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News Signals Detected in Search for MH-370; New Clues in Search for MH-370; What Would 5,000-Foot Dip Feel Like on MH-370.

Aired April 10, 2014 - 11:30   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Ahead for us AT THIS HOUR, we're going to go live to Perth in Australia for details on the new pings detected just hours ago, detected in a different way. This time, it was a search plane looking and listening for any trace of flight 370. How much of a difference does this make?


BERMAN: AT THIS HOUR, breaking news really on several fronts in the mystery of flight 370. CNN sources say after the plane took that mysterious left turn right there, it disappeared from radar, flying about 120 nautical miles over Malaysia before reappearing. So was it deliberately flown low to about 5,000 feet to avoid radar detection? That's a key question.

Plus, Malaysia is now just confirming that its air force did send aircraft out to search for flight 370 shortly after it was reported missing. That is brand-new information some 34 days into this investigation. And our sources say investigators are now confident that it was the pilot who was the last person to speak to air traffic controllers. That would be the voice heard saying, "Good night, Malaysian 370." For weeks, we were told it was the co-pilot who said the last words.

Major developments also in the search for the wreckage of flight 370. New signals have been detected today.

For more on that side of the story, let's go live now to Will Ripley. He is in Perth, Australia, where the search is being coordinated.

And, Will, this time it was a plane, not a boat, with a towed pinger locator, but it was a plane that detected the signals. Fill us in.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, exactly right, John, an Australian air force P-3 Orion. These planes are the backbone of the search operation. They're trying something new now as they try to get as many pings as possible before the batteries in those black boxes run out.

So the plane flew out over the search area and dropped a bunch of SONAR buoys, it means SONAR buoy. The they're equipped with lisping devices and they listen for possible sounds. We know one of those buoys detected a sound. Just within the last 20 minutes, we confirmed new information about it. The sound is not 37.5 kilohertz, which the black box manufacturer tells us is the standard signal for this particular type of device that was on 370.

But we're told that it is in a range that makes investigators strongly believe that this is a manmade signal. So we know the data is actually being analyzed right now. The analysis will continue overnight. And if they have something to report, if they can confirm that they think this is also from a black box, we could learn that as early as tomorrow morning. Perth time, it would be late in the evening on the east coast where you are -- John?

BERMAN: So just to be clear, when they were picking up signals from the towed pinger located, they're saying that was in a slightly different frequency as well. They explain that by saying because of the long ocean distances and the cold, the frequency could be changed. Even if the pings were getting weaker because it was so old, would it be the same type of explanation in theory for this detection?

RIPLEY: Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely because, you know, those other pings were averaging around the 33 kilohertz range. So obviously, less than 37.5. And they still believe those pings were coming from these data recorders. They are getting weaker. We know the batteries are getting weaker. The microphone might have been a different distance away.

This new signal within this range, which is why they think they have a strong lead here. And this is really the strongest lead that we have because we're just minutes away from entering day 35, John. Still, not one single piece of physical debris from this plane despite all the daily flights that are searching for it.

BERMAN: No debris. That is one of the great mysteries here. But every time they get an additional ping under water there, it does narrow that search even more.

Will Ripley, live for us in Perth, Australia, with new details. Appreciate it, Will.

Ahead for us AT THIS HOUR, the Malaysians say they think the plane dipped to between 4,000 feet and 5,000 feet. So is this credible? If it happened, was it to avoid radar? What are the implications? Could this have been programmed into the flight computer? We'll ask all these questions, coming up next.


BERMAN: We turn now to the coverage of the missing plane, flight 370. This morning, investigators have found a few more clues, they say, in the hunt for the jetliner. Searchers heard another possible signal from the jet's data recorders.

Also, some fascinating new details on many levels about what happened the night that the plane vanished. Malaysian officials say it disappeared from military radar for about 120 nautical miles. They have deduced that it may have disappeared because it dipped to between 4,000 and 5,000 feet.

Malaysian officials are now also saying that air force search aircraft scrambled to search for the plane, but they say they did not inform search operations about this until three days later. Interesting, because they were searching primarily in the Straits of Malacca. And then, when they went to look for debris, they were looking in an altogether different place.

Let's bring in David Soucie to tell us what this new information means.

David, specifically, the notion that this plane disappeared from radar for about 120 nautical miles, and what the Malaysians have deduced is a dip to below 5,000 feet. Why would a plane do that? They suggest that when you dip that low, the pilots could have been trying to avoid the frequently traveled air corridors. Does that make sense?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: This makes sense to me but air corridors are not 120 miles wide. Why would he drop down and come back up like a helicopter? I don't understand that information at all.

