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STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY

Chinese Ship Detects Sounds Like Black Box Pings; Pelosi: 'I Never Expected Anything But a Double Standard'; Experts Discussing Implementation of Affordable Care Act; New Developments in Search for Flight 370

Aired April 6, 2014 - 12:00   ET

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


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Sunday morning's questions. Are those underwater sounds that searchers are detecting the pings from black boxes on Flight 370? And did someone deliberately fly this 777 on a path designed to avoid Indonesian radar?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY (voice-over): Today after four weeks coming up empty, new clues with an abundance of caution.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an important and encouraging lead, but one which I urge you to continue to treat carefully.

CROWLEY: The race to find the black boxes before the batteries die on their audio signal.

Then running against all odds. House Democrats push for a November miracle.

(on camera): Are Democrats going to take back the House this year?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: Well, of course. We have great candidates.

CROWLEY (voice-over): Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi on midterm politics, double standards for women in power and whether Congress deserves a raise. Our political panel chimes in on that and on President Obama's not-bad week.

This is STATE OF THE UNION.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: The aerial search for Flight 370 has ended for this day, but several ships continue their efforts in the southern Indian Ocean.

A British naval vessel is heading to the area where a Chinese ship reported detecting two pulse signals that matched the frequency admitted by the pingers on black boxes, and some 300 nautical miles away, an Australian ship detected what is described as an acoustic noise.

Meanwhile, a senior Malaysian government official tells CNN Flight 370 may have deliberately flown around Indonesian airspace to avoid radar detection.

I'm going to bring in CNN's Will Ripley. He is following the search from Perth, Australia.

Will, good to see you. What -- I feel like we're in a little bit of tragic monotony here. It seems each day these planes come back empty- handed.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Empty-handed, as we've seen time and time again. And even when there have been objects recovered from the ocean, so far no connection to Flight 370, which is what makes this announcement from China an interesting and important development. Nonetheless, a development that still doesn't give us what we really need, which are concrete answers about Flight 370.

We know that on Friday and Saturday, that Chinese ship, the Haixun-01, supposedly was using some sort of underwater hydrophone, and they detected two separate pulses, pulses they think could possibly come from an in-flight data recorder.

The information was interesting enough to the Australian command center here in Perth that they decided to reroute that British ship, the HMS Echo, which is now two hours away from this newly-refined search zone.

We don't know a whole lot yet about the technology the Chinese are using. We don't know how reliable it is, and we don't know that the Echo is going to be able to find the same underwater sounds that the Chinese say they have detected.

But nonetheless, when that ship arrives in just a couple of hours from now, they will begin their work in that area, trying to locate whatever it was that the Chinese ship detected.

Meanwhile, you mentioned the "Ocean Shield" some 350 miles away, also investigating another acoustic event underwater.

But the key point here that Angus Houston pointed out in his press conference Sunday morning is that we need to proceed with caution. In this investigation, there may be many times that we hear underwater sounds that turn out to be not in any way connected to Flight 370. We need to be skeptical, because as we've seen time and time in this case, there have been false leads; and we certainly don't want to give the families of those 239 people false hope.

CROWLEY: We do not. They have been through a lot this past month. Will Ripley from Perth. Thanks so much.

I am joined now by Jeff Densmore. He is director of engineering at Dukane Seacom. He designs and develops underwater locater beacons. And Colleen Keller, former operations research analyst for the U.S. Navy. She's a licensed pilot who helped find Air France 447 when it crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in 2009. Thank you both so much for joining us.

Jeff, let me start with you. And explain to us, if you will, what else could be underwater that would make a pinging noise at the same frequency as black boxes do.

JEFF DENSMORE, DIRECTOR OF ENGINEERING, DUKANE SEACOM: OK. Good morning.

The sound that the pinger emits is very unique. The design and the parameters around it were selected because of that. It's unusual for something natural to emit a sound like that, so this is certainly something that would most likely be manmade. So if it's not the beacons on the black boxes, possibly it's something else that has been placed there recently for other purposes.

