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American Morning

High-Rise Crash in NYC; Foley Investigation Continues

Aired October 12, 2006 - 07:00   ET


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: The pictures are just chilling, Miles. Thank you.
And I'm Betty Nguyen, in for Soledad O'Brien today.

To the news wall now for some other stories that we are following for you this morning.

The U.S. has circulated a new resolution on North Korea softening some language in the hopes of getting Russia and China onboard with sanctions.

Kirk Fordham, former chief of staff to disgraced Congressman Mark Foley, while testifying today before a House Ethics panel, he is expected to reveal that he warned House Speaker Dennis Hastert's office about the page scandal years ago.

A search for closure. Demolition before dawn this morning for the one-room Amish schoolhouse that was the scene of last week's deadly shootings.

And a threat of severe weather to tell you about today. Let's check in with Chad Myers at the CNN Center.


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: This whole scene here yesterday offered up a very scary echo to 9/11 for people in New York who still look at just about every plane that flies over Manhattan to make sure it's not headed in their direction. News of a plane striking a high- rise sent a shudder through this city. It wasn't long before we realized it wasn't terrorism. But, nevertheless, it was a day this city will remember.


O'BRIEN, (voice over): The plane took off from Teterboro Airport in New Jersey at 2:21 Eastern Time Wednesday afternoon. Around 20 minutes later, it slammed into a high rise building on Manhattan's upper east side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All I heard was a loud noise. I looked up. I see a plane, a small plane, looked like a two-person plane, just went out of control and hit the building. Blew up. A big explosion. Fire everywhere. And all the debris fell down.

O'BRIEN: In this surveillance video camera from the Coast Guard, you can see the moment of the impact, the fireball and the smoke. It was all too reminiscent of 9/11. New York's emergency responders sprang into action.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Massive and quick and coordinated I think is a good way to phrase it. Everybody was able to get their equipment through traffic here. Response time was very fast.

O'BRIEN: As a precaution, NORAD scrambled fighter jets over numerous U.S. cities.

ADM. TIM KEATING, NORAD: We had fighters on both coasts and on our east and west borders all within -- well, under 20 minutes, fighters were airborne.

O'BRIEN: It soon became clear the crash was not terrorism, but a tragic accident. Onboard the Cirrus SR24 seat single-engine aircraft, New York Yankees Pitcher Cory Lidle and a flight instructor. They were the only ones killed. Cory Lidle earned his pilots license in February and only recently bought the plane which crashed. News of his death stunned members of the Yankees organization.

BRIAN CASHMAN, YANKEES GENERAL MANAGER: We're incredibly saddened by this news today. It's a shock and I ask everybody to keep their prayers for his family and Cory. And it's a sad day.

O'BRIEN: Investigators say Lidle's plane was flying over New York's East River under visual flight rules requiring pilots to stay over the river and climb no higher than 1,100 feet. Lidle was not required to file a flight plan. The National Transportation Safety Board investigators say so far there's no indication of a distress call. Their task now, find out what went wrong.

DEBBIE HERSMAN, NTSB: We have been on scene. We have been doing examinations of the engine and of the fuselage and the aircraft parts that are on the ground. We will continue to do that.


O'BRIEN: So, was it a mechanical failure? Was it weather? Was it simply pilot error? Did they simply overshoot that hard left turn to avoid LaGuardia's air space? These are all the questions that the National Transportation Safety Board investigators will be answering in the coming days, weeks and for that matter, months.

In the meantime, the Yankees organization is in mourning today and that hearkens back to 25 years ago when they lost their team captain, Thurman Munson, who was practicing landings near his hometown in Ohio. CNN's Jason Carroll joining us from the Bronx with more.



Lidle's fans have already started leaving candles and flowers for him here at Yankee Stadium. They're leaving messages as well. One of them reads, Cory, we will miss you. That is a sentiment shared by Lidle's teammates.


CARROLL, (voice over): Cory Lidle spent most of nine seasons in the minor leagues, always hoping to make it in the majors. He did. He pitched for seven teams, most recently as a starter for the New York Yankees. But his twin brother says flying was his newest passion. Lidle got his pilot's license last February.