Now, if what they're saying is this is the mark at which it went off and came back on, that makes a little more sense because you could said it went to this point and went to this point and came back into radar, came back up again. But, again, that doesn't make sense either because why would you do that?

Now, here's what does make sense. Is if a thunderstorm, a rainstorm, anything came between that radar and that space of time, which was 24 minutes -- is how long it would take at 300 knots -- between that 24 minutes, that would make sense. It happens all the time on radar.

BERMAN: It makes more sense to you than suggesting it dipped to 4,000 feet. Again, sticking on what they say, at least, though, could it have been something mechanical? There was an emergency which caused them, you know, to take the plane that low?

SOUCIE: OK, so let's back up on this, then. Some reason that air craft took a hard left turn and the transponder went out. I would say that would be the most likely place that an emergency occurred. But he didn't drop there. He flew all the way across Malaysia before he then dropped to 5,000 feet, according to what they're saying. That doesn't make any sense to me either.

If you had a problem and you knew you had a problem, when you're doing not doing enough to come off of your route from Beijing, not call anybody, my radios don't work, nothing's happening, it's not working, then all of a sudden, halfway down say, oh, now I've got a problem, now I've got to go to 5,000 feet.


SOUCIE: It doesn't make sense.

BERMAN: What about the idea that it got back up to altitude again? Is this something, David, that can be programmed in?

SOUCIE: Well, not really programmed in -- it could be programmed in. But again, you'd have to set that up as part of your flight plan.

BERMAN: So you'd have to say I'm going to drop to 5,000 feet, then go back up to 35,000 feet, and you would have had to have done that at the beginning.

SOUCIE: At the beginning or you could have done it after you made that turn. You have a little time there, you could have programmed that in or put it into what we call the scratch pad. You transfer that information in. That's only going to have one-way point or very little information on a scratch pad. It's not something you could put a whole flight plan in.

BERMAN: We have a viewer question I want to read. People sending us a lot of questions on Twitter and Facebook. And I encourage you all to do that. The viewer question is this: If the plane dipped no you to this 4,000 or 5,000 feet, then went back to cruising altitude, what are the implications there for the fuel supply?

SOUCIE: Really, it's interesting because looking at the schedule of fuel on that aircraft, if you are going at 400 knots at 35,000 feet, the fuel burns about 7,000 pounds. If you go down to 12,000 feet -- and I don't know what it is at 5,000 -- if you're at 5,000 feet going 200 knots, it's 6,000. It's barely any different at all. It's not that big of a difference in fuel burn at that altitude if you're going slow.

And you can't go much faster because it breaks the speed of sound and the airplane is not built for that and that would take it down. So you can't -- at that altitude, the speed of sound is only going to be 280, 200 knots.

BERMAN: David Soucie, it's great to have you here. We have this new information, we want to know what it means. But in some cases, it just doesn't make sense, so it's important to keep asking the questions.

Great to have you here. Really appreciate it.

SOUCIE: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: Ahead AT THIS HOUR, we're going to keep going on these startling new revelations about this possible drop in altitude. What would that dip, if it fell below 5,000 feet, what would that look like in the cockpit? What would that feel like in the cockpit? We've got the man who can show us when we come back.


BERMAN: This could be a key piece of information in the flight 370 puzzle. Word from Malaysian officials today that they now believe the jet dipped to an altitude as low as 5,000 feet, maybe even 4,000 feet when it disappeared from military radar. So what would that feel like? Let's get a sense of that.

Our Martin Savidge is in a Boeing 777 flight simulator.

Guys, a lot of people think that this sounds almost impossible. Is it?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Morning, John. Not impossible. It definitely could be done. I think what we're missing out of the equation here is over what kind of time frame did they go from a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet down to an extremely low altitude for an aircraft like this at 4,000

I mean, we were just calculating, and how long, Mitchell, it would take if you did it at a reasonable descent rate?

MITCHELL CASADO, PILOT: Reasonable descent, you could get it done in 15-20 minutes.

SAVIDGE: What we've done, so we set the scenario here, we are flying over the Strait of Malacca, just as the aircraft has done in a northerly direction. And right now, we're at 6,000 feet because we figured you didn't want us to talk for 15, 20 minutes as we took you all the way down. Over the right side of the aircraft, you have the northern part of Malaysia, and in the distance, the island of Sumatra.

If you were to bring an airplane this big, I mean, a jumbo jet flying at 4,000 feet over the Strait of Malacca, I mean --


CASADO: You'd be making quite a noise footprint. Even at that time of night, you'd be waking people up. It's very loud and it's huge. People would see it, no problem.