CROWLEY: So it could be another manmade noise, but it is not -- I mean the ocean is pretty noisy for anyone that's ever gone scuba diving or, you know, been down there in any sort of vehicle, but this is definitely -- if the Chinese heard what they think they heard on the same frequency, it has to be a manmade object of some sort.

DENSMORE: I'll not be so definite, but certainly, it's most likely a manmade sound. We're certainly hopeful that it is the locater beacons for the black boxes.

CROWLEY: We do indeed.

Colleen, let me ask you. When you look at these -- the search for these batteries or these -- these data boxes, are the currents -- let's say they're on the bottom of the ocean somewhere. Are the currents strong enough to move those boxes from point A to point B, or are they pretty much firmly down on the bottom of the ocean?

COLLEEN KELLER, FORMER OPERATIONS RESEARCH ANALYST, U.S. NAVY: Oh, Candy, those boxes are pretty heavy. I think you had one in the studio at one point. Try picking it up. I don't think that they're going to be moved by currents. They might be partially buried in the silt. I don't know. But we just assume they go straight down when they hit the water.

CROWLEY: So when they go further to -- let's say these pings turn out to be something. Then you move to what, sonar, to find the exact location?

KELLER: Yes. And this is the kind of sequence of events we used in the search for the Air France jet. They actually didn't detect them by pingers. They went by the beacons. They went straight to the -- well, they tried to. And then they went straight to the side-scan sonar from -- from unmanned submersibles, unmanned submarines that went down to that depth.

You have to get them down close to the bottom, and then they scan to either side. They go up and down in a ladder search, much like what the aircraft are doing right now.

And they also use cameras. If they detect something that looks like it's manmade, then they would turn the lights on and use the cameras to take pictures.

CROWLEY: And, Jeff, I want to play you something that someone told me earlier this morning. This is Kitty Higgins. She's a former member of the NTSB board.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KITTY HIGGINS, FORMER NTSB BOARD MEMBER: The fact that the black-box data stops pinging after 30 days, the safety board has recommended that that be extended to a longer period of time. Clearly, that needs to be acted on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Does the battery exist for those pingers that would, in fact, last longer than 30 days? If so, why aren't they in widespread distribution?

DENSMORE: So that's a good question. We actually offer a product today in the same size that goes 90 days. That's a customer-selected option, but the requirements that are in place are for 30 days.

As a result of the Air France crash that you were just speaking about, there have been regulatory updates. And, effective March of next year, the mandate will be that these devices will have to operate for 90 days. So we were -- we're on the cusp of that taking effect.

CROWLEY: And are they wildly expensive, or is this a relatively inexpensive thing for airlines to do?

DENSMORE: To upgrade from 30 to 90 days?

CROWLEY: Right.

DENSMORE: Not -- not a big price impact.

CROWLEY: OK. And tell me whether -- we are learning from the head of Malaysia Airlines that these batteries on the pingers were due to be replaced in June. What does that tell you about the longevity they have under water right now?

DENSMORE: So our -- our devices are designed and validated to operate at a minimum of 30 days at the end of their life, and the end of life for us is defined as six years. After six years we require the batteries be replaced or the beacon be replaced.

And so we have test data that verifies that the product will still operate for 30 days after six years. And we actually have some small design margin on top of that, just to make sure that they all make it 30 days.

CROWLEY: So it's possible it could be -- you know, give or take a week or so, it's possible it could be pinging rather strongly. On the other -- at the other end of the spectrum, it could be getting really weak.

DENSMORE: That's correct. And when we say 30 days, at the end of the batteries' -- or at the end of the time, that's when it no longer meets its requirement. Meaning that's -- it no longer produces the sound at the intensity level that the -- at the intensity level it's required to. It will continue to operate, and it will just become quieter and quieter until eventually the battery does die.

CROWLEY: Right.

DENSMORE: And what that means is that you have to be closer and closer to it as it goes through the -- at those final -- those final stages.

CROWLEY: Right. And, Colleen, to you, a couple of final questions. And the first is: What are the chances that there is still a debris field, that is a collection of a lot of things from the plane, given what you know about that area of the world and the currents?

KELLER: You're talking floating debris, right, Candy?

