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FBI Investigating Plane's Passengers List; Helicopters Airlifting Victims' Remains; Usable Audio Recovered From Cockpit Recorder. Aired 7-8:00p ET

Aired March 25, 2015 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:09] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT tonight, breaking news. CNN French affiliate reporting that helicopters are beginning to air lift the remains of the victims of Flight 9525. This as we learn the FBI is scouring the passenger list. Could this have been caused by someone onboard?

Plus, why was there no distress call for ten minutes as the plane plunged into the mountains? New details tonight about the men flying the plane at the controls.

And more breaking news, Bowe Bergdahl, a year after returning home, the army charges him with desertion. Tonight, Bergdahl speaks out for the first time. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. And OUTFRONT tonight, breaking news, helicopter crews are beginning to air lift the remains of the 150 people lost when that German airliner crashed into the mountains. This is according to our affiliate French 2. This is as the mystery of what happened to Flight 9525 goes deeper. Investigators tonight scrambling to analyze the cockpit voice recorder. We do know that voices can be heard on the recorder. But what caused the plane to plunge for ten minutes without a distress call is still completely unclear. French officials will not rule out terrorism and tonight we are learning the FBI is now scouring the plane's passenger list. We're covering the story from every angle tonight.

Rene Marsh in Washington with the latest on the plane's black boxes. Suzanne Malveaux looking at the American's lost onboard. And Fred Pleitgen in Duesseldorf on what we know about the captain and the co-pilot. We begin though with Nic Robertson who's at the staging ground near the crash site. And Nic, what are you learning about the efforts to retrieve the remains of the people who lost their lives?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, very slavery, difficult, a very hard area for the helicopters to get into. They have been literally winching those recovery teams in. But now we're getting the first indications, these are the first details we're just beginning to get that actually some of the victims remains have been recovered from the mountainside. Not clear how many people have been recovered so far. We're also learning new details from investigators as well.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) (voice-over): The mystery surrounding the crash of the German

airliner in the French Alps only deepened today as French investigators reveal new details of Flight 9525's final moments. 10:30 a.m. Local Time, roughly 29 minutes after takeoff, the plane crosses close to the French coast. Someone in the cockpit radios air traffic control.

REMI JOUTY, DIRECTOR, BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION AND ANALYSIS: The last message broadcast from the aircraft to the control center in which it was in contact was routine.

ROBERTSON: 10:31, roughly a minute later, the plane begins its descent. Investigators in flight radar 24 say it dropped 2,000 feet the first minute. Eight thousand feet after three. Almost 14,000 within five minutes and that descent even longer than previously reported.

JOUTY: The descent lasts roughly ten minutes, a bit less. And the last altitude recorded by radar is a bit more than 6,000 feet.

ROBERTSON: 10:41 a.m., just ten minutes after that routine contact, the plane disappears from radar and plows into the mountainside. Among the many questions, what happened during the crucial minute between the routine communication and the start of the descent? And why during that ten minutes descent, was there no distress call from the cockpit?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I do think they were incapacitated or for some reason unable to respond and control the plane when it went down. But what the plane did in the final few minutes, I don't think a conscious pilot was doing it.

ROBERTSON: And what could have caused the pilots to lose consciousness? Two of the leading theorist, rapid decompression or a fire in the cockpit. One French official speaking to The New York Times refused to rule out terrorism saying we don't have any evidence that points to a technical explanation. So, we have to consider the possibility of deliberate human responsibility. Another told a local TV station, it is not considered the most likely explanation for the wreck. One chilling coincidence, a little more than 60 years ago, another airliner crashed into these Alps killing all on board. The crash site less than a mile from Flight 9525.


ROBERTSON: Well, it will be in about seven hours daylight here. And that's when helicopters will start flying again, that intense effort to recover the data recorder. And with daylight as well, we're going to begin to see some of the families of the victims arriving here searching for some answers and some solace too -- Erin.

[19:05:14] BURNETT: All right. Nic Robertson, thank you very much. And at any moment, investigators could be hearing the pilot's final words. What they were before Flight 9525 crashed into the French Alps. They are working every moment night and day to figure that out off of that voice recorder. They're trying to figure out what can be made of the one audio file that they have from Germanwings cockpit voice recorder. This obviously right now is the most crucial piece of evidence they might have.

