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Malaysia Releases Flight 370 Report; Communication on Flight 370

Aired May 1, 2014 - 08:30   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: The best military radars in the world, you know, the - the U.S. DEW line radars, f you will, are pretty much plus or minus 3,000 feet or so.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, not so accurate.

O'BRIEN: Not so accurate. Now, you have to assume, frankly, that the radar system, the military radar systems in both Malaysia and Indonesia, you know, they're not prime for, you know, some sort of Cold War threat here. And so their accuracy, once that transponder is turned off - and, remember, the transponder is what sends to radar, it amplifies -- it provides information to the blip, tells you where the aircraft is relative to the ground.

When that gets turned off, all you have is the blip. You have two dimensions instead of three. And so that's why we've been getting all this wild stock because frankly either their radar is not good even when it's tuned up, or it's not properly maintained. And so that's why all these altitude numbers that we've been talking about I would heavily discount.

BOLDUAN: Well, at least now we are just beginning to understand the most basic information that they are basing all of their assumptions on and why they believe that the plane has ended up in the southern part of the Indian Ocean, and that's why -- in that highest probability area. For the first time, we're getting a little window into the analysis, this complex analysis that has been going on with these high-level groups in Australia, in Malaysia.

Miles, stick with us. David, stick with us. We have a lot to go through. We're really just scratching the surface. And we've got a lot of information to weed though. Thank goodness we have some of the smartest people here to help us.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, we're going to continue to go through this report. Richard Quest is going to be back with us with new information about that four-hour gap that he was talking about from when the plane disappeared until the search, the real rescue effort, was launched. We'll be right back.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, welcome back to NEW DAY. To be sure, we do have breaking news. Malaysian officials just released the report of the disappearance of Flight 370. It says there was a four-hour gap from the moment the plane was missing until the start of the rescue attempts. Even more importantly, until they were able to track it again. And that's going to be a big, open question as to why.

We have our team of experts with us. Let's bring in David Soucie, we have Miles O'Brien and we, of course, have Richard Quest.

First, as we reset here, what do we now have?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Right. Let's have the documents that have been given to us in the last 20 minutes. We have the preliminary report, the basic bare bones, this is what happened. We also have a tick tock. Twenty minutes ago I said we needed it. Now we have the tick tock. What did air traffic control actually say? We have a seating plan. Which of the poor (ph) passengers were sitting in which part of the aircraft? We have details on the cargo manifest. Those mangosteens, those -

CUOMO: Lithium batteries.

QUEST: Lithium batteries. We now know who was shipping what, where, when and how and how they were all shipped. Important information. And we have these crucial maps that show how they have worked out where the plane may have ended up.

CUOMO: Now that's going to be most important.

QUEST: Right.

CUOMO: And we want to go through it in detail and we want to bring in our guys for it as well.

But, we also have the real clean audio of the cockpit as well now, right, because we'd only heard it through the speakerphone that was being played for families.

QUEST: Correct.

CUOMO: So you're able to get a sense of tone. You're getting able to sense of that ambient energy that was going on in the cockpit, which would be relevant in assessing what's going on.

QUEST: Well, it's not the cockpit voice recorder, obviously. That's still --

CUOMO: Right. Right.

QUEST: It is the air traffic control recording.

CUOMO: Right.

QUEST: Between Ho Chi Minh, Kuala Lumpur and the cockpit.

CUOMO: Right. But that matters-


CUOMO: Because just within less than 10 minutes after that conversation -

QUEST: Absolutely.

CUOMO: Something very dramatic happened. All right.

QUEST: It's all happened up here, right.

CUOMO: So, do we have David? Do we have Miles? Can we bring them in so that everybody can point out what matters? All right, fellas, good. It's good to have the band together.

So, let's look at this first map. And, Richard, you take the lead on this. And then, fellas, you weigh in with what you want us to focus on that we're seeing here. What do we now know from a hard data standpoint of what they understand about what happened?

QUEST: OK. So, let's just follow this through. Here's the plane. It leaves Kuala Lumpur and it goes up to the last civil radar point. What this now tells us is the last transmission from ACARS, this is the automatic reporting system, is at 17:06. This is all, by the way, in universal time. It's not in - so this is the way it's all been done. 17:06. The last civil radar point is at 17:22. That's the last time that the plane is being tracked officially when it's handed over from one to the next.

CUOMO: Now, for context, when does the conversation, the last conversation, with the cockpit happen?

QUEST: That happens here.


QUEST: That happens here.

CUOMO: So this is that calm, completely unimpressive, unextraordinary conversation of them just handing off and saying good night?

