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Paula Zahn Now

Air France Crash in Canada; Discovery to Perform Repairs; National Identification Cards

Aired August 02, 2005 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody. Welcome.
It was an incredible sight, with all the makings of an horrific disaster, dangerous weather, suffocating smoke, a broken aircraft carrying hundreds of people engulfed in flames. But, somehow, some way, all 297 passengers and all 12 crew members survives this Air France crash in Toronto, Canada.

Tonight, the miracle of Flight 358.

And we start our coverage tonight with Kathleen Koch, who joins us with the very latest on the investigation.

What do we know at this hour, Kathleen?

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, the facts are still very sketchy.

But, certainly, anyone who saw those pictures knew that it did not look good, as we watched the smoke billowing from the wide-body plane, as it sat in that tree-lined gully at the end of the runway at Toronto's Pearson International Airport. But, again, in the end, astonishingly, Air France says that only 22 people were slightly injured.

Now, again, details are sketchy. It's just been four hours since Air France 358, bound from Paris to Toronto, crashed. A few things that we do know that are certain. There were severe thunderstorms in the area before the crash, which occurred at about 4:00 p.m. The airport had issued a red alert ground stop for the much of the afternoon because of the extreme weather conditions.

Some of the 297 passengers on board have told CNN that though it was rough coming in, everything appeared normal until before the Airbus 340 touched down. Then the lights went out. Witnesses on the ground also said the plane did appear to be landing normally. But then one said, after the plane touched down, he heard the engines backing up and the plane seemed to be going too fast to stop.

Another eyewitness said it appeared lightning might have struck the plane. But, at this point, there is no confirmation of that. Now, in the end, the jet overshot the runway by some 200 yards. It skidded down a slope into a wooded area next to a busy highway. We're told frightened passengers scrambled up the road, actually flagging down passing cars for help. A spokesman for the Toronto Airport says that that dramatic fire that we saw apparently did break out after all the passengers just 12 crew members had evacuated the plane. And, Paula, perhaps that is the greatest success story. Here, again, it appears to have been a textbook evacuation, everybody getting out alive.

ZAHN: Well, I guess that is a lesson to be learned from all of us, particular those of who ignore the instructions sometimes of flight attendants. By all accounts, this was a very well-executed evacuation from this burning jet.

KOCH: It certainly was, Paula.

An aircraft like this to be certified has to be able to be evacuated in 90 seconds. And that is with half of the exits blocked. So, clearly, this was a speedy evacuation. And that was key in reducing the number of injuries.

ZAHN: Well, Kathleen, we will be checking in with you a little bit later this evening if you learn anything new from Canadian investigators, although I am told they are much more circumspect than perhaps U.S. investigators.

KOCH: Quite so.

ZAHN: We'll see you a little bit later on.

Most incredible of all tonight are the stories we're hearing from the passengers, 297 of them alive tonight. They're absolutely riveting. Listen as two of them describe what it was like in the final seconds of the flight, the crash and then the desperate scramble to get out.

Apparently, we're having trouble with the sound. But these eyewitness accounts are absolutely amazing, people describing how other peopled helped each other out on the plane and the fact that the crew remained calm and actually was able to tell everybody which exit to leave.

Let's see, again, if we can cue up that sound and hear exactly what these witnesses had to say.


ROEL BRAMAR, PASSENGER ON FLIGHT 358: I saw lightning. And maybe the plane had already been hit by lightning. The reason I'm mentioning that is because just as we landed, the lights turned off. And that's unusual. So I'm certainly -- I'm sure that the bad weather was responsible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We started to approach the airport, the plane was going pretty fast. And just before touching ground, there was -- like, it was all black.

BRAMAR: We had come to a complete stop. So it's not like you think anything else is about to happen, I mean, even although we had a hell of a roller coaster going down the ravine. But as soon as there was smoke and fire outside, and I can't tell how the other people reacted because I was at the very, very end of the plane, the absolute last seat of the plane. And so you know, all I could think of was get off.

OLIVER DUBOS, PASSENGER ON FLIGHT 358: The plane stopped. We opened the emergency doors. And, basically, there were lot of flames around. We just tried to escape. There was a lot of panic. We were all running everywhere. There was lots of gas and smoke. I actually -- I don't know -- I don't know if everybody managed to get out of the plane. We were all running like crazy.


ZAHN: The remarkable thing to report tonight is, in spite of what you have just heard, only 14 people had to be treated for relatively minor injuries. We'll hear a little bit more about that later on.

Joining me now on the phone is someone who actually saw the crash. Corey Marx was parked along the road by the airport when Air France Flight 358 ran off the runway.

Thanks so much for joining us tonight.

Describe to us exactly what you saw from that point on.

