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Mystery of Flight 370; Ships Detect Three Audio Signals in MH370 Search

Aired April 6, 2014 - 07:00   ET


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: The mystery continues this morning, but we are getting fluid information coming in and so glad that we can share it with you. Good morning, I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good to be with you, welcome to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. You are watching CNN special breaking coverage of missing Malaysia Flight 370. And we begin with the two major breaking developments overnight including startling new details about the jet's possible path. A senior Malaysian government official tells CNN that Flight 370 may have been flown on purpose along the route designed to avoid radar detection.

PAUL: And this comes from new analysis of radar data that shows the plane flew north of Indonesia. Again, here's a look at the map here. North of Indonesia and around Indonesian air space after it made that mysterious left turn we've been talking about and flew across the Malaysian peninsula. Our source said that investigators reached this conclusion after reviewing radar trap data from neighboring countries.

BLACKWELL: Now onto our second big development, a British navy vessel is now rushing to that area where a Chinese ship reported twice picking up electronic signals beneath the surface. The HMS Echo is due to arrive in seven hours.

PAUL: Now authorities say the signals, there was a brief one on Friday and another one on Saturday. The one on Saturday lasted about 90 second, were a little more than a mile apart, about a mile and a quarter apart, and that they would be consistent with the pings from the Malaysian Airliner's flight recorders, at 37.5 kilohertz.

In the meantime, an Australian ship, the Ocean Shield, picked up a separate acoustic noise 300 nautical miles away. So, authorities are treating all of these reports with caution.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an important and encouraging lead of one which I urge you to continue to treat carefully.


PAUL: CNN's Joe Johns is live from Kuala Lumpur this hour. BLACKWELL: Joe, the new route looks like the plane was deliberately trying to avoid radar detection. What does this mean for the investigation?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it gives the investigators something to hang their hat on, I think. It creates an inference for the investigators that can still be overcome that someone in the cockpit, with command and control and skill, intentionally took the plane in a direction that skirted Indonesian air space. So, the next question is why investigators would have to ask whether it was done plain and simple to avoid detection by Indonesian radar.

So, this is a piece of information that tells us why the authorities continue to look closely that flight crew onboard Flight 370. It points away from the theories that the plane was somehow flying itself on auto pilot and it gives them some reason to ask whether someone who was in the controls of the plane in the cockpit actually to attempted to conceal it from Indonesian radar. Really something to hang their hat on as they continue the investigation.

PAUL: So, Joe, does it mean they abandoned the theory that there could have been mechanical issues with this thing?

JOHNS: I don't think the authorities would say they really abandoned anything at this stage. They have said, though, again and again, that in their view right now it's a criminal investigation until the evidence proves otherwise. It's pretty clear from this information that authorities have had it for some time but why law enforcement authorities here haven't released that to the public, we just have to ask them.

BLACKWELL: So, it's been several weeks, more than four weeks since Flight 370 disappeared. Why didn't Indonesian and Malaysian officials figure this out earlier?

JOHNS: Yes. Oh, perhaps they did. They've been looking at four different avenues of inquiry. You have hijacking, sabotage, personal problems, psychological problems. It's pretty clear that all of those things remain on the table, you know, at this stage.

BLACKWELL: All right, our thanks to Joe Johns there in Kuala Lumpur for us. Joe, thanks.

PAUL: We need to bring in our aviation experts here. We're joined by former FBI profiler Mary Ellen O'Toole, Simon Boxall, he's an oceanographer with the National Oceanographic Center, and CNN aviation correspondent Richard Quest.

Good morning to all of you.


PAUL: Oh, we also --

BLACKWELL: We're also joined here by Captain Van Gurley. Don't want to forget him. He's the senior manager for Metron Scientific Solutions and a former naval oceanographer.

And CNN analyst and former inspector general with the U.S. Transportation Department, Mary Schiavo, she's with us, as well.

Actually, I'm going to start with Mary Schiavo.

You know, there would be some would find reassurance that the numbers are still being crunched and there's new analysis, but some also might be discouraged that it's taken so long to come to this conclusion about the early path of Flight 370.

