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THE SITUATION ROOM

At Least Seven Bodies Recovered from AirAsia Crash; New Images of Kim Jong-Un Flying A Plane; Experts Anticipate North Korea Retaliation for "The Interview"

Aired December 31, 2014 - 17:00   ET

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


BRIANNA KEILAR, HOST: See you next year, Jake.

Happening now, more victims -- new recoveries of AirAsia passengers with the first bodies arriving onshore. Bad weather, though, has some of the mission on hold.

Will it make finding the plane itself even harder?

Water landing, perhaps?

Some clues suggest the pilot may have been attempting a rare and desperate move. I'll talk to a pilot who did it successfully, the man behind the miracle on the Hudson, Captain "Sully" Sullenberger.

And bizarre video -- North Korea releases new images of leader Kim Jong-Un flying a plane, as Sony makes moves to distribute its controversial film parodying him even more widely.

Wolf Blitzer is off today.

I'm Brianna Keilar.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

New details and grim new discoveries in the crash of that AirAsia jet. The first bodies recovered have arrived on land. Seven have now been pulled from the Java Sea where the plane crashed with 162 people on board. And while recovery efforts are going full force on the water, the air search has been held up by bad weather.

Now there's conflicting information about whether the plane itself has been found. One search official tells CNN sonar has defected debris from the Airbus A320. But the head of Asia denies that.

We are covering all angles with our correspondents, including reporters in the region, and our guests, including Captain "Sully" Sullenberger, the pilot behind the so-called miracle on the Hudson.

But first, here's the latest that we're learning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR (voice-over): Two bodies from AirAsia Flight 8501 arriving in Pangkalan Bun, Indonesia, and rushed to a hospital. This is their first stop before being sent on to Surabaya, where two victims arrived earlier, their caskets marked 001 and 002. One hundred military personnel there to pay their respects.

But further recovery of remains or debris being hampered by bad weather that has grounded search planes.

TONY FERNANDES, CEO, AIRASIA: The weather, unfortunately, is not looking good for the next two or three days. And that is slowing us down. But they did inform me that the ships are looking to operate 24 hours, which is very encouraging.

KEILAR: Those ships desperately searching for the plane's fuselage, and with it, data recorders that could untangle some of the mystery behind the crash.

FERNANDES: The search and rescue team is doing a fantastic job. They're narrowing the search. They are feeling more comfortable that they are beginning to know where it is. But they have -- there is no confirmation of them.

KEILAR: In the crisis center, victims' relatives held a prayer service, hopes for their loved ones fading, as they were asked to provide photos to help identify remains.

One family Gary Tuchman met had seven loved ones on board Flight 8501.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How does a man cope in this situation?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (through translator) I am very sad, of course.

I am devastated.

KEILAR: Joe Indry (ph) is this young man's grandmother. As Eric drove to the airport, he thought about opportunities he missed out on with his grandma.

ERIC, RELATIVE OF AIRASIA VICTIM: I basically regret all the time I was supposed to spend time with her. Now I can't do it anymore.

SYUONG THEJAKUSUMA, RELATIVE OF AIRASIA VICTIMS (through translator) when we heard the information, firstly, of course, we hoped our family members were safe and thought of nothing, until yesterday morning and afternoon. We still hoped we would get a miracle that our families are still alive, because my mother, my sister, we were very close.

KEILAR: And this is Suyong's other sister, Thele Hoa.

THELE HOA, RELATIVE OF AIRASIA VICTIMS (through translator): I ask God why he is testing us this way, by taking them away without giving us the chance to say good-bye.

KEILAR: But this family knows a miracle is most unlikely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My wife said why is it always the best that leave first?

(END VIDEO TAPE)

KEILAR: Definitely.

And Gary Tuchman joining us now live -- you've been talking, Gary, to these families.

What more are they telling you about how they're holding up?

TUCHMAN: Well, Brianna, most of these families have come to terms with the fact that it's likely their families have passed away. We have talked to some people, though, who are refusing to give up hope. One young man telling us his grandmother is missing and that he believes it's possible, that some of the rafts were blown up and that maybe his grandmother got on a raft and is on an uninhabited island somewhere. And he literally asked officials, are you searching land masses near where the plane went down?

And they told him they are. I mean they really are. They're looking at everything, although officials acknowledge that the possibility of finding anyone alive is miniscule, at best.

We're standing right now at the police headquarters in the city here. That sign, in Indonesian, says, "police headquarters" and it says, "waiting area for the families of AirAsia." And what's happened is the crisis center was at the airport this morning. And right now, it's just after 5:00 in the morning here, in the new year of 2015 in Indonesia, they're moving the crisis center to the police headquarters, because it's next to a hospital, which is to my right. And that hospital is where the bodies are being brought to be identified and to be autopsied.