COREY MARX, EYEWITNESS: Well, Paula, I'll tell you, it's quite a day.

Sitting on the side of the road, the 401 is a major highway in Toronto. And it sits behind the actual runway. And a lot of people pull over to the shoulder and watch the planes coming in. It was roughly around 4:00ish. I can't -- I don't know exactly the time. I know I was off of work already by 4:00. So, we just got over there, which takes a couple of minutes.

Sitting on the side of the road, and here comes Air France. And, in the air, I didn't see it. Black clouds started coming, with the lightning and the rain. It was a heavy burst of weather coming through. So, we got back into the cars. And, just as we did that, the Air France plane is hitting the runway.

To me, it looked like a normal landing. But once it landed, it started zigzagging a little bit and teetering a little bit. And then we heard the engines go -- thrust backwards. And I just turned to the guy who was with me and said, it's not going to make it. I mean, it was just -- the runway, that particular runway, which they will come from the east and land going to the west, there's no real barrier at the end.

And once they finish the pavement, they're into the grass bush and then there's a drop-off, which is a basically a valley. And that's where it went.

ZAHN: There have been a number of conflicting stories that we have heard from eyewitnesses. And we certainly understand how shocking it is to watch something like this unfold. At what point did you see flames break out? We had one eyewitness say that he actually saw the flames before the jet came to a stop. What did you see? MARX: No. I never saw -- there was no flames as far as -- I mean, I was -- when it came by us, we were sitting right at the runway, just parallel to it. I mean, you can see everything. We didn't see the flames until, you know -- originally, when I first thought about it, it was like instant. But going over the events and thinking about it, it had to be at least five minutes after it went into the ditch that the flames were coming from the back end of the plane, which is like the tail section.

None of the engines were on fire. But the back end of the plane was -- there wasn't no real heavy smell of any fuel. It was more or less a rubbery type of a smell and plastic and rubbers burning. And then, you couldn't -- because of the gradient and where we were, where we are, we can see everything. We couldn't see the cockpit because it went down into the valley. But we can see the tail section, which, once the flames started, it just cracked in half.

ZAHN: You described the plane coming in, zigzagging. So, to your -- from your viewpoint, did it look like one of the wing tips touched the ground, because, of course, we should explain, on this plane, some of the fuel is stored in the wings, as well as the belly of the plane?

MARX: No. When I say there's a zigzag motion is more or less left to right, not up and down, like where the wings would go. Up and down, I would say that the wings would touch and then come back. It would be left to right, like he was -- he was trying to -- because the runway was wet from the rain. And just listening to the gentleman just before me, it sounded like all the lights went out. But we never saw -- now, I did not see it before -- in the air just before it touched down. If it got hit by lightning, which it was in the area, I didn't see it. We did hear a couple of bangs, but nothing at the moments where it came down.


ZAHN: Corey, sorry to interrupt. Could you see any of the passengers get out of plane?

MARX: No. No.


ZAHN: Be evacuated? No?

MARX: No, no. Where we were sitting and where he went in is very heavily dense bush. If they got out, I would -- they would had to have got out towards the north. And we were towards the south of the plane. So, they would have to scramble that way. I also heard people talking that they -- you know, there was a pilot and some people running out to the highway. And, I mean, I was -- I was right there. And there was -- we didn't see anybody like that.

We were actually going to make a move to go help. But then we figured, with the plane fuel and everything, it was going to be a problem. It might go up. And the -- and hats off to the fire guys from the terminals there. There's three terminals there. I mean, they were there in less than a minute.

ZAHN: That's what I have been told, 50 seconds.

Just very briefly, in closing, I understand, as you left the scene, you thought there probably weren't any survivors.

MARX: When -- when I left, I didn't think anybody survived. I mean, I couldn't see it. I remember, as a kid, in '70 - some time in the '70s, there was a plane that ran off in the exact same spot and crashed at the exact same place.

And then no -- I know there was people that passed away. But when I left there, we were told -- I was there about an hour. And we were told by the police to move it off the highway. And I was going to home telling -- going to tell the wife that I just witnessed I don't know how many people passed away.

ZAHN: And I understand, when you got home, you basically told your wife that, right, that you apparently...

MARX: Yes. Yes.

ZAHN: ... thought you had just seen...


ZAHN: ... 300 people die.

MARX: I turned on your show, and CNN, and there I see, every -- coming across, everybody survived. I couldn't believe it.

ZAHN: Well, Corey Marx, you witnessed a lot today. Thank you for being our eyes and ears, one of the first eyewitnesses we were able to talk to, early on, after this crash. Thank you for your time.

Three hundred and ninety -- excuse me -- 309 people rescued from a plane in flames. That's an absolutely amazing feat.

