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New Flight 8501 Search Area is the Size of Delaware; Sen. Harry Reid Breaks Multiple Bones; Former NY Governor Mario Cuomo Dies at 82

Aired January 2, 2015 - 10:00   ET


ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS: Carol, Oregon is a touchdown favorite to win the game but that being head, Ohio State, they are 8-0 all time against the Ducks. So, they've got that going for them.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: I think we should keep that in mind, the Ohio State University.

Andy Scholes, thanks so much.

The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM starts now.


COSTELLO: And good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for being with me.

We begin this hour with the race to find the wreckage of AirAsia flight 8501 and all the souls who perished on board. More debris is found floating, including an apparent window panel. Here's a closer look. Experts say it's almost certainly from an aircraft. It will take more scrutiny to confirm that this is from the doomed airliner, though.

Crews are battling foul weather, but have managed to pull 30 bodies from the Java Sea. Technicians on land have identified four of the bodies, and the search for the main wreckage narrows to just over 2,000 square miles. That's roughly the size of the state of Delaware.

So, let's get the latest from Surabaya, Indonesia. That's where the flight originated and where many of the families are gathered awaiting news.

CNN's Andrew Stevens is there.

Hi, Andrew.


The line here today is that search frustrations continue just because the weather remains very, very bad. It's slightly better than yesterday, I should add, but conditions are described as challenging. So, the actual visual part of this search has just basically proved to be impossible. Where they're focusing now in that smaller area that you mentioned there, just 2,000 square miles now, is going to be on the underwater sonar, looking at sonar readings, looking at very, very faint whatever they can get on acoustic readings, anything that's a pinging underwater.

They haven't found anything. They haven't told us that anything has turned up yet. So, they're still looking. We've got warships on site. We've got some pretty sophisticated sonar in use. They're still battling pretty tough conditions, but as yet no further progress.

As you mentioned, there are now 30 people have been retrieved from the Java Sea. Just about an hour ago, we were at the naval air base about an hour from here where the bodies are being transported to, to come to this police hospital for identification. The biggest motorcade we've seen far, Carol, 10 ambulances carrying the remains of those passengers. They are now here. They will be identified over the next now hours.

It is a painstaking process to get it exactly right. You can imagine the anguish of the families. It just continues. They don't know when their relative will turn up here. They just have to wait and just hope for the best that the remains come sooner rather than later because everyday this goes on, the pain just gets more and more intense, not knowing where their loved ones actually are, Carol.

COSTELLO: All right. Andrew Stevens, reporting live from Indonesia this morning.

Let's take a closer look at the international search effort. Malaysia, Singapore and the United States among the countries assisting Indonesian authorities. We learned this morning the bodies that you can see being carried here were recovered by the USS Sampson, an American Navy ship that's been on site since Tuesday.

CNN's senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns is following this part of the story.

Hi, Joe.


The USS Sampson is a destroyer, has been deployed for some time. We did receive word that the ship recovered two bodies on Thursday.

Now, the USS Fort Worth has set sail from Singapore, we're told. Still, not clear what's its role is supposed to be. But here's what we know about its capabilities. The U.S. combat ship, it went out on a 16-month deployment starting at the end of December.

Fort Worth is one of the Navy's newest vessels, essentially on its first mission. Its side scan sonar should be use informal the search for the plane. Side scan sonar essentially takes an image of the ocean floor and that, of course, is something they might be able to use.

But we're not clear yet on its role, Carol.


Will the United States be sending any air support?

JOHNS: Right. The U.S. has said it would send aircraft to assist, a P8 Poseidon aircraft, with very unique capability. It can do long range maritime reconnaissance. We don't know precisely how they plan to use this plane, but it can be in essence the controller of a fleet of drones as they look at very specific areas of the sea.

It's also a war-fighting plane but in this mission it's possible the plane's underwater detection capabilities could be called into play, including dropper sonar buoys to try to locate debris.

We're also told two dive teams are being offered up to help in the search, Carol.

COSTELLO: Good to you.

Joe Johns reporting live from Washington this morning. Thank you.

I want to talk more about the search for Flight 8501 with CNN aviation analyst and former inspector general of the U.S. Department of Transportation Mary Schiavo. I'm also joined by Thomas Altshuler. He's the vice president of Teledyne Marine Systems, which manufactures systems that help locate planes.

Welcome to both of you.


COSTELLO: Good morning.

Thomas, I want to start with you because your company makes an underwater SUV that might be used in this search. Can you tell us more about that?

