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New Developments on Missing Plane; Air Search Expected to Resume Shortly; Families Notified by Text their Loved Ones Did Not Survive Crash; Search for Flight 370 "Ended" in South Indian Ocean; Obama Vows to Impose Cost on Russia over Ukraine

Aired March 24, 2014 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Jim, thanks very much.

Happening now, breaking news. The mystery of Flight 370 -- an extraordinary declaration from Malaysia's prime minister, citing a ground-breaking review of satellite data, he says the airliner went down in the Southern Indian Ocean.

But what went wrong?

Unbearable grief and unrestrained fury as relatives are told that none of those on board survived. Many families now accuse Malaysian authorities of a cover-up.

And as a new day is about to dawn over the Indian Ocean, the hunt is about to resume for objects seen floating in the search area. Aircraft are now getting ready to take off.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We begin with a stunning new twists today in the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370.

Here are the breaking developments.

A grim announcement from Malaysia's prime minister declaring that Flight 370 ended in a remote area of the Southern Indian Ocean, a conclusion based on an unprecedented analysis of satellite data.

Grief and agony as passengers of relatives are told that all lives are lost. Malaysia Airlines says it informed most of the relatives in person or by phone, but some got the word through a text message. Now, many are accusing Malaysian authorities of hiding the truth.

Aircraft are getting ready to take off for another intensive day of hunting for debris after planes spotted objects in the Indian Ocean search zone.

An Australian naval vessel is heading toward the area of the sightings. We have the kind of coverage only CNN can deliver. Our correspondents and analysts are standing by.

Let's begin with our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

She's got the latest -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the British firm today said that they actually relied on embarrassingly old maps -- their words -- to make this very high tech calculation about how the plane was moving, what direction it was moving away from their satellite. And that let them calculate where the plane went down, offering new information today that the U.S. and Malaysia have suspected for days.


STARR (voice-over): For grief-stricken families, unbearable news from the prime minister of Malaysia.

NAJIB RAZAK, PRIME MINISTER, MALAYSIA: It is therefore with deep sadness and regret that I must inform you that according to this new data, flight MH370 ended in the Southern Indian Ocean.

STARR: Based on data analysis from the British company Inmarsat, the potential that the plane is anywhere but here, in the South Indian Ocean, seems to have been ruled out.

CHRIS MCLAUGHLIN, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS, INMARSAT: Our engineers and scientists have continued working on the data and comparing it with other similar flights from Malaysia has led us to conclude that it is the southern route.

STARR: Even after the aircraft disappeared from radar, Inmarsat satellites continued to receive several pings from the aircraft, including the final ping from somewhere over the Indian Ocean, according to a U.S. official.

Based on the assumption the plane was maintaining a steady altitude, at 350 knots, Inmarsat determined the most likely place the plane crashed was in this area 1,500 miles off Australia. By this point, the plane would have been out of fuel with nowhere to land.

The U.S. and Malaysia knew for over a week that the Southern Indian Ocean was the most likely place the plane went down.

BEN RHODES, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATION: We have teams on the ground that are working with them on a daily basis. The prime minister's announcement today tracks with, frankly, where we have dedicated our assets, which is in the Indian Ocean.

STARR: Several satellite images showed suspected objects in the water but none have yet been retrieved and shown to be from the plane.

For the brother of one passenger, the hope is that the search continues. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I just want to see some debris off the aircraft and the black box to know what exactly happened, because there are too many unanswered questions.


STARR: And now there are two vital pieces of U.S. Navy equipment on the way to the region.

First, a pinger listening system that will be put into the water, if they can determine where to begin to look for the data recorders. It will go into the water. A ship will tow it and it will listen for the pings. If they can find debris, there will also be a U.S. Navy underwater unmanned remote vehicle, a sort of mini sub, if you will, but it's unmanned. And it can map the ocean floor listening with its sonar, also, for any indication of debris on the ocean floor -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara So there are at the Pentagon, thank you.

Malaysia's prime minister may have declared that Flight 370 ended in the Indian Ocean, but there's still no explanation of why the plane apparently went down there. Investigators are chasing every possible lead.

Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, is joining us now with more on this part of the story -- Pam?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Malaysian authorities saying today there has been full cooperation from everyone they've interviewed, more than 100 people, they say. This as investigators continue to focus on those who knew the pilots the best, their families.


BROWN (voice-over): CNN is learning investigators are digging deeper into the backgrounds of the pilots Zaharie Shah and Fariq Hamid, interviewing their families and associates, looking for anything that could help explain Flight 370's disappearance.

BRYAN CUNNINGHAM, CYBER-SECURITY EXPERT: Where is the family of the pilot?

Did they leave beforehand?


Where did they go?

Where were their passports?

All these kind of really detective and intelligence kind of work issues, outside the notion of just where is that aircraft?

BROWN: Malaysian officials say they've interviewed more than 100 people, including family members of the passengers and crew. One local Malaysian news agency quotes police saying all those questioned cooperated fully, adding cases like this could take up to a year to fully investigate.

The sources tell CNN that so far, nothing from the interviews and background checks indicate foul play.

But with few clues and no wreckage, investigators continue to focus on what could have happened in the cockpit. CNN is learning when Flight 370 took off for the very last time, it was the co-pilot, 27-year-old Fariq Hamid's first time at the controls of the Boeing 777 without supervision and only his sixth time flying the jumbo jet.

STEVEN WALLACE, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Some pilots say there's nothing better than a fresh out of training pilot because he's got all the emergency checklists in his head. I would be more focused on psychological profiles and background checks. People sometimes, you know, do they have massive debts or terrible personal problems?

BROWN: Tonight, back in the U.S., forensics experts and outside consultants working with the FBI continue to retrieve data from both pilots' hard drives, including files apparently deleted from Shah's home flight simulator in the weeks before the plane disappeared.


BROWN: And, Wolf, as investigators continue to probe whether the pilots had any psychological issues, they're also looking at hijacking, sabotage and personal problems of the passengers and the rest of the crew.

But as one of my sources told me, we have nothing to run on backing up any of those theories as of now.

Now, tomorrow, we may learn more about where this investigation is heading, as we're told the inspector general of the police in Kuala Lumpur is expected to speak -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Pamela Brown, we'll be anxious to get that report.

Thank you.

Let's bring in our CNN aviation analyst, Peter Goelz, a former managing director of the National Transportation Safety Board and CNN law enforcement analyst, the former FBI assistant director, Tom Fuentes.

Here's the question that intrigues me.

Why would the Malaysian prime minister and Malaysian Airlines basically tell all the families, your loved ones are dead, if they don't even have a little bit of the wreckage from the plane?

They have this analysis from Inmarsat, the British satellite company. But even officials there say most likely. They can't rule it definitively. TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I agree, Wolf. But, you know, the interview that the person from Inmarsat gave you, or he said most likely, may not have been how he conveyed that to the prime minister and the other Malaysian officials. It might have been much more positive and definitive that this is where it went down, not that this is where it's most likely to have gone down.

BLITZER: So then, obviously, you think there's more information that they're not willing to say publicly?

FUENTES: Well, there may be more or he just said it differently, in a more positive way, when he briefed Malaysian officials.

BLITZER: All right. Here's what he said to me. This is Chris McLaughlin. He's senior vice president for Inmarsat.

Peter, listen to what he said.


MCLAUGHLIN: I must stress, this is very limited data. We're not saying that we have definitively where the aircraft came down, only that the direction of travel is almost certainly to the south.


BLITZER: And at one other point he said almost -- he said almost -- they can't say definitively that it didn't go up to the north.


BLITZER: And that this was just their assessment right now. But on the basis of that, they've alerted all the family members their loved ones are dead.

GOELZ: Yes. They were pretty heavily into the hedge on that interview with you. He -- there was nothing rock solid. And it really hasn't changed anything that we've known for the last 10 days.

