Riyadh. Big shifting of gears here. The Ukraine crisis, no longer front and center. Many other big, important pressing issues in that region and ones on which the U.S. and Saudi Arabia do not necessarily see eye to eye fully. I think the Brookings Institution put it well. They said this part of the trip is about alliance management, but alliance management in the face of tremendous upheaval.

Saudi Arabia is very worried about instability in the region and what the U.S. is doing or not doing to prevent it. They don't like that the U.S. lately has reached out diplomatically to Iran. They don't like that the U.S. has not intervened militarily in Syria.

Human rights obviously another place where these two powers don't agree, but we know that the region has changed dramatically. It continues to change after the Arab Spring. And in that shifting landscape, both Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States, even there's lots of disagreement among them, they want to know what exactly the U.S.'s role will be moving forward and where its priorities lie -- Michaela.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Michelle, thank you so much for that.

Let's take a look at more of your headlines this hour.

New this morning, the death toll from that catastrophic mudslide in Washington state now stands at 24. Seventeen of those bodies have been recovered, 90 people remain missing and unaccounted for.

Oscar Pistorius will not be taking the stand in his own defense. His murder trial has been adjourned until April 7th, because one of the judge's assessors has been hospitalized. In South Africa, an assessor is an expert who assists the judge during a trial. Prosecutors say the double amputee track star killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, after a loud argument on Valentine's Day last year.

New developments in the Ukraine: President Obama warning Russia that it must move back troops from the Ukraine border, calling it a possible intimidation tactic or that Russia may have additional plans. Ukrainian defense official says close to 100,000 Russian troops are there. U.N. General Assembly Thursday overwhelmingly approved a resolution rebuking Russia and dismissing the annexation of Crimea as illegal.

With the deadline for enrolling in Obamacare just a few days away, 6 million Americans have signed up. The White House says the numbers are surging. The healthcare.gov Web site had 1.5 million visitors on Wednesday of this week alone, according to administration officials.

Critics are blasting a bridge-gate investigation that clears New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. That was conducted by a law firm hired by Christie. It found he knew nothing about those George Washington lane closures and concludes two of his now fired aides acted on their own. We should point out, state and federal authorities are still investigating. Christie is scheduled to meet with the media today.

BERMAN: He said he still hasn't made up his mind whether he's going to run for president. He says, they love me in Iowa. That's what he says, I'm just saying.

BOLDUAN: That's true. I'm saying that's true that he said, I'm not making a judgment call here, people.

All right. Let's take another break. Coming up next on NEW DAY: we're going to continue to follow the breaking news this morning. New objects in the new search zone: search teams are racing hundreds of miles to find out if this is pieces of the missing Malaysian airliner. The very latest on the international mission to find Flight 370, next.

BERMAN: Also ahead, moments of heroism during the catastrophic mudslide in Washington state. We'll hear from a father who risked his own life to save a little baby.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone.

Breaking news this morning in the search for Flight 370. Objects, new objects have been spotted in a new search zone. Now, that new search area is based on leads provided to investigators by a group that includes the FAA and the NTSB.

CNN's Richard Quest, our aviation correspondent and host of "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS", is going to talk about this all.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.

BERMAN: Let's show people where this new search area is.

This is a new search area about 700 miles from the old search area. The old search area in green. This is the new search area. This is off the coast of Perth. But they came to the conclusions on this new search area not because of anything that they've seen happen down here, but all the way up here.

QUEST: Right. What they have discovered looking generally at the radar data, the primary radar data, little blips up here by Kuala Lumpur, by Malaysia, where we had the first turn in the South China Sea into the Straits of Malacca, they now believe that the plane was traveling faster, faster in this part of the journey.

Now, just like your car, if you travel faster in the beginning of a journey, there's less gas, if you like, for you to get further south. So what happened here --

BERMAN: You see it right there. As it's turning south going south in this so-called southern corridor.

QUEST: Correct. There are certain knowns. We know now that it was traveling -- they believe it was traveling faster. We know that it was traveling for at least six hours because of the --

BERMAN: Inmarsat handshakes.

QUEST: The Inmarsat handshakes. We know it has to hit the southern arc. We've seen the southern arc. Put all the knowns together and you come to the conclusion that actually the plane was traveling faster than first thought up here but a little bit slower, 400 knots or so, coming down into the south Indian Ocean.

When you put those facts together, it inexorably leads them to conclude that the search zone, the crash point, whatever you want to call it, is now here to the north. The plane didn't go as far.

BERMAN: Well, let's talk about that. The terminology used was crash point. Also very interesting in this new search zone because the officials overnight as they were briefing says, this area now is where they believe the flight went down.

QUEST: Yes. If you look at the currents, let's show you the currents on exactly what's been happening and you'll see that the old crash or the old debris area down there, you have very aggressive currents.