So family members are to arrive shortly. Most of them are getting a well earned good night's sleep, because it's been very difficult. They've been up for many hours at a time. And now they're going to be coming back to this area here, this tent. And they're going to be getting counseling. They're going to be getting food and water. They're going to be getting all kinds of information.

And that's one thing we've got -- we have to stress, Brianna. Compared to the Malaysian Air incident in March, the communication has been relatively good. There have been a few snafus, including an accidental live transmission by Indonesian TV of one of the bodies, which was very upsetting to people. But all in all, the communication has been good and a lot of the family members who are grieving so much are appreciative of that fact -- Brianna.

KEILAR: That is good to hear.

Gary Tuchman in Surabaya, thank you.

Once this plane is located, crews will face the monumental task of pulling it from the water.

We have CNN senior Washington correspondent, Joe Johns, with this. And the depth of the water here, we're talking 80, 100 feet, it makes this doable, but it's not easy.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's not easy. It's an enormous job, Brianna. And at first, it can take a long time, quite frankly. They have to map out all of the pieces of the plane and where they are. And only then, the heavy lifting begins.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS (voice-over): How do you pull a plane up from the bottom of the ocean?

PETER GOELZ, FORMER MANAGING DIRECTOR, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: What you want to do first is to really map the entire accident scene.

JOHNS: We spoke with Peter Goelz, a former investigator with the NTSB, who worked on the recovery and rebuilding of TWA Flight 800 that crashed after takeoff from New York City.

GOELZ: You document everything until you really get the information off the data recorder and the voice recorder.

JOHNS: He says the site needs to be treated like a cream scene and mapping the debris field before removing objects could be key to finding out what happened. Then comes the process of pulling up the giant pieces of debris from the bottom of the sea.

GOELZ: You would have a number of lifting cranes and you would have teams of divers. And the divers, of course, even working at 100 foot depth, you'll have to have decompression chambers.

JOHNS: A potentially slow process, because divers can only remain at depths for short periods due to health concerns.

But does Indonesia have the know-how to carry off a recovery effort like this?

There are still questions about the location of all the debris.

DAVID GALLO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: It seems like a fairly small body of water, but when you're out there, it's huge.

JOHNS: David Gallo, with Wood's Hole Oceanographic.

GALLO: Usually, you're extremely careful now to say that you've found something until you ground truthed it.

JOHNS: Wood's Hole participated in the recovery effort in the crash of Air France Flight 447 off Brazil's northeastern coast, whose black boxes took almost two years to recover, footnoting what a painstaking process this can be.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

JOHNS: On the other hand, this crash occurred in much less water, which raises the possibility that. It will be easier to get all the pieces.

Still, there are concerns, quite frankly, of souvenir hunters, because since this is much less water, it's even a possibility that recreational divers might go and try to bring pieces out. That's a concern.

KEILAR: I hadn't even thought of that. It's a horrible thing to think of, that possibility.

I'm sure it's very real, though.

Joe Johns, thank you.

Weather complicating the efforts here to find the plane.

Let's talk to CNN meteorologist, Tom Sater.

He's working on this part of the story for us in the CNN Weather Center.

What are we looking at right now -- Tom?

TOM SATER, ATS METEOROLOGIST: A much, much better day, Brianna.

Yesterday at this time time, we talked about the search area, most likely, would be looking at the most intense rainfall that they have seen since contact was lost with this aircraft. We're still searching in section five. This was the band of heavy tropical rains that moved into the area approximately 4:00 in the afternoon local time. They had to suspend the recovery and search operation.

These have been moving from the south northward. Today, a much better picture. When we think of thunderstorms, we think an intense rainfall is two and three inches, which it is. This is dropping 10, 12, 15 inches. And they just don't move as fast.

Now, we're looking at much better conditions now, but you're going to find the best at night.

This is moving out of the area. What we had yesterday, because they had to suspend the search, it was too dangerous to get dive teams in and out of the water. Once they're in the water and they're down 25, 30 feet, that's fine. It's stabilized, and so is the aircraft on the floor.

Remember, is the Java Sea, not only is it shallow -- and Joe mentioned it would be easier to retrieve the craft -- but there's a lot of sediment. So that's going to help stabilize that craft.