KEVIN LIDLE, CORY LIDLE'S TWIN BROTHER: He loved to fly. He didn't hide that. He loved to learn about how the airplanes worked.

CARROLL: It was a shock to Lidle's family and teammates that it was his single-engine aircraft, a Cirrus SR20, that crashed into this Manhattan apartment building.

BRIAN CASHMAN, YANKEES GENERAL MANAGER: And we're incredibly saddened by this news today. It's a shock and I ask everybody to keep their prayers for his family.

CARROLL: Lidle had logged 400 hours of flight time. And recently told "The New York Times" how safe he felt in the air. Saying, "the whole plane has a parachute on it. Ninety-nine percent of pilots that go up never have engine failure and the 1 percent that do usually landed." Lidle's fans were stunned by the crash.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been a terrible year and a way to end it, this is even worse. I mean this puts baseball into perspective. Baseball's a game and this is real life.

CARROLL: This is not the Yankees' first aviation tragedy. In 1979, Yankee catcher Thurman Munson was killed as he practiced taking off and landing a plane. Yankee's first baseman, Jason Giambi, who played baseball with Lidle in high school as well, said he was devastated by his teammate's death. Lidle, just 34 years old, leaves behind his wife, Melanie, and his six-year-old son, Christopher.


CARROLL: Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter said that he came to know Lidle as a great man. Some of Lidle's fans say that his number should be retired, but, Miles, no word yet on how the Yankees will memorialize him.


O'BRIEN: You know, it's interesting, Jason, he had a lot of passion for flying. He always talked about how he felt so safe in the air. Did people in the Yankees organization talk much about that?

CARROLL: We did hear from some of that yesterday. How he had a love for flying. How he felt safe up in the skies. In fact, he spoke about it just recently to "The New York Times." So everyone knew that he had a passion for being out in the field, but they also know that he had a passion for being up in the air as well.

O'BRIEN: Jason Carroll at Yankee Stadium, thank you very much.

Safety in the sky, safety on the ground for New Yorkers post- 9/11. Airplanes and the thought of airplanes flying into buildings, obviously, brings back horrifying memories. And yesterday's event, while tragic, did not rise to the level, of course, of 9/11. But, nevertheless, gave everybody a chance to test out a drill, which they had been thinking about ever since 9/11. CNN's Alina Cho has been looking into that with more on one school. The school right behind us here, a nursery school, that kind of went through this drill yesterday.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right. And they've had this plan in place, Miles, since 9/11. This new security plan. But essentially the school, as you can see, is just one block away from the crash site. You can imagine as parents started hearing the news, they were worried sick. Some of them feared the worst. One mother we spoke to said she was on a mission to make sure her young son was safe.


CHO, (voice over): Three-year-old Jona Naidus (ph) still has no idea what happened in the backyard of his nursery school. Mother, Ruth Naidus, was at home at the time just a few blocks away. She heard the sirens, saw the helicopters and dropped everything to get to her son.

RUTH NAIDUS, MOTHER: And I was running and I was crying and people were probably looking at me and, you know -- I didn't even care what they thought. I -- you know, you're just scared.

CHO: Naidus calls the run from her home to her son's preschool the longest 15 minutes of her life.

NAIDUS: Nothing mattered. Just had to get there and just get him and that was it. I was just completely focused on that.

CHO: Some of the 160 preschoolers were just back from apple picking. The children were on their way up to the rooftop playground when a teacher heard an explosion, looked outside, saw the flames, and immediately put into action an evacuation plan, in place since 9/11.

WENDY LEVEY, EPIPHANY NURSERY SCHOOL: My first thought was, we know what to do. We know how to handle this. We have a plan. We have a place to go.

CHO: That place to go was the church across the street where teachers sang to the kids and read them stories. The idea -- the best way to protect the children was to distract them.

EVAN LEVEY, EPIPHANY NURSERY SCHOOL: Their initial reaction is excitement. They don't know. It's just fire trucks and stuff they like to see. So we do have to distinguish the fact that this is not safe.

CHO: For Ruth Naidus and so many other New Yorkers, a plane crash is not always an accident. There are always thoughts of terrorism. Life in New York is scary, she says, but she appreciates the little things. A little more than most.

So, are you going to hug your kids a little tighter tonight?

