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Are There Clues in the Flight 370 Satellite Data?
May 27th, 2014
04:26 AM ET

Are There Clues in the Flight 370 Satellite Data?

Data from communications between satellites and missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was released Tuesday, more than two months after relatives of passengers say they requested that it be made public.

Malaysian authorities published a 47-page document containing hundreds of lines of communication logs between the jetliner and the British company Inmarsat's satellite system.

The information provided isn't the whole picture but is "intended to provide a readable summary of the data communication logs," the notes at the start of the document say.

Some passengers' families, unsatisfied by official explanations of the plane's fate, say they want an independent analysis of the complex information, a process that could take some time.

"The first thing we're going to expect feedback on is does the data look right," said Sarah Bajc, whose partner, Philip Wood, was on the missing jet. "Is it as complete as we're being led to believe it is?"

She said, though, that she was "annoyed" that Inmarsat and Malaysian authorities hadn't released the raw data in its entirety.

"I see no reason for them to have massaged this before giving it to us," she said.

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MH370: After Aborted Underwater Search, Crews Hope to Try Again
April 15th, 2014
04:30 AM ET

MH370: After Aborted Underwater Search, Crews Hope to Try Again

Time to try this again.

The first deployment of an underwater vehicle to hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was aborted early, sending the drone back to the surface 10 hours before expected.

Search officials analyzed data from the Bluefin-21's six hours underwater, and found no objects of interest, the U.S. Navy said Tuesday.

Crews will try to send the Bluefin-21 probe back into the Indian Ocean later Tuesday, weather permitting.

So what went awry the first time?

"In this case, the vehicle's programmed to fly 30 meters over the floor of the ocean to get a good mapping of what's beneath and to the sides, and the chart we have for the area showed that water depth to be between the 4,200 and 4,400-meter depth," said Capt. Mark Matthews, who heads the U.S. presence in the search effort.

But the water was deeper than expected - about 4,500 meters.

"Once it hit that max depth, it said this is deeper than I'm programmed to be, so it aborted the mission," Matthews said.

David Kelly, CEO of the company that makes the Bluefin-21, said the device's safety mechanisms have triggered such recalls have happened.

"Although it's disappointing the mission ended early, it's not uncommon," Kelly said. "We've operated these vehicles around the globe. It's not unusual to get into areas where the charts aren't accurate or you lack information."

Mathews said the initial launch Monday night took place "in the very far corner of the area it's searching, so they are just shifting the search box a little bit away from that deep water and proceeding with the search."

It is unclear how much of the area - 5 kilometers by 8 kilometers (3.1 miles by 4.9 miles) - the Bluefin scanned during its first attempt. It could take up to two months to scan the entire search area.

MORE on CNN.com.

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March 20th, 2014
05:25 AM ET

Objects Spotted in Indian Ocean May Be Debris From Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

Two objects spotted in the southern Indian Ocean may be debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, Australian authorities said Thursday, fueling hopes of a breakthrough in an international search of unprecedented scale.

The objects are indistinct but of "reasonable size," with the largest about 24 meters (79 feet) across, said John Young, general manager of emergency response for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

They appear to be "awash with water and bobbing up and down" in an area 2,500 kilometers (1,500 miles) southwest of Australia's west coast, he said.

"If that piece of the plane is that big, maybe it's the tail section" said David Gallo, one of the leader of the search for Air France Flight 447, which crashed in the Atlantic Ocean in 2009. But he warned that the size gave him a degree of concern.

"It's a big piece of aircraft to have survived something like this," he said.

The tail height of a Boeing 777, the model of the missing Malaysian plane, is 60 feet.

The announcement raised the prospect of finding parts of the plane amid a huge search that is now in its 13th day. The plane vanished over Southeast Asia on March 8, and previous reports of debris found in the sea have turned out to be red herrings.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott first announced the discovery to the House of Representatives in Canberra on Thursday. Australian search teams have been at the forefront of the hunt for the missing plane in the remote southern Indian Ocean.

"There have been so many false leads and so many starts and changes and then backtracking in the investigation," said Mary Schiavo, a CNN aviation analyst and former inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation. "He wouldn't have come forward and said if they weren't fairly certain."