QUEST: That's the famous "good night Malaysia 370." That is when whoever's in control of the plane is told contact Ho Chi Minh on 120.9.

CUOMO: All right, Miles, Richard will get us to the next point of interest. From your perspective, Miles, what do you think?

O'BRIEN: Well, a couple of things. It appears there was about a 16- minute period of time as to -

QUEST: Seventeen.

O'BRIEN: Seventeen? Is that right?

QUEST: Sorry, I didn't think my microphone was open. Yes, 17 between the handover when they last saw on the -- it's - it's (INAUDIBLE).

O'BRIEN: Oh, I see. I'm sorry, I went 22 being the last civil radar point.

QUEST: Yes. Yes.

O'BRIEN: OK, it's 17 or 16 minutes depending on which you count -


O'BRIEN: Before Ho Chi Minh City first inquired about MH-370. And while they do not release the Ho Chi Minh City side of the equation, there is, as Richard's been pointing out, a very detailed timeline as to what was going on between the two air traffic control centers. There's also this interesting point that Malaysian Airlines ops indicated to Kuala Lumpur air traffic control that the aircraft was in Cambodian airspace. That one I can't -- Richard, do you have any thoughts on that one? That -

QUEST: This is -

O'BRIEN: And they actually queried - they actually queried Phnom Penh to check further with a supervisor and -

QUEST: This is fascinating. Fascinating, Miles.

O'BRIEN: What was that all about? What - how -- why would Malaysian Airlines ops have that supposition? I don't know where that came from.

David, you got any on that one?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Yes, I do, because Phnom Penh, remember, if you're going to turn around to go to a maintenance base, that's where you go.

O'BRIEN: Right.

SOUCIE: So, to me, the reason for that turnaround has something to do with maintenance because if you're going to head down, people say, well, they're not going directly towards Phnom Penh, they're going around. So if you're coming around, that's where it would put you. So you'd come down across the island where they had that last ping before it went down to 5,000 feet or below. That's where you would make your turn to come back around to connect with the bottom near Kuala Lumpur.

O'BRIEN: All right, here's what --


CUOMO: So, hold on, Miles --

O'BRIEN: Richard - Richard -


CUOMO: Miles, remember, you guys, David, Miles, Richard, always keep in mind, you know much more about this and have sophistication that at home they're not having -

SOUCIE: Yes, I'm sorry.

CUOMO: So let's keep it very simple.

O'BRIEN: Right.

CUOMO: You're talking about who monitored what and then told whom?

QUEST: So what we have here is Kuala Lumpur basically being told by Malaysian Airlines that they believe that the plane has received information that it's in Cambodian airspace. But this is the one and only -- the first time we've ever heard this. I think we're going to have to put it as a red herring -

SOUCIE: That's right (ph).

QUEST: Because what happens, this happens at 2:03. The plane goes missing at 1:38.

O'BRIEN: Yes, but, Richard, Richard, at item nine on this -


O'BRIEN: 2:15.


O'BRIEN: It indicates that the Kuala Lumpur air traffic control watch supervisor queried Malaysian Airlines ops, which is the airline operations desk, and informed that the flight was able to exchange signals with the flight and was flying in Cambodian airspace. But none of that is reflected on the very map that they released. So I'm trying to figure out this inconsistency.

QUEST: What this document shows is at 2:03 Cambodia is first mentioned. And at 2:15, we hear Cambodia mentioned again. And what -- this is the four-hour gap, by the way. This is the four - this what happened in the four -

CUOMO: It's the beginning of it.

QUEST: Yes. Well, it's pretty much all of it. It goes from 1:38 all the way to 5:40. What it tells - oops, excuse me.

CUOMO: Let me get -- that's all right.

QUEST: What it tells me is it's the classic, classic confusion that happens in these situations. "A" says to "B," have you seen the plane? "B" says to "D," oh, where's that plane? "D" says back to "A," I thought you saw it? Meanwhile, "C" says back to "D," oh, by the way, have you still not seen it? And this goes on for hours.

CUOMO: Right. So let's break down what this conversation means to regular people. David Soucie, when it says, "watch supervisor queried Malaysia Airlines ops who informed that MH-370 was able to exchange signals with the flight and flying in Cambodian airspace." MH-370 is the plane. What's the difference between the plane and the flight?

SOUCIE: Well, it's important to point out that the ACARS -- remember the ACARS here.

CUOMO: Right.

SOUCIE: The ACARS is what's getting that information and it's sending to ops. Operations is the one who is communicating with the airplane digitally. Not necessarily through voices or anything else.

CUOMO: Right.