Joining me now on the phone is Bruce Farr, chief of Toronto's Emergency Medical Services.

You have heard all kinds of accolades tonight, and for a very good reason. Members of your team were on the scene in less than a minute, right?

BRUCE FARR, CHIEF OF TORONTO EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES: That's correct, Paula. We had very good response to this incident.

ZAHN: What did you find when your team got there?

FARR: Well, of course, there was lots of confusion at the time. And we were just thrilled.

I believe -- I need to say right off the start that this air crew must have done an incredible job. And they deserve a lot of credit to get everybody out as safely as they did. Up to this point, EMS has transported 43 patients out of the total number on people that were onboard this plane. So, you know, kudos needs to go to the crew and to the passengers themselves for getting themselves to safety in this -- in this very dangerous situation, with the plane on fire.

ZAHN: So, that means only 43 people of the 309 on board needed any kind of medical attention at all?

FARR: Well, those 43 people have been transported to area hospitals, including a young baby that was taken to our specialized children's hospital. We're currently going through the process with paramedics and airport medical staff, assessing the rest of the passengers to make sure that everyone is OK.

ZAHN: What kind of burn injuries did your rescuers see?

FARR: We -- to the best of our knowledge, we haven't had have any patients that were burned.

ZAHN: That, in and of itself, is amazing, isn't it?

FARR: Well, that's incredible. I mean, as you're saying on coverage, miracle flight, this is truly a miracle, that 310 people were able to get off this aircraft, and no one receive major injuries. All of these patients that I'm talking have -- are minor.

ZAHN: And when you say minor, what are you talking, scratches?

FARR: Well, we have a couple of folks that have fractures to lower limbs. We have some who are being assessed for spinal injuries. But, you know, based on the status of this incident, these are minor to us.

ZAHN: And are you able to tell us tonight how many of the chutes you think were deployed on this airplane? We have heard a lot about the flames starting in the back of the plane and the people running forward to get out?

FARR: No, I'm sorry. I can't give you that -- that information.

I can tell you that we responded, about 20 or our ambulances, to the scene, along with emergency support units and a number of staff from our specialized teams. And, remarkably, as you have said, this truly is a miracle. We were amazed that -- and -- and quite happy that we didn't have any -- any more patients than what I have indicated. So, everybody has done a fabulous job.

ZAHN: Well, we stand in awe of what you were able to accomplish. We just heard the eyewitness right before you came on, Bruce, saying, that, as he left the scene, he -- he thought it would be a miracle if anyone had survived. So...

FARR: Well, absolutely. When you see the pictures, that's exactly what you think.

ZAHN: So, we know you have trained your people well.

Again, thank you for your time.


ZAHN: I know you have got a lot of work to do tonight.

FARR: Thank you.

ZAHN: Bruce Farr, appreciate your time.

ZAHN: We'll have much more on the miracle of Flight 358 in just a minute. Does part of the credit go to the plane itself? I'll talk with a pilot who has flown Airbus jetliners.

And Dr. Sanjay Gupta will be along on talking about treating the injured. And, as you have just heard from Bruce Farr, our EMS worker from Toronto, the injuries they have treated so far have been pretty minor, fractures, scrapes here and there, and no serious burn injuries to talk about tonight.

Stay with us. We'll have more on how all of these people were able to survive.


ZAHN: Welcome back. The developing story we're covering tonight, the crash of an Air France jetliner as it was landing in Toronto early today. It ran off the runway during a violent storm, but, miraculously, everyone onboard, all 297 passengers and 12 crew members, escaped alive.

Let's go straight to reporter Ben O'Hara-Byrne of Global TV, who can bring us the very latest on the investigation.

What are you being told by Canadian investigators about what went wrong here?

BEN O'HARA-BYRNE, GLOBAL TV: Right now, investigators are being very tightlipped about exactly what happened. And so is the airport authority, given the fact the investigation has now been passed on to the Transportation Safety Board here in Canada.

What we are told, fundamentally, is just the details of what happened. The plane went off the runway by about 600 feet beyond the 9,000-foot runway in the middle of a very violent storm.

In terms of how everyone was evacuated safely, we've been told by different eyewitnesses here that certainly there was a fair amount of pandemonium at the time, but that the emergency chutes did work, that people did manage to escape.

And given where the plane had actually come to a crash stop, right near a busy highway, in fact, the captain of the plane was said to have been along the shoulder of the collector lane of that highway looking for help. So, certainly, there was a fair amount of pandemonium after it happened.

But, miraculously, everyone managed to get out. And right now, we know that that much has been confirmed by the airport authority here.

As for the investigation, this is a very, very rare occasion, when something of this magnitude has happened. And just about everyone who was involved, including the crew, the passengers, witnesses, aircraft traffic control, just everybody will be able to provide a detailed account of what went wrong.