NAIDUS: Yes, I definitely am.


CHO: You can bet those parents are counting their lucky stars today. You know, the preschool will be open. Classes start at 9:00 a.m. And, Miles, one important point to make is that the rooftop playground there behind us will be closed today. It overlooks the crash site. And recess will be held indoors.

O'BRIEN: Well, and that brings up an important point. These are very young children. Certainly no recollection of 9/11. Really probably not much understanding of what happened yesterday. What do they tell the little kids about this kind of thing? Because it had to be horrifying for them.

CHO: Well, it's very hard. You know, they said that they are going to make it part of the curriculum today. They're going to get into what happened. Perhaps why it happened. I mean, obviously, they're still trying to work out all of those details, as you know. But they're going to try to explain it in simple terms as best they can. And, of course, there are going to be a lot of questions. So they're going to try to answer those, too, as best as they can.


O'BRIEN: I think educators call that a teachable moment. But it's an unfortunate one, isn't it?

CHO: You're right.

O'BRIEN: Alina Cho, thank you very much for a slice of what life is like in this neighborhood here yesterday. And for a parent, to hear that news though, it must have been a very scary afternoon.

Back to you, Betty.

NGUYEN: Yes, no doubt.

Well, in other news today, Miles, the House investigation on the Mark Foley matter shifts into full gear with the appearance of Foley's former chief of staff, Kirk Fordham. CNN's Dana Bash joins us now live from Capitol Hill with the latest on this.

Going to be interesting today, Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It should be for sure, Betty.

You know, the House Ethics Committee is trying to determine what House Republican lawmakers and top aides knew about Mark Foley's inappropriate behavior and what they did or did not do about it. Now yesterday the panel, which operates in secret, heard from two officials with direct supervision over the 16-year-old pages. And today they'll hear from one of Mark Foley's closet associates who says all of this should have been dealt with a long time ago.


BASH, (voice over): Kirk Fordham, Mark Foley's former chief of staff, plans to testify under oath that he warned more than one GOP congressional official several times about Foley's inappropriate behavior with pages much earlier than Republican leaders have stated. A source familiar with Fordham's account of events tells CNN, Fordham will take investigators back to a report he got about one alleged Foley incident some three or four years ago. Something that made him so alarmed he asked House Speaker Dennis Hastert's top aide to intervene and confront Foley.

That alleged incident, his boss, Mark Foley, had shown up at the page's dorm drunk. In the last week, two senior Republican lawmakers said they, too, heard about that incident and wrote letters to the House clerk asking for an investigation.

Another GOP congresswoman, Jenny Brown-Waite, said she conducted her own "investigation" two weeks ago and learned "Congressman Foley showed up at the page dorm one night inebriated." Brown-Waite will not release any details.

The Capitol police are looking through files for any record of the incident, a spokeswoman says. CNN has told Fordham arranged a meeting between the speaker's chief of staff and Foley about the alleged page dorm incident and other troubling Foley behavior towards pages. That, according to two sources familiar with Fordham's account, and a third independent source. And CNN is told, Fordham intends to tell all of this to the House Ethics Committee.


BASH: Now Fordham says he tried to alert top GOP aides about all of this years ago. The only response so far from the speaker's chief of staff, Scott Palmer, is, "what Kirk Fordham said did not happen." So, Betty, it will be up to the House Ethics Committee to determine what lawmakers and what top aides really did know and whether they should or should not have perhaps tried to -- had the ability to or tried to do more to stop Mark Foley.


NGUYEN: Yes, we'll see how that plays out.

In the meantime, the president has said that he has full confidence in Hastert. But, that being said, want to know publicly, how is the president showing his support?

BASH: Well, today he's going to try to show it in a big way. He's going to appear with the speaker for the first time publicly since the Mark Foley scandal broke a couple of weeks ago. You know, as you said, the president has been trying to show his support in public statements so far.

But the key here is the president is going to try to send a signal to fellow Republicans that the speaker is not radioactive. But the truth of the matter is, this appearance, this fund raiser today, is going to be in Chicago, Betty. It's Dennis Hastert's home town, home area where he's got a lot of reservoir of friends there.