But the seas yesterday were up and down. They were not -- the vessels were not fighting seas coming in from one direction. Because they were slow-moving, it sloshes the water. And when that happens, you just can't tow the pinger locators. You can't tow the sonars. We had problems in the South Indian Ocean with the Malaysia 370 flight. The Australian tanker kept breaking some cables with a Bluefin 21. So they need to do that at night when the water is quiet and tranquil. We're looking at much better conditions, not only in the daytime, but at night, as well. But it's so erratic. Yesterday, the storms coming from the south. Today, they're coming from the west and the southwest.

It's hard to forecast, but I do believe the next couple of days are pretty good.

However, I've got to take you further to the north, where a tropical storm devastating parts of the Central and Southern Philippines. Jangmi was its name. We had not only 30 dead from flooding, but we had a landslide that buried another 20 yesterday.

This is no longer a tropical storm or a depression. But typically, they move toward Vietnam, or up to the north in South China or even Japan. But it's getting caught in a flow which could take the system down into our region.

Again, It's not going to be tropical in nature, but that is going to be enough circulation to intensify the storms, to bring more of a pattern, more of those winds coming into our region to intensify the rainfall in maybe four ore five more days from now.

But until then, the news is that still, it looks like our wind pattern comes toward the southeast. The current pattern for the last five days, Brianna, has been generally west to east.

So even though there may be a breach in the fuselage, and we believe that because we have found debris, it is generally to the southeast.

Now, when you look at the surface, and this is important, keep in mind, we do not have topography on the Java floor, that has deep crevasses, mountain passes or valleys, that causes the force of water in the ocean to push debris.

That debris, only at 100 feet, is not going to move much at all. In fact, it probably won't. So they've got to find that.

Also, consider the channel is shallow. This is good news for the pinger locators. It doesn't have to work and bounce off different frequencies or different walls, crevasses, as mentioned, so they should get a pretty good handle on it.

Quickly for you, this is the picture out of the Singapore C-130 aircraft that's showing the rainfall and just how saturated it is. This also playing a role in the low visibility. So we're keeping an eye on that in the waters, but at least the dive crews, Brianna, should be able to get back in the waters and the operation should resume for the next 24 hours.

KEILAR: Very good news.

Tom Sater, thank you so much.

I want to bring in my next guest, Captain Chesley Sullenberger, the pilot whose safe water landing of a crippled U.S. Airways jet became known as the miracle on the Hudson.

Captain Sullenberger, thanks so much.

For being with us.

CHESLEY SULLENBERGER, CBS NEWS AVIATION ANALYST & SAFETY EXPERT: Good to be with you, Brianna.

KEILAR: I know you certainly have studied and heard all of the information that we're getting about air Asia Flight 8501 at this point.

Can you just sort of walk us through?

I think I want to look at this from the beginning.

As a pilot going -- dealing with a storm such as this one, walk us through the procedure of what you would go through to deal with this.

SULLENBERGER: Well, there is strategic weather avoidance and tactical weather avoidance. And the strategic avoidance begins before the flight starts. The airline dispatcher, who also helps plan the flight, would be looking at the best route of flight to avoid weather as much as possible.

Of course, the pilots, once they reviewed their flight information, would want to make sure that they could operate the flight safely.

And then the tactical weather avoidance happens during the flight, as they look at weather ahead of them, whether it's visually out of the cockpit windows or with the aid of their on board weather radar.

The investigators, of course, will be looking at how adequate the information was provided to the dispatcher and the pilots was, what alternative routes of flights might there have been, how good was the air traffic control coordination among the Indonesian air traffic controllers and between the Indonesian air traffic control facility and the Singaporean air traffic control facilities, how easy was it and how much time did it require for pilots to get approval for deviation request because of weather or to change altitude?

They'll be looking...

KEILAR: Well, let me...

SULLENBERGER: -- at all those.

KEILAR: -- can I ask you that, because it was two minutes, I believe, between his request, the pilot's request to climb, and receiving the basic denial of the request.

Is that too long?

SULLENBERGER: We'll have to wait and see. It isn't terribly long, but two minutes would seem like an eternity...

KEILAR: Sure.

SULLENBERGER: -- when you're facing weather threats ahead of you. And you would want to deviate as rapidly as possible. That's one of the things that need to be investigated.

You know, we've -- need to look at this in terms of how well the air traffic control system operates, how it organizationally works...

KEILAR: Yes.

SULLENBERGER: -- and how good the human performance was and what the culture is, you know, were best practices, was efficiency promoted. Or was this a rigid, more bureaucratic system that lacked flexibility.

Those were the important things if this turns out to be a weather- related event. I should also say that in almost every accident, it's never the result of a single failure and a single fault layer. Instead, it's the end result of a causal chain of events. We'll see if weather was a factor and to what extent.