And, of course, they'll also be looking through the debris of that plane for any recording device that may provide some more answers as to what happened in that very instant that it was coming down in a situation where things looked like it would be OK just before it hit ground.

ZAHN: But we have heard so many descriptions of this weather burst that apparently this plane had to endure, one eyewitness saying that the wind was so violent at the moment that this plane crashed that the trees were actually perpendicular to the ground.

O'HARA-BYRNE: It was an incredibly violent storm in Toronto. It was the very height of a very short, but very violent storm.

We were told by the airport authority earlier, though, that they would not have allowed the plane to land -- at least air traffic control would not have allowed the plane to land in what they considered to be dangerous conditions. Certainly, that's exactly the kind of thing that investigators will be attempting to discover over the coming days.

We are expected to hear from them tomorrow at a press conference, when they may be able to shed a little more light on what they know to now. But it was clear from everyone that was here at the time, the weather was terrible. The plane was attempting to land in the middle of that storm at the very height of that storm, strong winds, lightning, as well as a runway that is open to the elements, because it is right beside a major highway.

Therefore, any conditions can just swoop down into it. Certainly, when the Transportation Safety Board, our internal investigators here for airline disasters or airline crashes, begins looking at those sorts of elements, they'll also be looking at the weather.

ZAHN: But, Ben, I'm a little confused by one point here. You say that these authorities wouldn't let a plane land in dangerous conditions. And yet, we have been reporting for the last three, four hours, that there was this alert in place alerting pilots to the high potential of lightning.

O'HARA-BYRNE: Well, certainly, there had been an alert here off and on since noon. And that alert is mostly on here for ground crews. They begin to remove ground crews from any sort of danger that could be on the different runways.

And that in turn leads to many delays for planes landing. So, we've been hearing about that in Toronto all day long. Whether or not the actual violence of the storm, when it actually happened, is something that caught everybody off guard, that's something that investigators will have to discover.

But it's clearly, as you've said, from the different witnesses that were here and for many of us who here at the time, the storm was of such a violence that it would be hard to imagine that it could be safe. But people insist that it was. So, certainly, that kind of question is going to be, if this is a weather-related incident, which they've yet to determine. But if it is a weather-related incident, the first thing they'll have to figure out is whether or not that plane was safe to land when it landed, given the violence of the storm.

ZAHN: Sure. And we know these investigations go on for some time. But it is hard to imagine that weather didn't play some factor in this. Of course, we'll wait for the confirmation of that.

Ben O'Hara-Byrne of Global TV, thanks so much for your perspective tonight. Here, now, two more stories we have just gotten in, passengers who survived.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I ask whereabouts you were sitting about on the plane?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two-A, first -- just in front of...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did you get out?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Through the window?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before that actually you made touchdown on the ground, was the pilot, was the stewardess giving you some indication there was an emergency?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We didn't hear anything. No, we didn't hear anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, was this a surprise, surprise, then?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Surprise, yes, a surprise for everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you describe it, sir, what happened, set it up for us?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's -- the landing was in the beginning -- it's OK. But I think the rain was very heavy. They are not supposed to land down. And -- but I think the front wheel broke down, because I think there is some water, lots of water there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did it sound like, though? Describe it. Like, was it a hard, hard bump?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody was jumping on the inside. And we scrapped over here other.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did you get out?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was the door, was a little bit not far from me. I get out.


ZAHN: It truly is a miracle. Once again, we're reminded that 309 people are alive tonight, we're told by safety experts, because they actually have listened to some of the safety instructions as they're being read to them on the plane. And the crew, was just impeccably trained.

We'll be right back with more on the crash of this jet.


ZAHN: A terrible tragedy has been avoided tonight, 309 survivors of a plane crash a testament to that. The plane that ended up crashing in Toronto today is an Airbus A-340, a four-engine jet that carries about 300 people. A-340s have been flying for more then 10 years and have a solid safety record.

Here is Sean Callebs.


SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A craggy, muddy ravine at the end of Toronto's airport. It now holds the distinction as the first site ever for an accident involving the Airbus A-340 family.

The plane spewing flames and toxic smoke is the workhorse of the Airbus transoceanic fleet. This Airbus model, known as the 34300, is relatively young. It was developed in the 1990s to compete with Boeing 747s. Airbus itself is a marriage of French and German technology and money.

Pilots overall say they like the Airbus, in part because of the modern cockpit. There are 302 aircraft from the 340 family in use all over the world. It's also attractive to airlines because it's 80 percent aluminum and 15 percent fiber. This makes it lighter than 100 percent metal. That's important, because, for every pound that can be shed, its payload can be increased. And that translates into more money.