What you're not seeing around the country right now is the speaker traveling to fund raise and to meet publicly with his Republican colleagues. That is something that was planned before the Mark Foley scandal broke. But right now, a lot of his colleagues are simply saying, if you come here, Mr. Speaker, you're going to give me unwanted headlines, I'm going to get unwanted questions about Mark Foley, so, thanks, but no thanks.


NGUYEN: And hence the term radioactive, which you just referred to.

BASH: Exactly.

NGUYEN: So interesting how this is going to play out. Dana, thank you for that.

BASH: Thank you.

NGUYEN: Well, a Senate Democrat is now under scrutiny this morning for a land sell. Property deeds show Democratic Leader Harry Reid collected a $1.1 million windfall on a land sale. And there are questions about how he reported it. It happened in his home state of Nevada. Reid says he did nothing wrong. The Senate Ethics Committee is reviewing the case.

Following the reported North Korean nuclear weapons test, South Korea says no abnormal radioactivity levels have been detected within its borders. But that doesn't mean that North Korea did not conduct a test. At the United Nations, the U.S. has circulated a new draft resolution on North Korea. It uses softer language on cargo inspections and financial sanctions to try to win support from Russia and China. Meanwhile, North Korea is threatening strong countermeasures against Japan if it goes ahead with its tough new sanctions.

Now to Iraq. Gunmen storm the offices of an Iraqi satellite TV station in eastern Baghdad today, killing seven people. A TV official said that five station employees and two guards were killed in that attack. The station has not officially opened and has only aired test broadcasts.

An American seen in al Qaeda videos has been indicted for treason. Twenty-eight-year-old Adam Gadahn of California is a convert to Islam and has appeared in several al Qaeda tapes calling for violence against Americans. It's the first time the government has used the treason charge since World War II. The indictment adds Gadahn to the list of most wanted terrorists. Now, if caught and convicted, he could face the death penalty.

Michael Phillips, an American student, has been released unharmed in the West Bank city of Nablus. Now he was abducted yesterday by a militant Palestinian group. Phillips is from Mandeville, Louisiana. He was teaching English in refugee camps for the non-profit volunteer group Project Hope.

And coming up, more on that deadly high-rise plane crash in Manhattan. We'll talk to the NTSB and get the latest on their investigation.

Plus, severe weather rips through the Midwest and the south. Look at this. We're going to show you more of the damage. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


NGUYEN: In America this morning.

A pile of rubble is all that's left of a Pennsylvania schoolhouse where a gunman killed five Amish girls. Before dawn, workers moved in to tear down the one-room schoolhouse. It's been boarded up for just over a week since Charles Roberts stormed the school and killed 10 girls before ending his own life.

In Idaho, lawyers for Joseph Duncan say that he will admit to the murder of nine-year-old Dylan Groene if the prosecutor agrees not to seek the death penalty. Duncan is accused of kidnapping Dylan, his eight-year-old sister and killing their 13-year-old brother, their mother, and their mother's boyfriend in May of 2005. His trial for the killings is scheduled for Monday.

In Alaska, the city of Valdez, about 100 miles east of Anchorage, may be cut off from the rest of its state for at least a week. Floodwaters washed away huge chunks of asphalt and caused mudslides on the only road leading into the town. Until that road is fixed, well, you're going to need a plane or maybe even a boat to get in or out of Valdez.

Now to Ohio. Crews are assessing the damage from severe weather that hit more than a dozen homes near Columbus. Several of the homes were brand-new construction and were unoccupied, thank goodness. And there are no reports of any injuries.

In Georgia, a severe thunderstorm in the Atlanta area last night. That storm moved toward downtown in the evening and cause some damage to homes there. A tree fell onto the roof of one house and the roof of another was just ripped off.

Time now, 7:20 Eastern. If you're heading out the door, let's get a check on the traveler's forecast today. Chad Myers has recovered from the storm damage overnight and is well aware of what's going on around the world.

Good morning, Chad.


NGUYEN: Coming up, Andy's "Minding Your Business." He's going to look at Google's blockbuster deal to buy YouTube and tell us why it's got some of YouTube's users very worried. Stay with us.


NGUYEN: All right, here's a question for you. Why is the YouTube/Google deal making users upset? Well, we're going to get to that. Andy Serwer is "Minding Your Business."