BLITZER: Miles O'Brien, our aviation analyst and good friend, is here with us, as well -- Miles, they obviously have to know more, the British, Inmarsat, the U.S., the Australians, the Malaysians, the Chinese, than they're letting on. For the prime minister of Malaysia to basically tell all these loved ones, you're -- all the passengers and the crew members are dead.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: I mean the first thing that came to my mind, Wolf, is are they hanging this entirely on the Inmarsat information?

What about the stuff in the classified world which they're not going to able to tell us about, which may give them a much greater degree of certainty than they're, you know, able to source -- put it that way -- in the public.

BLITZER: Why couldn't they wait, the Malaysian government, Malaysia Airlines, Tom, for some actual forensic evidence, wreckage from the plane if it would have taken a few more days?

They seem to be getting closer to that area. They're probably on top of it some place.

Why couldn't they just wait a few more days?

FUENTES: Yes, I agree completely. The prime minister of Australia said we're close to picking up whatever it was that was spotted yesterday. The ships may pick it up within a few hours and certainly when it becomes daylight, which is right about now.

You're right, if it's gone 17 days, what's 18 or 19 to be right, to be really sure?

BLITZER: See, my analysis is what the prime minister of Malaysia should have said is here's the report that we've received from Inmarsat. In fact, here's the entire report, the whole document and scholars, experts, Miles O'Brien, everybody else, they can read every word of this report. I'm not ready to say that everybody is dead, but for transparency, here's the report and we're going to share it with you.

Why couldn't they just do that?

GOELZ: Well, because they haven't been transparent from the beginning. I think they felt enormous and increasing pressure from the deteriorating situation with the families, particularly in Beijing, that they could not tolerate these photographs and movies that we have seen going on, they needed some hook to start to move these families home.

But this is clearly -- they were not being transparent again.

BLITZER: You saw, Miles, the Chinese government, the foreign ministry, put out a statement saying they want to know how the Malaysian government came up with this definitive conclusion. Please share with us, they said, all of your information. They're irritated at the way Malaysia is handling this.

O'BRIEN: The amount of information we don't know is tremendous. We still haven't heard air traffic control recordings back and forth. We haven't seen the maintenance records of the aircraft. There's so much information that would be routinely released in an NTSB-style investigation that we don't have right now.

So this is, you know, we're seeing them learn how to do these investigations kind of in public. And it's painful.

BLITZER: Now, there's a possibility, maybe a strong possibility, Miles -- and I'll ask the rest of our panel to get in on this, because this irritates me, as well, that this could have been a catastrophic mechanical failure that we simply don't understand yet, something awful happened and the plane disappeared.

Now, there are 1,100 Boeing 777s flying out there right now. Has Boeing done anything to deal with these other planes, just to make sure that transponders simply don't go dark or that anything is going on that maybe they should be taking some pre-emptive steps right now, even before we know definitively what happened?

O'BRIEN: Well, the maintenance records would be a good place to start, because there were some significant and emergency airworthiness directives for the 777.

One of them has to do with the wire bundle which feeds the oxygen system that supplies air to the crew when they're in a situation like that, a catastrophic decompression.

Was that airworthiness directive complied with?

If it wasn't, that's a significant piece of information.

So, you know, lay the cards on the table here for a little bit. And God forbid we find out in a few days or weeks, or whatever the case may be, that 777s were flying around the world unsafe and investigators or authorities in Malaysia were holding back this kind of information.

BLITZER: Peter, you were with the NTSB.

Shouldn't Boeing be at least telling us what they're doing, if anything?

GOELZ: I am sure that they turned over all of their data on this aircraft and on airworthiness directives.

The question is, what has the Malaysian Civil Air Authority done with it?

I mean this is basic Investigative 101. You get the maintenance records the second day. The first day, you ask for them. The second day, you have them. You go through them and you see if the work has been done.

BLITZER: All right, guys, I want you to stand by, because there's a lot more to assess here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, a gray or green circular object and an orange rectangular object spotted by planes flying over the search zone. As a new day begins, searchers are now hoping to pinpoint and retrieve that debris.