What's your view of this new analysis?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, the new analysis helps to explain the erratic path. The various way points, if it's correct, it would help explain why the plane took that erratic path, but again, there's no evidence of it. It is conjecture and people trying to make sense of a plate full of evidence that doesn't fit any scenario. Every scenario we pose has problems with it.

So, I think, you know, the bottom line is they are using this data that they have gotten from satellites and it was never intended for this purpose, but in crunching the numbers and make it fit. They've had to come up with various theories which is how you solve crimes. You try various theories and see if it fits the evidence. It's important to do it that way and then see if it fits. You don't want to have a theory and force your evidence to fit it. That's how you come up with the wrong conclusion often.

So, this is how investigations go. You run up a lot of dead ends before you find the right one.

PAUL: Simon, I wanted to ask you regarding these pings that we've been hearing and the fact that Australia is now saying we're taking it very seriously. We're putting a lot of credence in what is coming from Chinese authorities on this. We're wondering why suddenly they are putting more credence into that.

Is it possible that they have heard a recording of these pings? I mean, how do you verify?

SIMON BOXALL, OCEANOGRAPHER: I think, first of all, it's important to point out it occurred at two listenings. That's what we're to use now. So, they're got two sets of pings or rather chirps that they picked up from the transponder on the seabed.

Now, the one concern people have is whether the Chinese have actually measured the ping and got an accurate frequency or whether they're relying on hearing the ping. You can't determine the exact frequency just by hearing. You need to be able to be measuring it, recording it, and then analyzing it.

Now, whether they have done that on the second set of chirps or pings, I don't know. Obviously, this is as good a lead as they've got at the moment and one they certainly need to keep following up. By sending HMS Echo to the area, which has the ideal equipment to get a transponder and a microphone in the deep part of the ocean away from the noisy surface zone, they have a better chance of a clear signal. Hopefully, the transponder will still be transmitting.

BLACKWELL: All right. Mary Ellen O'Toole, former FBI profiler. A few moments ago, Mary Schiavo said she never heard or saw the perfect crime. But this new information about intentionally quite possibly flying around radar, and now 31 days into this mystery and no evidence and no strong leads yet potentially, is this possibly a perfect crime? Have you seen one and could this be it?

MARY ELLEN O'TOOLE, FORMER FBI PROFILER: I have never seen a perfect crime and, after all almost 35 years in law enforcement, I totally agree with Mary. There is no such thing.

There are indicators along the way, there are red flags. People make mistakes. So, there will be, if once this is resolved and hopefully it will be, we'll see that here is where this individual made mistakes. And I think what really becomes important, though, is this.

If this was intentionally done, if this was preplanned and someone is very strategic and someone is very skilled, we're not looking for the boogie man here. We're looking for someone that's going to come across in their background investigations as being very sound. Someone that seems to be very normal and someone that just seems to be just such a nice person -- he maybe a father, a brother, a mother, we're not looking for someone here that is going to pop up and everybody looks at him and says, that was a creepy off putting person.

I think that becomes important, but, still, a very normal-appearing person would have made mistakes. In my opinion, there's no question about it.

PAUL: We're down to the wire with these pingers and how long they may continue to emit a signal. Richard quest, we have this other new development this morning about Ocean Shield, that it detected some sort of acoustic noise and that was 300 nautical miles away from this new search area where the Chinese said they heard something.

How do you manage a search like this? I mean, does this just muddy the focus? How do we have enough, do we have to bring new resources in?

QUEST: Well, listen to he said last night. Ocean Shield stays with its own acoustic event once it determines once and for all it is relevant. If is not relevant, then Ocean Shield moves down where Haixun 01 is.

Meanwhile, HMS Echo is on its way to Haixun-01, and we'll help in that part of the investigation.

To answer the point about why this is so significant, it's got to be seen pieces of the jigsaw which came together last night, Christi, because it wasn't just the pingers and it wasn't just the two audible, detectible ocean -- detectible acoustic events. At the same time, they have refined the satellite data. They now believe they have a better idea where in the southern corridor the actual plane will have entered the water.