ALTSHULER: So, what we manufacture is an autonomous underwater vehicle that's very similar to the type of vehicle that was used in the MH370 search. It's equipped with side-scan sonars and they're usually relatively high frequency or high image quality side scan. So, if the debris is found being able to image kind of specific features of that system or the airframe will help locate the tail section which is where the black boxes are gong to be.

So, it would be to give the kind of data that's needed to find the black boxes.

COSTELLO: Well, we have word from local reports over in Indonesia that parts of the tail were found. Of course, that's where the black boxes are.

So, that should give us all hope, right, Thomas?

ALTSHULER: Well, yes, this is a relatively shallow water recovery or search-and-recovery. And given that it's that, finding the pieces is going to happen. This is not like MH-370. The tail section is the critical section. If they found those pieces, the time it will take for them to be able to get to the black boxes should be pretty rapid.

COSTELLO: And, Mary, I wanted to ask you about this. I want you to take a look at these pictures. These photos were posted by the Singaporean defense minister and appear to show what look like window panels. What stands out to you?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, it's clear the fuselage was breached and my personal opinion is breached when it went into the water. It couldn't possibly a situation where the plane landed and then settled in. It's cleared the some violent impact as it entered the water.

The pieces that would really be even more telltale would be any control circuits of the plane. For example, the vertical or horizontal stabilizers, any parts of the wing tip controls, and that would say that perhaps if they're far from the wreckage if they separated from the plane in flight. So, it's an important piece knowing that the fuselage was breached, but the air crash investigators looking for why the plane went down will be looking for control surfaces.

COSTELLO: David Soucie told me yesterday that there was this blue suitcase that was found, Mary, that was kept near where the black boxes are. It was intact. What does that tell you?

SCHIAVO: Well, a couple things. One, it says that, again, the fuselage was breached and that it was open and we know that from the number of bodies that they have obtained from the ocean, floating in the ocean.

But that, you know, when it came down and split open, things came out of the plane but the plane was really not ripped apart in the air because things would have been scattered over a much wider area. So, it looks from the wreckage and from the pieces of the plane that we've seen that it impacted the water at obviously very high rate of speed, not a water landing, and objects are coming from the fuselage.

COSTELLO: So, Thomas, I guess the search area is now the size of Delaware, which is pretty sizable but -- I don't know. But, in your estimation, is that so big that it will take forever to perhaps find the entire tail section with the black boxes?

ALTSHULER: No, that really shouldn't take as long as -- well, the pingers in the black boxes will function for 30 days. You're approximately a week in, so you have 24, maybe 24 days left. As they do a search with side scan, the side scan sonar, for instance, the one that was referenced on the navy ship is a relatively low frequency system. It should have a good swath size and so, it will start mowing the lawn. I think we talked about that six months or eight months ago, and try to get the image of the bottom. That search should take several weeks if they don't have a more localized area.

COSTELLO: And, Mary, once they get the plaque boxes to the surface, how long will it take to get the information from the boxes?

SCHIAVO: Well, I think there's already been reports that the French BEA is on site, the counterpart in France of the American National Transportation Safety Board, and they have the capability, and literally, once they get them to the surface they have to be careful with the salt water that they've been in and they get the salt water drained out and the dried them off.

The downloading process is very fast. I mean, they will have -- the cockpit voice recorder is literally just a recording and they will download that. It takes just a matter of minutes to get it downloaded but then they have to do the transcription, et cetera. They're not allowed to release the voices so they do a transcript. And then flight data recorder, that downloading is like downloading a computer disk and it looks like an EKG.

What takes longer on that is to decipher it all and get the significance of what was found. But they will have a transcript of the cockpit voice recorder probably within a couple days after finding it.


And, Thomas, last question for you. I know they want to bring up as much of the plane as possible. How long might that take?

ALTSHULER: Well, that's very hard to estimate. It really depends as I think was stated earlier how wide the debris field is and what the fuselage and the tail section and such look like. If it's relatively intact, they could get it up in a reasonable period of time. If it's spread over a large area on the ocean floor, that will take a long time to get up.

COSTELLO: All right. Mary Schiavo, Thomas Altshuler, thanks to both of you. I appreciate it.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM: a giant friend. That's how people are remembering former New York Governor Mario Cuomo. The three-term governor passed away last night. We'll look back at his life.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

COSTELLO: Well, the New Year is difficult for Senator Harry Reid. He was injured in an accident while exercising. Apparently, several bones were broken in his face.

Athena Jones broke this story. She joins us now with more information.

Hi, Athena.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Good morning, Carol.