Plus, overcome by grief and anger -- why so many of the relatives, they are now accusing Malaysian authorities of a cover-up and even possible murder.


BLITZER: Just a short while from now, the massive search for Flight 370 and objects seen floating in the search zone will resume with a critical supply of air power involved. Aircraft from Australia, China, the United States and Japan searched the area today. CNN's Kyung Lah is joining us from Perth, Australia. Some of those planes are about to take off fairly soon. What is the very latest as far as the search is concerned, Kyung?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, in about 40 minutes, the very first of those planes are expected to take off at daybreak, and daybreak is 40 minutes away over the last week or so. That's exactly when they've taken off.

And there's a renewed drive here. The reason why: The families have their answers now. We all know have the answer about what happened to this plane. Now we need the evidence. Bring those pieces of the plane home. And so that's what the air forces are going to do. They're going to mark it via air.

Yesterday, a good day. There were two different spots were the debris was seen. We don't know yet if that debris is connected to the plane. So by air they mark it. The ship that has to go there, pick it up, and bring it home. A tough task. It will be made tougher today, Wolf, because the weather is expected to be very bad -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That's not encouraging. All right, Kyung Lah, thank you.

In Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, an outpouring of outrage and anguish as families of the missing passengers were told by Malaysia Airlines, in some cases by text messages, their loved ones did not survive.

Our senior international correspondent Sara Sidner was there as some of them got the horrific news. She's joining us now with more on this part of the story.

So Sara, set the scene. Tell us how that went down.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So here at the hotel, where many of the families, many of them Chinese. And as you know, most of the passengers were from China headed to Beijing. When they got this news, they got it before the world got it, of course. They were in a briefing, and as soon as they heard from authorities that they believed that their loved ones were no more, one person burst out of the room crying uncontrollably. Another had to be wheeled out of the room in a wheelchair.

But I want to let you know how some of them were found out initially. Some received a text message that there was going to be this briefing, and then once they got that information, there was real heartbreak, real heartache, and also some anger.

Here's the text message I want to share with you now that was sent to some of the families. It said, "Malaysia Airlines deeply regrets that we have to assume, beyond any reasonable doubt, that MH-370 has been lost and that none of those on board survived." So that is the statement that they got via text, and to read something like that if you didn't -- weren't aware that there was going to be a briefing in person, would be, you know, adding insult to injury. And I think maybe that's why you're seeing some of the reactions that you are seeing. In Beijing, the reaction was much different than here in Kuala Lumpur. Here it was filled with sadness, people screaming, "Why, why, why?" over and over again. "Where's my son? Where are my family members?" A certain sort of acceptance here, but there's also a lot of security here. They're kept pretty much away from the media. They're shielded from just about everyone and surrounded by a lot of security, and they're surrounded by Malaysian Airlines and counselors.

In Beijing, a different story. You're seeing it play out quite differently. A lot less control. The families angry about all of the misinformation that they've been given, angry about the fact that they still haven't seen proof. And I want to read you something that the families have put out from Beijing that represents about 100 of the families here. I want to read you what they've written. It is a strong and striking statement.

It says, "The Malaysian government and the Malaysian military continue putting off holding back and covering up the truth of the incident, as well as trying to deceive the families of passengers and people of the entire world. The Malaysian government and the Malaysian military are the real murderers that killed them."

Extremely strong statement, that coming from families in Beijing. You can tell the difference in tone there, an extremely angry tone and a suspicious tone. Here, more of a tone of acceptance and sadness -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. People want to see the evidence, not just based on an analysis or assumptions. All right, Sara, heartbreaking story. Thanks very much.

When we come back, there are new details revealed in Flight 370's mysterious journey. Just ahead, the new timeline of what likely happened and when.

Plus, was this mechanical failure or a criminal act? Details coming up. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: We're learning more about Flight 370s mysterious journey. Our national correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, is reconstructing the likely chain of events. She's joining us now with new details -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, for the last 24 hours, we have gotten critical information about the flight's path, the behavior of the pilots, and the timing of when that plane changed course.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): New information is revealed about the final hours of Malaysia Flight 370, giving us more insight into what was happening in the cockpit during the critical moments before the plane went down. Saturday, March 8, at 12:41 a.m. local time, Malaysia Flight 370 takes off from Kuala Lumpur, headed to Beijing. The Boeing 777 is carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew on board.