SOUCIE: It's sending that information through the ACARS up to the satellite and back down to ops. Ops is then saying, we think it's in Cambodian airspace. That doesn't mean that they know that it is. What it means is that we expect it to be there.

QUEST: And then - and at 2:18, Kuala Lumpur queries if the plane is supposed to be going through Cambodian airspace. Ho Chi Minh says it wasn't.

SOUCIE: That's right.

QUEST: Ho Chi Minh checked. Cambodia advised. Backwards and forwards it goes. Ho Chi Minh confirms, ATC (ph) and onwards and backwards and forwards.

CUOMO: So, can we say then that it didn't go that way?

QUEST: Correct.

CUOMO: It can be ruled out.


CUOMO: And now we know why it can be ruled out.

QUEST: Yes. This is just stuff.

CUOMO: OK. Good.

QUEST: This is the air traffic control noise.

CUOMO: So that's what we can rule out. What do we now have to start about ruling in? What do we learn from what they see here in hard data points?

QUEST: Right. So the plane crosses a -- goes over this -- over the country.

CUOMO: All right. We know that happens. QUEST: But looking back, and this is the -- this is the smoking gun. I've always said it from day one, if you look back in the four-hour gap, there seems to be almost no moment when the military is asked, did you see -- have you seen anything?

CUOMO: Now -

QUEST: And the military is clear -

O'BRIEN: All right, here -

QUEST: Go ahead.

CUOMO: Go, Miles.

O'BRIEN: I have a -- go to item 16, Richard. This is at 0330.


O'BRIEN: This is interesting. And it indicates here that the Malaysian Airlines operations center called up air traffic control in Kuala Lumpur and said that all this information that they had previously been giving them about possibly going to Phnom Penh and into Cambodia was based on flight projection and not reliable for aircraft positioning.

SOUCIE: Right.

O'BRIEN: So here's what happens in my view just off the top is the whole red herring in the fray, as Richard's been well describing the confusion, the fog of war, if you will, about it going over into Cambodian airspace probably is why we had such a delay in any sort of response in the way of military fighters, intercepts and so forth. They thought it was in Cambodia. They didn't know where it was. And for some reason, Malaysian Airlines ops was telling air traffic control, oh, call Phnom Penh, we think it's in Cambodia, when it wasn't.

QUEST: Right. And, for obvious - or for reasons that we don't understand, the military, which is actually looking at this plane in real time --

CUOMO: We know that it is?

QUEST: Yes, the prime minister admitted it in the interview with me. The prime minister said there was a radar operator -- I now believe it's some fairly junior radar operator, who was looking at it during the night. He saw it - or they saw it going across, and that radar operator believed it was a civil plane and therefore -- but the military was not part of that discussion. And the military either wasn't monitoring or it's not their standard operating procedure. So as the plane goes across Malaysia, nobody thinks -- they're all thinking it's somewhere up there. Nobody thinks to say --

CUOMO: But again, we now know that there's good reason, from the military and the civil side, to know that it did go this way. And everything keeps making sense. The Cambodia does not make sense, so forget it.

QUEST: Here's the really worrying thing. Cambodia or otherwise -- Cambodia or otherwise, they still didn't know where the plane was, and they still didn't have contact with the aircraft.

CUOMO: Right.

QUEST: And that goes on for many, many more hours, particularly if you look at the hours from 2:00, 3:00 and 4:00. There were whole hours when nothing happens. 3:30, K.L. inquired if Ho Chi Minh had checked with the next station. 3:56, K.L. queried Malaysia airlines. 4:25, Ho Chi Minh. These are half-hour blocks of a plane that's been missing for several hours, and nobody is thinking, we'd better sound the alarm.

O'BRIEN: And get this, though.


O'BRIEN: The last item, Richard, quick point, item 24. The first mention of search and rescue comes at 6:14 -- 6:14. And Kuala Lumpur air traffic control queries Ho Chi Minh City and asks if a search and rescue had been activated. Where would the plane be at that point, Richard, you know?

QUEST: You're thinking my thoughts, Miles.

CUOMO: But hold the thoughts and here's why. We're going to take a break. When we come back, there's good and bad reason for why they were communicating and not being able to understand where the plane was, and then there becomes new data that they'll have that gives them their different search coordinates. We'll take you through all of it right after the break.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Malaysian 370 please identify (inaudible)


CUOMO: All right. That is the actual cockpit recording of what was going on between air traffic control and the pilots of Malaysian Flight 370. We have as part of the new report that Malaysian authorities just released, the actual sound which will be helpful in assessing what the mood was in there at the last time they had communication. We have our experts here, Richard Quest, Miles O'Brien, we have David Soucie going through this. The commercial break is helpful because it allows us to keep reading through and parse the data.