CROWLEY: Well, you know, any kind of debris. I'm assuming it also moves underneath the water, as well, and you know, that hasn't settled all the way down to the bottom.

KELLER: Yes. Because we use that term for both the stuff you find floating on the surface of the ocean and also what's on the bottom.

The stuff at the bottom is going to stay there. It's heavy. It's descended down there. I don't think the currents are very strong on the very bottom of the ocean. It's near the top where winds generate motion in the water. That's where things are moving really fast.

And I think -- you know, people say that there's still going to be floating debris even this far into the problem. So I would still expect to find some objects still floating together. Eventually, some things will start to sink, but I'm just astonished that we haven't found anything yet, except for the fact that it's a very big ocean. We have to keep remembering that.

CROWLEY: It is, and it is hard to remember, especially because you think of the plane as so big, but we don't have the same perspective on the ocean.

But I think what I mean here is, with so much talk about how far debris could move over the course of a week or two weeks -- and it's now been four weeks -- I'm just wondering how far you think a debris field could move under the circumstances of being near the top of the Indian Ocean, simply because when we look at the route they now think the plane took, it's right off the coast of Indonesia, and yet it's hard to believe that there's debris still there.

KELLER: Well, it depends on which area you're talking about. You remember there was initially a southern search area. I think that's around where the Chinese ship has detected the signal. And then they shifted the search area to the north.

In the south the currents were fairly prominent. They were about one knot, and they were moving south-southeast. So in a day, things floating on the surface would have moved 24 miles. Up north we looked at the currents there, and it looked more like things were just kind of swishing around like a washing machine. So it's possible that stuff could have even gotten concentrated or kept together and just swirled around and not really moved out of the area. It really depends on where -- what the currents are doing in each area.

CROWLEY: And, Jeff, my final question to you, does the condition of the water, either the saltiness of it or the temperature of it, affect battery life?

DENSMORE: It does. Its contribution will be minor, but colder temperatures are favorable for battery life. The pressures won't affect it too much, so ocean depth won't necessarily affect its life. But the temperature will. If it's colder, it will give us a little bit -- a little bit more battery life.

CROWLEY: Jeff Densmore and Colleen Keller. Thank you both so much for joining us this morning with your expertise.

More on Malaysia Flight 370 later this hour, but up next, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi tells me if she agrees with Hillary Clinton about the treatment of women in power. My exclusive interview is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Earlier on the STATE OF THE UNION, we played the first part of my exclusive interview with Nancy Pelosi. She said the majority of Democrats are ready to run on Obamacare's success during their midterm elections. She also called Paul Ryan's 2015 budget an ideological manifesto, saying Democrats will release their own budget Monday.

Now the rest of my interview with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Let me talk politics with you in our final minutes here. Hillary Clinton this week was opening up a women's forum. She was asked about a double standard and said that she thinks that the media covered -- there was a double standard in the coverage of women of power.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: The double standard is alive and well, and I think in many respects, the media is the principal propagator of its persistence. And I think the media needs to be, you know, more self-consciously aware of that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Do you agree with that? Do you think that the media has a double standard for women of power?

PELOSI: Well, let me just say that, as one who has, you know, been the speaker of the House, I've had to have a very thick skin about every kind of thing that was thrown at me. In fact, what's sad about it is women say to me, "I would run for office, but I could never put my family through. I don't want my children coming home crying because of what somebody said about me" and that the media just kept repeating and repeating and repeating, where if they're a man, they might not.

If Hillary Clinton thinks there's a double standard -- she's -- she's been in the main event that is a presidential race -- then I respect that.

From my own standpoint, I never expected anything but a double standard. I don't know if it's media or people say things that's news that you have to cover.

But I do think that, from equal pay for equal work, there's a double standard all the way up to the top echelon and that women who want to be in the public arena have to expect some of that.

CROWLEY: Do you have every intention of running again this November?

PELOSI: Yes. I'm on the ballot.

CROWLEY: You're on the ballot. You -- if it should happen, and the odds are against you, but if it should happen that the Democrats take over, you would run for speaker again?

PELOSI: That would be totally up to my members.

CROWLEY: Well, running. You could say, "I don't want to be speaker."