Twenty-six minutes into the flight, at 1:07 a.m., one of the plane's critical communications systems, called ACARS, sends its final transmission. It measures thousands of pieces of information about the plane and pilots' performance and sends it via satellite.

We now know it shows the plane remained on course for Beijing, contradicting earlier reports that the pilots programmed the change in the flight path in the cockpit before sending their final radio transmission. A transcript in London's "Telegraph" newspaper reveals there's nothing out of the ordinary in their communications with air traffic control.

At 1:19 a.m., this exchange: "MH 370: please contact Ho Chi Minh City, 120.9. Good night."

The co-pilot's response: "All right. Good night."

At 1:21 a.m., the transponder, which identifies the plane to civilian radar, stops communicating. Critical information, like the plane's flight number, height, speed, and heading are all cut off. This happens a that same time the plane is supposed to check in with air traffic control in Vietnam.

Then, between 1:21 and 1:28 a.m., a Malaysian military radar shows the plane making a sharp turn over the South China Sea, then changing altitude as it heads towards the Strait of Malacca, dipping as low as 12,000 feet.

The plane then disappears from all radar. At 2:40 a.m., Malaysia Airlines tries to contact the missing flight. By 3:45 a.m., the airline issues a code red alert declaring a crisis; 6:30 a.m., Flight 370 is due to land in Beijing. At 8:11 a.m., more than seven hours after takeoff, a final ping from the plane. A commercial satellite orbiting more than 22,000 miles above Earth receives the plane's final so-called handshake.

Now a new analysis puts Malaysia Flight 370 here, far from any landing site in the south Indian Ocean.


MALVEAUX: And while these new details about the timeline might not necessarily bring any comfort to the grieving family members today, they may shed some light on where the plane might be in the ocean so that investigators can find the wreckage and loved ones can recover the victims of this tragedy -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux, thanks very much.

All right, let's discuss what we just heard with Daily Beast contributor Clive Irving. He's also a senior consulting editor for Conde Nast Traveler. Also joining us, CNN aviation analyst, former 777 pilot Mark Weiss.

Clive, first to you. You have laid out this theory that's been out there now for a while that something happened, some mechanical catastrophe, everyone on the plane basically is unconscious or dead, and the plane keeps on flying. Based on the new evidence, the altitude going up, going down you still stand by that theory?

CLIVE IRVING, THE DAILY BEAST: I think it's seems to support the theory.

It's only a theory. We don't have anything -- any quality information to support it, but it's a viable theory. I think the important thing here is to not get confused by terms. Explosion, fire, those two things, decompression, they're all candidates for what might have overtaken this plane.

But there's also another one, which is gas, which is not much discussed, and the kind of gas that is given off by the lithium ion batteries that we now there that were 440 pounds of lithium ion batteries in the cargo hold at the time, and these batteries behave in a very strange way.

In the case of a Boeing 787 lithium batteries, Boeing were very insistent on saying that they were not technically fires. They were not technically combustion. These batteries releases fumed and gases.

I think of the options possible here which could have disabled the plane or at least disabled the pilots and knocked out the passengers, this is a serious one. And I would urge us to look at not just the top half of the plane, but the bottom half of the plane, the belly, the architecture of the belly, what's in the belly, the cargo holds and the electronics bay, which is next to the forward cargo hold, the architecture in there, what the wiring was, because we have to explain one thing.

If this plane, as it now seems, got all the way down into the South Pacific, by some means or other, whether flown by human hand or flying itself, we have to understand how that was possible after whatever was the emergency did some -- compromise the plane in some way.

This is the puzzle. The aircraft was probably compromised in some way and yet not -- it wasn't made impossible for it to continue, and it's pinning down that point that we need to do.

BLITZER: Let me ask Mark Weiss, who is a 777 pilot.