Before we talk about that, let's talk about the chart and how that plane crash yesterday really affected stocks.

ANDY SERWER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Betty. Because, like everyone else in this country, the first concern was, when we heard about the plane crash in Manhattan, it was an act of terrorism. That caused stocks on Wall Street to plummet. And we can show you exactly what happened.

NGUYEN: Look at that.

SERWER: You can see, that's a one day chart of the Dow. And you can see in the afternoon, the news came across around 2:42 in the afternoon. Really set it back. And then when we found out that it wasn't an act of terrorism, stocks recovered a little bit. The market down just a bit yesterday.

NGUYEN: Just shows the market reacts.

SERWER: That's right.

Let's move on to YouTube, because we've been talking about this deal all week where Google is buying YouTube for $1.6 billion. A lot of money. And, you know, is YouTube selling out? Well, it is selling out. But the people who make YouTube, which is to say the bloggers and the vloggers -- a vlogger is a video blogger are concerned.

NGUYEN: You're so hip, Andy.

SERWER: Yes, the vloggers. Now here are the two guys, the two YouTube guys. That's Chad Hurley and Steve Chen. This is their message to the users. You know, this was viewed -- this shows you the power of this place -- 1.3 million people watched this little video, these guys goofing around, which is really cool.

NGUYEN: Are you kidding me?

SERWER: But there are a lot of people concerned on the site the other day and they've put up their comments. "The wild west feel of YouTube is already slipping away. Within a few weeks it will be gone," wrote one. "Since it was the people that made YouTube, why aren't they getting paid billions?," another person asked. And then someone said, "oh, come on, man, Google is good. If it had to be bought by any company, I would say Google is a good choice." Another key point here, though, Betty, that's not just two people behind this company. You know, it's kind of convenient, there are two Google guys, there's two YouTube guys. It turns out there's a third YouTube guy. A founder . . .

NGUYEN: Oh, is he getting left out?

SERWER: Yes, he's kind of in the background.

NGUYEN: Poor guy.

SERWER: A 27-year-old guy named Jawad Karim who helped found the company. There he is. He was the one who actually wanted to turn it into a business. He left the company to study computer science at, where else, Stanford. He still works with the company as an adviser. He's going to share in some of the riches, but probably not as much as those two goofy guys.

NGUYEN: I was going to say, if he doesn't get anything, you can imagine there's going to be some kind of lawsuit.

SERWER: Yes, he'll be taken care of, I'm sure. But he wasn't there with that video with those fun guys.

NGUYEN: Well, they're all taken care of.

SERWER: That's right.

NGUYEN: Exactly. All right, Andy, thank you for that. We'll be talking much more a little bit later.

SERWER: Thanks, Betty.

NGUYEN: But right now, let's get you straight to Miles O'Brien on Manhattan's upper east side. It's the site of that plane crash yesterday.

Good morning, Miles.

O'BRIEN: Good morning, Betty.

The National Transportation Safety Board is busy at work. An organizational meeting this morning, trying to find out what caused that small plane to crash into that 50-story high-rise right behind me. We'll hear from a National Transportation Safety Board member in just a moment. Stay with us.


O'BRIEN: Good morning. I'm Miles O'Brien reporting live from the Upper East Side Manhattan. You were watching AMERICAN MORNING.

NGUYEN: Good morning, Miles. I'm Betty Nguyen in for Soledad O'Brien today. O'BRIEN: We're in the shadow of a 50-story condo building, here in Manhattan, that yesterday was struck by a small airplane. Federal investigators today trying to determine how that plane, which contained Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle and a flight instructor, crashed into that building as it flew low and took a turn over the East River.

In just a moment we're going to talk to a National Transportation Safety Board member and get further details for you -- Betty.

NGUYEN: We're also monitoring the Mark Foley scandal. Kirk Fordham, Foley's former chief of staff is expected to tell a House Ethics panel that he warned House Speaker Dennis Hastert's office about the page scandal years ago.

Time is 7:31. Time now to check the weather outside. Speaking of investigations, Chad Myers has a look at the forecast because you're investigating what happened overnight.


O'BRIEN: The National Transportation Safety Board has been up early this morning, already conducting an organizational meeting, deciding how to proceed, how to try to find out what caused this plane crash, which we stand in the shadow of this morning.