PELOSI: Yes, but it's up to my members. I actually did not necessarily want to be leader again, but if they wanted me to be. But here I am.

CROWLEY: Well, speaker is pretty different from leader, right? You would know that best, probably.

PELOSI: Oh, speaker is very important. It's very important. And I think that, when they see the obstruction of the current speaker, they understand the awesome power of the speaker, where many people didn't realize what the speaker was before. They just didn't know.

But the speaker has a great deal of power. And I've had my opportunity to do that. We passed the Affordable Care, Wall Street reform, Lilly Ledbetter, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal. We did so many things. Even some things with President Bush. We had a great deal of cooperation.

CROWLEY: Right. Sounds like you might OK to do it again, though, if you had the chance.

PELOSI: Well, the most exciting thing is to represent the people of San Francisco in the Congress of the United States.

CROWLEY: I have to ask. Jim Moran, who is retiring, congressman from Virginia, says that he thinks that congresspeople are not paid enough and that there should be, you know, maybe a higher per diem. He's retired so he's got no skin in this game particularly, but would you agree with that? He said that a lot of members, quote, "can't afford to live decently in Washington."

PELOSI: Well, I would just say that the time is not now for that while we have the challenge that we have for our economy and so many people out of work where we have budget deficits that we need to address and that perhaps we should be saving that for another day.

CROWLEY: House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. It's always very nice to see you.

PELOSI: My pleasure, thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Joining me around the table, Penny Lee, senior adviser with the P.R. firm Venn Strategies and former adviser to Senator Harry Reid. Corey Dade, NPR contributor and writer of "The Take," a politics blog at The Root. And Ross Douthat, a "New York Times" columnist and CNN political commentator.

Well, I hardly know where to start.

ROSS DOUTHAT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Congressional pay.

CROWLEY: Congressional pay. Well, I have -- because I have to say sometimes when I give speeches, I see, don't be -- it is tough for these congressmen, particularly, who are not -- and Nancy Pelosi said, "Look, I'm a bad person to ask," because her husband's very wealthy, and so she's quite sensitive to that.

But the fact is, you know, it is difficult to maintain -- they make $174,000 a year, so don't cry for them, Argentina. On the other hand, you know, they've got -- they've got to keep that up in Washington and in wherever their home district is.

DOUTHAT: Right. I mean, I think Moran's think that you can't afford to live decently on $174,000 a year is probably not the right way to put it.

What is true, though, is that we have weird political economy in Washington, where people work in Congress as public servants and get paid less than the lobbyists lobbying them, the lawyers working around them, the consultants who are hired by their parties. And then the set-up is set up so that you then leave Congress, and the assumption is that you will sort of slide into one of these influence-peddling jobs where you will make all the money that you couldn't have made during your career in public office.

And whether, you know, raising congressional pay slightly would actually solve that problem, you know, it probably wouldn't have, but it's at least worth considering sort of the weird way the Washington economy works in that regard.

CROWLEY: Penny.

PENNY LEE, SENIOR ADVISOR, VENN STRATEGIES: I would say with an approval rating of about 18 percent on its best day -- on its best day, I would say a lot of the American people probably want to fire their congressman, let alone give them a raise.

So there is that dichotomy there with that, in that there is -- there is a conversation to be had, but as Nancy employee said, it is not now. And I think they have a lot more to prove that they can actually work and govern before you have that.

CROWLEY: Corey, let me move you in just a slightly different direction. Nancy Pelosi's statement about being covered as a woman of power. I asked her, obviously, off the Hillary Clinton statement. Do you think that the media covers women differently?

COREY DADE, NPR COMMENTATOR: Yes, I do. I think the media -- well, any reporter, any journalist is going to reflect his or her own experiences, and it's inevitable. Even if they're being objective and fair.

And when it comes to members of the media when they cover women, that is an issue. There is -- we've seen it with candidates across the board. Of course, we're seeing it in Texas in the governor's race there. I think also it often is the fact that, you know, the media is reactive. So you see the political opponents of female candidates and female office holders bringing up issues that are gender code, and the media ends up reacting to it. So they may not be generating sort of this slight biased coverage, but they certainly perpetuate it.