The wing is also fixed to the central fuselage with 4,200 rivets, half drilled by hand, half by robots. Pilots say, traditionally, robotics increase precision. But for all of the time and effort companies spend in designing and building the safest planes possible, experts say what happened in Toronto is simply amazing, that even before emergency crews could start spraying foam on the flaming aircraft, 300 people were able to heed the advice from the crew, stay calm and stay alive.


ZAHN: And that was Sean Callebs reporting for us tonight, amazing accounts of survival.

We can get some idea of what goes on inside the cockpit of a jetliner from my next guest. John Wiley is a retired pilot who flew Airbus jets.

Good to see you, sir. Thanks so much for joining us.

You logged more than 18,000 hours in this jet. Based on what investigators have told us so far about the weather conditions at the time of this plane's landing, which were severe, do you have any idea what would have caused this plane to go off the runway the way it did?

JOHN WILEY, RETIRED US AIRWAYS PILOT: Well, first off, let me correct and say it's 18,000 hours total. It's about 1,200 hours in the Airbus.

There's a possibility, with the aircraft going off the end of the runway, of hydroplaning. A number of people have mentioned water on the runway, a heavy thunderstorm and rain shower in the area. So, we do have the possibility that there was standing water on the runway and possibly, once you get into a hydroplaning situation, you have no brakes, because the tires are above the surface. There's no contact with the surface.

ZAHN: And so, you have absolutely no control of the plane at all at that point?

WILEY: Well, you're using your reversers to try to slow the airplane. But your big braking factor is going to be coming from the rubber meeting the road.

ZAHN: And what would explain the plane, then, breaking in two, the way eyewitnesses have described it?

WILEY: My understanding is, the aircraft broke as it went down the ravine.

And, again, as you have mentioned a number of times, we're extremely fortunate on this. The airplane goes off the end of the runway into a ravine. We have damp terrain, which is going to inhibit the ability of emergency vehicles to get to the aircraft.

But there was a Mr. Bramar that was in one of the earlier discussions, remarkably calm and remarkably composed. But the important point is, there are more passengers watching this than pilots. And those passengers were involved in their individual safety. They knew where the exits were. They were able to get to them quickly and they were able to get off the aircraft. That's amazing.

ZAHN: John, we have also heard a number of descriptions from eyewitnesses today that this plane might actually have been struck by lightning. Could that have played a role in all this?

WILEY: Well, anything can play a role. We don't know. During the investigation, we'll be inundated with data. Because of the flight data recorder on this aircraft, they will know where every switch was. They'll know how fast the aircraft was decelerating, how fast it touched down, the G-forces on impact, when it touched down. So we'll have lots of data. The possibility of a lightning strike does play. It's kind of interesting that a number of passengers have mentioned that the lights went out just prior to touchdown. It's unusual.

ZAHN: What would that suggest?

WILEY: I have no idea. The aircraft has four generators, it has a backup emergency generator. Plus, it has the batteries to power all this stuff. So why the lights would have blinked or gone off? That's extraordinary.

ZAHN: Were you surprised based on the accounts you've heard, this plane was allowed to land in the first place?

WILEY: No. There's been a lot of reference to the red alert. My understanding, from doing some brief research, is the red alert is that there's a possibility of lightning and thunder in proximity to the airport. The problem you have there is lightning strikes on the ground, which can endanger the ground personnel. So most of the time, when you have lightning in the area, the airlines individually or the airport can choose to clear the ramp, and that would then wind up with the delays. But nobody is going to knowingly fly into a violent storm.

ZAHN: Lots of questions to be answered down the road by investigators. You were a big help to us tonight as well.

WILEY: Thank you.

ZAHN: John Wiley, thank you.

WILEY: Good night.

ZAHN: Coming up next, we look ahead to what's sure to be one of tomorrow's top stories. Just how dangerous is the upcoming emergency repair job outside of the space shuttle? I will ask a veteran space walker.

And then, on our special series, "Safe at Home," a very provocative question. Would you carry something that may enhance your personal security even if critics say it would completely violate your privacy?

And we're going to take you back to Canada for the very latest developments in the miracle of Flight 358. Once again, all 309 passengers on board alive tonight.


ZAHN: Now we move on to the space shuttle. Just a few hours from now, astronaut Steve Robinson will step outside Discovery armed with tongs and a hacksaw and try to remove two pieces of fabrics that are poking out from the spaceship's heat shield tiles. The concern is that the fabric sticking out could cause the shuttle to burn up when it comes back to Earth, or create friction. You could have some severe problems.

No one really knows for sure if that's likely, but tinkering with the shuttle in orbit, that is very risky, too.

Joining me now is former astronaut Kathryn Sullivan. She flew into space three times aboard the shuttle, and is the first American woman to walk in space. So glad to see you, Kathryn, thanks so much for being with us tonight.


