Return to Transcripts main page

LEGAL VIEW WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD

Malaysia Airlines Forbids Pilots From Being Alone in Cockpit; G.M. CEO Mary Barra Faces Senate on Faulty Ignition Switches; GM Recall; High-Tech Ship to Join Search; Washington Landslide

Aired April 2, 2014 - 12:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And a submarine from the British Royal navy has now shown up on scene to help. The nuclear-powered HMS Tireless just turned 30-years-old, and it's got its work cut out for it.

Tomorrow, the Australian navy ship carrying a U.S. pinger detector and a submersible search pod should finally be in place after the long three-day sail over treacherous seas. But then there is a whole host of other problems that will hamstring it, as well. You kind of have to have wreckage before you employ those incredible tools.

CNN has now learned that Malaysian Airlines has tightened its cockpit rules, forbidding either pilot from ever being alone inside the cockpit.

And naturally, I turn to my CNN colleague Martin Savidge and his simulator in Canada, with his instructor and best friend, I take it now, Mitchell Casado.

I also want to welcome CNN aviation expert Richard Quest and also Michael Kay, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Royal Air Force. He's a former helicopter pilot and one-time adviser to the U.K. Ministry of Defense.

OK. Martin, I want to come to you first with this new revelation that there is a circulating flier, so to speak, that's going around Malaysian Airlines with the information and the new protocols on tightening the cockpit rules for who can be in and, when one pilot wants to leave, what must happen and who must come in and take his place.

Could you two walk me through technically how this happens? Because I know those locks aren't like any normal locks on any doors.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. I mean, you know, we always are sensitive when we start talking about security issues pertaining to the cockpit that we want to be able to demonstrate to people that there are things that are being done. We don't want to get too specific so people would come up with counter-measures.

But, on the 777, there is specifically, right here, a flight-deck door lock, which is an electric switch, and I'll try not to block with my hand, but you can turn it and now it's listed as unlocked, auto, and then deny. So there are various configurations of this door works in combination with a code so that someone outside would have to properly enter that code.

And that also sets off a delay, so that there is an alarm going off so the pilot knows somebody's coming in. So they can verify the authenticity of that person, and if they need to deny it, they can block them. So there is a lot of stuff that can be done. But what you're talking about is more where one pilot does not get left alone inside the cockpit, correct, Mitchell?

MITCHELL CASADO, PILOT/SIMULATOR INSTRUCTOR: That's correct. So one pilot leaves the cockpit to go to the bathroom or take a crew rest for a long flight, we have to have the in-charge, we call it, the head flight attendant from the cabin crew, come in and monitor the other pilot, so that not one pilot is left alone.

SAVIDGE: And that apparently is just one of the features that has now been implemented by Malaysian Air. Other airlines have done this for some while, so they have been a bit behind the curve --

BANFIELD: Yeah.

SAVIDGE: -- if they've only just now started that.

BANFIELD: Right. In fact, Richard Quest was the one who pointed out to me this morning that American carriers have been employing that technique for quite some time now. But I'm more curious about the notion that two pilots can police each other in very subtle ways and cannot do so if one of them is left alone.

Do you see this -- at least in the case of Malaysian Airlines, do you see this as the gentle nudge towards being able to police a pilot if it's a senior crew member who has to do it, or if it is the other pilot who has to do it?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: I think it serves many functions to have somebody else come into the cockpit.

At its most simple, it serves the function, if the pilot who is flying suddenly has a funny turn and has a heart attack, so you've got somebody else in the cockpit to open the door or to ensure somebody else can come back in again. So, at its most simple, it's just a straightforward --

BANFIELD: Safety issue.

QUEST: A safety issue. Then you do get more complicated in terms of is it there to watch over, is it there to prevent the pilot flying or the pilot who is flying at the moment from locking the door and keeping somebody out?

Remember, in Ethiopia recently where there was a hijacking where he locked him out of the cockpit while he took the plane? So it's multifarious at different levels, which it makes simple, good, common sense to have somebody come into the flight deck.

BANFIELD: So, Colonel Kay, one of the questions that I constantly ask and I never really get an answer, at least it's not happening anyway, and it seems simple to me, the layperson, is why is there not automatic ground control that can take over the operation of a plane if anything is going wrong.

Just, you know, in Mitch Casado and Martin Savage's example, I didn't even bring up the issue of one pilot incapacitating the other and locking everyone out.

But why can't ground control takeover and incapacitate that plane for anyone who's in the cockpit?