This is what we know so far from Senator Reid's spokesperson. This happened yesterday. Senator Reid was exercising at his home in Henderson, Nevada, and a piece of equipment from the machine he was using broke and it caused him to fall down and break a number of ribs and bones in his face.

Now, his doctors say they expect a full recovery and Senator Reid, his spokesman, says will be coming back to Washington this weekend and that he will be in the office Tuesday as the Senate prepares to reconvene. They said he was first brought to one hospital near his home in Henderson by his security detail and was transferred to the University Medical Center in Las Vegas for further testing and he was admitted overnight as a precaution.

So, that's what we know now, Carol.

COSTELLO: So, he fell -- I'm just trying to like -- you probably are -- the information is slowly trickling in I understand. But what kind of exercise equipment was this?

JONES: Well, that's what we'd like to find out. It's unclear at this moment in time, but what we know is simply that he was on this exercise machine of some sort, we suspect, and that the equipment broke and he fell down and that's what caused his injuries.

Since doctors are saying they expect a full recover, that would suggest they are not major injuries, but certainly breaking a number of ribs and bones --

COSTELLO: Bones in your face!

JONES: It's not a good thing.

COSTELLO: That sounds so painful.

Of course, you'll keep us posted. Athena Jones, thank you so much. Wow.

Flags in New York City will remain at half-staff for the next month to mark the passing of former governor -- former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, as many remember the liberal three-term governor as a giant.

Mario Cuomo passed away yesterday from natural causes, from heart failure. He was the son of Italian immigrants, a minor-league- baseball-player-turned-lawyer who quickly rose in the national spotlight, challenging then President Ronald Reagan's notion of a shining city at the 1984 Democratic national convention and instead calling America a tale of two cities.


MARIO CUOMO, FORMER GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK: We must get the American public to look past the glitter, beyond the showmanship to the reality, the hard substance of things. And we'll do it not so much with speeches that sound good as with speeches that are good and sound.


COSTELLO: He was considered a favorite for the Democratic nomination for president in both 1988 and 1992 but in the end, he decided against running. Mario Cuomo was simply known for his work ethic.


CUOMO: One of the simple things I wanted to achieve is be governor, the hardest-working there ever was.


COSTELLO: Cuomo leaves behind his wife of more than 60 years, along with several children, including the current governor of New York, Andrew, and CNN "NEW DAY" anchor, Chris. Mario Cuomo was 82 years old.

Governor Cuomo actually passed away just hours after his son Andrew was sworn in for a second term as governor.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: Last night we stayed at my father's house to ring in the New Year with him. I went through the speech with him. He said it was good, especially for a second termer.


My father's a third termer.

But he sends his regards to all of you. He couldn't be here physically today, my father, but my father is in this room. He's in the heart and mind of every person who is here. He's here and he's here and his inspiration and his legacy and his experience is what has brought this state to this point.


So, let's give him a round of applause.



COSTELLO: Condolences are pouring in, including from President Bill Clinton who calls Cuomo, the very embodiment of the American dream. Clinton goes to say, quote, "When he placed my name in nomination at the 1992 Democratic Convention, he said government had the solemn obligation to create opportunity for all our people. In his three terms as governor of New York, he honored that obligation."

Joining me to talk more about Mario Cuomo is Douglas Brinkley, a historian for Rice University.



COSTELLO: Do you have a favorite memory? BRINKLEY: Well, the clip you just gave at the convention, you know,

when he has set a soaring oratory. You know, I'm reminded of the fact that the Democratic Party in the 20th century mobilized itself by great speeches of FDR and John Kennedy. But then, there became a period of presidents and presidential nominees that couldn't give speeches. George McGovern was awful, Lyndon Johnson wasn't very good. Jimmy Carter wasn't good. Mondale, Dukakis, and then there was Mario Cuomo.

He knew how to move a crowd and during the Reagan area when many Democrats were fleeing the dreaded "L "world liberal, Mario Cuomo doubled down and said, "I'm a liberal and I'm proud of it and here's what it stands for." Hence, that iconic moment at the convention.

COSTELLO: Absolutely, because in many ways, Mario Cuomo in 1984 gave the Democratic Party its mojo back. But did he do it just because of the fact he was a great orator or was there more to it than that?

BRINKLEY: Well, he was an extraordinary politician. I mean, his gift of oratory wasn't just that it was soaring oratory, he worked on books on Abraham Lincoln and was amazed that Lincoln could say so much in the Gettysburg address or emancipation proclamation and so few words. He became the moral conscience of the Democratic Party.