CROWLEY: Yes, Ross, I mean, they're covering it. I remember there were several times during Hillary Clinton's campaign where, I mean, one of the first questions she got in Iowa -- because I was there covering it -- was "Do you think you're tough enough to face down terrorists?"

DADE: Well, she gets emotional --

CROWLEY: Yes, and nobody really asks --

DADE: -- talks about a man being emotional.

CROWLEY: Right. And then when she --

DOUTHAT: Except for John Boehner after a really hard day -- hard day at the office.

But, yes, there's -- there's clearly a particular set of issues that female candidates have to navigate and, you know, being the sort of male conservative on the panel, I'm probably the wrong person to point this out.

DADE: Go on.

DOUTHAT: But there also advantages that female candidates have in elections, precisely because their opponents, their male opponents often, you know, have a sort of tricky path to walk in the way that they criticize. And I think that there's no question, in the case of Hillary Clinton -- I think, well, what I'd say is this. In the course of Hillary Clinton's career, she has had to navigate both before she was a senator, as first lady and so on, basically every kind of trap and mess and problem that a female candidate would have to face.

However, if she runs for president in 2016, I think her gender is much more likely to be an asset than a liability.

CROWLEY: Right. Do you agree with that?

LEE: Absolutely. It was one thing that she actually almost ran away from in 2008 and I think she now sees that there is a historical nature to it, that there is something to be said. And she is unique for her gender for that. And so she is going to be called into question, you know, whether or not that plays to an advantage or disadvantage. I think she is going to be able to show the American people, as we saw in that closing speech, in which she talked about breaking those glass ceilings, that it is going to work to her advantage and there are some distinct responsibilities that she has because of that.

DADE: I think the numbers bear it out, though. I think these last two election cycles, President Obama has been able to build that women turnout, female turnout so strongly, and the Democrats -- it's become a total asset to the Democratic Party overall that Hillary won't have to run away from that. They out -- they outnumber men voters. They turn out at high rates. And the issues --

LEE: But it is larger because of the policies in which they're pursuing, and that is in sharp contrast to what Republicans are doing, as far as on the policy side.

CROWLEY: Except we should mention that Mitt Romney did better among white married women.

DADE: Women overall.

CROWLEY: Women overall, agreed.

DOUTHAT: The gender gap was actually as large as it was partially Obama -- excuse me, because Romney did unusually well among men while losing women badly.

CROWLEY: Right.

DOUTHAT: So Obama was like plus. If you did the total gender gap, Obama was similar to where Clinton was in the mid -- Bill Clinton was in the mid-'90s.

CROWLEY: I need you all to stand by but stick with me.

When we return, President Obama celebrated 7 million signups for the Affordable Care Act. We'll talk about his week and whether it marks the beginning of a comeback. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: We're back with Penny Lee, Corey Dade, and Ross Douthat. Thank you, guys, for our second round here. It was a pretty big week for the president after - not great since October and the Internet blew up with Obamacare. He seems to be really on and up when he came out to announce the 7 million number. Take a listen.

BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Many of the tall tales that have been told about this law have been debunked. There are still no death panels.

(LAUGHTER)

Armageddon has not arrived. Instead, this law is helping millions of Americans and in the coming years it will help millions more.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: This is about as close to him spiking the ball and dancing in the end zone --

(LAUGHTER)

DADE: As he ever gets. I did have a little bit of -- there is a point where I sort of saw shades of George Bush on that aircraft carrier after the Iraq invasion, but I think, you know, this is a victory, it's clearly a victory for the enrollment issue. But, you know, this was as much a message to his own party basically telling his party stop being a punk.

Step up and stop running from Obamacare. Step up. We have to run on it, you have to run on it, don't just defend the plan, but be on the offense about it. You're seeing in some of these contested Senate races like North Carolina where Kay Hagan and others are actually taking the bull by the horns and actually starting to cut ads that actually defend Obamacare as so far a success. We'll see.

CROWLEY: We've seen others in some districts where the Democrats are running and going, I told them that some of this stuff was wrong --

(LAUGHTER)

CROWLEY: So I think it depends on how red you are in your district if you're running as a Democrat.