ZAHN: What is your chief concern about this mission tomorrow?

SULLIVAN: I think my concern, as the crew's, would be the delicateness of the task that's ahead of them, in terms of especially of the robotics. To put Steve Robinson on the end of sort of a soda straw of the 50-foot arm, reach around the back of the orbiter, which is quite a blind spot, really -- happily, the shuttle's own arm can provide a bit of a visual point from the other side. But it's still delicate. You should not underestimate the flying task of the robotics operators on this flight who will need to position Steve very precisely, very carefully within just a few feet of the heat tiles, without really being able to see directly where they have him in three dimensions.

ZAHN: What could potentially go wrong?

SULLIVAN: Well, there are several things. The normal things that you think about on a space walk -- a tool failing or some problem with the space suit -- in this case, there are a number of concerns specifically about the robotics. That all the joints and motors on the arms behave correctly. That the data coming back from them keeps coming back, so the operators, both on the ground and in the shuttle and station, can in fact form a picture in their minds of where do I actually have Steve out there.

They have a picture that's been provided to them by the computer analysis that's been done on the ground over the weekend and through to today. But still, they will be wanting to confirm very carefully that that's exactly what's happening.

And finally, that something might not quite go exactly as is anticipated with the effort to pull the gap fillers out or saw them off flush with the bottom.

If I were Steve Robinson, the main thing I would be worried about is, there's only so much of your body, if you will, that you can see when you're in a space suit. You're a lot bigger than you normally are. There's some blind spots. And you would be -- just watching and being very careful to make sure that you always can tell where the shuttle was out here, so that you not inadvertently bang your helmet into it or twist your shoulder into it, and cause some damage that you didn't plan to cause.

ZAHN: I didn't even think about that possibility. We're going to see a big job tomorrow.

I wanted to share with you something that the deputy manager of the shuttle program said on Sunday that struck me, and it was answering a question of a reporter. Let me play for you what his answer was right now.


WAYNE HALE, DEPUTY MANAGER, SPACE SHUTTLE PROGRAM: The Columbia accident made us realize that we had been playing Russian roulette with the shuttle crews -- that we had been very, very fortunate in the past.


ZAHN: Russian roulette with shuttle crew members. How do you react to something like that? Did you feel like your life was at stake? What is he talking about here?

SULLIVAN: Well, anyone who gets on a space shuttle or any rocket to go fly knows that in some respect, their life is at stake. It's a very complicated system. It's built, designed, operated and run by human beings, and you know, it's not news that human beings are not perfectible creatures. So...

ZAHN: But the term Russian roulette is a pretty severe way of putting it.

SULLIVAN: Yeah, I think that's a pretty dramatic way to play it. Russian roulette implies to me kind of cavalierness, just sort of a game, let's spin this and see what happens. I don't believe anyone ever has been that deliberately or willingly cavalier about either flying as a crew member or approaching the other jobs in the program.

I think what Wayne was probably trying to get at is, Columbia gave everyone a clearer sense of the scale of some unknowns that we were tending to put into a known category prematurely, without quite as much rigor as they should have. And in that sense, we're taking a degree of risk that they didn't fully recognized.

It was perhaps a bit unthinking or natural human blindness, but it certainly wasn't a frivolous, cavalier behavior, as the term Russian roulette implies to me.

ZAHN: Kathryn Sullivan, thanks for joining us tonight, and I know you'll be awake in the middle of the night to watch this all come down.

SULLIVAN: Sure will.

ZAHN: We're going to be right back with a question that may infuriate some of you. Is it time that we all start carrying national identity cards? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM RIDGE, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: If we can come up with a system that would protect privacy rights, but also significantly enhance security...


ZAHN: Coming up next, our special series, "Safe at Home," and an exclusive interview with former Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge. Why does he think national ID cards are a good idea?

We're also following developments in the Toronto airliner crash. We'll have the very latest for you. Once again, miraculously, 309 folks on board that plane alive tonight. Stay with us.


ZAHN: So how would you feel if police were allowed to stop people at random and ask for your I.D.? Well, that's what we wanted to find out in a new CNN/"USA Today"?Gallup poll for our "Security Watch" series "Safe at Home." Well, about 50 percent of you are in favor of just that. And how about a national I.D. card? Well, there's at least one influential man who supports that idea.

Here's special correspondent Frank Sesno.


FRANK SESNO, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: In Hollywood's black-and- white world of wartime Casablanca, not having the right papers could cost you your life. In real-world America, it's nowhere near that bad, but just a few years ago, when Nevada rancher Dudley Hiibel repeatedly refused to give his name and ID to a local sheriff's deputy, he was handcuffed and arrested.