For example, in the 1980s, nobody wanted to talk about AIDS. Mario Cuomo was willing to talk about it. Meaning the Reagan administration thought there was something -- it was dealt with gays and people from Haiti and here Cuomo just grabbed ahold of it and addressed it.

And yet he also told, I think, Italian Americans and all people that were hyphenated Americans that you could do things. That you could be a three-term governor and in many ways he's paved the way for somebody like Barack Obama by just hanging in there. But what he's most remembered for is going to be three terms as governor of New York. That's an awful lot of terms for such an important state. And the fact that he always stood up for the underdog, the little guy, and never flinched from that. He was both cerebral and street savvy.

COSTELLO: I loved it when Cuomo said, "You campaign in poetry, you govern in prose." what did he mean by that?

BRINKLEY: Absolutely. The poetry is how you have to find the words to lure people in but government is a lot of work. It's about the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair and that n that regard Mario Cuomo was not a show horse. He worked tirelessly in Albany and goes down as one of the three or four best governors that New York's had in the 20th century.

I mean, this is a state that had people like Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt as governor. So, it's a very honor. And Cuomo was also an amazing father and his children have done so well and it's continuing his legacy and that's nothing that slight.

And then, finally, you know, when he said, "No, no I don't want to run for president, no I don't want to be on the U.S. Supreme Court", he later said he didn't regret it. He was following his gut. And I think that's why people admire Mario Cuomo. He was a gut

player. He did what he felt was best all the time for the people of New York and for his family.

COSTELLO: Is there a politician like him today?

BRINKLEY: Well, you know, Ted Kennedy had a little bit on the oratory spot but, no, I don't think we're finding that person -- I mean maybe de Blasio in some ways. Most people on the left of the Democratic Party like the word "progressive" not "liberal."

But I think we're lacking a kind of Cuomo -- somebody who has a real populist appeal from the Northeast who can project himself in a national way. The closest we come to it is his son Andrew Cuomo.

You know, look recently at the guts Andrew Cuomo said no to fracking as governor in New York, and it recalls Mario Cuomo say no to the Shoreham nuclear power plant in the state. These were deeply controversial issues but they weighed in there on the progressive or liberal side of it. In this case backing the environmental movement of New York state.

COSTELLO: Douglas Brinkley, thanks for the insight, I appreciate it.

BRINKLEY: Thank you.

COSTELLO: I'll be right back.


COSTELLO: Along with the wreckage, one of the keys to happening to Flight 8501 is the black boxes. The device contains the flight data recorder as well as the cockpit voice recorder.

All week, we've been asking you, our viewers, for your input on the recovery efforts.

Amanda (INAUDIBLE) posted this question, "Why isn't there a way for the black box information to be transmitted to computers without having to find the actual box?" Great question.

The missing AirAsia is only the latest in a series of aircraft mysteries this year. In the age of information technology, it may seem strange high-tech vehicles flying thousands above the Earth can vanish in a flash. But they there may soon be a new solution.

Here's more from Alison Kosik.


ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Right now, when an airplane disappears, the story of what went wrong vanishes with the black box.

But what if we had those answers all along? RICHARD HAYDEN, FMR. DIRECTOR, FLYHT: We would know where the aircraft has gone, where it is, and we would have information on what happened in the meantime.

KOSIK: Canadian company Flyht makes live-streaming data recorders that sends information in real time. It's part of a satellite-based system that monitors a plane's exact location, engine conditions, and more.

HAYDEN: System transmits every, say, every five to ten minutes on a normal flight.

KOSIK: If something goes wrong, like the plane deviating from its route, the system will start streaming live second-by-second data.

SCHIAVO: That kind of information is not only life-saving, but it adds a tremendous measure of security for our country.

KOSIK: There are several mechanisms that transmit a plane's data, but Hayden says, unlike those systems, the technology behind Flyht is more extensive, sharing a tremendous amount of information. So much information critics say it could be difficult to monitor and analyze if widely adopted.

Right now, Flyht's technology is only fitted to a few hundred planes. It can be installed for about $100,000. Normal data transmission costs between a few dollars to $15 per flight hour, and goes up for continuous streaming in a rare emergency, a cost carriers might not be willing to pay.

SCHIAVO: They're very cost sensitive and they simply will not add additional safety measures unless mandated by the federal government.

KOSIK: But with more questions about another missing commercial jet, the high-tech black box may get a second look.

HAYDEN: The technology exists, it's in service, it's economical, and the question now is how to get more widespread use of it.


KOSIK: Alison Kosik reporting, thanks so much.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, the weather is causing all kinds of problems to find the plane. When will it finally clear? Chad will tell us next.