DADE: Yes.

CROWLEY: But we also don't know, Ross. Like 7 million people did what?

DOUTHAT: 7 million people enrolled. It doesn't mean 7 million people -- DADE: -- signed up, not enrolled.

DOUTHAT: Excuse me, 7 million people (INAUDIBLE) glad you're there.

DADE: That's right.

DOUTHAT: So, probably about 6 million of them will actually make their payments and have insurance over the course of the year and then this is where the estimates start to get really murky. But the best guess is about a third of those didn't have insurance previously. So then if you add that number, 2 million to let's, say, 3 million and maybe eventually, 4 million Medicaid signups that didn't have insurance previously and then add some of the under 25-year-olds getting insurance on their parents' plans you're up to 8, 9, 10, 11 million, maybe and that's below the Congressional Budget Officers' most recent projection for the first year. And so it's not a success on the basis of what the administration originally expected, but I completely agree. It's a success compared to where we were.

CROWLEY: We thought we'd be, you know, five months ago, but the question, I think, Penny, is it a little early to be spiking at the ball? And - because you - it does seem that we never know quite what's coming. And if there are 30 plus million people uninsured. And we are thinking maybe --

DOUTHAT: But there will be. They were always going to - Look, I mean this law was always going to leave about 30 million uninsured. The question is now whether it leaves 40 million uninsured.

LEE: Right. And I would say to use another sports analogy. You know, when the first day came out and we had six people that actually had signed up or had gone through the system, you know, we said, we're only on first base, it's a long game out there, I would say that the president - you know, we're probably in the fifth or sixth - that we're not already --

(LAUGHTER)

DADE: Sorry.

(CROSSTALK)

LEE: But the game is not over. And, I think the president recognizes that, too, that this was a big win for him to be able to - like I said to go from six people signing up on that first day to 7.1 this day. Plus, all of the other things and benefits that people have felt, whether it'd be - that they now don't have to be precluded from preexisting conditions. Whether or not their kids can now be covered. So, there is a lot of pluses whether or not seniors can get discounted drug medicine that they once were (INAUDIBLE) from having. A lot of positive things. But I think everybody, candidates and the president are fully aware that there's still some more unknown that they need to go through.

DOUTHAT: And the danger with spiking the ball to go back to the football, I have a great cricket analogy. (LAUGHTER)

DOUTHAT: The danger is that there are a lot of people and we knew it going in, but now we know more of it who are losers under the law and whose premiums are going up and who lost insurance and have -- presumably most of them have signed up again, but that's the most - going to be the most vocal anti-Obamacare constituency. And the president didn't really - you mean those are the people, that to be frank, the president lied to explicitly when he said if you like your plan, you can keep your plan, and he doesn't have a clear message for them.

CROWLEY: Ross Douthat, I'm sorry, I have to - and we have to come back to a little later.

(LAUGHTER)

CROWLEY: Corey, Dade, Penny Lee, thank you all so much for coming.

Back to this morning's top stories with the news that Flight 370 may have intentionally skirted Indonesia's radar when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Renewed questions today about the missing Malaysian jet's flight path. A senior Malaysian government official says Flight 370 may have deliberately tried to avoid Indonesian radar. We want to go to CNN's Nic Robertson in Kuala Lumpur. So, Nick, where does this bring us now? Let's say that this information is completely correct and the plane did fly outside Indonesian radar, what does that tell us?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we have here is Malaysians putting more information explicitly on the table about the track of the aircraft, that it did fly back across Malaysia and then loops north of Indonesia avoiding its airspace, and as the senior Malaysian government official is telling us that their inference here, what they have learned, it seems to show that the pilot or whoever was at the controls of the aircraft was trying to avoid Indonesian airspace and flown a track to avoid radar detection, which for investigators here really is another piece of the puzzle. That turnaround when the plane turned back from - on its flight track to Beijing, the question initially was that because of mechanical trouble.