Rene Marsh is OUTFRONT live in Washington. And Rene, what do they need to get from the black box that they have? What must they get?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: They must hear the sounds that were in the cockpit. They will be listening to everything Erin from background noise to alarms that may have been going off in the cockpit to even the pilot's conversation. They certainly will help answer the question of what was happening in the moment leading up to the crash. Now, when they listen to the voices on the recorder, like a pilot's conversation, they'll listen to this information in teams of six source, Erin. Sometimes, they'll even bring in family of the crew to help identify exactly who is speaking at each moment. Of course, they'll listen to the stress in the voice, if there is any.

Although, even be listening if there's an intruder perhaps in the cockpit or even the sound of an explosion. They'll listen to all of that. Perhaps they may hear nothing. Maybe they won't hear the pilots talking at all. And that could mean something as well. Could mean like some have suggested that the pilots were incapacitated. I should mentioned, we will never hear whatever is on the cockpit voice recorder because they do not release that. In the meantime, we know that investigators when they feel the time is right, they will reveal though what they heard on the recorders. Remember, they are still at this point looking for the flight data recorder which is quite different. That essentially would tell them what was happening with the plane from second to second. Were all of the planes systems functioning or were they not -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Rene, thank you very much. And I know they're trying to get that data recorder Rene is referring to. They had found sort of the casing but not the actual recorder itself. So right now we have that crucial voice recorder.

OUTFRONT now, a panel of experts are going to be with us through the hour with aviation correspondent Richard Quest. Former FAA safety inspector David Soucie. Commercial pilot Anthony Roman. And John Nance, aviation analyst for ABC "World News Tonight" and a former 737 Boeing captain. OK. Great to have all of you with us.

John, let me start with you. Right now officials are going through that voice, that file that Rene is talking about. Right? That's what they have. And they have one track. Multiple tracks came in. They have one track that they can hear at this time. What are they exactly listening for?

JOHN NANCE, AVIATION ANALYST, ABC "WORLD NEWS TONIGHT": They're going to be listening primarily for any clue whatsoever especially with respect to the exchange for the pilots. Hopefully they'll have some verbiage between the pilots or among them that will indicated what was going on before, whatever happened happened and what the motivation was for coming out of the sky with the descent. If, in fact, it was a voluntary thing. BURNETT: Now, David, what's interesting here is that as Rene

said, they'll never going to actually put the audio itself out but they will eventually put out a transcript or say what was said so the people know. What we did hear today in press conference was, they have heard voices but they aren't telling us what those voices said.

DAVID SOUCIE, FORMER FAA SAFETY INSPECTOR: Right. And that won't be released until it's cleared of any kind of criminal investigation or if there's anything going on nefarious at that point. That is private and it will never be released even in transcript at that point. However, having that information available as Rene said is incredibly important. With only one track, it really put a disadvantage. Because with five track, if you had all of those microphones, you can locate where the sound came from as well. You don't think about the --

BURNETT: Right. So, why you have five tracks, and when I only have one track, what does that mean I'm missing and what do I have?

SOUCIE: What it means is that there are other inputs. One track is only one channel of sound. In other words, one microphone possibly. And that microphone is going to say there was a switch flipped. That's all you'll get from that. There was a switch flipped where if you have co-located microphones and all those channels, you can say this particular microphone had a higher volume than did this other microphone. And therefore, you can pinpoint which switch was pushed or at least the general vicinity of which switch was pushed. So, there's going to be a great -- if there's only one channel available, that doesn't mean they don't have more. He just said at this point --

BURNETT: At this point, right, it was damaged.

SOUCIE: Right.

BURNETT: I mean, it's possible that they will be able to retrieve others.

SOUCIE: Exactly.

BURNETT: Richard, to that point though, you know, if the conversation itself doesn't solve the mystery here, then you'll going to need those other tracks?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, if there's a conversation between --

BURNETT: At all.

QUEST: At all. I'd be astonished if there was a conversation during the eight minutes that they're not doesn't pretty much give us the xyz of what happened. If you've got two pilots and you can hear them talking and you don't manage to work out what was happening then there's something very seriously on the descent. The issue of course or the difficulty is if there's no talk, if it's an incapacitation. [19:10:15] BURNETT: Again, and we've heard that they said

there's voices. I mean, you know, something we've heard and they might not be true. And if there are voices, it does mean at some point in those eight minutes, they were not incapacitated.

QUEST: You're not home but you're well on the way if you've got voices.


QUEST: To understanding the depth, not only the dynamics between the pilots but what caused what. You're not there yet but you're a long way towards it. You really are.

BURNETT: And Anthony, we're also -- of course now, they said, today, the CEO of Lufthansa said he's very confident they'll going to get that second, the data recorder which obviously is very important. Now, they found the casing. They didn't find the data recorder but he thinks they'll going to find it and they'll going to find it and be able to listen to it.

