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Debris Found from Missing Plane Indicates Terror More Likely than Technical Problem. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired May 19, 2016 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ROBYN CURNOW, CNN HOST: Hi, there, I'm Robyn Curnow. We want to continue to update you on the latest developments on the missing Egypt airplane.
Greek officials say floating objects have been found in a sea search and Egypt says terrorism is more likely than technical failure.
CNN's Jim Bittermann is in Paris, where the plane took off.
Hi, there, Jim. I think what is also so concerning for security officials is that this plane departed from one of the top airports in the world, one
of the most secure.
JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: Well, exactly right, Robyn. We're not certain that terrorism is the cause and we're not certain that
terrorism, if it was that, had any connection to the Charles de Gaulle Airport because, in fact, this plane was also at four other airports
So it could be anywhere along the line if it was terrorism. But in any case, they are at Charles de Gaulle today, doing a thorough search of all
those people who were connected to this plane yesterday, the security people, the baggage handlers, the food service people, anyone who might
have been able to do something out of the ordinary and bring the plane down.
The airport itself has had a thorough security review last November after the terrorism attacks of November 13th and, at that point, the prefere
(ph), which is the head security officer for the airport, said that 57 people over the course of last year had their security badges lifted
because of their dubious connections to fundamentalist organizations.
So there is a problem that the authorities have recognized out there and they continue to recognize. Whether or not they've caught everybody is
another question. Now I should just say one more thing that we have just learned in the last hour here and that is that the French are also
participating in that search and -- search operation that's ongoing.
They have a Falcon jet from the French navy that is up in the air. That Falcon is the --
BITTERMANN: -- kind of thing that's used for spotting immigrants, illegal immigrants.
But in this case, with its four- or five-hour autonomy, it's up there, circling around, looking for debris, along with the Air Force of the United
States and other people who are out searching the area -- Robyn.
CURNOW: Jim Bittermann there in Paris, thank you so much for that update.
I'm Robyn Curnow. I want to hand you back to Carol Costello and our continuing coverage.
CURNOW: Hi, there, I'm Robyn Curnow. We want to continue to update you on the latest developments on the missing Egypt airplane. The search and
investigation and lots of questions over what caused the disappearance of that plane in the Mediterranean.
Flight 804 was carrying 66 people when it vanished overnight near the end of its route from Paris to Cairo. A Greek official says the plane swerved
and then plunged at a high altitude before losing radar contact.
A search plane spotted floating objects several hundred kilometers southeast of Crete but it's not clear if they are from the missing jet.
For now nothing, including terrorism, is being ruled out as a cause. Well, a bit earlier on CNN, terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank explained the
strict security measures in place at the Paris airport, aimed at preventing a terror attack.
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERROR ANALYST: There's been concern that Charles de Gaulle Airport, particularly in the wake of the Paris attacks in November
about radicalization amongst airport staff, people with potential access to airside, baggage handlers, cleaners and so on, they've revoked a number of
security passes over the past few months.
But there are rigorous security protocols now in place at Charles de Gaulle Airport for airport workers. They have to go through the same screening
every day when they come to work, just like passengers do. They have to go through -- their belongings have to go through x-rays; they have to go
through metal detectors just like everybody else.
And those security protocols are actually more rigorous at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris and across the European Union than the security
protocols in place in the United States.
Most U.S. airports, workers arriving every day, don't necessarily have to go through that very rigorous screening. They do background checks and
that kind of thing in the United States as a general rule.
So there are tough standards in place in Europe. Also the state-of-the-art technology for explosive detection now makes it very difficult indeed to
get bombs onto planes by getting it through the scanners; not impossible. Terrorist groups are innovating all the time. They're trying to better
seal, better conceal explosive devices.
CURNOW: Paul Cruickshank there earlier on CNN.
I'm Robyn Curnow. I want to hand you back to Carol Costello and more of our coverage of the missing Egypt airplane.
CURNOW: Hi, there, I'm Robyn Curnow at the CNN Center. We want to update you on the latest developments on the missing Egypt airplane.
People with loved ones aboard that plane are gathering at airports in Cairo and Paris, desperate for any word. Meanwhile, ships from the Egyptian and
Greek navies are searching for signs of the airliner.
The Paris-to-Cairo flight disappeared over the Mediterranean Sea with 66 people on board. Conditions were clear and calm on the overnight flight.
At this point, the French prime minister says investigators are not ruling out any causes for the plane's disappearance.