What we're learning now and clearly what the investigators here have had in their pockets for some time is they're very clear that this is not a plane avoiding mechanical trouble. This is a plane trying to get away from radar and trying to get away from detection. So this is going to focus, it does seem, more on that issue of psychology of people onboard the aircraft rather than the sort of sabotage hijacking-type scenarios they were also investigating, Candy.

CROWLEY: Thanks so much, Nic Robertson with us from Kuala Lumpur. Joining me now Ken Christensen, he is the president of Integrated Aviation Solutions. His long resume includes time working with NASA and the Department of Homeland Security. Also with us, Karlene Petitte, an international airline pilot and author of Aviation-themed novels. Thank you both for being here. Ken, let me start with you. Can you envision a scenario whereby a plane through anything other than someone in the cockpit would fly a route that totally avoids Indonesian radar? Is that human induced?

KEN CHRISTENSEN, INTEGRATED AVIATION SOLUTIONS: It could be human induced or it could be a third agent getting in the cockpit and directing the pilots to fly outside that area. When you transit the ocean obviously, you're going to get out of radar range, but on this flight path that was up on the monitor, it looked like they were parallel on the Malaysian coast just outside of the radar range. And so, yes, that could be -- that could be done intentionally.

CROWLEY: Right. But is there a scenario, in which it is not done intentionally? A plane can't fly that -- can't fly that sort of regularly, can it, or on that particular - on a route unless it's being guided by something.

CHRISTENSEN: Well, the pilot, I mean the pilot can just put that in any mode and actually fly outside that area. What's not clear to me is was the airplane at a low altitude, avoiding the radar where at a low altitude you'd actually be closer to land and avoid the radar or was it at altitude and further away from land?

CROWLEY: And Karlene, about the idea that the pilot - they've been so focused on the pilot, although they have background checked all the passengers as far as I understand it and the other co-pilot, but you envision more a scenario where it was not the pilot.

KARLENE PETITTE: Absolutely not. There's numerous reasons. First the pilot would not fly his own airplane above his surface ceiling, 45,000 feet. If he intended on taking the plane out and it was a suicide, immediately after departure he would shut the engines down and put it in the ocean. Just the way the aircraft flew and the timing - and the personality on the pilot. He was an (INAUDIBLE). He loved aviation. And there is I would say nothing indicate - you know, everybody - everyone has a potential to break, but if he broke, he would do it a lot sooner. I firmly and always believed that somebody accessed that cockpit and primarily to the timing of when everything was turned off because the flight after they depart get up to altitude and at midnight 45 the flight attendants would have basically put everyone to bed in the back, they would have given the drinks, tucked them in and then next thing they would have done was call the cockpit to see what they needed and that would be coffee.

So you can envision the flight attendant hanging up the interphone, filling two cups of coffee, walking up and punching in the security door code to get in, to gain access. And those security doors are safe and secure as long as they're closed, but the moment they are open, you've just breached security. And anyone sitting in the dark could have their seatbelt unbuckled and charged that flight deck and have immediate access.

CROWLEY: And the truth is, can we - we know so little about what might have happened in the cockpit, what's happened to the plane. So, the focus on the pilot, I think it has been interesting and certainly it's been something that Malaysian government has focused on. I want to move you, though, Ken, to these acoustic noises that are being heard. One by an Australian ship and the Chinese they heard two pings. How promising are those leads?

CHRISTENSEN: I mean if you do pick up the acoustical signal, you have to be pretty much right on top of where the wreckage initially impacted the water because the heavy items would sink. And when I say right on top, a mile and a half to maybe 3 1/2 miles from the wreckage depending on how deep the water is. So that leads me to believe if they did go there, maybe they have better information on where the impact could have impacted the water. But, again, the acoustical signal, you have to be very, very close to wreckage and less than three miles to actually pick that up.

CROWLEY: Karlene, Ken, thank you. I have to cut it short there. I hope you will come back. This mystery's still unfolding. I appreciate your time.

When we return, with time running out on the black box pingers, we'll ask a navy dive expert what it would take to find them once they go silent.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Joining me now Bobbie Scholley, she is a Retired Navy captain and a diver. And Steven Wallace, former director for the FAA's office of accident investigation, also a CNN aviation analyst. Let's start with the two top stories beginning with a Malaysian official now saying that this plane seemed to fly south, well, first west, and then south, deliberately skirting radar from Indonesia. The implication being somebody was in control.