ANTHONY ROMAN, FORMER CORPORATE PILOT: Yes. Thank goodness these are digital recorders. These are the new generation recorders. And they are more survivable even if it's out of its case. So, we're very hopeful that the data will still be preserved. If the data has been damaged in anyway, as part of my team and our company, we have a series of forensic engineers that can retrieve data, computerized data from very damaged equipment even water damaged equipment.

BURNETT: So, David, what is the information they're going to get off of that? That I would have the pressurization every second as just one example.

SOUCIE: It would. And there's thousands of parameters. Those parameters do two things. They not only tell you for example what the position of the control was but it also tells you if that control uprated normally. So, if you're trying to lift or raise the tail, you pull back and you say I'm going to go down or I'm going to go up, it tells back there, it also has a sensor that tells you where your elevator went.


SOUCIE: So, it also confirm that the movements that the pilot made or the decision that the pilot made were carried out by the aircraft.

BURNETT: Right. So, John, will it be able also to tell us that crucial thing. So say the pilot started the descent, will it be able to answer whether they kept okaying it or whether the plane was in a sense an autopilot. Will we get an answer to that crucial question?

NANCE: Well, this is one of the things Erin, that's really interesting about the A-320. It's a different philosophy. You're always on auto-pilot to a certain extent because you're flying a computer. When you're all normal low, when you're controlling the airplane, you're asking the computer to do something and then it decides how to do it. There is way to cut those off and go to alternate and to a form of law as they call it direct that you can fly the airplane directly. But you see, you're always on there. That means if you push the yoke forward or the side stick controller and start a descent, and then you let go of it, if you don't touch it, it's going to keep on descending until either it hits something or its ground proximity warning system sees something ahead and causes a pull-off.

BURNETT: Which of course oddly it didn't seem to obviously in this case. All right. Thanks to all of you. You're going to stay with us. Because next, fire, decompression, catastrophic equipment failure. If it wasn't intentional, and we'll talk about that later in the program, then what did bring down Flight 9525. And officials tonight are not ruling out terrorism. Could someone have brought down the plane deliberately?

Plus, the breaking news, the military charges Bowe Bergdahl with desertion. Tonight, for the first time Bowe Bergdahl in his own words. That's coming out OUTFRONT.


[19:16:59] BURNETT: Breaking news on Flight 9525. Tonight, investigators analyzing an audio file from the cockpit voice record. And the question tonight is, what will it tell us about why that plane made such a sudden descent plunging 32,000 feet in about 10 minutes. All 150 on board lost their lives. We're told the Airbus A-320 was in, quote, "perfect technical condition." The weather also seemingly perfect for flying. There was no distress call. Officials saying, no theories have been excluded.

And Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT, so Tom -- they're trying to figure out what happened. And they have now this audio file. They say they're going to get the data recorder. They don't have it yet. They're looking at those final few minutes. And what specifically are they looking at in terms of that descent?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: One of the things they're looking for Erin is how that compares to other accidents that they know about where they know why a plane went down. For example, they might look at something like Alaska Air. The Alaska Air crash was a big mechanical failure. There was a large thing called a Jack Straw gateway and it took away the ability to control how the plane was pitching up and down. So, let's pull on a charge here little and show us the last 15 minutes of a flight and look at what happened with that flight. As they fought to control the plane you could see it pitching up and down until finally they reached to point where they just couldn't control it anymore. And the plane plunged over 18,000 feet in some 80 seconds hitting the water everyone passed away. There were signature crash there, complete failure of a plane.

Now, let's look at another one. This was the squeezed air flight that went down off Nova Scotia, they saw a smoke in the cabin interrupted into a fall fire so they were dealing with an evolving emergency. And they kept trying to deal with it, dump fuel trying to make an emergency landing. But look at their flight pattern as they come in. Quite different, frankly if you look at this, this looks like people struggling with the plane that won't do what they want it to. And they ran out of time. They hit the water and also everyone died. But here's a very different scenario. This was a Greek plane where they did in fact have the problem of hypoxia. Essentially what happened is they have a pressure leak. Everyone in the plane passed out basically according to investigators and the plane flew on autopilot for some time, eventually running out of fuel and coming into the ground. So, look at that pattern. Very different. It's sort of a smooth line down to where it struck and again, everyone was lost there. So, that is the type of thing they're looking for, Erin. They are looking at different wrecks where they know the cause to say what did it look like in those final minutes.