Mark, what do you think? Is that a reasonable assumption that Clive Irving has made?

MARK WEISS, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: I understand where it's coming from, but I don't think that's going to be a case of reality.

There's a couple of reasons behind that. Number one, because of the suppression systems that would have been in the belly of the aircraft, if you had any gas or anything that would have caused the temperature to increase, you would have gotten a warning, first of all, in the cockpit.

But the other thing that I question is there's a pressure differential in the cockpit of 777, as opposed to the cabin, which is actually built in so that the air -- if there's a fire in the cabin, you're not going to be able to allow that to creep into the cockpit. I kind of discount that theory.

BLITZER: If the plane is, Clive, on autopilot, can it shift altitudes, go up to 40,000, down to 20,000, back up to 35,000, go down to 12,000, go back up to 35,000 and fly another six hours? Does that make sense?

IRVING: Well, I think Mark made an important point about this yesterday, and he said if it had gone down to 12,000 altitude, which your story and your reporting has said it did at one point at least, and if it continued on for the rest of the flight at that altitude, it would have swallowed much more gas than if it had been cruising at 30,000 feet, which means that it wouldn't have gone as far as we're assuming it went if it was cruising as 30,000 feet.

And they have said -- Inmarsat people have said that they don't have accurate information on the altitude of the plane.

BLITZER: Can a plane on autopilot, though, shift altitude, Mark?

WEISS: No. Really, what you're doing if you think about break down the term, autopilot, it's staying where you put it.

BLITZER: So the point being, if it goes down to 12,000 as it goes over the Malay Peninsula or just a little bit further, there's no way it would have reached the area all the way in southern Indian Ocean that everybody is looking for it right now. It wouldn't have had enough fuel?

WEISS: If you're making that assumption that that 12,000-foot altitude is in fact correct.

But certainly had it gone down to 12,000 feet, as Clive just said, it's not going to have that same range capability it would had it been at that altitude.

BLITZER: You're questioning whether it actually went down?

WEISS: Absolutely.

BLITZER: You're under the assumption it stayed at 35,000.

Clive, is that your assumption as well?

WEISS: Yes, that's my assumption, too, that it stayed at 35,000, because I think the Inmarsat people, as you were saying earlier, Wolf, these people have more information than they are actually telling us I think, because the commitment of this search to that one area, this enormous commitment of assets to this one area, which supports this whole idea that it was there and that the northern arc has been dispensed with, that shows you that was such a level of certainty and assurance that this was the right place to go in a way that, when you question those guys from the satellite company today and they were hedging a bit on it, I still think that no one would have committed this number of resources to the search, that one area, unless they had more certainty than that.

BLITZER: Yes. I assume they know more than they are letting on as well.

Very quickly to you, Mark, if in fact there had been fire or gas or something in the cargo hold from the lithium batteries or whatever reason, it would not have taken -- one of the first things you could do is send some sort of message to ground control, we have got an SOS, we got a major problem here.

WEISS: The first thing you're going to do is fight the fire. Procedurally, you're going to do is fight the fire.

But then the next thing you're going to do, fire is probably one of the most frightening things you can have in an airplane. So, you're going to certainly make sure that you have declared an emergency and let somebody know about it.

BLITZER: You're still working in the assumption that a person was responsible for this, not mechanical failure?

WEISS: I still have that feeling.

BLITZER: And, Clive, you think it was a mechanical failure?

IRVING: Yes, I think it was a technical failure, yes.

BLITZER: All right, good, well, there's going to be a lot of analysis. And we will have both of you back to discuss.

Appreciate it. Clive Irving, thanks very much. Mark Weiss, thanks to you.

Up next, Malaysia's prime minister says it's now clear Flight 370 went down in the southern Indian Ocean, but how do search teams actually go about looking for it? We're going to hear from an expert.

And coming up, search flights are about to resume. And we're going live to the staging area in Perth, Australia.


BLITZER: Let's get back to our breaking news.