STEVEN WALLACE, FMR. DIRECTOR FOR FAA'S OFFICE OF ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION: So this sounds a lot like evidence we heard in the early stages of this investigation, and what has been lacking from my perspective is demonstrate that the best experts in the world who are mostly there willing to help have seen this radar data and placed a lot of credence in it. And if it turns out to be - to correctly depict a flight that well then, you know different theories - what that might mean as whether it was suggesting, perhaps that it was a deliberate act.

CROWLEY: And the other is this - the pinging or at least a noise not found in nature that the Chinese say they heard at least two different times. Australians have seemed to have found some audio -- something pinging. They don't use the word ping. Nonetheless, so, there's three - these three, four instances. How optimistic are you that these are the actual pings that would take us to a black box?

BOBBIE SCHOLLEY: There is a chance. I'm hesitantly optimistic. Those pings are something. I know that the operators and the equipment on the Australian ship, the "Ocean Shield," have something that needs to be investigated. I've actually worked with that equipment and those operators before on TWA flight 800 and on some other operations and that is the equipment and the operators that have also worked on Air France. So that must be investigated. That was the third noise --

CROWLEY: Right.

SCHOLLEY: That was picked up by the Australian ship.

CROWLEY: You feel a little more certain of the equipment on the Australian ship.

SCHOLLEY: I do because I have personal history with that. They must investigate that before they break the "Ocean Shield"" off and go look at the noise that the Chinese vessel has picked up, and they will. They will investigate that, but on the same token, the Chinese ship has also heard noise and that needs to be investigated, but it takes time to go back and investigate any of that noise because of the depth of the ocean there and how long it takes those ships to make those turns and to go back and acquire those noises at that depth. So it all takes time, but it still it's -- it's -- it gives me a little bit of optimism that they're picking up anything right now.

CROWLEY: And, Steven, what -- do the clues -- the pinger - I mean they're what, 300 - about 300 nautical miles apart what the Australians heard and what the Chinese heard?

WALLACE: Right.

CROWLEY: Does any of that tell you? I talked to a guy who makes the black boxes who said, no, they make a specific noise. And when it's hard to, you know, not to distinguish it from the other noises that are in the ocean.

WALLACE: Well, one good thing to say about this latest pinger evidence is that it's treated with the correct measure of caution. Unlike so many earlier theories of this investigation, now we've got it. And everybody's speaking about these pingers including the experts you had and said, well, OK, we need to treat this with caution. The Australians officials have said, you know, we need to treat this with caution. The pingers, you know, are not the ball game. You know, as Bobbie will be testing, in Air France, the pingers were long dead. In fact, there was evidence, I think, that perhaps they never worked at all. And, you know, this is immeasurably more difficult than Air France 447 because the search area is so enormous.

CROWLEY: Because there's been no debris.

WALLACE: Right. In Air France, we had debris in a few days. And yet, I remain, again, I remain less optimistic that this will be solved than I was on day one since I've never seen an unsolved transport jet accident, but this is looking like maybe the all-time toughest one.

CROWLEY: Somebody at some point described it as trying to find something on a football field with a straw. So, we are looking through a straw, which gives you an idea of the difficulty of what - the immense expanse they're dealing with. Tell me, Bobbie, if the pingers go out and they may go out the next week, they may already be out, we are not really sure, then, when it goes silent, what's the next step under water?

SCHOLLEY: Then you still have an underwater search capability with those autonomous underwater vehicles doing side scan sonar and you take the data that you've got. Maybe you still look at the areas that you've got pingers and start there. You take the best electronic data that you have from the radars and the satellite and you continue the search by mappings those areas of the ocean, but now instead of a straw on that football field, you have a stir stick.

CROWLEY: Right, right. Listen, thank you both so much. Bobbie Scholley, Steven Wallace for your expertise this morning. We appreciate it. And thank you all for watching "State of the Union." I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. If you missed any part of today's show, find us on iTunes. Just search "State of the Union."

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