SAVIDGE: The other thing that struck me was the fact that the Strait of Malacca is one of the biggest shipping lanes in the world. Probably 6,000 or more go through it every year, if not higher. No one pointed out the aircraft flying that low flying over the strait? I find it kind of interesting. Now, it was 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning, so it's possible.

But why would they do it? And this is the real question. Trying to hide from radar? Possibly. Did they have a cabin emergency where they had descended because they needed to get down to a level so people could breathe? You reach that at 10,000 feet. So at 4,000, you really -- well, you either really want to avoid or try to avoid radar or you are really grappling to keep the aircraft in control.


BERMAN: And they say this happened over a stretch of 120 nautical miles. That's how long it disappeared from radar, how long they deduce it dropped at this altitude before coming up at a higher altitude. That's what leads me to believe, Martin, it happened very quickly. So, Martin and Mitchell, could this happen over 120 nautical miles?

SAVIDGE: Well, if they dipped off the radar -- we're basically saying they were off the radar 120 miles. There's so much we don't know.

What do you read out of that? (CROSSTALK)

CASADO: 120 miles, it doesn't really -- it sounds to me like they were trying to fly VFR, visual flight rules, low to the ground. There's two ways to fly and airplane, instruments and looking outside. That altitude is more VFR. So they were trying to navigate looking at the shoreline, this and that, that's what I'm thinking.

SAVIDGE: But it didn't have to be dramatic is what we're saying. It wasn't like they crashed down to that level. It could have been a little more subtle from that.

BERMAN: Interesting they had the time to do it. Information you only get from inside that flight simulator.

Martin Savidge, Mitchell Casado, great to have you with us AT THIS HOUR. We appreciate it.

Ahead for us, one mother recalls her fight to keep her infant son alive in the moments after a landslide slammed through her home.


AMANDA SKORJANC, MUDSLIDE SURVIVOR: I said, stay with me, bud. I asked God to not take him instead of me.



BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. The death toll has now risen to 36 in last month's disastrous landslide in Washington State. Four of those bodies still not identified. 10 people are still missing as search crews keep digging through the debris and muck, now as much as 70 feet.

In the meantime, in one of the tragedies, and few survivors recounting how the mountain gave way and how she managed to keep her infant son in her arms.


SKORJANC: I looked out our front door and it was like a movie. Houses were exploding. The next thing I remember, the next thing I see is our neighbor's chimney coming into our front door. And I turned and I held Duke, and I did not let him go. As soon as I heard that voice, somebody screaming, to see if anybody was there -- as soon as I heard that voice, I knew that he was going to be OK.


BERMAN: In Kansas City, police are telling motorists to remain vigilant after 13 shootings on major roads. Some drivers are nervous and have been making detours to avoid the area. Official officials say at least several of the shootings are leading and increased patrols in that area. That's terrifying? More than seven million people have signed up for the Affordable Care Act. Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced this new total this morning on Capitol Hill. The White House confirmed 400,000 more people have signed up since the president announced on April 1st, that his signature social program had surpassed or at least met its original goal.

In the premiere of "Parts Unknown," Anthony Bourdain heads to India, where he takes a white-knuckled ride up the Himalayas.


ANTHONY BOURDAIN, HOST, PARTS UNKNOWN: Twisting up further into the Himalayas, I find myself at a place known as the Land of the Gods. Nearly every village credited with having its own deity.


BOURDAIN: Getting there, you might have an opportunity to meet one of those deities as you tear around no guardrail mountain roads overlooking terrifying drop-offs.

I can do heights; I've done the jumping out of planes thing a number of times. I feel it looking over a precipice like that one. I feel it in my knees. You know, like if my knees could vomit with terror, they would be. They'd be vomiting with terror right now.

They should have little underwear stops on this road where you could get a fresh pair. Every couple of miles, it's like, ooh, that was scary.


BERMAN: Scary, but that dude has the best job on earth. Hitch a ride to India with Anthony Bourdain this Sunday on CNN at 9:00 p.m. eastern. It is a great premier.

So, before we leave you, a quick thanks to all of you who liked our Facebook page. We are growing, folks, look at that, 142,000 likes. Be the next one. Run, do not walk. We want you to be part of it. Head over to Facebook/thishour and like AT THIS HOUR. You never know what you might find, including revealing behind-the-scenes photos of Michaela Pereira and me. You may not want that. Revealing photos of Michaela Pereira. Join us at Facebook/thishour.

That's all for us today.

"Legal View" with Ashleigh Banfield starts now.