And to quote Angus Houston from last night, "The area is in the highest probability is now in the southern" -- bring the map up and you'll see where I'm talking about, is now probably in the southern part of the area, pretty close to where Haixun 01 is operating. That is why we are so interested in the two encounters that have taken place.

In other words, they are at the lower part of those pink boxes, just about where the pulse was detected. And that is why so much effort and so many resources are being pulled into that area where they heard the double acoustic event.

BLACKWELL: And we're going to will talk about those resources. We want everyone to stay exactly where you are. We're going to pick up this conversation on the other side of a break and we're also going to talk about skepticism, because there is a healthy degree of skepticism about these pings and the latest information as well.

PAUL: Yes, and hope is good. There's no doubt about it. And we're hoping for these families, first and foremost. But there's still so little that's been confirmed. We're going to have the latest for you. Stay close.


TONY ABBOTT, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: While the best brains and the best technology in the world will be deployed, we need to be very careful about coming to hard and fast conclusions too soon.




HOUSTON: This morning, we were contacted by the Chinese authorities and advised that Haixun 01 had late yesterday afternoon re-detected the signals for 90 seconds within just two kilometers of the original detection. This is an important and encouraging lead, of one which I urge you to continue to treat carefully.


PAUL: Breaking news on the search for missing Malaysian Flight 370. A source tells CNN that that plane may have been trying to avoid radar detection intentionally by skirting the coast of Indonesia. Also developing this morning, the hunt for the plane's black boxes.

BLACKWELL: Yes, Chinese search crews said they detected two pulses that matched the frequency of the digital flight data recorder pings. British naval vessel is en route right now to investigate.

Let's bring in our panel of aviation experts back in.

I want to start with Captain Gurley, knowing what we know about the methods used by the Chinese, the areas that the Chinese and the Australians picked up these acoustic events and these new, kind of shifted flight path in the southern Indian Ocean, is there one of these events, these acoustic events that you have a stronger feeling about than the other?

CAPT. VAN GURLEY, FORMER NAVAL OCEANOGRAPHER: Well, Victor, I think right now all of them, I would put in the same category of wait and see. One of the things that would give me more confidence on the Chinese reports if we had more technical detail on exactly what they detected and measured. How are they determining what the center of frequency, is it really 37.5 kilohertz? Which wouldn't match.

But until we know how they measured that or estimated that, I'm a little skeptical. Also, there's other things with the signal parameters, how often it repeated and how wide was each pulse? Those types of technical details, or what they should measure with the equipment on Echo or Ocean Shield, to give us very good confidence and, in fact, we're on the right thing.

Until then, it's one more lead we need to run down because up until now, both Ocean Shield and Echo have heard at different times, things Echo, report from a few days ago, they finally discounted. Ocean Shield is still reinvestigating.

But we need to threat these things very cautiously until we have more technical details to really confirm what it is we think we heard.

PAUL: Very good point. Let me go to Simon Boxall, oceanographer, on that.

So, we know that they heard something for 90 seconds. Is that enough time, Simon, you know to establish solidly that 37.5 kilohertz that would match a black box emission?

BOXALL: As our previous speaker said, it depends entirely on what they're using to measure. If they've got proper reporting equipment to determine the frequency as being exactly 37.5 with (INAUDIBLE) either side, then they have enough information to determine a pinger. That pinger could be a number of sources, the most likely source is the black box, but that's not unique. The (INAUDIBLE) industry as a way of detecting equipment on the seafloor, detecting equipment in the water, as well.

But, if it's purely listening through hydrophones, listening through microphones effectively with earphones, and then saying it sounds about right, you get similar chirps from dolphins and from orcas. So, it could be the black box sitting on the sea bed which would be fantastic because it means we can hone in from an 85,000-square-mile search to five to six-square-mile search, which goes from impossible to the probable.

Until we get that confirmation, we can't confirm that. Echo will help that.

BLACKWELL: Richard, there were some skepticism, I think it was from Angus Houston last night at that news conference about there being on Friday from the Chinese, one period of hearing these pings or this acoustic event and then on Saturday, another and he said that he would have expected an extended continuous sound.