BURNETT: Okay. So, if you take the Germanwings flights that we know against those three lines, you know, does it measure up against the helios one?

FOREMAN: Well, if you look at least put in the Germanwings flight, if you put that one in there, you can see that yes, it looks a lot like that one. Does that mean that this was an automated flight to the ground? Doesn't necessarily mean it but it certainly doesn't take it off the table either. It doesn't look a lot though like, for example, the Alaska Air Flight with the catastrophic failure. It looks like something else. So, they will consider all of that against that recording, Erin. And of course, they hear voices after the part that it starts descending, that might tell them there's not a problem. But if those voices sound modeled, and confused and disoriented as they would lose pressure, it all seems to fit together then -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Tom Foreman, thank you. And now our experts back with us. Richard Quest, David Soucie, Anthony Roman and John Nance, the aviation analyst for ABC "World News."

All right, Richard. So, you just heard Tom.


BURNETT: And those lines, I mean, obviously those are, you know, as he points out, yes, it looks a lot like the depressurization, a situation but that's a line on a chart. It's not all the backup data. But it seems that that's a realistic possibility, depressurization.

QUEST: It's a realistic possibility. As indeed as every other possibility. This is one of these occasions where to fold back on the bromate of its too soon to speculate. I can't see any way in which any of us here tonight can hang our hats on a particular cause.

BURNETT: On one specific time.

QUEST: No, because I think the nature of this incident is so different, it's so worrying. It's so disturbing because of the external factors that you know about that you just literally can't say I'd go for one or the other.

[19:21:16] BURNETT: Which of course is very terrifying and why it's so important that they're going to get. At least they have the voice data recorder. They'll going to have some kind of information. Now, Anthony, on the issue of depressurization. OK, so, let's just take, go scenario by scenario here, and right now let's focus in on mechanical issues. So, depressurization being the first one. How could that have happened?

ROMAN: Well, it could be insidious depressurization. In other words, a slow depressurization that's almost imperceptible but there should be cockpit audible warnings to warn the pilots against there. And there could be explosive decompression as a result of some structural failure of the aircraft. But if we had that scenario, and that is very violent event, fog forms in the cockpit, everything flies around that's not tied down. It physically feels like you're punched. It's a very physical event. If that's happened we would expect the aircraft to have deviated left to right.


This is some indication of either some software failure in which there was an un-commanded control descent by the auto-pilot or perhaps, you know, incapacitation of some type for some reason whether through criminal intent, by a crew member or by a passenger or by some other means, mechanical event or a cascading series of mechanical failures. We really don't know.

BURNETT: We just don't know.

ROMAN: Richard is right.

BURNETT: And David, so let's talk with this issue of the fact David that this plane descended steadily by not out of control.

SOUCIE: Right.

BURNETT: So, sharply but not plunged as you point out last night. It's not the right word to use. Would depressurization in any scenario fit with that? Because if it happened slowly maybe they wouldn't notice it. It happened suddenly, you'd see something erratic. What would explain a descent that starts and doesn't stop or move or deviate?

SOUCIE: Well, as Mr. Nance had point out earlier today, that when you put a command into this aircraft it's going to go where you tell it to go by that command. When you let go of it, it's going to continue on that flight path. It's not like --

BURNETT: So, once you start it will go until you actually physically move it somewhere else?

SOUCIE: Exactly. So, this could be done in two different ways. If it was accidentally pushed, if it was accidently pushed forward and then released, it would continue on that flight path down. Now, it's not stable enough to say that it's exactly an auto-pilot though in my opinion, it appears to me that there was some drift. There was a movement. It could be explained by a different mode of the auto-pilot system. If the goal of the auto-pilot was to maintain power or maintain speed or maintain altitude those all change.

BURNETT: Interesting that you're point out. They're not quite a steady in this perfect at it's been portrayed.

SOUCIE: Exactly.

BURNETT: John, besides the pressurization as you're talking about mechanical failure, you think fire is a possibility. How come?

NANCE: Well, I thought it was at first. The idea was based on the supposition that they had changed course, 15 degrees which they did, and that was the precursor to an emergency descent. And the question was, if they did communicate, maybe they couldn't because they were in the process of turning power off trying to solve a smoke and fire situation. I'm getting more and more convinced, and Richard is right ultimately, of course we're speculating, but I'm getting more and more convinced that we are dealing with an incapacitation situation at a very tough of the descent. Not only because of the flight path and what was just said was absolutely correct, you're going to see a little variance in there. And it's unclear whether the auto-pilot was or whether the auto flight system was interdicted by human or not. But I just don't see now that we've got any evidence that this is anything other than an airplane doing what it's been told to do. Either we got any deviation left and right. And that tells me that something happened at the very top. And by the way, that initial course change that I thought was in the last 36 hours was a purposeful thing, apparently it was purposeful only in terms of putting out the next weight point out in the airplane. And that's awfully interesting and coincidental as well.