Greek officials say the plane apparently swerved 90 degrees to the left, then 360 degrees to the right before it descended. CNN's Chris Cuomo asked
Miles O'Brien what that might mean.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: So a lot of this information is very natural to you. You're a pro on this; 90 degrees, we're saying maneuvers, swerve --
now again, these aren't our words; this is coming from reporting of Reuters and Greek authorities.
So we want to put in some margin for that translation. But 90 degrees is not easy to effect in the air; 360 degrees would be a complete rotation.
It doesn't suggest a controlled movement, Miles, so that's what we're asking about.
Is that how it comes across to you?
Or do you think that a pilot could have still been in control and moved the aircraft that way?
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It could go either way. It depends. You know, when we think of an explosion, we think of a catastrophic event;
the plane just kind of breaks up and falls out of the sky. In this case, we obviously had an aircraft that had aerodynamic capability, enough to do
Does that imply that if, in fact, there was an explosion, that the plane still was able to fly on?
Or was something else going on on that aircraft?
That's all I'm saying, is that whatever happened there, it's not the sudden, mysterious vanishing event. There's something that allowed that
plane to fly on in some fashion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CURNOW: OK. Let's talk about this plane. It is an Airbus A320. The model entered service in 1988. Airbus says there are now more than 6,000
of them in operation worldwide. The entire fleet has accumulated nearly 180 million flight hours and more than 98 million flights.
According to the Aviation Safety Network the model has been involved in 20 accidents that were so serious that the plane is beyond repair. Those have
resulted in almost 800 deaths.
Most recently in December of 2014, an Airbus A320 operated by AirAsia crashed into the Java Sea. All 162 people on board that were killed.
I'm Robyn Curnow. I'm going to hand you back to my colleagues at CNN USA.
CURNOW: Hello. I'm Robyn Curnow. We want to continue to update you on the latest developments on the missing Egypt airplane.
Egypt's civil aviation minister says it's too soon to speculate on a cause for the disappearance but terrorism seems more likely than technical
Flight 804 was traveling overnight from Paris to Cairo with 66 people on board. Authorities are focusing on the plane's seemingly erratic behavior
when the aircraft passed from Greek airspace into Egyptian airspace. It was at cruising altitude; that's typically the safest part of any flight.
Greece's defense minister says the plane then suddenly swerved sharply then plunged more than 20,000 feet before it vanished from the radar. An
Egyptian search and rescue team has spotted floating objects nearly 400 kilometers off the Greek island of Crete but it's not clear if they're from
the missing plane.
CNN aviation correspondent Richard Quest shared his perspective a short time ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD QUEST, CNNMONEY EDITOR AT LARGE: Host MH370 -- I will be the last person to say with any definitive view of what's going to happen and the
way it's going --
QUEST: -- to play out.
All I can say is if you draw on the normality or the regular flow of these sorts of stories, I would expect debris to be seen from the air or on the
sea top within the next 12 to 18 hours, maybe less.
And if you look at AirAsia over the Java Sea, it might take another two or three days to locate the bulk of the wreckage. Now that is just plain
common sense, based on previous -- many of these that I've covered over many years.
I think -- I think the unusual feature of this incident is that it's at altitude; you've got it at the point of transfer between two air traffic
controllers. You have a normal response and then you have an unresponsive cockpit.
And then you have these swerves -- if they actually took place. And that is why this is going to be so significant, A, because it could be a
security threat, it could be a terrorist activity but also because it could suggest something to do with the A320.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CURNOW: Richard Quest there.
I'm Robyn Curnow. I want to hand you back to my colleague, Carol Costello, and more of our coverage of the missing Egypt airplane. Thanks for
CURNOW: Hello. I'm Robyn Curnow. We want to continue to update you on the latest developments on the missing Egypt airplane.
Egypt's aviation minister says the disappearance of the jet was more likely caused by terrorism than a technical issue. Flight 804 vanished overnight
near the end of its route from Paris to Cairo; 66 people were on board.
A search plane spotted floating objects several hundred kilometers southeast of the island of the Crete but it's not clear if they are from
the missing jet. A Greek official says the plane swerved and then plunged at a high altitude before losing radar contact.
Well, CNN producer Tim Lister joins us now via Skype from Cordova, Spain.
Hi, Tim. You've spent a lot of time on the ground in Paris after the Paris terror attacks. France still has a state of emergency. Real questions now
are being asked of whether there's been a security breach at Charles de Gaulle.
But it's just too early to tell, isn't it?