KEILAR: Yes, that it might be multiple layers of failure actually. And, obviously, we don't know, there are so much still to know. There are no black boxes at this point. We don't have the analysis of that. But there have also been a lot of similarities perhaps to the crash of Air France 447 that flied a few years ago, going between Rio and Paris. In that instance, the pitot tubes on the plane, they froze over, gave an incorrect reading to the crew as the plane was flying through a storm.

Do you think that could have happened here?

SULLENBERGER: That's one of many possibilities. We have to look at this in terms of the system and how it is designed to operate.

You know, increasing complexity in our cockpits while it's good in many ways it's not a panacea and it introduces certain new risks. It makes possible in the example in the case of air France 447 and the failure of speed sensors to have rapidly cascading effects through multiple systems in the cockpit. And it was confusing and overwhelming to the pilots.

So, we have to look at how we design our systems, how good our policies and procedures are and how well pilots are trained to deal with this. Recent studies have indicated that increasing use of automation in the cockpits is de-scaling pilots to a certain extent and we've lost some of our manual flying skills. But an even greater risk is that it seems to be that this lack of mental engagement and awareness during the flight, as we monitor more automation doing much of the work actually hurts us in terms of our ability to analyze, to troubleshoot and to quickly fix challenges that we face.

KEILAR: That you're not perhaps as engaged as you should be and ready to respond.

I have a lot more questions about that, really, the training the pilots are receiving and whether it is enough. We'll be talking more to you, Captain Sullenberger, after a very quick break.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: We are following new details in the search for AirAsia Flight 8501, including at least seven bodies now recovered, as bad weather hampers the search for more victims and for the plane itself.

We are back now with Captain Chesley Sullenberger, famous for safely landing a crippled U.S. Airways plane that lost thrust in both of its engines in the Hudson River. He is now a CBS News aviation analyst and safety expert.

And, Sully, my question to you is, if you have lost -- I guess if you've lost power in an airplane or perhaps there is a stall, you have the lack of visual -- lack of visuals because there are clouds, it's darkness. You're not sure if you can trust your instruments, what do you do as a pilot?

SULLENBERGER: Well, first, you maintain control of the airplane and you learn to find out what you can trust and what you can't. If you have visual references, of course, if it's daylight, if you're clear of cloud, use the natural horizon, otherwise, you use your flight instruments.

Recovering from a stalling is something all pilots practice, mostly in small airplanes. In fact, you might not know that most airline pilots have never stalled an airliner, certainly not intentionally. And our flight simulators currently are not programmed to be able to practice at full stall of an airliner and the flight simulator.

I've had a chance to go to the Airbus factory in Toulouse, France, to fly with Airbus test pilots and especially Airbus and under control conditions actually stalled the airplane, something few airline pilots have had the opportunity to do. But an inadvertent stall at a high altitude in a cloud would be a very shocking series of events, and you'd have to respond quickly, you would have to correctly solve a problem you've never faced in reality before and get one chance to do it right.

KEILAR: And presume --

SULLENBERGER: That's why recently --

KEILAR: Presumably --

SULLENBERGER: That's why recent improvements in the safety rules have required that going forward, we'll begin to practice doing that.

KEILAR: That makes total sense, and I'm imagining when you went through that in France, it was probably clear skies, very unusual circumstances that you had the chance to do that, but you're in clear skies. What did it -- what it did feel like and what did you have to do to regain control? SULLENBERGER: Well, again, it was in clear skies with flight

instrumentation, more than most airplanes have, with flight engineers monitoring your progress, as well as a test pilot and other pilot seat. But it was really not a violent event at all. There was some shaking and some vibration as to turbulence of the air flow over the wings began to occur as the air flow is being disrupted as the angle of the air against the wing was too great and then you could feel a settling as you begin to lose lift and then you would quickly and responsibly lower the nose, lowering that angle that the wing mix with the air, and increasing thrust to recover.

But like I said, a sudden, unexpected stall in cloud in an unusual attitude with a very different occurrence and much more challenging and if it was not correctly handled very quickly it could lead to a loss of control of the airplane.

KEILAR: Yes. There is a theory that this has been put forth by one aviation safety expert based on the last time the radar picked up this plane and the location in which they found the debris, about 100 miles away that the pilot may have been trying to land this aircraft over water similar to the landing that you made over the Hudson River, obviously, a very different body of water here.

Can you make that kind of landing on the Java Sea in the storm?

SULLENBERGER: That's an interesting problem, too. It's been done. It's more challenging obviously in the open ocean than in an inland waterway. But at least in the United States, in our flight simulators, it's not possible to practice a water landing. Before our water landing, the only training we'd ever gotten in the water landing was a theoretical classroom discussion. Of course, there was a checklist. There was a protocol. We'd never done it.