BURNETT: Right. Right. All right. Well, thanks to all of you. You're obviously not going anywhere. Because we're going to keep talking about this. The last ten minutes of that flight flying directly into a mountainside without a single distress call. What do we know about the pilots, the two men that were sitting there at the controls? We're going to tell you everything we know and we're learning that there were three Americans on board that plane including a Virginia mom and her daughter. Their story ahead.


[19:29:37] BURNETT: Breaking news at this hour. Investigators are working to analyze black box data from Flight 9525. They say they have recovered a quote, "usable audio file from the voice recorder," this is what is left of that black box tonight and this is the condition that it's in after hitting the mountain. It is the most crucial piece of evidence they currently have. Because it could tell us the final words spoken by the captain and the co-pilot on that plane. Very, right now very little is known about those two people who are crucial to whatever happened on that plane. They were at the controls.

Fred Pleitgen is OUTFRONT from Dusseldorf tonight, where flight 9525 was headed.

And, Fred, today we did learn some new information about the captain, right?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it was very little but at least it was a little bit of something. We didn't learn the names of the captain or co-pilot. However, we did learn from the press conference that was held today by the CEO of Lufthansa, as well as Germanwings, that the captain at least was a very experienced man, that he had 10 years flying experience. All of them on the A320 model with the Lufthansa group, also that he had about 6,000 flying hours on this particular make of aircraft.

So, certainly, someone knew this aircraft very well, who had been flying it for a long time. And, of course, we also know that the amount of A320 pilots that there are in Germany is a very close-knit community. There aren't many of them around, which is also one of the reasons why so many of the pilots felt they were unfit to fly in the past couple of days, and had been turning down assignments from the Germanwings Company, which the company says that it's very well aware of and something that they do understand, Erin.

BURNETT: And, Fred, we don't know much about the pilot but you know a little bit about him. We know even less, right, about the co- pilot.

PLEITGEN: Yes. Even less about the co-pilot, absolutely right. It was questioned asked today after the press conference that was held by those two CEOs. And it was asked about the co-pilot as well. And the only thing that the CEO of Lufthansa said is these were two very experienced Lufthansa pilots.

And that's not very much information, but it certainly is something very interesting in there, in the fact that he said these were two Lufthansa pilots, because I think one of the things that the company is trying to do is they're trying to at all cost avoid anyone saying, well, this crash happened because this was a budget airlines. They're saying that these were full on pilots and had nothing to do with the fact this was a Germanwings flight rather than a Lufthansa flight. And so, therefore, that's one of the things that they are putting forward.

And it's interesting because these are essentially the same company. If you are a Lufthansa pilot and you fly the A380, you can choose to fly either for Lufthansa or for Germanwings. The training is exactly the same, the payment is exactly the same, the conditions are exactly the same. And that's one of the things that the Lufthansa CEO is trying to say, was trying to rule out that this had in any way had anything to do with the fact this was a budget airline.

But again, very little information known about these two individuals that, of course, are so important to what happened there in the sky.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Fred, thank you very much.

And a lot of important information in there I think worth emphasizing, people. They are paid the same, trained the same as a full Lufthansa pilot, which is, of course, one of the best airlines in the world.

I'm joined again by Richard Quest, David Soucie, Anthony Roman and John Nance.

So, David, the airline CEO today, Lufthansa, and it was Lufthansa CEO, I watched him. He said they were two experienced and trained Lufthansa pilots. But that's it. We don't know anything about the co-pilot.

And for you, that raises some red flags.

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: It does a little bit. There's two sides to it however --


SOUCIE: -- because the one thing about it is that if there's hidden information and my investigations the only time I would hold that information back is if there was some other kind of criminal question or more importantly from my perspective is as an FAA, is the regulatory question. Is there a regulatory violation? And that all has to be vetted very closely first like duty time and whether or not he had enough flight hours to be in the seat.

BURNETT: Right. If there's any sort of something that wasn't totally right, not nefarious but not right.

SOUCIE: Exactly, not that at all. So, that's the kind of thing that I might be looking at, at this point, and that might delay the release of that information.

BURNETT: Other than the pilots, Anthony, there were four crew members, 144 passengers, of course, on this plane. Is it possible someone other than the pilots could have been involved?