But officials cautioned that there were no guarantees that the objects now being investigated would prove to be from the missing plane.

At the Lido Hotel in Beijing where family members of some of the passengers on the missing plane have waited for news for days, relatives gathered around a large screen television watching the Australian news conference. They leaned forward in their chairs, hanging on every word. Some sighed loudly.

Malaysia Airlines said it won't be sending representatives or family members to Australia unless the objects are confirmed as plane debris.

'The best lead we have right now'

The images of the objects were captured by satellite and were being assessed by the Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation. The images were taken near the area of the southern Indian Ocean that has been scoured by search teams in recent days.

Although the total search area for the plane spans nearly 3 million square miles, a U.S. government official familiar with the investigation said the missing plane is most likely somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean.

"This is an area out of normal shipping lanes, out of any commercial flight patterns, with few fishing boats, and there are no islands," the official said.

Young cautioned that the images may not be from the plane. There can be other debris out there, like containers that have fallen overboard from ships, for example.

The objects were seen in the heart of what is known as the Indian Ocean Gyre. There is little to no oceanic current movement in the region and the area is notorious for trapping debris. It's one of the five major gyres in the world's oceans and is known to contain a "garbage patch."

"It is probably the best lead we have right now," Young said. "But we need to get there, find them, see them, assess them to know whether it's really meaningful or not."

The visibility in the area is poor, Young warned. "The weather is not playing the game with us," he said.

Planes arrive

A Royal Australian Air Force Orion aircraft has already arrived in the area, Young said, and three other planes are being sent there, including a New Zealand Air Force Orion and U.S. Navy P8 Poseidon.

The flight crew on the Poseidon say they're getting radar hits of "significant size," indicating something lying below the water's surface, ABC News reported Thursday.

ABC's correspondent David Wright, who is on board the aircraft, says the crew told him that the radar indicates that "there is something down there." But ABC cautioned that it is still too early to tell if the radar hits are related to the missing plane.

An Australian C-130 Hercules plane has been tasked by Australian authorities to drop marker buoys in the area, Young said.

"The first thing they need to do is put eyes on the debris from one of the aircraft," said aviation expert Bill Waddock. The buoys will mark the place and transmit location data.

A merchant ship helping Australian authorities in the search was also expected to arrive in the area Thursday.

'Every lead is a hope'

The Malaysian Navy has six navy ships with three helicopters heading to the southern Indian Ocean to take part in the search, a Malaysian government source said.

"Verification might take some time. It is very far and it will take some time to locate and verify the objects," the Malaysian government source said.

See updates on this story at CNN.com.

March 19th, 2014
06:31 AM ET

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: Some Data Deleted From Flight Simulator

Some information has been deleted from the flight simulator found at the home of the pilot, Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said. Forensics is trying to recover it, he said.

At Wednesday's news conference, he also said:

- Malaysian authorities have received background information from all countries with passengers on board the plane except Russia and Ukraine. So far, no information of significance has been found, he said.

- Malaysia has received some radar data, but "we are not at liberty to release information from other countries."

- Reports that the plane was sighted by people in the Maldives are "not true."

"I can confirm that the Malaysian Chief of the Defence Force has contacted his counterpart in the Maldives, who has confirmed that these reports are not true," Hishammuddin said.

Former accident investigator Steven Wallace speaks to the report that the pilot's simulator was found with data missing.


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Filed under: Flight 370 • Malaysia • Malaysia Airlines
March 18th, 2014
09:40 AM ET

What Happened in Cockpit of Flight 370?

Former accident investigator Steven Wallace speaks to circumstances if flight path was pre-programmed into the computer.

The pilot and first officer of the missing plane, both of them Malaysian, have come under particular scrutiny in the search for clues. Investigators say that whoever flew the plane off course for hours appeared to know what they were doing.

But officials have so far reported no evidence to tie the pilot and first officer to the plane's disappearance.

Supporting the case that whoever took the plane off course had considerable aviation expertise, The New York Times reported that the aircraft's first turn to the west was carried out through a computer system that was most likely programmed by somebody in the cockpit.

An aviation expert, writing an op-ed for CNN.com, floated the idea last week that whoever changed the plane's course was an expert.