BERMAN: That yellow line there, one of the most powerful currents in the world down there.

QUEST: Absolutely. And that was moving it around.

But once you get to the new area just about here, you start to see much less. So last night, they were very much saying, no, the crash point and the debris field could be very close to each other. They didn't quite put it as bluntly as that, but that was the gist of what they said.

Interestingly, at this morning's news conference in Kuala Lumpur, they still say some of the debris could have moved further to the south and some of these satellite pictures, but the truth is, we now know all the assets -- the ships, the planes -- everything has been moved northwards to this, to this new zone.

BERMAN: Let's talk about what the planes have been doing today because these planes have been taking off from Perth already flying over this new search area. We got the news an hour ago, Richard, that a P-3 Orion from New Zealand did spot what looks like could be objects within this search zone.

QUEST: Excellent news that they've spotted something and interesting that they've done it so quickly because if this is the right area, then the conclusion starts to become, we might see more objects and we might see it more quickly. But what is particularly interesting is that the distance from Perth to the new zone is much less. It's a good several hundred miles less. Therefore, it takes less to fly here, they can spend longer over and then they can go back.

It's better weather, no longer those dreadful -- the weather we've had in the southern part. Now it's much better.

BERMAN: As you say, it's much easier to get here.

QUEST: Much easier. BERMAN: You get here more quickly. They will know whether they're right or wrong about this new search area presumably more quickly.

QUEST: The only final caveat that we really have to say is that the sums that they are doing, back up here. It's Boeing basically that looked at the aircraft performance data. They've obviously given Boeing more information from the radar.

Boeing has recalculated the data for the 777-200. They now know much better about the fuel burn up here. It really is a case of once you know how much fuel is on board and you know the speed up here and you know where it has to go roughly in the arc here, they start to move.

It's disappointing but at least it's a great progression in terms of the investigation.

BERMAN: You know, Richard, you've covered aviation for a long time. How do we trust that they're right this time and they weren't right a few weeks ago?

QUEST: You don't. Simple. You don't.

Let's be blunt about this. Everybody -- we are guilty. The prime minister, the transport minister last night in the conference, the ATSB of Australia, they keep saying to us, this is the best information we have at the moment. This is the best lead we've got. This is what we're working upon.

They cannot be faulted if we then choose to run after the horses saying, this is it. But they have been very clear, the information, the paucity of detail, the lack of data, that is what the problem is. And they're working with the best that they've got.

BERMAN: The next two key moments in the next 24 hours, the P-3 Orion, which did fly over the search zone and spotted some objects, they will upload the images we presume.

QUEST: They will up load the images.

BERMAN: And tomorrow afternoon, there will be a ship in that region to confirm it?

QUEST: Yes.

BERMAN: And it will be easier for that ship to confirm it than we've had in the past. We've had all the satellite images over the last week or so. Those were not confirmable because they were a lot harder to find.

QUEST: You've still got to get there. Let's not make it look like it's fishing on the lake. You've still got to get the boat up there. You've still got to find it. You've still got to get it on board.

BERMAN: Presumably, though, the P-3 Orion did drop sonobuoy this time if they found something.

QUEST: I think that's a reasonable assumption.

BERMAN: So, they could go back and find it easier.

Richard Quest, great to have you here. Appreciate it.

Kate?

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY: refusing to lose hope. Her partner was onboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. She is not yet ready to say and accept that the plane crashed in the southern Indian Ocean. We want to find out why. That interview, ahead.

Also this, hope amid tragedy. A baby rescued from the catastrophic mudslide in Washington state.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PEREIRA: Welcome back. It's time now for the five things you need for your NEW DAY.

At number one, objects have been spotted in the new search area for Malaysia Flight 370. A ship is now steaming towards where that area where those objects were spotted. The search area has shifted almost 700 miles northeast after radar data was reexamined.

New this morning, the death toll from Saturday's catastrophic mudslide in Washington state has risen to 24, 90 people remain missing or unaccounted for.

The Oscar Pistorius murder trial is on hold. The so-called Blade Runner was expected to take the stand in his own defense this morning. But the judge adjourned the trial until April 7th because a court assessor who was necessary to the trial was hospitalized.

President Obama expected to get a chilly reception when he meets with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah later this morning in Riyadh. The Saudis expressed disappointment with the president's handling of Syria and Iran.

Boston in mourning today for two firefighters killed in the line of duty. Memorial is growing outside the firehouse where Michael Kennedy and Edward Walsh worked.

Last night, the Boston Bruins honored the pair with a moment of silence. A fitting tribute.

Always updating five things to know. Be sure to go to Newday.CNN.com for the very latest -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Michaela.

We are waiting a grim announcement from Washington state. Authorities expected to report a substantial rise in the death toll from that devastating landslide north of Seattle.