Malaysia's prime minister sites an unprecedented analysis of satellite data in declaring that the Flight 370 went down in the southern Indian Ocean. Search planes are about to take off once again in another hunt for debris, but how do they know where to look?

Brian Todd is here. He's been looking into this part of the story for us.

Brian, what do you see?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, mapping out possible search areas is key right now.

That means using sophisticated models to devise grids, coming up with drift analysis maps and other calculations. We visited one firm that does all of that and helped solve another well-known plane disappearance.


TODD (voice-over): Since the search began, just the U.S. Navy aircraft have covered more than 160,000 square nautical miles. But now new satellite data is helping search teams gets closer in the Indian Ocean.

CAPT. VAN GURLEY (RET.), FORMER NAVY OCEANOGRAPHER: Now we know that we're only looking at one haystack, rather than multiple haystacks.

TODD: Former Navy oceanographer Van Gurley's firm, Metron, developed search maps that helped locate Air France Flight 447 in the Atlantic Ocean. He took us through the sophisticated models they used, first, a grid which showed where the Air France plane likely hit the ocean surface, two calculations for that, how far the plane could have flown between the last position updated gave and when the transponder failed, and where the debris would have fallen if the plane had a catastrophic failure at cruising altitude.

GURLEY: So, when you layer both of those together in what we call the fight dynamic prior, you get a heat map. And this heat map says, where it's red, there's a high likelihood the plane is probably in that location. Where it's green, it's a medium chance.

TODD: But managing those ocean search zones have huge obstacles. Why is it that search aircraft can spot so many objects, so many promising leads, then surface vessels can't find them?

Bobbie Scholley was on the Navy dive team that recovered wreckage of TWA Flight 800.

CAPT. BOBBIE SCHOLLEY (RET.), U.S. NAVY: The item could have sunk. It could have been blown completely off on a different course or pushed someplace else, and the ship will just never find it again.

TODD: China's governor today released this photo of an object that turned out to be a whale carcass.

But if any wreckage is found, a drift analysis map can help find the rest of the plane. Data marker buoys on those maps helped measure the wreckage of Air France Flight 447 came from.

GURLEY: Over a two-week time frame, they tracked hour by hour to see where they were reporting themselves as they drifted in the ocean currents, and so you see the current -- the buoy down here on the southwest, the red dot, started here, went west, and ended up over in this region. TODD: In the Air France case, one map grid was calculated as if the recorder box pingers were working. When they recalculated as if they were not working, that's when they located the plane.


TODD: Now could those methods work in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370? Van Gurley says they would work. But without actual wreckage found, it's going to be tougher until more tangible information is found on the Malaysia Airlines flight. He says, they cannot come up with data as clean or as pinpointed a location as the Air France maps did -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, thank you.

Let's talk to Colleen Keller right now, she's a senior analyst, specializing in Navy systems at Metron Inc., a Defense contractor that helped with the search for Air France Flight 447 in the Atlantic.

Colleen, we know the Australians say they've spotted a gray or green circular object in this general vicinity in the Indian Ocean. Also, an orange rectangular object. How difficult should it be for a ship in that area to go to where they spotted it, find these objects, and determine whether or not they are wreckage from the plane?

COLLEEN KELLER, METRON INC.: It's -- it's hard to imagine but I've seen pictures of the seas. They are seeing some pretty high seas there, Wolf, with wind-whipped waves and low visibility. It can be pretty difficult. Anybody who's been on the ocean can attest to that.

You would think that the colors would help and I also heard that they dropped some sort of flares so that there's smoke or fire that's marking the positions of these objects. So it shouldn't be too difficult but then again, with the heavy seas, they might have their work cut out for them.

BLITZER: How quickly could these objects actually float in a very, very different direction given the ocean currents?

KELLER: Well, I would hope they have buoys in the water. These drift buoys that my colleague Van Gurley was talking about in the other broadcast. The Coast Guard routinely drops these kinds of buoys when they have a man overboard situation to map the real-time currents so they don't have to rely on models of the ocean surface that can be erroneous.