The person who programmed the change of course would have been somebody "knowledgeable about airplane systems," The Times reported, citing unidentified American officials.

The information has increased investigators' focus on the pilot and first officer, the newspaper reported. CNN wasn't immediately able to confirm the report.

Asked about the report Tuesday, Malaysia Airlines Chief Executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said: "As far as we're concerned, the aircraft was programmed to fly to Beijing. That's the standard procedure."

But he didn't rule out the possibility the flight path had been reprogrammed.

"Once you're in the aircraft, anything is possible," he said.

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March 11th, 2014
05:45 AM ET

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: Mystery Passenger ID'd

Amid the multitude of questions about the fate of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, one small part of the story became clearer Tuesday when police said they have identified one of the passengers who used a stolen passport to board the plane. And it's unlikely, they said, that he was part of a terrorist group.

He is a 19-year-old Iranian man, named Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehrdad, who was trying to emigrate to Germany, said Inspector General Khalid Abu Bakar of the Royal Malaysian Police.

The use of the stolen passports by two passengers on the plane, which vanished from the skies early Saturday, raised fears that its disappearance could be linked to terrorism.

But Khalid said authorities don't think the young Iranian posed a threat.

"We have been checking his background. We have also checked him with other police organizations of his profile and we believe that he is not likely to be a member of any terrorist group," Khalid said.

After he failed to arrive in Frankfurt, the final destination of his ticket, his mother contacted authorities, Khalid said. According to ticketing records, the ticket to Frankfurt was booked under a stolen Austrian passport.

Authorities are still investigating the identity of the other passenger who used a stolen passport.

The bigger piece of the puzzle

The identification of one of the men helps peel away a thin layer of the mystery surrounding the passenger jet, which disappeared about an hour into its flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

But in the bigger puzzle of the missing plane's whereabouts, there were no reports of progress Tuesday.

Every lead that has raised hopes of tracing the commercial jet and the 239 people on board has so far petered out.

The challenge facing those involved in the huge, multinational search is daunting; the area of sea they are combing is vast.

And they still don't know if they're looking in the right place.

"As we enter into Day 4, the aircraft is yet to be found," Malaysia Airlines said in a statement Tuesday.

Days, weeks or even months

Over the past few days, search teams have been scouring tens of thousands of square miles of sea around the area where the plane was last detected, between the northeast coast of Malaysia and southwest Vietnam.

They have also been searching off the west coast of the Malaysian Peninsula, in the Strait of Malacca, and north into the Andaman Sea. The airline said Tuesday that authorities are still investigating the possibility that the plane might have tried to turn back toward Kuala Lumpur.

The search also encompasses the land in between the two areas of sea.

But it could be days, weeks or even months before the searchers find anything that begins to explain what happened to the plane, which disappeared early Saturday en route to Beijing.

In the case of Air France Flight 447, which disappeared over the Atlantic in 2009, it took five days just to locate the first floating wreckage.

And it was nearly two years before investigators found the bulk of the French plane's wreckage, and the majority of the bodies of the 228 people on board, about 12,000 feet below the surface of the ocean.

The Gulf of Thailand, the area where the missing Malaysian plane was last detected is much shallower, with a maximum depth of only 260 feet and an average depth of about 150 feet.

"If the aircraft is in the water, it should make recovery easier than the long and expensive effort to bring up key parts of the Air France plane," Bill Palmer, an Airbus A330 captain for a major airline, wrote in an opinion article for CNN.

But if Flight 370 went down farther west, it could have ended up in the much deeper waters of the Andaman Sea.

No possibilities ruled out

Aviation officials say they haven't ruled out any possibilities in the investigation so far. It's hard for them to reach any conclusions until they find the plane, along with its voice and data recorders.

Malaysian police are focusing on four particular areas, Khalid said Tuesday: hijacking, sabotage, psychological problems of the passengers and crew, and personal problems among the passengers and crew.

He said police were going through the profiles of all the passengers and crew members.

Malaysia Airlines Chief Executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya told CNN's Jim Clancy that those involved in the search for the plane are determined to carry on.

"We just have to be more resolved and pay more attention to every single detail," he said Tuesday. "It must be there somewhere. We have to find it."

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