ANTHONY ROMAN, FORMER CORPORATE PILOT: Yes, it is very possible. We have this armored door leading to the cockpit but I've spoken with several mechanics for major airlines and we all know the front lavatory that's generally to the left, to the right of the armored door in the cockpit in the first class section, in JetBlue, that happens to be just at the front of the plane, there is no first class. Well, there's no armor in the bulkhead leading to the cockpit from the lavatory. That can be compromised.

So, there are many ways to enter the cockpit when the pilot exits. Some people can be quite acrobatic. But there are also instances in which it's been a crew member. We had it recently within the last year, year and a half. A JetBlue pilot, captain, came out of the cockpit, with somewhat incoherent, in distress, screaming about how it was going to be an attack on his plane and he was subdued by the passengers themselves.


ROMAN: So, really, we don't know.

BURNETT: We don't know at this point.

[09:35:00] ROMAN: But it can be any of the above.

BURNETT: And, John Nance, at this point, they're not ruling anything out. The French authorities have said, you know, they don't seem so expect it but they're not ruling that out either, explicitly.

JOHN NANCE, AVIATION ANALYST: Absolutely. The bell this rings basically is we got to say we're not trying to solve this accident. We're just looking at the things we can understand. Secondly, you don't rule anything in or out until the investigation is over. And thirdly, there's never just one cause to an airline accident.

Oh, by the way, in the jet blue case that he mentioned, that pilot was having an epileptic attack, and yet, he's been treated like a criminal ever since. It was amazing.

BURNETT: Yes. And, Richard, before we go, there's also the question, of course, of software, and people are now raising, because the automation of A320, the Airbus family in general, whether in this case or in general, just the --


BURNETT: The weakness, right, of possibly of a hack.

QUEST: Of a hack. I would say the Boeing pilots would always sort of mumbled about how, you know, the software, the flyby wire and the envelope protection and those things. The reality is the cyber attack idea is still farfetched in this situation. If it was nefarious, it wasn't through computer.

BURNETT: It wasn't through computer. It was from someone in that cockpit, whether sitting there or entering there.

ROMAN: There were some instances in this particular case where the FAA in 2014, in January of 2014, issued warning about hacking through the firewall of the passenger entertainment system into the cockpit. Maybe David knows a bit more about that.

SOUCIE: That was I was talking about, more software hacking, I guess.

ROMAN: This is software.

SOUCIE: But in this old of an aircraft, those aircraft that are susceptible are mostly after 9/11.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much to all of you, and, of course, to you out there on the West Coast, John, thank you.

OUTFRONT next: the victims of the crash. We now know there were three Americans on that flight, including a mother and her daughter.

And breaking news, the military charging Bowe Bergdahl with desertion. Tonight, for the first time he responds, and he lays out how he says he tries to escape many, many times.


[19:41:07] BURNETT: All right. And we have breaking news right now. Obviously, a significant development possibly in the investigation to Flight 9525. "The New York Times" is citing a senior military official involved in the investigation who is saying that one of the pilots was locked out of the cockpit. Let me tell you exactly what the news is that they have here again.

"The New York Times," there was a very smooth and very cool -- this is how the investigator describes the conversation between the pilots. Then, one of the pilots left the cockpit, according to "The New York Times".

Here is the quote from the senior military official, "The guy outside is knocking lightly on the door and there's no answer. He hits the door stronger and no answer. There is never an answer. You can hear he's trying to smash the door down."

OK. I want to bring in our panel right away on this. And, of course, the military official goes onto say we don't know the reason why that pilot or co-pilot -- again, I want to emphasize we don't know which one left the cockpit. Nonetheless, no matter how you look at it, this is a very, very significant development.

QUEST: It is. We start off with where they got the information which is the cockpit voice recorder.

BURNETT: Yes, the military official who heard it.

QUEST: We know from the BEA today that there's audio on it, there were voices on it.

BURNETT: That's the French NTSB.

QUEST: Correct, that's our starting point. Where did they get this from? The cockpit voice recorder.


QUEST: Now, we got the situation, pilot out of cockpit, tries to get back in, again banging on the door, no response. Whoever is on the inside hasn't released the door to open. It doesn't mean nefarious.

BURNETT: No, it doesn't necessarily. David Soucie, it could mean two things. One, nefarious. The pilot on the inside wanted to bring down the plane, or two, he had a heart attack or something happened and he was unable to open the door.

SOUCIE: Something happened where he was incapacitated in the cockpit.