Hiibel argued his right to refuse ID all the way to the Supreme Court.

DUDLEY HIIBEL, RANCHER: This isn't just about me. This is about all Americans.

SESNO: He lost. The court ruled that because the cops had reasonable suspicion that Hiibel was abusing a passenger in his truck, they had every right to demand ID. The American Civil Liberties Union called the ruling - quote -- "a step on the road to a police state."

But in our war on terror, ID is now standard fare at airports, federal buildings and increasingly, at the office.

(on camera): So, what's the most common form of identification in the United States? What do I already share with 200 million other people? It's this, my driver's license. It's my permit to drive, but it's a lot more.

(voice-over): Name, height, date of birth, my address, which I'm not going to let you see here, all courtesy of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

But each state does licensing in its own way. So, brace yourself for a brave new world. A brand new law, the Real ID Act, creates standards for driver's licenses, making them harder to get, harder to forge, more high-tech, linking databases. Non-citizens will have to prove they're here legally.

A first step toward a national ID? Yes, says none other than the former head of Homeland Security, who believes it's about time.

TOM RIDGE, FMR. HEAD OF HOMELAND SECURITY: A standard form that basically says Frank Sesno is Frank Sesno; Tom Ridge is Tom Ridge; gives anyone involved with combating terrorism, a base of information about people who are legitimately here.

SESNO: Knowing he's stirring a hornet's nest, Ridge favors a national ID system.

RIDGE: Look, there's so many people, going down so many paths. Is it not in the national interest that we come up with a standard form?

ZAHN: Jim Harper is a privacy advocate who vehemently disagrees. He's with the Libertarian Cato Institute and runs a Web site called

JIM HARPER. PRIVACILLA.ORG: The dominant use of national identification will be surveillance of ordinary law-abiding citizens.

ZAHN: But the systems are being built. We visited a company, Visage, that's working with DMVs in more than a dozen states.

KENNETH SCHEFLEN, SENIOR V.P., VISAGE: The biggest problem and the hardest one to solve technically, is knowing who the person is in the first place. Are they really who they purport to be?

SESNO: Authenticating documents is the first step. So they looked at mine as if I were an applicant. My passport takes just a nanosecond to get a green light. My license...

KEVIN MCKENNA, DIRECTOR, VISAGE: We look for certain visible patterns on that driver's license.

SESNO: Security features, some exposed only by infrared light. Yes the documents are real, but am I really who I say I am? Picture time.

(on camera): I failed.

MCKENNA: You failed on biometrics.

SESNO (voice-over): Now, I've got a problem. Because of the poor quality of my passport and driver's license photos, the machine can't verify I am who I claim to be. A DMV employee will have to look closely. But can any of this stop the bad guys?

Say I'm a terrorist, I want to change my face, warts and all, because I know the authorities have my original photo on file. What happens now? My scruffy self, scanned against 50,000 others in this sample database. The computer sees right through the new me and zeros in on a likely match.

MCKENNA: Those are under different names, but it sure looks like the same guy.

SESNO (on camera): What's going on here that makes this computer say: These are the same guys?

MCKENNA: Well, what we're actually doing is we're taking a flexible grid, placing it over the face and it's comparing over 1,700 different feature points on your face.

SESNO (voice-over): The technology is imperfect, but improving. Already, Illinois is using it every day, scanning new applicants against the pictures of 18 million license holders. Critics say terrorists will still do whatever it takes.

HARPER: The terrorists will use fraud to acquire cards. They will corrupt DMV employees. They will use forgery to create cards.

SESNO: But it's an important layer of security, insists Tom Ridge, that with oversight and limits on access and use can make us safer."

(on camera): You know what people say: There goes Tom Ridge. What's wrong with Tom Ridge? A national ID, a central database in the United States of America? Are you crazy?

RIDGE: It doesn't have to be a central database, but it does have to be a standard form of identification. I am optimistic enough and confident enough that we could come up with a system that would protect privacy rights, but also significantly enhance security.

SESNO: Would it prevent another 9/11? Those hijackers all managed to get valid driver's licenses or state-issued IDs Would it have stopped Timothy McVeigh? He had a license long before he bombed Oklahoma City. Would a national ID have stopped the London bombers? Apparently, they were all legal residents.

RIDGE: It should not be viewed as the beat-all and end-all and the answer to every security problem that we have. It should be viewed as one of a series of steps, particularly in a post-9/11 world, that has, I think, definite security benefits, but also other benefits to the 21st century world in which we live in.

SESNO: A dangerous digital world, where we have to decide how to balance security and privacy when there are no guarantees.