Where we had worked through so far Richard, Miles and David, is that we know for a fact the last point that there was communication. We understand now why they know that the plane crossed Malaysia. We have a big question about why there was such poor communication in finding where this plane was for some four hours. And that takes us to where we were in our analysis.

It's now four hours. They still don't know where the plane is. Then what happens?

QUEST: Right. So let's jump right the way down to how they believe where the plane finally ended up. Forget about all this stuff up here. We move further down. This is the route of the aircraft as they believe. Guys, jump in at any stage. The plane comes down this routing.

CUOMO: How do we know?



QUEST: This is the INMARSAT --

CUOMO: The pings.

QUEST: Well, because we've got pings under water, let's call them handshakes.

CUOMO: Handshakes.

QUEST: To be clear. These are the six --


CUOMO: Yes. David.

SOUCIE: Yes, I was just going to say, it might be easier to at least in my mind, which is probably different than most, but is the 40- degree mark from the satellite gives us the arc in the first place, and then we use the Inmarsat data to go backwards and track that out. See what I'm saying?


SOUCIE: I thought it was the other way around at first.

CUOMO: Why does 40-degree angle matter from the satellite? Why is that relevant?

SOUCIE: Because that gives you a cone. If you look 40 degrees down from the satellite, it gives you that arc all the way around the satellite, 360 degrees. So that's what draws the initial arc. Then the INMARSAT data verifies where on the arc it is.

QUEST: I know little about this satellites and arcs, David. It is the last transmission when it was on the arc of 40 degrees from the satellite. So that is the last bit down here where it's on 40 degrees. SOUCIE: That's right.

O'BRIEN: I hope we're not confusing people with all this. For those of us who didn't do so well in math.

SOUCIE: How could we not?

O'BRIEN: Basically, the Inmarsat circles, what we're drawing, all they're doing is measuring the time it takes for the signal to travel from the plane to the satellite. And as it moves, that changes by milliseconds. That's how you get those circles on the map.

And that's all we're talking about here, all the other stuff you don't need to -- you don't have to understand the math.

CUOMO: Right. What I'm saying is -- Miles, you're making the right point because the perspective is what matters here. We're just saying I don't care about the angle or anything else. I'm just saying from the new data that we have, there's now a basis for confidence in what they did in terms of plotting data points of where this plane might be. That's the point that we now know. So the question is where did that lead us?

QUEST: Because what they had to do, they knew the distance from the satellite. What they had to do was work out the potential destination bearing in mind speed and altitude.

CUOMO: Right.

QUEST: And here we have, for example, speed 323 knots, 30,000 feet. I'm not sure why at the bottom we've got 350 knots, 3,000 feet.

O'BRIEN: Richard, I think what they did, they picked three altitudes and chose the red line speed at those three altitudes. That's basically what they used -- low altitude, the medium and the high altitude.

CUOMO: And Miles, that explains -- correct me if I'm wrong -- why these lines go from being very tight to then they start to broaden out like fingers because they started working off different assumptions?

O'BRIEN: Yes. All they're trying to do is find out the range.


O'BRIEN: And that's the key. They know the circle. But where on the circle is it? That's a function of the range of the aircraft. That has a lot to do with the altitude and the speed. They know how much fuel was on board, but they didn't know the altitude and the speed. So they put in three factors, low altitude, medium altitude and a high altitude, and they chose the speed which is what they call red line which is what you would safely fly at those altitudes.

And that's why we have those three boxes. That really gives us an idea of how they came up with those boxes. We supposed that before, but we never had the detail on how they came up with those locations. CUOMO: All right. And then lastly, as we get into why we understand why this happened, the big questions, Richard, what do you believe are the big questions that remain now after seeing what's here?

QUEST: After seeing what's in this report, the biggest question still comes back up to this area. It still goes back to those hours when the plane went missing. This will not answer what happened in the cockpit. But it will answer why nobody saw the plane going across the country, why nobody did anything about it, and after Air France, why it did take 2:00 onwards, four hours in total, say two hours being charitable to do anything about it.

CUOMO: Now, there's more to go through because we have the cargo manifest, we have the passenger logs. There's a lot of information and appendices that came out after -- more information after the initial report came. We're going to keep going through that.

We're going to take a break right now, though -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely right. We're going to have much more on the breaking news on this report about Flight 370 -- a lot to work through, more than maybe some had expected we were going to get this morning. You want to stick with us on that.

And also, the latest on the severe storms that are slamming the East Coast. What to expect today when "NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello" starts right after this break.