BURNETT: But what explains then the descent, because then the descent -- at some point during this, the descent starts. SOUCIE: As John said earlier, you put one control and you let it

go, it's going to stay where you held it. If I put in the input to go down at that angle and let go, it will return back to the center, but it will continue to descent. It doesn't have to manually be driven down that path.


BURNETT: If something had happened to the pilot or co-pilot, whoever is on the inside, heart take, whatever, it might have been, is this -- the move to descent, is that something you would lean or slump or hit or would you have to do that? Or would you actually have to do it?

SOUCIE: Absolutely, you could.

BURNETT: So, it could happen accidentally, or inadvertently?


QUEST: Think of a joy stick. For those that don't understand how the Airbus is flown, it's not flown with a wheel, it's flown with a hand joy stick like a video game that's by the side. If it's the captain's side, it's just here. (INAUDIBLE), it's on the captain.

SOUCIE: It's opposite.

QUEST: The captain will be here and the co-pilot on that left side.

SOUCIE: Right.

QUEST: Right. So, what I'm saying if whoever was flying the plane or who's in the cockpit, became incapacitated, even if they slumped forward and just touched it and pushed it forward, that would create a movement of the aircraft which would not stop until you pulled it back.

BURNETT: And so you pulled it back, and that's again the automation of the Airbus.

John Nance, let me bring you in here, let me read the quote again from "The New York Times", the way they describe it, when one of the pilots, or the co-pilot, we don't know which one, locked outside the door, the guy is knocking lightly. There's no answer. He hits the door stronger and no answer. There's never an answer. You can hear he's trying to smash the door down.

What do you think when you hear this at just face value?

NANCE: Well, I've came to this kind of a tentative conclusion a couple of hours ago and was reluctant to do so, but the idea that if one pilot was in there and another was outside and the pilot inside violated what we used to have in the military, is a no lone zone, had a heart attack, had a seizure, had an aneurysm burst, something like that, this could be the exact scenario. [19:45:00] And I found it very interesting that was the exact

moment at which a change in the computer would have been made which would have caused somebody to lean forward. Maybe that's not coincidental but it sure looks like it.

The thing is, I don't believe that we had anything advertent here, now that we hear this because there was no change on the flight path going down. If this had been somebody intent on murder suicide, there would have been definite manipulation of the airplane.

BURNETT: So, your -- it sounds like at least the group here at this moment is leaning toward some sort of medical emergency or something.

ROMAN: I think we have to be careful about investigation bias. You have two possible scenarios here, now weather. One, it was intentional by the pilot left in the cockpit, or two, he suffered or she suffered some medical condition which incapacitated them and they inadvertently --

QUEST: But this doesn't -- this raises the question which we don't know is what is Germanwings procedures to get back in the cockpit.


BURNETT: I'm hearing this as a person, how do you not have a plan for this? Isn't there always the expectation someone could happen -- someone gets up to the bathroom and something happen to the pilot or something?


ROMAN: We shouldn't have one up there.

SOUCIE: Yes, it was a no exit zone.

ROMAN: There should be two people.

BURNETT: But in plane like this where you have a pilot and co- pilot and someone has to go to the restroom, which appears to be what happened, you're going to have one person in the cockpit.

ROMAN: John Nance's point is well taken, there should be a flight attendant in there.

BURNETT: Right. Someone else would come in even if it's not a pilot.

ROMAN: John brings up a very interesting point and very important point. Why didn't that happen?

BURNETT: And that would have been perhaps --

QUEST: Because some airlines don't have that policy. ROMAN: Well, I'd be surprised if Lufthansa didn't have it. I'd

be terribly surprised. I'll tell you why -- Lufthansa's training program, which I'm familiar with, is incredibly rigorous and goes beyond the normal training program.

SOUCIE: Not to mention ICAO standard and practices, which it's in.

ROMAN: Exactly. They begin to start upset training as a part of the primary training of the pilots when they're in propeller pull trains (ph), planes.

So, when it's a very, very rigorous training program --

BURNETT: Again, this initial report we have from "The New York Times" is terrifying, because, you know, there are people in the front of the plane, passenger who is would have seen this happening, seen this pilot desperately trying to get in, shouting to get in, that, of course, is terrifying just to imagine.

All right. As we get more information on this, we're going to keep following it.

Next, also talking about the breaking news out of DOD. Bowe Bergdahl was welcomed home directly, his parents met with the president. Now, he's facing charges of desertion.