LIEUTENANT COLONEL MICHAEL KAY, ROYAL AIR FORCE (RETIRED): I think, Ashleigh, what we're trying to do is we're trying analyze every particular outcome, and what we can't do is we can't head off every particular outcome at the pass, because there are just so many complexities and different dynamics involved, from the technology to the procedures to the pilots.

The commercial airline world, the culture doesn't lend itself to being able to pick up psychological problems, for example. And the reason is because I've got friends who have flown on fleets for 10 years who have flown with a co-pilot and then never seen that co-pilot again.

BANFIELD: Right. You're just --

KAY: It's different in the military. In the military, you're on a squadron. You'd fly together. You'd eat together. You debrief when you get back into the crew room. And that culture doesn't exist on the airlines.

BANFIELD: And you know if someone is having a down day or a problem.

KAY: Yeah, it's easier to pick up that. And, also, what I would say as well, the simulator is hugely important. The guys do four days of simulators.

Simulators isn't just about emergencies and procedures. It's about what's called CRM, crew resource management, and that effectively is the way that -- it's the way that pilots and co-pilots work with each other when there are emergencies in those stressful situation.

BANFIELD: Just quickly.

QUEST: You have enough problems with driverless trains, subways, where there's nobody at the helm or it's being controlled by a control room. And you want to put aviation -- you want to put a switch in the cockpit or on the ground --

BANFIELD: In an emergency, you bet your butt I do, yes.

QUEST: Wouldn't work.

BANFIELD: Why not? These things fly themselves, effectively. QUEST: No, they don't.

BANFIELD: But they do. They're autopilot. They fly apparently ghost flights with two dead pilots. We've seen it in the case of --

QUEST: They fly themselves once humans have put them into the parameters of flight. Now, I can feel somebody about to e-mail me, tweet me or whatever, to say, oh, but there's a drone.

BANFIELD: Me.

KAY: I agree with Richard.

QUEST: Do you want to get on a plane that's got no pilot whatsoever?

BANFIELD: I don't want to get on a plane that's got a pilot taking me into the Indian Ocean.

QUEST: The chances of that happening are so rare and so remote.

KAY: And I completely agree, Richard. You implement something like that and then something goes wrong with the technology, so people say, well, you know, why do we do that in the first place?

And let's go back to the human eye versus technology. The thing that's going to spot any object and call it debris is ultimately the human eye, either by seeing it or by taking a photograph and getting someone to analyze the photograph. It's the human eye.

BANFIELD: I've never had anyone agree with me on that theory, that idea.

QUEST: It might be wrong.

KAY: Live and hope.

BANFIELD: It might be wrong, right. I've been wrong many times before.

KAY: There is always tomorrow.

BANFIELD: Martin Savidge, Mitchell Casado, of course, Richard Quest, the phenomenal Richard Quest, and Colonel Michael Kay, thank you all for your insight and your input, as well.

Who is responsible for the deaths of more than a dozen people who were killed when their cars malfunctioned? For a second day in a row, the CEO of General Motors is facing that question and a whole lot more tougher questions, too.

The LEGAL VIEW on what might be next for not only Ms. Barra, but also her company, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Fifty-seven cents per car, that's roughly how much it would have cost general motors to replace a faulty ignition switch, according to a document written up back in 2005.

And we now know that because G.M. failed to do that, actually spend that money and change that switch, at least 13 people were killed and the question is why. Why did it take the company 10 years to issue a recall when it came to those switches?

G.M.'s new CEO, Mary Barra, just on the job a couple months, got a real grilling yet again today. Second straight day on Capitol Hill, this time it was the Senate panel. Today, the senators going so far as to accuse G.M. of a criminal cover-up, and also demanding that the company own up to it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: Why not just come clean and say, "We're going to do justice here. We're going to do the right thing. We're going to compensate the victims," knowing that money can't erase the pain or maybe even ease it, but it's the right thing to do.

MARY BARRA, CEO, GENERAL MOTORS: Our first step in evaluating this is to hire Mr. Feinberg and we plan to work through it with him and understand his expertise.

As I said, there are civil as well as legal responsibilities, and we want to be balanced and make sure we are thoughtful in what we do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: The Mr. Feinberg that Ms. Barra was referring to was just on our show last week, a compensation attorney, very well-known, and G.M. has just hired him. He also worked with the 9/11 victims and the fund disbursements there, as well as the Boston marathon bombing, so he knows a thing or two about giving out money to people who have been harmed.

For the LEGAL VIEW on all of this, I want to bring back CNN's legal analyst, Danny Cevallos and Paul Callan.