ZAHN: Very tough and controversial balance to strike. Frank Sesno reporting for us tonight. Our CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll also shows that about two-thirds of you favor the idea of all Americans carrying a national I.D. card. Our series "Safe at Home," continues tomorrow with a look at the state-of-the-art technology that can scan your eyes and even recognize your face. Will it make us safer without violating our civil rights? That's tomorrow night, 8:00 Eastern.

In a minute, an update on the miracle in Toronto. The number of injured passengers has changed. It now stands at 43. We are told that none of those injuries is serious. We'll have more when we come back.


ZAHN: Right now, we're going to take you back to Toronto for an update on today's incredible news out of Toronto, the miracle of Flight 358. Around 4:00 Eastern Time, Air France Flight 358 from Paris to Toronto touched down on the runway in a violent storm. But something went terribly wrong. The plane simply didn't stop. It ran right off the runway into a field, then into a gully. Within moments, the shattered plane was a fireball.

But everyone onboard, all 309 people, got out alive; 43 people injured, but officials say, none of those injuries is serious.

Joining me from Toronto is Ben O'Hara-Byrne of Global TV, who has the very latest for us on the investigation into this crash. What can we say at this hour? What do we know?

BEN O'HARA-BYRNE, GLOBAL TV: Well, at this point of time, we know that officials have not yet got to the exact site. The fire was just recently put under control, about an hour-and-a-half ago. We know that some time this evening, though, they'll be taking a look at the site for the first time, at the plane, and we know that the bulk of the investigation, though, will begin tomorrow. They will be talking to different witnesses this evening as well.

We know that the crew and the passengers were brought to a different terminal here at Pearson airport, because ostensibly, they hadn't arrived in Canada yet, they hadn't cleared Customs. So they had to go through that process first. And we know that investigators will be talking to different witnesses while their memories of the events are still fresh.

And of course, some of the stories we've heard today are simply incredible from some of the people, simply saying that as the plane came down, they realized just how hard it was raining. One witness saying that one passenger on the plane saying he believed there could have been a problem with the front wheel. So of course, investigators will be speaking to all those people to get the different versions of events. And of course in this case, one of the rare events when there's been a disaster involving a plane, where everyone who was involved will be able to live to tell the tale, and certainly investigators will be relying on pilots, co-pilots and so on, to give them a very clear picture of what went wrong here today.

ZAHN: Well, Ben, thank you so much for the update. I guess the image that sticks in my mind is what one eyewitness said, that the wind was blowing so violently that the trees were almost perpendicular to the ground from his perspective. Ben, thanks again for your update. Appreciate it.

Now, we turn to Erica Hill of HEADLINE NEWS for the other news of the night -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNNHN ANCHOR: Thanks, Paula. Cleveland, Ohio is mourning the loss of six U.S. Marines tonight, all of them killed today in Iraq, and all of them attached to the same suburban reserve unit. Meantime, talks began on reducing the 138,000 American troops there, and transferring control to the Iraqis. Last week, an American general said he expected a substantial reduction as long as enough Iraqis are trained.

In Gaza, homemade missiles fired by Palestinian militants struck a house, killing a 6-year-old Palestinian boy and wounding eight other people.

And China's national oil company has now dropped its $18.4 billion bid for the U.S. oil company Unocal. And that clears the way for number two Chevron to buy it for slightly less.

And now, for some of the best of CNN's 25 years, Larry Smith counts down the most intriguing sports personalities.


LARRY SMITH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The top sports characters of CNN's first 25 years. We asked the editors at "Sports Illustrated" magazine to come up with a list.

At number 20, edgy and exciting quarterback Brett Favre, is a fan favorite.

WALTER LOOSS, JR., PHOTOGRAPHER, "SPORTS ILLUSTRATED": He does things no other quarterback can get away with, and shouldn't.

SMITH: At number 19, celebrity came a-courting for tennis darling Anna Kournikova, who aced her endorsements and dazzled fans with her superstar looks.

At number 18, baseball's lead-off slugger Rickey Henderson was the sultan of stolen bases.

At number 17, William "The Refrigerator" Perry was the NFL's big blocker, who bulldozed his way to the end zone.

At number 16, baseball's Fernando Valenzuela was the pitching phenom with the golden arm.

Stay tuned as we count down to number one.


HILL: And Paula, that's going to do it for us at HEADLINE NEWS. We'll hand it back to you in New York.

ZAHN: Thanks so much, Erica. And we'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: And we leave you tonight with latest images of Air France Flight 358 after running off the runway in Toronto during a violent thunderstorm this afternoon. Incredibly, even though the wreckage burst into flames, all 309 people aboard managed to get off the plane alive, miraculously only 43 minor injuries.

Please join us tomorrow night. Our series, "Safe at Home," continues with a look at high-tech security devices that can actually recognize your face.

Thanks for joining us tonight. Have a good night.