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Source: Flight 370 Skirted Indonesian Radar; Ships Detect 3 Sounds in Plane Search

Aired April 6, 2014 - 08:00   ET


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us of our special breaking news coverage of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: I want to begin with two of the major breaking developments from overnight, including startling new details about the jet's possible path -- as you just heard there. But let's talk a little more.

A senior Malaysian government official is telling CNN Flight 370 may have been flown on purpose, intentionally, mind you, along a route designed to avoid radar detection.

BLACKWELL: And this comes from a new analysis of radar data that shows the plane flew north of Indonesia and around Indonesian airspace, not across the northern area of Indonesia as previously thought.

Now, this happened after it made that, of course, mysterious left turn and flew across the Malaysian peninsula. Our source says investigators reached their conclusion after reviewing radar track data from neighboring countries.

PAUL: And to 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, we know, is due to arrive six hours from now.

BLACKWELL: And authorities say, the signals, a brief on Friday and then another one Saturday, that lasted 90 seconds, were a little more than a mile apart and would be consistent with the pings from the Malaysian airliners flight recorders. But meantime, an Australian ship, the Ocean Shield, picked up a separate acoustic noise about 300 nautical miles away.

And authorities are treating all these reports with caution.


ANGUS HOUSTON, SEARCH COORDINATOR: This is an important and encouraging lead, but one which I urge you to continue to treat carefully.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PAUL: All right. Let's bring in our panel of experts here. We've got CNN aviation analyst Miles O'Brien, CNN law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes.

BLACKWELL: We are also joined by Chip McCord. He's retired U.S. Navy director of ocean engineering.

Thanks to all of you for joining us.

And I want to start with Tom.

What's your reaction to this new analysis and this new route potentially that someone may have been trying to avoid radar detection?


My question is whether it is really all that new because about the fourth or fifth day into the investigation the Malaysian government said that they then had had reason to remove the computers and search the pilots' homes and further analyze, you know, what was on their computers. At that time they said that they believed the plane was deliberately flown off its course and so this is just further confirmation that they believe, and have believed from almost the beginning, that the plane didn't accidentally or for some other reason go off course, that it was flown on purpose on the course it took.

PAUL: So, Miles, we don't know who was in control of the cockpit. But how difficult is it to figure out how to avoid radar detection? I mean, does a pilot know where to fly specifically geographically to be able to do so undetected?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, certainly an experienced pilot who'd been in that region for quite some time would understand where the radars begin and end and where the radio hand-offs occur. So, it does take a little bit of knowledge and experience, frankly, to understand all of that. And what's also interesting about this route, as it is laid out, is it appears it goes to the designated way pit points that we use in flying, these arbitrary intersections in the sky, if you will, that air traffic control uses to direct traffic.

It makes it simpler than constantly giving people compass directions. You go to the specific intersection. They're all named. And this particular route that is laid out happens to coincide with some of these named intersections. So what it shows it an experienced pilot somewhere in the mix on this. And it's pretty hard to get away from that conclusion.

BLACKWELL: I want to go to Chip McCord next about these acoustic events, these pulses that have been detected, two by the Chinese ship, one by the Australian ship. We've been cautioned to not say these were pings because they could be false positives.

How do you determine had that one or all of them could be false positives short of going 10,000 to 13,000 feet down to look for the box? CHIP MCCORD, U.S. NAVY (RET): Well, if the pinger is still operating and still has enough life in the battery, you should be able to, if you have your system low enough in the water, you should be able to detect it on a continuous basis. Not on just a 90-second pulse.

So, when I hear that they were sending one of the ships to that area, it sound like they have some confidence in the report back from the Chinese that there's something there worth investigating. However, they also said that they have something worth investigating in their area. These guys take a lot of time in determining where to put their assets and had they just don't want to move these ships because it takes a day or two at a time to move them to certain areas and they would lose that valuable search time.

So, they've got something still to investigate where they were before, but they still want to investigate the latest information that they had from the Chinese.

PAUL: Yes, Tom, we know the HMS Echo, the British royal navy vessel, is on its way there now, should be there in about six hours. Once it gets there -- and again, we were watching how the Chinese were trying to pick up these signals. They were doing it with that hydrophone.


PAUL: What is had this ship going to be able to lend that will help of give us more of a definitive answer?

FUENTES: Well, Chris, it obviously would have much more sophisticated equipment than a bunch of guys on a small boat on the surface dropping -- trying to drop something into the water to listen. The listening devices on that ship will go deeper and therefore won't be picking up extraneous noises from the ship itself or other ships in the area.

So, hopefully -- if I could add one more point earlier about the radar. You know, the Asian airports, Jakarta, Singapore, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, are very busy all night long because flights take off from there, not just red eyes but flights take off at that time of day to land during the middle of the day in Europe and other destinations. So flying that path around Indonesia is also flying around busy airspace over Jakarta.