And if there are buoys in the water, then they would know exactly what the currents are doing. And they shouldn't be changing too much during this time period. So that would help them in determining where to position the ship to intercept the floating wreckage.

BLITZER: Colleen, this is a flight data recorder I have here on the desk. And I want to play for you and for our viewers right now the audio sound, the pinger sound that it emits for about 30 days after it goes into the water. Listen to this.

All right. You hear it. Now that could be picked up for a couple of miles. Is that right?

KELLER: Yes. It doesn't sound like a very spectacular sound but it's really distinct under the water and you can recognize it easily if you're a sonar man.

BLITZER: So let's say it's at the bottom of the Indian Ocean, maybe it's 13,000 or 14,000 feet deep. That's a couple of miles right there. So if you're going at the top of the ocean there, the Indian Ocean, and you've got the right equipment, you'd be able -- and you're going right over it, you'd be able to hear it?

KELLER: Yes. Actually, they float the fish or the submersible that can -- the toad pinger locator that can actually hear this thing. They float it and skim it along the bottom. So that's why knowing the topography on the bottom is very important. You don't want this thing getting tangled in any kind of terrain or locks or anything like that. But they try to get it down as low as it can so it has a good lateral distance so they don't have to worry about the vertical distance above the bottom. And one to two miles is typically what we saw in the Atlantic for Air France.

BLITZER: Colleen Keller, we're going to continue to invite you back as the search continues for wreckage from this airliner.

Colleen Keller, thanks very much.

Just ahead at the top of the hour, we're going to have much more on the breaking news. The mystery of Flight 370. The air search about resume only moments from now. We're live in Perth, Australia.

Plus, outraged families. Lashing out in Malaysia Airlines, accusing it of murder after being told their loved ones did not survive.


BLITZER: We'll have much more on our special coverage of "Mystery of Flight 370," that's coming up. But right now, another breaking story we're following. The escalating crisis in Ukraine. President Obama in a meeting with world leaders of the Netherlands, just dealt Russia another major blow.

Our senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta is traveling with the president. He's joining us now with details.

So tell our viewers what happened?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, President Obama is raising the stakes in this confrontation with Russian President Vladimir Putin forging an agreement with other G-7 leaders and effectively kicks Russia out of the G-8 after an emergency meeting that lasted nearly two hours.

Those G-7 leaders came out with a statement that blasted Moscow for its annexation of Crimea but the other big headline of the day, Wolf, is that the G-7 summit will no longer be going to the G-8 Summit that Vladimir Putin had planned for Sochi, Russia. Instead that G-7 Summit will help in Brussels, Belgium at around the same time in June.

The president almost hinted as much when he talked about costs facing the Russians earlier today here at the Hague. Here's what he had to say.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Europe and America are united in our support of the Ukrainian government and the Ukraine people. We're united in imposing a cost on Russia for its actions so far.


ACOSTA: Now as for those 20,000 troops, those Russian troops gathered on the Ukrainian border, a senior administration official said that the G-7 nations have also agreed to further sanctions against Moscow if Vladimir Putin decides to invade eastern and southern Ukraine.

Those sanctions, Wolf, would affect Russia's very lucrative energy and banking industries -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We know the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is there in Hague, in the Netherlands, not Putin. So any talks with him? Any progress at all?

ACOSTA: Right. Well, he met with Secretary of State John Kerry earlier today. He also talked to the Ukrainian foreign minister. But he was asked about the prospect of being booted out of the G-8 earlier and today he basically said that there is no membership card for the G-8 and so he doesn't really see Russia as being kicked out of it, but that, of course, is not how the United States and those industrialized nations view it at this point.

There were some diplomatic situations happening on the sidelines and that might offer some hope in the minds of the U.S. that Russia may eventually take this off-ramp but of course they've had these diplomatic discussions before and of course Putin took Crimea so we're waiting to see what happens next -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta, traveling with the president. Thank you.

Dawn is about to break over the Indian Ocean, the hunt is about to resume for objects seen floating in search area.

And overcome by grief and anger. Why many relatives are now accusing Malaysian authorities of a cover-up and even possible murder.