So, again, we had one chance to get right something we never anticipated and never specifically trained for, and being in the open ocean would be a much more challenging situation. But over water in general, it's terrain where depth perception is inherently difficult and you're ascending without engine thrust, much steeper, much more rapidly than where a normal approach to a landing on a runway where you have thrust to make a more gradual approach, it would be a much more challenging thing to do, but it's possible. It's theoretically possible.

KEILAR: I went back to your audio from 2009, the U.S. Airways audio.

And one of the things that struck me were that you were in constant contact with air traffic control from the time that you hit the flock of birds and determined that you'd lost thrust in both engines until really just I think seconds before you landed in the Hudson River.

The pilots of Flight 8501 did not make any distress calls. We know the rule of thumb is aviate, navigate, communicate. Communication does come last, but let's play out that audio from your landing on the Hudson in 2009.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL: Cactus 1529, turn right two-eight-zero, you can land at Teterboro.

SULLENBERGER: We can't do it.

AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL: OK. Which runway would you like at Teterboro?

SULLENBERGER: We're going to be in the Hudson.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: That was just moments before you landed the plane in water, on water. We didn't hear a distress call from 8501. Why not?

SULLENBERGER: It's possible that they couldn't. It's possible they were too busy trying to fly the airplane and solve whatever problems they were facing. Again, they may have been through to their priorities and communication, as you say, was one of the last ones. In reality, except for starting a search and rescue effort, there wouldn't be a lot of help air traffic control could give you at that point.

So, I wouldn't read too much into that. It's too early to tell.

We had the luxury of being in direct communication with air traffic control immediately after takeoff, but still, first, we had to fly the aircraft, began to taking the real steps. It was about 25 seconds before I made that mayday call. The first, we had to sort out things in the cockpit, established roles and responsibilities, and begin following our protocol. And then get to the communications. That was not the first thing that we did.

KEILAR: OK. So, you had 25 seconds there.

You mentioned this before and I want to explain this more, that pilots may be too reliant now and you're seeing this as flight becomes more automated, that they're reliant on the computer and not really on their skills, right?

SULLENBERGER: It's a growing concern globally. Yes, it's important that we have both. We must have well learned deeply internalized fundamental flying skills that we can fly in every circumstance. But we also have to have deep, in-depth knowledge of the aircraft and all its component systems, electrical hydraulic specialization, automation, and we have to be able to do these things simultaneously. It takes both, the manual flying skills and the knowledge of how to manage, use effectively the automation.

But we also have to have the confidence in our manual flying skills to be able to quickly and immediately and effectively intervene when necessary when the automation isn't doing what they expect and what it should.

KEILAR: Do you have thoughts after everything that you've read and has been reported about Flight 8501, about what may have happened? SULLENBERGER: It's way too early to tell. And my thoughts go out to

the families of the passengers and crew. I can only imagine the grief and how the uncertainty must be unbearable. But I am confident that the investigators will ultimately find out not only what happened, how it happened, but most important, why it happened and they would make important safety recommendations going forward to make the system safer.

KEILAR: Yes. So, it is so important.

And, Captain Sullenberger, thank you so much for talking to us and lending us your expertise.

SULLENBERGER: Good to be with you.

KEILAR: Captain Chesley Sullenberger with us.

And, coming up, debris clues. What do the items pulled from the water so far tell search crews about where the plane might be and what happened to it?

Plus, the story behind this bizarre video here, what message is North Korea's Kim Jong-un trying to send?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: We're following new details in the search of that missing AirAsia jet, including the recovery of more bodies and debris, and there may be important clues in the growing list of items pulled from the water so far.

CNN's Tom Foreman is working that part of the story for us.

Tom, what can you tell us?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brianna.

Think about this: this plane was at 32,000 feet when it was last seen on radar in this one-hour flight, a little bit less than one hour, before it disappeared. And so far, in this red zone over here is where they found some of the debris, but not a whole lot.

Now, that could mean any number of things. It could mean the bad weather and conditions have made it hard to find more, but clearly, some aviation analysts are beginning to hope that maybe what it means is that most of the plane was intact when it hit the water. It created a giant debris field.

Why would that matter? That would matter because if it's all intact, then you basically have a sort of a holy grail to look for out there. One area where you might be able to find all of the critical components, parts of the wings, parts of the tail, part of the electrical system, all of the computers onboard and, of course, the flight data recorder and the voice recorder that mattered and parts of the cockpit and the engines each at about 9,000 pounds. If this whole plane went into the water largely intact, so many of those important parts they want are heavy enough that they're not going anywhere, not in 100 feet of water, they will go down and they'll stay in one spot.

