Ronan Farrow Daily | March 14, 2014
>> it was exactly one week ago, exactly this hour that the mystery surrounding malaysian air flight 370 began. a little bit on the time line , 1:07 p.m . during this hour one week ago is when the transponders went off and we lost contact. the world has been in a state of confusion on where the plane is. we've been hanging on to every last detail. a couple of basics on the data sources we're trying to sort out the pieces of where this plane may have disappeared to. first of all, we have the actual traditional communications mechanisms within the plane, the ways the pilots talk to the world. last words from the pilot, all right, good night. second, there's what's called the a kars system, the satellite link through which we get data on where the plane is and certain facts about the state of the plane, that shut down at that 1:07 mark. but it kept pinging according to the latest reports, without specific data for up to four to five hours. that fact has opened up a whole slew of possibilities about where this plane may have gone. we're going to turn to come costello of nbc news who has the latest on this. he's going to explain exactly what that five-hour window could have meant. we saw on radar, for instance, from the government of malaysia , they were tracking from the outside, that a craft, which could have been this flight, hit a sharp turn from its intended course towards the west. tom, do we have you there on the line?
>> i'm here, ronan.
>> thank you so much for joining us here. you have been in trenches and covering this issue. tell us what the various data sources from within the plane mean. which are the most reliable? and when you look at that path that the plane appears to have taken, what do you make of that fact? do you see deliberate sabotage.
>> the only real datapoint we have from the plane at 1:21 in the morning is a blinking signal, which essentially was like a ping, telling a satellite i'm here, i'm here, i'm here. it was only one ping an hour. it did not transmit information about location, speed, none of that. it was literally as if you had xm sirius radio in the car and never added the subscription. it is there and satellite is saying are you interested? and you don't respond. now, the malaysian authorities and now u.s. authorities have looked at this data on the map which suggests according to radar that the plane did take that turn as you suggested, that sharp left bank . and headed out over the straight of malacca and up towards the sea and perhaps the indian ocean and bay of bengal , outside of india. the reason they are looking at that and that now has expanded the search zone because obviously somebody had to do that deliberately. because the military radar picked that up and that was the last known point, that expands the search zone rather dramatically. originally they were looking on the east coast of malaysia now this shifted to the west coast . they don't have a good feeling for where this plane might be. they are hoping they can try to tri ang late the pings off the satellite and doing very advanced arithmetic, because again this is not tracking your gps location, but rather one ping an hour can they get a sense on the arc of the satellite. i would not take off the possibility, the list of possibilities that this still involves some sort of catastrophic event , that they tried to turn back and they were incapacitated. it has to be among the theories.
>> what do you make of this reporting on the engine and internal components of the engine manufactured by rolls royce sending back some data to boeing and rolls royce . it's unclear who's receiving the data if any. the malaysian government did not actual -- the malaysian airline did not actually subscribe to the service that would have entitled them to that data?
>> all of our reporting suggests that's not true, that the engines did not transmit anything back. we're talking strictly about the akars data, a system designed to feel telemet tri on the status of the aircraft and includes a variety of things, including engine performance and flight deck performance, et cetera . there are several different levels that you can subscribe to as an airline of how much data you want fed back to you. a big airline like air france or united airline may pay at lot but a smaller airline would be getting less of that data, but we don't have any information suggesting that they were getting a stream of efrngine data.
>> we did in fact reach out to both rolls royce and boeing and they informed us that this airline did opt out of this particular data sharing system. thank you so much for that update, nbc news' tom costello.
>> we're going to turn to a couple of experts who have been reporting on this issue and have a lot of experience with both flights disappearing and the process of difficult anguished searches for them. we have nbc news anchor lester holt . thank you for joining us. i'm a big fan and greg fife, ntsb investigator and michael lighter. i'll start with you, mike, this story has been a reminder of how precarious international travel security can be. what are the specific vulnerabilities that are revealed here?
>> one thing i would stress, ronan, we don't know if any of those vulenerabilities led to the result that we have but clearly highlighted weaknesses in how lost and stolen passports are reported and the extent to which that information is really used in a dynamic way to keep people who we don't want on airplanes out. this is really strong in the u.s. post 9/11. and it gets progressively weaker as you move away from the united states and areas like malaysia , this is still a real weakness. what we're also seeing is an inability to know where aircraft are and potentially being susceptible to actors on the plane keeping folks on the ground from knowing where those aircraft are in certain areas of the world. that's clearly a very significant security concern.
>> do you see any policies on this front changing in the aftermath of this?
>> regrettably, these sorts of issues that are really global can take significant time. i think on the screening of passengers globally, i would like to tell you this is going to be a quick fix, but if we're 13 years post 9/11 and one of the greatest aviation tragedies we've seen in the lifetime and haven't gotten the fix, i don't think there's going to be a huge push. but there may be some and the u.s. should lead that. on the tracking of aircraft, this is something that could be done. i'm a little more optimistic on that front.
>> all right, thank you so much. i'm going to turn to my friends in the studio. greg , you've got experience with in type of search. we're dealing with apparently now at last count, you saw how big the circle looks, a 35,000 square foot area that has could be combed through. is it possible that we never find this plane?
