BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Now, we asked Airbus for a briefing on possible causes on the electrical warning system, what protections are built in for lightning strikes. An Airbus spokeswoman said it’s way too early at this stage, and the company does not want to engage in speculation, Wolf. Of course, that’s the responsible thing to do.
The one thing known from the start about the tragic plane crash earlier this week was that we knew absolutely nothing about what happened. No black box, no mayday. But that, though, did not prevent CNN from “engaging in speculation” about the crash, even after its reporters acknowledged it would be irresponsible to do so.
Following are many examples of CNN’s irresponsible, tabloid-style approach to the news.
TODD: Now, we asked Airbus for a briefing on possible causes on the electrical warning system, what protections are built in for lightning strikes. An Airbus spokeswoman said it’s way too early at this stage, and the company does not want to engage in speculation, Wolf. Of course, that’s the responsible thing to do.
BLITZER: Yes, of course. But let’s talk a little bit about the weather off the coast of Brazil in the Atlantic Ocean.
BLITZER: And which complicate this is mystery altogether. But what about this notion that horrible turbulence in this bad area off the coast of Brazil, in the Atlantic, that it was just even worse than normal?
QUEST: …let me sketch one scenario for you. Something happens, whether it’s lightning, whether it’s turbulence, the crew becomes overwhelmed by problems. There’s an electrical failure. We know there’s been that problem, there’s a pressurization problem. And all of a sudden, what seems very simple to start with gets completely out of control.
TODD: We asked Airbus for a briefing on possible causes, on the electrical warning system, what protections are built in for lightning strikes. An Airbus spokeswoman said it’s way too early at this stage and the company does not want to engage in speculation — Wolf.
BLITZER: What about the weather in the region over the Atlantic? I understand that could have been a real problem.
TODD: That’s right. This is an area called the Intertropical Convergence Zone. We’re going to show this to viewers now.
BLITZER: Because we always, during hurricane season, hear these hurricane hunters… MYERS: Absolutely.
BLITZER: …these planes that fly right into these hurricanes. They don’t break up.
MYERS: Absolutely. No question about it. Something catastrophic went wrong and many things.
And people are saying, well, why couldn’t they just land it like they landed it in the Hudson?
It was in the middle of the night. This is a pitching stormy night. There’s no runway areas. You can’t see where the ground is. And this pilot probably had no indication, even if he had a chance to bring it down, where the actual water surface would have been, especially in the middle of the night; especially if he didn’t have any electronics in the plane whatsoever.
But let’s talk about what we just heard and more with a former National Transportation Safety Board director, Peter Goelz. He’s here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Peter, the fact that they’ve seen all this debris in the area, does that say to you, can we determine that there was — that it was — crashed on impact, or that there was an explosion, or it just broke up in air, the way we’re seeing this debris?
PETER GOELZ, FMR. NTSB DIRECTOR: Well, you can’t tell yet, but if this debris is from the aircraft, it’s a good first step. But it’s only a first step because, you know, this plane went down some time ago. There’s going to be current and wind movement.
You just don’t know where the main wreckage is, but you’ll want to take a look at this. Is there any singe marks? Are there any sooting? Was there a fire beforehand? There’s a lot of information you can get from this.
BLITZER: Because one of the pilots flying around the area said he spotted some fire coming from that area. What, if anything, does that say?
GOELZ: Well, that probably means there was impact, that it crashed into the surface of the ocean somewhat intact and exploded. But, boy, we’re only at the opening steps.
BLITZER: This is right at the beginning.
LITZER: What does it say to you that there was no Mayday call? The pilot or the co-pilot didn’t actually communicate with anybody, “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday?” Because in all the movies we’ve seen, that’s what they say.
GOELZ: Well, that really is an ominous sign, because it means whatever happened, it happened so quickly that the pilots were not able to radio out. And it probably indicates that it was a catastrophic failure at altitude.
BLITZER: When you say a catastrophic failure, of the electrical system — could that alone?
GOELZ: That alone would not be enough. I mean, because the plane has a backup system.
BLITZER: The other thing I read was that there might have been hail, even at 30,000 or 40,000 feet. Is that common? Is that normal in a thunderstorm, to see hail, which potentially could have caused some destruction?