A small plane, piloted by the Yankee pitcher, 34-year-old Cory Lidle, and a flight instructor, crashing into a 50-story condo, a high-rise in the East Side of Manhattan, in the midst of a sightseeing mission around the Island of Manhattan.

Joining me this morning to give us the latest on the investigation is Debbie Hersman; she's a National Transportation Safety Board member.

Ms. Hersman, good to have you with us. First of all, just bring us up to date on what the investigative team is doing right now.

DEBBIE HERSMAN, NTSB MEMBER: Sure, we arrived on scene about 12 hours ago. We immediately went to the site of the accident. The majority of the aircraft is outside of the building, and the engine and propeller remain on the 40th floor.

I was up there last night. There's a significant amount of damage. We were able to look at the propeller. We were able to see two of the three blades. One of the blades is bent. The other has a tip broken off. There's a wide debris field on the ground below. Shattered glass all over the street and sidewalk with aircraft parts scattered throughout.

O'BRIEN: The team will be looking at all things, mechanical failure, all the things that could possibly happen. At this point, nothing is excluded in an investigation like this. In this point, you probably don't have as much to go on in the case of an airline crash, because there are no so-called black boxes, flight data recorder, or cockpit voice recorder. How will you try to piece this one together? HERSMAN: This accident is not unlike like the hundreds of regional aviation accidents that the NTSB investigates every year. We're charged by Congress with investigating all civil aviation accidents. Our regional investigators do this from Alaska to Hawaii, all over the country.

These aircraft are not required to have cockpit voice recorder or flight data recorder. This aircraft did not have one. We have to look at the physical evidence on scene. We'll look at radar data, we're going to look at the air traffic control tapes. We're taking fuel samples, looking at maintenance records, looking at the pilot's log book. Anything that will give us a clue about what happened.

O'BRIEN: All right. You have looked at Cory Lidle's log book. How much time had he logged?

HERSMAN: We have recovered a log book for Mr. Lidle. It has 88 hours of flight time. And of that, 47 hours were as pilot in command. That does not necessarily mean that he was solo. That means he was a pilot in command of the aircraft for 47 hours.

O'BRIEN: All right, 88 hours total time, 47 as pilot in command. We don't know how much he was flying alone. In this case, of course, there was somebody with him. Do we know, recently, if he was determined in aviation, was he current to fly the airplane? It was, after all, after the end of the baseball season. May not have had much of an opportunity to fly. Had he been flying recently a lot?

HERSMAN: We're reviewing the log books to look at a lot of information. We did recover the log book. It was -- the date began from October of last year up until the current time. It also had third-degree medical certificate, which is consistent with federal aviation requirements for a non-commercial pilot. His medical certificate was current.

O'BRIEN: At this point, what do we know, if anything, about the instructor he was flying with? We don't even have a name yet.

HERSMAN: The NTSB does not actually have any confirmation of who was onboard. We're awaiting the medical examiner's confirmation for who was onboard. There were two bodies that were fatalities. They were outside of the building. It presumed that those were both occupants of the aircraft and we await the medical examiner's determination.

O'BRIEN: As best you can tell, this aircraft was complying with the rules for air space around the New York Class B air space, restricted air space over this tri-state area?

HERSMAN:" The information that we have from the air traffic control tapes was between Teterboro Tower and aircraft. They asked if they wanted the aircraft to be handed off to New York Tray-Con (ph), they declined. They said they were going to fly the VFR (ph) corridor, up and down the East River. That was what the radar information is going to show us. We're reviewing all of that right now.

O'BRIEN: OK, so they were perfectly legal within the guidelines. Should those restrictions be changed in some way, or is it too early to say?

HERSMAN: The NTSB is looking at this accident and we're going to determine if there are any issues with this accident from a safety perspective. We make a determination of probable cause and we issue safety recommendations. Our reports are very comprehensive. Anything dealing with security, or other issues are left to other agencies that are appropriate to deal with those. The Department of Homeland Security and state, local and federal officials.

O'BRIEN: Debbie Hersman is with the National Transportation Safety Board, member of that board. Thank you very much for being with us. Good luck on the investigation.