Now, that means the search has to focus one big thing. So, how do they do that with the few little pieces they found? Well, that's where basically they're getting involved in reverse engine engineering. The small floating pieces are all important to the investigation, but may not tell them that much about the cause of the crash.

But by following those, even in the terrible conditions they may be able to move down in the water column, look at the competing currents out there. The way the water is moving and reverse engineer, sort of guesstimate where they came from if they were onboard the plane when it hit or released under water. And by following that, they may be able to get down to the bottom and find that key component down there, that so many of them are now talking about, the idea that the plane may still be at least largely intact, even if it's in several large pieces.

If that is true, there's only one place to find it, but when they do, they'll have an awful lot of evidence, Brianna.

KEILAR: All right. Tom Foreman, thank you.

And with us now in THE SITUATION ROOM, we have aviation writer Clive Irving. He's a contributor to "The Daily Beast". We have CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes, former assistant director of the FBI, and CNN safety analyst, David Soucie. He's a former investigator for the FAA.

David, to you first. Among the bodies recovered so far was that of a flight attendant. Tell us what you could learn from this, what you could learn about the crash and how the plane perhaps broke apart, I'm assuming especially if you can track where this person was assigned to be in the plane.

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Well, the flight attendant may be or may not be because if you remember flying as you're in your seat, sometimes the flight attendants are up and about dealing with things. Their primary role is the safety of the passengers. So, whether they were in their seat or not, that may not be a clue. But what would be a clue is if they're able to identify some of the other people that they've recovered and figured out what seats they were sitting in, and that will give us more clues as to what might have happened.

KEILAR: And we would expect, we know that they're able to identify some of those folks. Perhaps, that is something they're looking at.

Tom, one of the things that is noteworthy about this flight attendant is she was wearing her uniform. Some of the other bodies that were found were not clothed, they just had undergarments and that tells us something about those bodies.

So, what do we know about this flight attendant, then?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, as David just mentioned, you know, the flight attendants are still on their fleet and trying to get buckled in, when the captain says, OK, we're in turbulence, buckle your seatbelts, they're up and about trying to help passengers and often are the last to be in their seat if they even make it.

So, it's a possibility, the fact that the door was blown off the side of that airplane and we've had past crashes where a flight attendant actually went out the door or out an opening in the aircraft. So, it's just different with the flight attendant who would have reason to be on her feet.

KEILAR: That's a very good point.

Clive, we've heard different things today from experts. One official there in the region saying there may have been sonar discovery of an upside down airplane, that perhaps it has been found. And yet, we heard from the CEO of AirAsia say, no, that's not the case.

What do you take from this and could it be that officials are intentionally trying to be very cautious until this is absolutely confirmed?

CLIVE IRVING, CONTRIBUTOR, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, Brianna, a I thought that was a very riveting interview you had with Captain Sullenberger. And something he said that struck me very much which is related what you just asked me is how you control the information that comes out in a situation like this because it's very difficult. We've had several examples now of a passenger who said they had a life jacket and then it being said that they didn't have a life jacket on. And I think what Captain Sullenberger was saying in a way was that there were so many different pieces that have to come together in this investigation, and we are dealing with a culture here, which is not the same as the cultures that would be there in the case of western investigation.

I think we have to understand that the world requires a consistent standard in the conduct in aviation, and we've achieved enormous levels of safety by building a regime in which all of the parts have to work well together -- the air traffic controllers, the people assigned the routes, the plane airspaces Captain Sullenberger was saying, a big difference between what the pilots taught at the beginning, what he has to do tactically when he's in the air.

And so, and then, when it comes to releasing information I've noticed something going on here which concerns the radar and the fixing of where the plane was by the radar, and we've had this problem with 370, the information that was released was confusing about the radar.

There was a story today, for example, saying that this plane took a sudden climb and then that showed on the radar. There is no source to that story. But again, it shows how important it is to control the information coming out because that little piece of information may have come from someone saying what they've seen on the radar. Radar is notoriously difficult to analyze and it is very difficult to put out a story which turns out later to be wrong.

So, in short, it is very important for us now to understand that we're in a kind of Rumsfeld (ph) situation where we need to know what we don't know, and what we don't know is almost everything we need to know. So, it's -- we can't go chasing off these leads which turn out to be retracted, and I think it's got to be under more coherent control in that.

KEILAR: There are many known unknowns, to quote him, for sure, Clive.

David, there is a report coming out from "The Wall Street Journal," it says there is reporting out of Indonesia and there's sonar that shows the plane was actually upside down. Now, again, it's really unclear if sonar has discovered this plane. But let's say if this is true, if the plane were to be upside down -- what does that tell us?