>> you can never say never. but right now, with what we don't have, any kind of wreckage that would be on the surface, what you would expect, especially if the airplane that large went into the water, it would have been a catastrophic break-up, you would expect to see a lot of floats. we don't see it. the longer with we go, if the aircraft is in the water, it may spread out and we may never find the origin or bulk wreckage because it could spread out hundreds of miles.
>> i'll get back to the specifics of the search with you. lester holt , you logged a lot of time in flight simulators . when you see that trajectory that radar picked up of a westward turn that was very sharp, some say very deliberate, does it read like a deliberate turn?
>> it looks like a deliberate turn, the question is whether the pilot did it or someone else ? i fly flight simulators on my mack and change the heading in a matter of seconds. you dial it in the heading and sul you'll see the magnetic arc --
>> that is so nerdy and impressive.
>> i can go major aviation geek on you. i'll spare you that. the point is in flight it doesn't take a lot to change direction of the aircraft.
>> and it's a sharp turn like that. it could have been some sudden change in circumstances that triggered that?
>> it could have been an intruder in the cockpit. i want to quickly turn to the trans ponder, the one thing we haven't talked about it. would have to be physically turned off. i'm having an emergency, squawk code and radar air traffic control will see it may be a sick passenger, low oil on an engine, there's also a code for hijack that you could put in, that plane will bloom up on the radar and indicate that plane is being hijacked and another code for i've lost radio communications . i'm on radar but i can't talk to you. those are options a pilot would have in an emergency if they had time.
>> and the all right good night from pilots suggests that not only did we not see codes from them but everything was all clear right up to that last shutoff of the transponder.
>> it's routine as you travel at a given distance, you'll hand over to air traffic controller and talk to cleveland center and contact cleveland, and you'll say, good day, good night. just an acknowledgement. that's all that appeared to be. in light of that being the final conversation, we'll look at it more closely to see who was saying it.
>> after this turn happened, they were heading towards the andaman islands , is there any possibility they could have landed?
>> greg and i were speaking with and michael as well. i think as a journalist, i say getting too far into this whole speculation thing. but we've got nothing after a week here. we crossed into far fetched land. everything is on the table, including that possibility. it's a big jet. what would you figure, greg , 7,000, 8,000 feet of runway?
>> assuming he's burned off his fuel --
>> that's not present on the andaman islands ?
>> no. one of the things that has searchers moving in the area, one of the four pings happens to be in a generalized area right over that island. so that's really what caused them to start to concentrate their search in that particular area. whether it pans out or it's another ping just like the last radar hit where the only reason there was no more radar hits on the military because that's where the radar scan then failed as far as limitation was concerned. the airplane flew out of its radar range.
>> military radar sounds fancy and sounds comprehensive but it's actually not. you got no data back. could be any craft moving through that space.
>> correct. all it does is get a skin paint, a primary target. it says something is out there. we don't know what it is and it's not identified like the civilian radar interrogating the transponder. this is the track it's moving on and we'll have to do something to identify it.
>> greg , when you see the sequence of shutdowns in this plane of reporting instruments, does that read as an inside job to you? would that have had to be a pilot or someone with that knowledge?
>> based on my years of experience and working on silk air over in indonesia, when you start to see these things where you have multiple redundant systems and they start to fail, sequentially, you have to wonder, what's the commonalty? if it was a total electrical failure, then you'd expect to see a different kind of action or reaction. now you have the transponders going down and akars system going down and this turn for no reason. if the pilot because they had an explosive depression, they have already programmed the track to go through kuala lumpur to beijing so the airplane would have continued to fly towards beijing. it would not have been programmed to make a left turn and come back.
>> if you had an electrical failure, there's a backup, where you could still get generator power to run critical instruments.
>> absolutely but you have to come down to a lower altitude. it powers air conditioning electrical, everything on the ground is functional in the air, but you have to be at the lower altitude.
>> that further muddyes the water of exactly how far this could have gotten and how expanding this radius is. we've seen a broader and broader area being searched. a lot of questions and way less answers than we'd like. thank you as i said to lester holt and greg and michael lighter in washington, d.c. appreciate you're weighing in. all right, stick around, later this hour, we're going to look at the science behind that search we just discussed with renoned author. look at this video right here in the united states .
>> evacuating the plane, oh, my god. the plane is on fire. oh, my god. my plane just crashed.
>> you're looking at dramatic moments in philadelphia where passengers had to evacuate a florida bound plane last night after the front tire blew and the plane bounced and skidded down the runway leaving terrified passengers running to escape the smoking plane. this cell phone video captured the dash down the emergency slides and out the window exits. it was carrying 149 people and five crew members. a few hours later most of the passengers were put on another plane, all was well they headed to ft. lauderdale, but you would be forgiven for not wanting to get on a plane after today's show. now that we paid significant homage to stories about planes, we want to ask you what stories you think we should be covering more than this? you can chime in on this weeks underreported story? what's flying under the radar and what do you want to hear more about? tweet under the hash tag rfd under and e-mail them to our rfd team. we're going to pick our favorite one to cover and give you the credit right here on " rfd " next week.
>>> up next on " ronan farrow daily"", crimea in the cross hairs, u.s. and russia remain locked an at impasse as the crimea region nears a vcritical vote this weekend. discussing his new mission to help syria's lost generation , this is a world leader. you will not want to miss it.