Ms. Barra said something like, we're thinking through exactly what those responsibilities are. Is it really up to her and her company to think through what those responsibilities are? Or if she doesn't think them through to the end, someone is going to think them through for her.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I thought she was hedging very carefully in her answers about saying, well, we accept responsibility, but what does she mean by that? She doesn't mean that she's going to give money to people who had accidents before 2009.

Remember, the bankruptcy order says, any accidents prior to 2009, they're not liable. And I will say one thing. I feel bad for her. Here they bring in a woman CEO of G.M., and, by the way, guess who was in charge when all this went down in 2009?

Richard Wagoner, who lost billions of dollars for the company, maybe he should be the one testifying and not her.

BANFIELD: A lot of people said that was the reason that -- those few cents per car weren't spent, because the company was heading into bankruptcy. It was broke, and actually couldn't afford or at least with a proper business model.

CALLAN: This wasn't her decision, obviously. It's a prior administration.

BANFIELD: So Danny, the issue that the -- I think it was Dick Blumenthal brought up, was the criminal aspect of this, because there have been allegations that there were all sorts of things that were quietly sort of assuaged, and that there were agreements made with the bankruptcy court, knowing full well that this damage or at least this faulty switch was there, to create the old company and the new company.

And the old company has to handle what happened in those days, and the new company does not. But criminal? And who would be held criminally responsible? And for what?

DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, first we need to know, corporations can be held criminally liable, but typically that will be based on some individual human who did something criminally.

But it's really going to come down to this, and we have to not let emotions prevail, at least the government shouldn't, because if someone did something negligent, not every act of negligence, believe it or not, rises to the level of criminal negligence --

BANFIELD: We have 13 people who died.

CEVALLOS: Yes, but Ashleigh, not every corporate decision that results in a death is necessarily criminal negligence or even worse.

On the other hand, if somebody actively defrauded the bankruptcy court, if they actively hid this, if they can demonstrate enough of that guilty knowledge, then possibly criminal charges are in the mix. But we have to act not emotionally, but logically, and the government shouldn't go willy-nilly accusing people.

CALLAN: And (INAUDIBLE) too, you know, what about statutes of limitation?

CEVALLOS: Sure.

CALLAN: You know, in criminal cases, we say charges have to be brought within a certain period of time. It not fair to a defendant who's charged with a crime if he can't put together the evidence to defend himself.

BANFIELD: Right.

CALLAN: Statute of limitation may be gone on this. A lot of these accidents, you know, are 10 years old or older.

BANFIELD: Yes. And I'm not clear on the statutes in every jurisdiction, right?

CALLAN: They're different in every jurisdiction.

BANFIELD: Yes. Yes. All right, well, obviously this is going to be a mess that is not going to be resolved easily. And it would be interesting to find out what exactly GM plans to do when they say I'm sorry, how do they say that? How do they say it? Do they speak it with the money or do they just say it with words?

Danny Cevallos and Paul Callan, thank you. As always, appreciate it.

Back to our top story, the search for the missing airplane. The high- tech ship that's en route right now to search the area is expected to play a very big role in the hunt for whatever it might come in contact with. Up next, we're going to take a closer look at the Ocean Shield and what that vessel can and can't do to find that plane.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: The race to find Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is running up against a deadline that is approaching a lot faster than people might think. Batteries on the black boxes that send out the locater pings, those batteries are starting to run out.

And effectively, if the count is right, they're going to run out by this weekend. The ship that holds perhaps the best chance of finding those flight data recorders is now one day away from reaching the search zone, with some sweet equipment on board. The best of the best, in fact, to find those pings if, in fact, the pings are pinging.

Joining me to talk about the critical role this high-tech ship named the Ocean Shield can play in this search is CNN correspondent Paula Newton, who is live with us from Perth, Australia, and ocean expedition and expedition logistics expert, Christine Dennison.

Paula, first to you. Just get me up on the project that Ocean Shield is making and what it's going to do once it gets out there, even if they haven't found debris.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we expect it to be in the search zone quite quickly, perhaps within the next eight hours. That, of course, is good news. The problem, as you say, Ashleigh, they've not refined that search zone any.

The commander, the man who is going to be directed with using that tow ping locater and that underwater drone has told me that, look, if we arrive on scene and we're not able to deploy the expert equipment, we'll use everything that we have to just look for debris the way all the other ships have been looking for debris. They will do what they can to just add to, quite frankly, what is a huge contingent of ships and airplanes right now and also helicopters. All of this working to comb that search zone.