SOUCIE: It's really, once the aircraft penetrates the top of the water, at that point it's anyone's guess as to where it would end up. So, I don't really take much away from the fact that it would be upside down or not, particularly because it hasn't been validated. Tony is real confident about the fact that it hasn't been validated and the information wasn't true. So, I really feel like --

KEILAR: Yes.

SOUCIE: -- we thought we knew more yesterday than we did today because as Clive had mentioned, the information that's coming out is not reliable and we could spend a lot of time going down the wrong path, which we did yesterday with the six miles, it was supposed to be six miles from where they by radar. Now, it's 100.

So, there's a lot of misinformation still. As much as they're trying to make it not be there. It's still there.

KEILAR: It is.

And the iron-clad information, Tom, will be coming from the so-called black boxes. So, hopefully, those will be found very soon, but when they are found, what's the first thing investigators are looking for?

FUENTES: The first thing with the data recorder is exactly what was that airplane doing? Are all of the systems working? Did the engines go out? Did it stall out? Is it going up, down or sideways?

So, all of the physical factors of the aircraft itself will be identified by the data recorder. And then, crucially, also, is the cockpit voice recorder, what was the pilot saying to the co-pilot? What were their conversations or are they yelling at each other and who is trying to do what? What kind of orders are being given to take control of the aircraft? If they were deciding to try to land it on the water, you know, they would have been discussing who's going to do what to control the aircraft if they could control it?

So, both recorders are crucial to any crash investigation including this one.

KEILAR: All right. Tom Fuentes, thank you so much. Clive Irving and David Soucie, great talk, gentlemen. Appreciate you being with us.

We will keep watching the search for wreckage from the AirAsia jet. We'll have much more on that at the top of the hour.

But we will also have new details about this investigation into North Korea's role on the cyber attack of Sony Pictures.

And shades of "Top Gun" as North Korea's Kim Jong-un shows off his piloting skills.

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KEILAR: Bad weather in the Java Sea is hampering the search for more bodies and wreckage from the AirAsia jet disaster. We have much more coverage ahead, but we're also following other developping stories.

Sony Pictures today announced a deal that will make its North Korea comedy, "The Interview", available to 55 million U.S. households through cable and satellite TV. We are seeing questions about whether North Korea was completely behind the cyber attack on Sony Pictures because of the movie or whether a disgruntled former employee may be involved.

We have CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes standing by with new information, but first, we've spotted some bizarre new video on North Korea's state-run media. It shows the country's leader Kim Jong-Un flying a plane. Let's bring in CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott.

What is this all about, Elise?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, it is really strange. There is very little information released along with this video and no explanation of how Kim apparently learned to fly, but it's the latest effort by the North Korean propaganda machine to portray the young leader as in control and contain damage from the film that makes fun of him.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LABOTT (voice-over): New images of Kim Jong-Un flying high and firmly in command. Dramatic footage released by the regime shows the North Korean leader sitting in a cockpit, reviewing the checklist, and powering down the runway, appearing to lift the jet smoothly into the sky. Kim, supervised by a co-pilot, miraculously appears to land the plane with one hand.

North Korea's propaganda machine in overdrive to portray Kim as in control after the U.S. release of "The Interview", a film demeaning him.

JAMES FRANCO, ACTOR: Nice tank. Is that real?

RANDALL PARK, ACTOR: It was a gift to my grandfather from Stalin.

LABOTT: Which the regime called a mockery of his dignity.

PROF. VICTOR CHA, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: I think they want to give that impression to the world that they are strong and invincible, but beneath that is a great deal of insecurity, insecurity justifiably based on the economic situation, based on the fact that the whole political regime is built on a system of lies.

LABOTT: North Koreans can't see the comic story of a plot to assassinate Kim.

FRANCO: You want to go kill Kim Jong-Un?

SETH ROGEN, ACTOR: Totally. I'd love to assassinate Kim Jong-Un. It's a date.

LABOTT: But if a South Korean activist has his way, balloons will start dropping copies of "The Interview" over North Korea next month, partnering with the human rights group seeking to destroy Kim's carefully crafted image as a beloved and confident leader.

ANNOUNCER: We invite you to join us as we turn the tables on the North Korean regime and hack them back.

LABOTT: Kim has denied involvement in the cyber attack on Sony, but the U.S. has not backed down in the face of new questions from cyber experts whether North Korea was truly behind it. President Obama still promising payback.