Could that possibly not be this continuous acoustic event as they described it, being attributed to the battery dying? I mean, when a battery dies on a pinger on a black box, does it go in and out or when it dies, it's done?

QUEST: No, the skepticism or at least the comment that the air chief marshal made, basically talking about the fact they're intermittent. And that's he said what they are really looking for, because of the nature you played earlier, the pinging noise and because of the nature of it, ping, click, it repeats and repeats and repeats. And it doesn't suddenly just stop or it doesn't drift in and out.

Our understanding of what happens is that this can -- you can often, you can often, it can often cease to make that noise either because of wave action or because of the boat motion or any of those sort of reasons. And that's why he said it was so important to go back and have another listen to make sure to see if they could find it, again.

In terms of the battery, our understanding of that from the company who makes the machines, or which makes the machines is that the pinger doesn't just stop. It's not like a light switch and it doesn't do what you just suggested, which is stop and then start, stop and then start. It's sort of a gradual fade. The signal gets weaker and weaker and weaker and weaker and weaker.

And, of course, obviously, if you then add in wave movement and you add in extraneous circumstances, then that might give the appearance or the effect of it cutting in and out.

BLACKWELL: All right, Richard, thanks.

Mary Ellen O'Toole, Simon Boxall, Captain Van Gurley and Mary Schiavo, thank you all for joining the conversation this morning. We'll continue to talk throughout the day.

PAUL: Thank you.

Now, all morning as we have been talking about the device that the Chinese used, they say it enabled them to hear the pulse signals.

BLACKWELL: Yes, something -- if you look at it, really does not appear to be too sophisticated.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Clearly, this hydrophone does not go as deep as the towed pinger.


PAUL: We're going to take a closer look at this sonar, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

PAUL: Twenty-four minutes past the hour right now, as we continue our coverage of the missing Malaysian plane. This morning, we have new information -- Flight 370 may have flown around Indonesia's air space, possibly to avoid being detected by radar. This is a new flight path that they've calibrated.

BLACKWELL: Yes. And over the last two days, a Chinese ship has picked up two similar signals to those emitted by black box pingers. But they still don't know if it came from the missing plane. So, let's talk about a black box more and actually show you one.

We had this one here in studio courtesy of G.A. Telesis, a company in south Florida. And, of course, this holds the hundreds of parameters, some more than several hundred, but more than 1,000 parameters about the technical elements of a flight. And this will tell investigators exactly what happened, technically on Flight 370.

You see that grayish cylinder on the front. That's the pinger that we've been talking about. That is what is emitting this signal that can be detected up to two nautical miles some estimate. And they are waiting to hear that sound. The battery on the model that was on 370 lasts for about 30 days give or take.

And we are right at that threshold, that battery could die very soon.

PAUL: We sure are. You know, some people have been skeptical, so have you. You know, we've heard it on Facebook and Twitter. You're skeptical about the two pulses detected by this Chinese team, but Australian authorities this morning saying we are putting more credence into this than we were yesterday.

BLACKWELL: Yes, taking it very seriously, Angus Houston said.

As CNN aviation correspondent Rene Marsh tells us, those readings came from a hand-held hydrophone and experts -- well, they are quick to exercise caution about their reliability.

Rene, good morning.

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christi and Victor, we now know about equipment used on the Chinese ship when that pinging sound was reportedly detected. We spoke to the company that makes it and they tell us divers can use it or it can be used handheld from the surface, like the Chinese are doing in this video.

But, clearly, this hydrophone does not go as deep as the towed pinger. Remember, the towed pingers what crews are using onboard the Australian ship Ocean Shield, it can go 20,000 feet deep far away from any noise on the surface.

From this video, you can see this hydrophone got nowhere near it because, again, they're using it from the surface, on top of the water. Now, the reason depth is so important is because you have it be within a one to two-mile radius, to reliably detect the pings from the black boxes. One concern is false positives. The maker of the hydrophones the Chinese are using also says interference from another device in the ocean is possible -- Christi, Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right. Rene, thank you.

PAUL: All right. We're going to look further into several new developments this morning in the search for Flight 370.

Will they point investigators, finally, to this missing plane, especially for the sake of these families?