PAUL: OK. Miles, let me go to you. I have a question from Facebook from Lynn that I think a lot of people are probably asking. She said, what is to be gained by flying undetected? If somebody wants to crash a plane, how do you prevent that from happening is her question. I mean, what is the point?

O'BRIEN: Well, yes. You're getting into people's minds here and motives, and this might be an enduring mystery. There is not a black box in the world that tells you motives.

Why would -- why would somebody want to do something that renders a plane disappeared? That's a question that kind of goes beyond aviation and into the psychology, I suppose. I can't come up with a good, easy answer without perhaps looking specifically at an individual -- I'm hesitant at this point to indict an individual. It still could be a hijacking potentially.

But whoever was involved in this hijacking, even though they have said they ruled everybody out in the back of the airplane, somebody had to tap into a lot of knowledge to make this happen.

BLACKWELL: Yes, so many unanswered questions. And, hopefully, there's more than two hours of silence on that cockpit voice recorder when it is recovered.

Miles O'Brien, Tom Fuentes, and Chip McCord, thank you all for joining us this morning.

PAUL: Thank you, gentlemen.

FUENTES: You're welcome.

PAUL: We're going to have an oceanographer weigh in, too, on those pulses detected by a Chinese search team, ask what happens when that British team -- or if that British team, we should say, cannot repeat their findings? Do they abandon this area now?


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.


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


BLACKWELL: That's Angus Houston. He's the retired Australian air chief leading the search effort. Stressing how important the pulse detection is but as you heard, at the same time tempering hopes that we could be on the verge of some important answers.

PAUL: As we've had had two major developments overnight. First, Flight 370 may have been flown in such a way as to deliberately avoid radar detection. That is coming from Malaysian authorities this morning.

Secondly, a British search vessel is racing to the area where a Chinese team reported detecting the pulse signal twice.

So, let's talk about this with Captain Van Gurley, he's the senior manager of Metron Scientific Solution and a former naval oceanographer, and CNN aviation correspondent Richard Quest.

Gentlemen, thank you so much for being with us.

(CROSSTALK) BLACKWELL: All right. Let's start with Captain Gurley.

Is it possible -- and when you look at social media, Facebook and Twitter, and even our conversations in the newsroom -- is it possible that these sounds picked up by the Chinese and picked up by the Australians are both pingers? You have two there, a cockpit voice recorder, the flat die that recorder and it has been more than a month. Could they possibly both be something?

CAPTAIN VAN GURNEY, METRON SCIENTIFIC SOLUTIONS: Well, Victor, that's kind of a hard scenario given the distances apart between these two reported locations. Based on what I've read and what you are reporting, the Ocean Shield thinks they might have heard something in their location, which is about 300 miles from where the Chinese ship thinks it heard something.

In all the scenarios where the plane stays intact and then enters the water, you would expect both of those pingers to be very close together. To be spread out over a long distance, I don't know how you could have that happen. It would require one pinger falling into the water, then the other one continuing to fly for 300 miles. So, I don't think that that is likely at all.

BLACKWELL: If they are still attached to these black boxes.

GURNEY: Correct.

What we saw in the Air France 447 investigation is one of the pingers broke off from one of the black boxes on impact and was never found. But again that's part of the localized debris field. I would not expect a debris field spread over 300 miles for any of the scenarios we are talking about here.

PAUL: Gentlemen, I want to play some sound from one of the family members here real quickly about what she really seems to firmly believe may have happen here. Take a listen.


SARAH BJAC, PARTNER OF PHILIP WOOD: I think I've come to a realization that for sure the flight is still intact and the passengers are still alive because the sequence of information that we've been given actually all points to that. And that was the common theme at the meeting with the families. I believe all the other families feel the same way that I do.


PAUL: Listen, on Facebook and Twitter, I'm hearing the same thing. People believe this thing landed somewhere and these folks might be alive. Is there, do we know, any effort or investigation that's looking at the possibility that that could have happened or have they abandoned that altogether? Richard?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: I'll take that one. If you talk about the northern corridor, that is being discounted completely on the basis of the satellite. Also, the various in 17 countries have said the plane did not crash in their territory.

You take these southern corridor which is where we are exclusively looking, you are really focusing on a few places where potentially the plane could have landed and the one that Sarah is talking about in specifics and the relatives talk about is Diego Garcia, the British base there. We've been told that it hasn't. We haven't been shown any evidence to the effect.

But everything that -- you have to do two things at the same time. You have to respect the families in their grief and their wish to know what happened and their understandable desire to know that their families, that their loved ones are still alive in some way.

And at the same time, you have to balance it with what the experts are telling you about what the evidence, scant though it may be, is showing. That's why the Malaysian prime minister described it as the ending of flight Malaysia 370 in the Indian Ocean. It is why the prime minister says he sympathizes with that view and the prime minister came to the only conclusion he could. But then you balance that with respecting the families' views, and doing what you can, of course, to facilitate those views.