TIM LISTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Much too early, Robyn. I would definitely not wish to speculate on the security provisions at the Paris airport.
What we do know that in the past, is that a number of employees, at Charles de Gaulle in particular, have been relieved of their duties, suspended
because of suspected associations with terrorist groups.
So the French authorities know they have a problem in terms of where employees are, what access they have to airside and so forth. But they
have taken considerable measures over the last couple of years to try to cut down on the risk of people being on the inside.
CURNOW: So we understand, as you say, there have been measures taken to ameliorate these risks.
But what are the possibilities of some sort of cell that could have been operating within Charles de Gaulle?
Or is it possible the security breach was at one of the other stops that this plane had during the day?
LISTER: Yes. That's absolutely right. It could have been (INAUDIBLE) during one of its other stops (INAUDIBLE) within the previous 24 to 36
hours, it had been to Eritrea. It had been to Tunis. (INAUDIBLE) Paris and (INAUDIBLE) A320 Airbus (INAUDIBLE) so many airlines a tremendous
number of hours.
But I don't think any of those factors in terms of where it had been and (INAUDIBLE) particular direction. Always these things until the facts
until the facts become clear you potentially (INAUDIBLE).
Was it the weather, pilot error, with some sort of malfunction, mechanical malfunction?
Or was it an act of sabotage? Was it terrorism?
We are nowhere near to (INAUDIBLE) one or indeed a combination of those factors. You can go back to Air France 447, which crashed en route from
Rio to Paris (INAUDIBLE) where a combination of misread indicator and pilot's attempt to address that contributed to the crash of that flight.
So many possibilities, the AirAsia flight (INAUDIBLE) in an A320.
So it'll be way too early to point (INAUDIBLE) -- Robyn.
CURNOW: Thanks so much, Tim Lister there, CNN producer, appreciate it.
Well, weather conditions were clear at the time the plane disappeared from the radar. Alison Chinchar has the latest look at the weather in the
Hi, there, Alison.
What can you tell us?
ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We do know, Robyn, that the weather was absolutely gorgeous at the time of the crash. So that does help us in
terms of ruling that out as playing any factor.
The question going forward is what it's going to be when they're trying this rescue and recovery effort. Now one thing to note in the area is the
marine traffic. Again, you can kind of see these are not the rescue boats. These are just other various ships, vessels, cargo ships that are
throughout the area.
And, again, this is the general region where the plane, if it did indeed go down, likely will end up being in that general region. The weather, again,
going forward, is going to be a factor, not necessarily today.
And that does help, it provides pretty much clear skies for a lot of the planes and the ships that will be around looking for some type of debris.
This red square right here is the general region in which they believe the flight may have gone down. Again, you can see most of the weather still
well out to the west. The one thing to note are the sea surface temperatures in this area, right now averaging between about 19 to 22
This is a good thing. If this does become a recovery effort and there are some survivors, the survival time is about two to 40 hours when the water
is relatively in that temperature range. Again, so that's a good thing. It allows folks some time to be able to get out there, a lot of those
But there is a limited window here because we do have another storm system that will be making its way through. Here we put this into motion and we
can start to go through the remainder of Thursday. Then as we transition into Friday, notice by the second half of Friday, especially as we go into
Saturday, we start to have the next system beginning to come through.
And that will not only bring showers, maybe even some thunderstorms but it will also start to cause the sea to become a bit more choppy. And that,
again, is going to be a little bit more difficult for any of the ships that are out there, trying to do recovery efforts.
Winds are also expected to pick up with this. Again, not likely until at least the second half of Friday and as we go into Saturday. That's when
we'll start to notice a lot of the winds getting up towards the 40-50- kilometer-per-hour range.
So, again, that's going to be the difficulty. They really have this small window of about 36 hours in which to make the most of it.
Again, here is a look through Google Earth of the flight path. That is this pink line that you see here. As we zoom in a little bit closer,
again, this is the general region, where if the plane did go down, this is likely where it would be. This is the elevation of the flight just before
it comes down.
So you can see it ascending from its initial takeoff; its relatively stable course and then we lose the communications abruptly.
Now we take you down underwater because if it did crash, this plays an important role as to knowing what the ground underneath the water is. And
notice, for the most part, it's relatively flat.
And, Robyn, that's a good thing because now you don't have a lot of these crevices that the debris could get stuck in or make it more difficult to
CURNOW: OK. Thanks so much for laying that all out for us, Alison Chinchar, appreciate it.
I'm Robyn Curnow. Stay with us for much more of our coverage of the missing Egypt airplane.