When we come back, we'll tell you a little bit more about the airplane involved in this crash yesterday. It's an Cirrus SR-20. It just so happens I have several 100 hours in a very similar plane, a Cirrus SR-22. We'll show you what the plane is all about. And we'll tell you about a novel safety feature. If things go bad, you can reach for the parachute. Stay with us.


NGUYEN: It is 7:39 Eastern. If you're heading out the door, it's about that time. Let's get a quick check of the weather outside.


O'BRIEN: The plane that was involved in yesterday's crash, the plane piloted by Cory Lidle and that flight instructor, whose name we don't have just yet, is a Cirrus SR-20, a relatively new design. Just over the past 10 years these planes came out on the market and has a host of safety features in them. Traffic avoidance, moving maps, and if things go really bad, a lever you can pull, which deploys a parachute to bring the entire plane and its occupants down safely.

Now, that wasn't used yesterday, but nevertheless, lots of questions about the airplane and its safety, and whether people with 88 hours of flight time, for that matter, should be flying in and around Manhattan.

To address some of these questions, and to show you a Cirrus SR- 20, happens to be the plane the plane I'm an owner of -- is Rich Bertoli, he joins us now from the Caldwell, New Jersey. Rich is sitting in the plane right now.

Rich, you have hundreds of hours in this Cirrus aircraft. I want you to show people, as you look at what's called the multi-function display. It's a big TV screen there in the middle of the airplane, which gives pilots a tremendous instant ability to see where they are in the world, and can be very helpful for pilots if they're trying to fly in tight quarters, like the East River.

Why don't you explain that for just a moment?

RICH BERTOLI, FLIGHT INSTRUCTOR: Sure, Miles. Let's take a look at the multifunction display right now, it's in the moving map mode. Here we are in Caldwell, our little airplane. Right now I have a flight plan programmed in, out to Pennsylvania. I can zoom it in as far as I'd like to get even an image of the runways themselves. Or zoom it out to get the continental United States. So it's quite versatile. And I'm going to show you -- here we have a line of weather up there to the northeast.

O'BRIEN: So it's able to show -- it shows -- it overlays the weather. It gives information on traffic, which is nearby. It's all global positioning system technology. Try to help people understand how this compares to old-fashioned instruments, the things we call -- pilots call steam gauges. It's a dramatic improvement, isn't it?

BERTOLI: Yes, it is. The old-fashioned gauges, the pilot had to visualize this really in his mind, or her mind. And with this, it takes a little bit of the guesswork out of it, enhancing what we call in the industry situational awareness. You've really got to try to get lost in this airplane.

In addition to just the moving map here, you have the Goreman (ph) GPS units down below, so there's redundancy. Down here on the screen you also have that traffic avoidance screen you were talking about where talking about; where targets would pop up. It's obviously in standby because we're here on the ground. There are a lot of tools here. A lot of information presented to the pilot to let him know where they are and where they're going.

O'BRIEN: Rich, let's show people what happens if you really get into a jam in this airplane. You've lost an engine and you have no outs. Show people how they would deploy the parachute. Of course, I don't want you to pull the lever. Just show them where the lever is.

BERTOLI: OK. Up here, above the pilot's head, also within reach of the passengers, is the lever if you deploy the Cirrus parachute system, known as CAPS. We have a safety pin in here for now, but during flight, this is removed and stowed. And that's basically it. Just a strong, steady motion like doing a chin-up. Away it goes.

It has saved lives. There have been nine parachute pulls in the history of the aircraft. One of the more recent ones was actually pulled by the passenger in the airplane when the pilot had a stroke on takeoff.


O'BRIEN: And they lived to tell the tale. The parachute comes out the back part of the plane.

I want to get a quick thought from you about flying around Manhattan, and the relative safety of that. There will be a lot of people calling this morning, there are, the "USA Today" among them, with an editorial saying the airspace around New York should be shut down for small aircraft. What are your thoughts about that?

BERTOLI: Well, flying a general aviation airplane is a unique -- is a unique American experience. In the sense that we have a lot of freedom here that you don't find anywhere else in the world. Where fuel costs or rentals are prohibitively expensive. So what we like to do is preserve that. I mean, we talked about this country as, you know, protecting freedom and all that sort of thing.