BLACKWELL: Captain Gurley, we know the HMS Echo is headed to the area where the Chinese ship picked up these pulses. If the Echo cannot detect the pulses or anything there, does that negate the Chinese reports? How long should they check and what happens after that? Do they go back to the predetermined search areas?

GURLEY: Victor, that's the great question here. What I would assume is going to happen is when the Echo gets to the location where the Chinese detected their signals, they'll tow the ocean bottom. If there is something there, they should be able to pick it up. It is a very confined area.

But if they do not, I think this goes into the category of all the other leads and pieces of scant evidence that are part of the jigsaw puzzle of this search. Then it becomes a matter for the search teams to figure out how they weigh each piece against the other piece.

The firm I'm with, Metron, we specialize how to do those things using mathematical techniques so each piece of evidence gets a little bit of weight. When you give the correct weightings, then you know next where to look. So, I don't know if they will completely discount it or put this in the category of some place we need to go back to, but it all depends how it matches up with all the other evidence and, unfortunately, we haven't seen every bit of evidence that the search teams have at their disposal to understand how those pieces fit together.

PAUL: All right. Captain Van Gurley and Richard Quest, gentlemen, thank you very much. Thanks for your time with us today.

QUEST: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: So, here's one of the important questions that started yesterday and is continuing to be asked -- has China given Australia any evidence about these pulse signals ha that have been heard? Is there any recording, any print-out from some machine that picks these up? We'll head to Perth, Australia, for more answers.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

PAUL: Twenty-one minutes past the hour right now.

A senior Malaysian official has told us that they have some new information that Flight 370 may have flown around Indonesia's airspace possibly to avoid being detected by radar, that there was an intent here.

BLACKWELL: Yes. And over the last two days, the Chinese ship has picked up two signals similar to those emitted by black box pingers but they still don't know if it came from the missing plane.

CNN's Erin McLaughlin joins us now from Perth.

Erin, where is the evidence here? Is there a recording that's been handed from the Chinese to the Australians, any evidence of this pulse that was detected?

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor, the second acoustic event only lasted around 90 seconds which according to Chinese media was not enough time for them to be able to actually record it but the three people that were on board the dinghy at the time this signal occurred actually say they heard it.

That being said, the Chinese are acknowledging that this does need to be verified, that it does need to be investigated and they have requested assistance from JACC in order to do that. And, of course, as we know, the HMS Echo, the British vessel, is hours away from being able to help in that effort.

But authorities here are taking seriously given the fact that there were two acoustic events two kilometers apart within 24 hours of each other. Also significant the location in line with the new location. Experts are saying the plane most likely went down -- Victor.

PAUL: All right. Erin McLaughlin in Perth, Australia -- Erin, we appreciate it. Thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: And, of course, we'll continue our coverage of the missing Flight 370 later this morning on "STATE OF THE UNION." Host Candy Crowley joins us now.

PAUL: Candy Crowley, what are you most curious about this morning?

CANDY CROWLEY, "STATE OF THE UNION" HOST: Well, I think there are two big questions obviously. You've all been discussing them.

One is, what are those noises that the Chinese ship and Australian ship picked up so far apart? And number two, what are the possibilities since we won't really know what it is until we get more sophisticated equipment into that area. And number two, did that plane, as Malaysian sources are now telling Nic Robertson, deliberately fly outside the radar range of Indonesia and, if so, why?

I think it's the "whys" that always get us and are probably the questions that are -- have the most elusive answers as this point. But we'll discuss that with our experts.

BLACKWELL: All right. Looking forward to it. Candy, thank you.

CROWLEY: Thanks, guys.

BLACKWELL: You can catch "STATE OF THE UNION" at 9:00 a.m. Eastern this morning here on CNN.

PAUL: So, we're talking about underwater sounds. At the end of the day they really sparked some renewed hopes specifically for these families who just want an answer as to what happened.



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


BLACKWELL: That's the head of the Joint Agency Coordination Center, Angus Houston, talking about one of the two major developments in the search for Flight 370 overnight. The first is that Flight 370 may have been flown on purpose along a route designed to avoid radar detection.

PAUL: A senior Malaysian government official is telling CNN a new analysis of radar data shows that plane flew north of Indonesia and around Indonesian airspace after it made that mysterious left turn we've been talking about and flew across the Malaysian peninsula.

Now, in the meantime, 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 should be there in about 5 1/2 hours now. Authorities say the signals would be consistent with the pings from the Malaysian Airlines flight recorders. An Australian ship also picked up another noise. That one was about 300 nautical miles away from where Chinese picked up their ping.

So, authorities are treating all of these with caution.

PAUL: And, of course, this is what they're looking for, a flight data recorder. We have one here on the desk courtesy of G.A. Telesis, a company in South Florida. And the pings would be emitted from that grey cylinder on the front. It's been about 30 days since this would have hit water. Question is, are those batteries still alive sending out that signal?

Thanks for starting your morning with us.

PAUL: Yes, go make some great memories today.

Stick around. "INSIDE POLITICS WITH JOHN KING" starts now.