CHA: I do think that the cycle of provocations with North Korea is inevitable. I certainly believe that the movie helped to speed up that process. The leadership transition, even though it is two years old in North Korea, is still far from complete if the leadership feels so secure about a Hollywood movie that makes fun of it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LABOTT (on camera): And North Korea (AUDIO GAP) 9/11-style attacks if that film was released. Now that Americans are flocking to theaters and streaming online, North Korea continues to be quiet. But neither U.S. officials nor North Korea watchers expect that calm to last very long. They do expect some sort of North Korean retaliation, because Kim can't leave this parody of him go unanswered. Brianna.

KEILAR: No, he wants to show that he is a force to reckoned with so we'll be seeing how he responds. I want to bring in CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes to talk about whether North Korea was completely behind the cyber attack on Sony Pictures, or as we've just heard from Elise, you have cyber security expert, specifically with the cyber security firm Norse, who are saying, you know what, it might have been some disgruntled employees. You've been talking to sources. What are they telling you?

FUENTES: Yes, well, earlier this week on Monday, the Norse officials met with FBI investigators in St. Louis. And then on Tuesday, agreed to turn over everything that they had on the case. And of course the FBI since then has been saying they're still convinced it's North Korea.

Today, senior officials overseeing the investigation told me that what they were given by Norse led them to believe that Norse only has about 20 percent of the investigative material. The idea of the disgruntled inside employee, having run these cases, that's the first place the investigators go -- someone with system access.

KEILAR: So the FBI would have looked at that, you're saying?

FUENTES: Well, they did look at it.

KEILAR: They did look at it.

FUENTES: From day one. And it doesn't mean that person didn't do things and other malware that's publicly available wasn't involved. But often that's used as smoke screen for the tradecraft of a state sponsor of a hacking attack to make it look like garden variety hackers as opposed to the sophisticated state-sponsored terrorism.

So they're saying that -- not only the officials I talked to, excuse me, believe that what Norse has said about the FBI investigation, they believe to be irresponsible and reckless based on the fact they only have 20 percent of the material. And the other 80 percent, which is classified. Now additionally --

KEILAR: OK, but let me ask you the other 80 percent, obviously we don't know what it is. It's classified. But what kind of material might it be, if you can speak to that?

FUENTES: Well, they're following the electronic crumbs, if you will, connecting the dots around the world. They worked with intelligence services from the United States and through partners around the world tracking the data and the transmissions of the information and the nature of the attack. Now, much of that is classified. Who assisted in the investigation is classified.

But, interestingly, today and this week at FBI headquarters, they're having discussions of whether or not to release publicly more information about the evidence that they have, either next week or the week ahead, to try to show, look. But they can't give it all away. They're going to completely show their homework in this case.

KEILAR: Sure. And of course they can't. But, Elise, I'm wondering what are we hearing from North Korea? What are we hearing from experts who, you know, are focused on North Korea so much? What do they think about this idea that perhaps it isn't North Korea?

LABOTT: Well, I mean, North Korea watchers certainly think that this is something that the North Koreans have been trying to do for some time, increase their cyber capabilities. And it's -- a couple of months ago, they were hacking into a South Korean bank. So this is certainly the greatest caper of cyber attacking that they've seen. But certainly North Korea has been increasing that capability and they do expert further retaliation, Brianna. Now, it might not be in the cyberspace; it could be a missile test, a nuclear test. But they feel that this film has damaged Kim Jong-Un's reputation -- even though North Koreans can't see it right now, we'll see if this activist is able to get copies into the country. That doesn't even mean North Koreans will be able to watch it then. But certainly he's been damaged enough and embarrassed enough that he has to respond. And so they are expecting something coming from North Korea. It may not be over the holiday season. The North Koreans like the element of surprise, so they are watching for it.

KEILAR: All right, and we'll be watching for that. Elise.

FUENTES: And another thing is, his worst fear isn't that the general population of North Korea sees the movie and thinks he's a buffoon. His worst fear is that one of his key people around him pull off a coup, where they start talking to each other and say our leader has to go, let's do something and take him out. That's his bigger fear.

KEILAR: Yes, definitely. Tom Fuentes, Elise Labott, thanks to both of you.

We're keeping an eye on developments in New York. Times Square and the surrounding streets filling up for tonight's celebration of the new year. But after weeks of demonstrations against police tactics, the recent killings of two officers, and the ever-present fear of terrorism, this will be an extra tense night for the NYPD.

Still, police are out in force and so far everyone does appear to be having a good time. Some were down there as CNN's Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin, be sure to watch tonight and ring in the new year with them. Always a very fun time right here on CNN.

And coming up, dangerous weather conditions hindering the search for AirAsia Flight 8501. But more bodies and debris have been found.

Plus, a rare look inside the place where air disaster mysteries are solved. How experts analyze black boxes.

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