I think this incident, while incredibly unfortunate on so many levels, a knee-jerk reaction by some of these voices to further restrictions, I really don't think is the way to go about things. What we need to do, what the FAA has been doing for the last several years is addressing training. The decision-making by pilots. You know, the go-no-go decision. Making an assessment of the risk before the pilot leaves the ground, and whether or not that flight is actually really worth making.

O'BRIEN: Rich Bertoli, flight instructor par excellence.

Really, Rich, if they all had an opportunity to go through the simulator runs you put me through, we would have a lot more safe pilots around. He can fail a lot of systems for you.

Rich, we'll be back with you a little bit later. Thank you very much.

BERTOLI: All right.

O'BRIEN: And Thursday, as you well know, faithful viewers know, is Milescam day. We'll have a special edition of Milescam. We'll stay on the East Side of Manhattan. We would love to take your questions about this crash, about general aviation, about restricted air space, about celebrities flying. Whatever's on your mind, and anything else, for that matter.

The e-mail address is The place to watch the answers is our CNN pipeline. 10:30 Eastern is when we'll be taking your questions.

Back to you, Betty.

NGUYEN: No doubt you're going to be a busy man today, especially with all the questions coming up. Thank you, Miles.

And coming up here on the show, are voters starting to get sick and tired of the Mark Foley scandal? We'll look at how it's affecting one race in the Heartland, that's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING


NGUYEN: So, just how much staying power will the Mark Foley scandal really have? That's what both Republicans and Democrats are wondering, with less than a month before the crucial midterm elections. AMERICAN MORNING's Bob Franken is live in Clarksville, Indiana.

Bob, tell us how the Foley affect is playing out there?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING: We're here, we're here with the CNN Election Express in Indiana's 9th Congressional District. It can probably be defined on the conservative side of the Ohio River. The people here don't know what to make of Mark Foley, nor do the candidates.


FRANKEN (voice over): It's the third consecutive time the two have run against each other. Baron Hill, the Democratic former congressman.


(CROWD): We will. Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing, Mike?

FRANKEN: And Republican Mike Sodrel, the incumbent, who now must deal with the lingering presence of Republican ex-Congressman Mark Foley.

MIKE SODREL, REPUBLICAN CONGRESSSIONAL CANDIDATE: When I saw his face on television I recognized him, and you had said pick him out of the lineup before that Friday I'm sorry, I lose.

FRANKEN: But that's not stopping the Democrats from hammering away at some of Sodrel's campaign contributions.

ANNOUNCER: And $77,000 from the House leadership, who knew about, but did nothing to stop sexual predator Congressman Foley.

FRANKEN: Sodrel said he's not returning the contribution. He spent some of his money on his own ad.

SODREL: Baron Hill's attack ads blaming me for the Mark Foley mess are the biggest lie yet.

FRANKEN: This race is becoming a real test of the Foley factor, and how long it will last.

AMY WALTER, COOK POLITICAL REPORT: We still have four weeks to go. So, we may not be talking about this three weeks from now.

FRANKEN: Fact is, many of the diners at Ryan's Restaurant, here, have already heard enough talk about Foley.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm tired of hearing all the nonsense, you know, this one did this, and this one did that. Let's focus on what is important to the American people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What he's done is not going to affect my vote here in our congressional race.

FRANKEN: The Democratic candidate himself acknowledges that the Mark Foley scandal will not keep resonating.

HILL: I think it will be a part of the resonation. I don't think it's going to be the key component.

SODREL: It's ridiculous. I mean, it's ludicrous.

FRANKEN: And many of the voters are getting weary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think it will affect my vote that much. You know, you see a lot of the -- the thing that bothers me is we're getting so many of these kind of scandals from the people we're sending to Washington, whether it be Democrat or Republican.


FRANKEN: This is one of the districts, Betty, where House Speaker Dennis Hastert was supposed to make an appearance with the Republican candidate, but that appearance has been canceled citing scheduling difficulties -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Hmm, very interesting. Bob Franken, thank you for that. For more on this and any other political story, all you have to do is log on to our website at

Coming up, haut couture goes country? Really? Andy tells us why some high-fashion retailers are branching out of the big city. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.