BANFIELD: But not necessarily, Paula, the tow pinger locater and the blue fin 21, those Cadillac pieces of gear that have - we've been told will not be employed unless there's some piece of that plane found. NEWTON: No. And that's the problem. I think I was mentioning to you the other day, the search zone needs to be 1,000 times smaller than it is right now for them, to with any certainty, deploy any of this equipment. I think that it is actually the researchers now, the people trying to look at those models and refine that search area that are working against time. They have all these assets right now out in the search zone. What they're waiting for is more accurate information about where the point of impact might have been.

BANFIELD: Of course. As are so many people all around the world.

Christine Dennison, I have to -- listen, we have at least, I think, two or three days max by the time that fantastic equipment gets to the site, to the time that the pingers stop pinging. It seems to me it would be a waste not just to throw that stuff in the water and get it working anyway -

CHRISTINE DENNISON, OCEAN EXPLORER: Right.

BANFIELD: Because, God forbid that ocean vessel is going right over the plane, and the debris just can't be found because it's 25 days blown away. Why not just drag the stuff? Why wait?

DENNISON: Well, I totally agree with you. It's exasperating. It's a little - it's a little much at this point. Everybody wants to have something done.

To do that would be futile at this point. As Paula just said, they have such a large search area at this point that it has to be narrowed down. And we can't stress that enough. It has to be made smaller before you want to deploy any AUV or TPL-25, because they're very limited. Technology is very good, but it's not that good. And the issues you would have is that these machines can cover only 10 to 15 miles per day. So if you're doing that --

BANFIELD: You're slowing yourself down.

DENNISON: You're slowing yourself down, again, sea conditions, you really can't deploy an AUV in hard sea conditions. You have to launch it. You have to recover it. It takes four to six people to launch and recover an AUV. The TPL-25, also, you're not going to get very accurate sound readings if it's dragging along and you've got really rough conditions. It won't be accurate.

So it is a difficult call, but they know when they can do this. And I think they're ready to go. It's just a question of finding a search area that is narrower in scope that they can work from and have some success.

BANFIELD: So effectively when that Ocean Shield gets out there, if they haven't found a piece of scrap from that plane, we may never see those incredible pieces of equipment employed, which is very sad. But, you know, it is - it is the reality at this point.

DENNISON: It is.

BANFIELD: Christine Dennison, thank you.

DENNISON: Thank you.

BANFIELD: As always.

DENNISON: Thank you.

BANFIELD: So there is another search that's going on today and it's in Washington state. Right now there is a desperate search for people still missing in a massive landslide. We're going to take you there, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: We have some brand new satellite images of the massive devastating landslide that hit two small communities in Washington state. The pictures were taken on Monday, more than a week after disaster struck. The count today, 29 bodies have been recovered, but 20 people are still missing.

Now, take a look at that picture and compare it to the before picture. And the bird's eye view is nothing short of terrible. It's even worse up close. Our Ana Cabrera got our closest look yet. She joined the searchers who are tackling the daunting task of combing through the debris and, of course, holding out hope they just still might find survivors.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is ground zero of the Washington landslide, our first look at the destruction up close. Debris piled up to 80 feet high in some spots. Tires, twisted cables, large appliances and uprooted trees, the only decipherable objects in the mangled mess. Images don't fully capture the devastation. This neighborhood was mutilated by the enormous force and power of land and water that ripped through this valley.

LT. RICHARD BURKE, (ph) FIRE DEPT.: Our family has just gotten bigger. We've kind of adopted the town of Oso or maybe they've adopted us.

CABRERA: A week and a half after the disaster, the driving force for workers remains finding victims. Nearly two dozen people are still missing.

CABRERA (on camera): Will you be able to find all of the victims?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to try. I mean that's the crystal ball question.

CABRERA: The debris field is full of a toxic sludge, a combination of human waste, chemicals from households, as well as propane tanks, oil and gas, making the search effort extremely dangerous.

CABRERA (voice-over): Every person, animal and thing that comes out of here has to be decontaminated. Workers are forced to wait for some areas to dry out before investigating. Pumps have helped to clear some of the water where search dogs have picked up human scent.

CABRERA (on camera): All of this heavy equipment is helping to clear the debris off the road to provide more access for rescuers. But the debris is staying put until hand crews can come and go through these piles to pull belongings for family members who lost everything.

CABRERA (voice-over): Two American flags fly among the men and women working here. One recovered from the debris hangs in reverence for lives lost, another flag at half-staff on a lone tree left standing in the slide zone, a source of strength and a symbol of hope for better days ahead.

Ana Cabrera, CNN, Arlington, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD: And to find out how you can help, you can log on to cnn.com/impact.

Thanks so much for watching the program today. It's been nice to have you with us. My colleague, Wolf Blitzer, starts right now.