[19:51:16] BURNETT: Breaking news: the military has announced it's charging Bowe Bergdahl with desertion. You know him. He's the army sergeant who was swapped for five Taliban prisoners last May. For the first time tonight, we're hearing Bergdahl describe the torture he says he endured during his nearly five years in captivity.

Ed Lavandera is OUTFRONT.

Ed, you've been covering this story for years from where Bowe Bergdahl is from, all the way across the country. What is he saying now in his defense, now the Army has come out and said he's a deserter?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is kind of fascinating, totally unexpected today, as we were expecting a statement from Bowe Bergdahl's lawyer included in that statement, and the various documents that Bowe Bergdahl's attorney released. It included a two-page description in Bowe Bergdahl's own words where he details what happened to him during his five years in captivity.

He writes about in the first three months, that he was chained to a bedspread eagle and blindfolded, he was tortured, shackled and chained inside cages for months on end. Some of those shackles causing severe wounds that never healed. At one point he writes, "I was kept in constant isolation during the entire five years with little to no understanding of time. I was told I was going to be executed, told I was never going to go back, told I was going to die there."

And then he also talks about how Bowe Bergdahl says he made it approximately 12 attempts to escape from his captors, one of the significant ones came toward the end of the first year of his captivity where he says he was able to be on the run for about nine days. And he writes, "Without food and only putrid water to drink, my body failed on top of a short mountain close to evening and some moments after, I came to in a dying gray light of the evening. I was found by a large Taliban searching group." He says after he was discovered, he was tortured and beaten once again -- Erin.

BURNETT: Now, in addition to desertion, Eddy, he's facing other charges as well. So, what are they? Could he face the death penalty? I mean, desertion, that is desertion of your nation. There is nothing greater.

LAVANDERA: Right. And that's, so there's the desertion charge and second charge is misbehavior before the enemy. That's actually the more serious charge which could come with a possible more severe sentence of life in prison.

One of the letters in the statement released by Bowe Bergdahl's attorney really outlines in great detail as to why the case they will make, that this is undue punishment for Bowe Bergdahl, who's already spent nearly five years in captivity and is still undergoing great deal of physical and psychological therapy.

Of course, as you've heard, we documented over the last few months, many of those soldiers have served with Bowe Bergdahl believe he's a deserter and a traitor and want to see him punished fully.

BURNETT: And they believe this from the very beginning. Important to say in a lot of these cases, they've been very vocal about it, for the entire five-year period.

All right. Ed Lavandera, thank you very much.

Now, OUTFRONT, our political analyst, "Bloomberg View" columnist Josh Rogin.

And, Josh, you know, in addition to that reality, right, which is a lot of people said he was a deserter from the beginning. The Army said, no person goes left on the field. We're going to bring him home, we'll do our own investigation.

But the president put his face on this. He made a huge deal of it, about getting his release, public Rose Garden announcement with his parents, getting five Taliban commanders in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl, and here's what the president and his national security advisor said at the time.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And he wasn't forgotten by his country, because the United States of America does not ever leave our men and women in uniform behind. SUSAN RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: He served the United

States with honor and distinction.


BURNETT: You heard Susan Rice -- he served the United States with honor and distinction. That's what she said then. Now, he's being now charged with desertion.

Isn't this a problem for them?

JOSH ROGIN, COLUMNIST, BLOOMBERG VIEW: Well, it is a problem and it will be an ongoing problem for the White House for two reasons.

[09:55:02] One, despite the fact that there were a lot of people involved in the negotiation and implementation of this, it was President Obama's decision. He knew it would be controversial, both because he was trading Taliban commanders but some of the facts of the capture were widely known inside the intelligence and defense community and in the press.

So, the president took a risk and by standing in the Rose Garden, he put his name to that risk, and he's going to answer for that. And also, now we face the prospect that as Bowe Bergdahl goes to trial for these very serious charges, these five Taliban commanders are set to be released from their house arrest on May 1st.

So, we'll be watching this unfold as these five commanders are released into the wild. There's already been reporting some of them intend to -- have tried to return to the fight. So, the president will have to answer continuing questions, both about whether or not the trade was worth it, and second about why the administration praised Bowe Bergdahl when they either knew or should have known the circumstances of his disappearance were controversial.

BURNETT: You think given that they knew and that they wouldn't have come out as aggressively as they did at the time, they did. Of course, our Barbara Starr, as Josh points out, reported, that at least one of them is tried to return to militant activities.

We'll be right back.


BURNETT: And thanks so much for joining us. Be sure to set your DVR to record OUTFRONT, so you can watch us anytime.

"ANDERSON COOPER 360" begins right now.