BLITZER: Well, let’s just be very precise, because I know this is very sensitive information, Richard. There are a lot of A-330s that are flying right now all over the world, including here in the United States. This directive that was issued by the European version of the FAA saying precisely what in the aftermath of that incident where that Qantas A-330 was forced to nosedive?
BLITZER: Can these pilots, are they trained — because they could be overwhelmed in a situation like this.
GOELZ: Well, that’s the question.
The question is, if you get a combination of events, and you get a — a pilot that’s taken by surprise, are they going to do the wrong thing? Are they going to make the wrong call?
And, in this case, they are certainly going to look at this airworthiness directive. They haven’t figured out what caused this glitch. The plane pitched initially eight degrees nose down, dropped almost 1,000 feet, then pitched again down far less, about three — three degrees. And, each time, the pilots arrested the dive. BLITZER: By doing what?
GOELZ: Well, they — they — they took command of — of the aircraft and pulled the stick back.
BLITZER: Presumably, if the Air France A-330 had the same problem, the pilots were very experienced in the — in the Air France.
BLITZER: All right, hold on one more minute.
I want to bring in our Brian Todd. He’s looking at some of the questions that are being asked about the role turbulence may have played in this Air France disaster.
What are you picking up, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the experts we spoke to today say you can never rule anything out. But, when it comes to the possibility of turbulence actually breaking a plane apart, airplanes are pretty strong.
The wings are far more flexible than you might think. We’re told they can bend 20 feet up or down without breaking. Now, here’s how a manufacturer makes sure a wing is strong enough. This video that we’re showing now hosted on Boeing’s Web site, this is a test for a new plane that is not yet in service.
BLITZER: All right, Brian, thanks very much.
Peter Goelz, former director of the NTSB, is still here.
Peter, it — it takes — it would take an enormous amount to break off a wing…
BLITZER: … from a plane, especially a plane that’s relatively new. It’s only a few years old with state-of-the-art equipment.
BLITZER: The tropical wave that was — supposedly within the area…
BLITZER: … that is not enough to do any damage?
GOELZ: No. I mean, it will — it will give you a good rattling, but it’s not going to break a wing off.
BLITZER: Well, that’s certainly true.
All right, John. Stand by.
Brianna Keilar is here in THE SITUATION ROOM — Brianna, you’ve been looking at this.
What was there, some sort of warning or — that was issued to this Airbus A330 in the aftermath of a Qantas problem that developed late last year?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That’s right. This is one of the things the FAA does, Wolf. And in this case, they actually followed after the year — their European counterpart — this air directive, which is basically a safety alert, a maintenance alert — something that they do all of the time. And it had to do with this particular flight where the nose did dip on this Qantas flight.
BLITZER: So what does that say to you, Peter Goelz, the former director of the NTSB, the National Transportation Safety Board?
This incident last October where this Qantas plane went into a nosedive, got out of it, went back into another nosedive, got out of it. They issued this directive as a result of that.
The fact there were different manufacturers of this equipment, does that — does mean conclusively that there is no similarity to what happened then and what has happened with the Air France plane?
PETER GOELZ, FORMER NTSB DIRECTOR: Well, I think until there’s more information, you cross it off and you go on to the next item. You know, the investigation right now is you’re trying to eliminate possible suspects. In this case, you’ve got some conclusive proof. It’s a different manufacturer.
BLITZER: But wouldn’t the other manu…
GOELZ: Let’s move on.
BLITZER: Isn’t it possible, though, that these other manufacturer of this highly technical piece of equipment made it exactly as Litton did and there wasn’t much of a change?
GOELZ: And you’d also look — look at the controlling software that commands the interface between these two units. I mean, you wouldn’t eliminate it entirely, but you’d put it to a lesser degree of importance and you try and get and see what other evidence is available. And right now, there’s just not a lot.
BLITZER: You’ve investigated a lot of plane crashes. What does it say to you that, as John Zarrella was reporting from Rio de Janeiro just moments ago, that the size of the debris that they’re seeing is really small?
They’re not seeing huge, huge pieces.
BLITZER: Like a seat may have been the biggest thing that they’ve seen or a life vest.
BLITZER: How do you know that it came apart at altitude at 38,000 or 39,000 or 20,000 feet as opposed to on impact into the Atlantic Ocean?
GOELZ: Well, you don’t really know…