Fox News
March 17, 2014

Why is Flight 370 investigation marred by misinformation?

Guests: Catherine Herridge, Kathleen Bangs, Robert Mark

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," March 17, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: And this is a Fox News alert. It is now day 10 of the greatest airline aviation mystery in history. Now, the missing Malaysian Airlines plane vanished off radar screen more than a week ago. Tonight, authorities are reportedly focusing on anyone who had aviation skills that was on board that aircraft. Now, it's also being reported that the co-pilot, who gave the last communication to the air traffic controllers -- which was, by the way, "All right, good night" -- that that came after the aircraft communications reporting system had been turned off.

Joining me now with the very latest, Fox's own Catherine Herridge. Catherine, the mystery deepens again tonight.

CATHERINE HERRIDGE, FOX CORRESPONDENT: Well, it does, Sean. And good evening. The 53-year-old pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, who provided Web tips on air-conditioners using his personal flight simulator as a background, is now at center of the investigation, along with his co-pilot, 27-year-old Fariq Abdul Hamid. The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, who gets regular updates, says an FBI team is on the ground after the investigation was formally declared a criminal case.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. MIKE MCCAUL, R-TEXAS, HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: There's a little bit of nationalistic pride on the part of Malaysia that I would hope they would let our experts in that really know how to do this stuff to get to the bottom of this. This is too much of a mystery at this point.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HERRIDGE: The Malaysian authorities are nailing down the timeline. At 1:07 AM, the jet's maintenance system sent out a regular update. At 1:19 AM, in what is believed to be the co-pilot's final communication, air traffic control is told everything is OK. And at 1:20 AM, the transponder went dark, and the next maintenance update, scheduled for 1:37, is never sent, strongly suggesting it was also shut down.

Significantly, the plane was diverted as it transitioned from Vietnamese to Chinese airspace, a kind of no-man's land, where flight irregularities are more likely to escape notice.

And a member of the House Intelligence Committee says there are intelligence gaps, with a renewed focus on the two Iranians who boarded the flight with stolen passports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. PETER KING, R-N.Y.: We know how easy it is to get on Malaysian flight with a stolen passport. And even though there's been several run-throughs on the passenger manifest, they've still not been able to do full investigations of all the passengers on that plane, where we could find something out about their background.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HERRIDGE: And tonight, U.S. officials tell Fox News the USS Kidd plans to leave the Indian Ocean in the next day or so unless there's a major break in the case, leaving air assets to continue the search, Sean.

HANNITY: All right, Catherine, let me ask you about this. Peter King also said that the suicide scenario makes the most sense. We also discovered that the main pilot of this aircraft was an obsessive follower of this guy, Anwar Ibrahim, and even attended his trial just hours before this flight took off. This is when he was sentenced to five years in prison. So any more updates on that?

HERRIDGE: Well, the key piece of evidence, based on our reporting today, really comes down to these computer hard drives that were recovered from the pilot and co-pilots' home. This is really the best evidence barring finding the actual flight because what investigators are looking for here is whether there are signs of premeditation, whether either of the men were kind of getting their affairs in order, or whether there's an indication that they tried to wipe those computer hard drives in an effort to conceal evidence, Sean.

HANNITY: All right, let me ask you this, Catherine. We know in his own words last year that the pilot, Zaharie Shah -- he has this video on YouTube. Let me play it. Are authorities paying attention to this? Let me roll it for our audience.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHARIE SHAH, AIRLINE PILOT: This is a YouTube video that I made as a community service after learning a lot from YouTube and a forum (ph) and Wikipedia regarding the household air-conditioning unit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANNITY: What do you think? Are they looking at that closely?

HERRIDGE: They are looking at the YouTube video very closely and also in the context of the other social media postings that he may have made to get an insight into the man. He's a self-declared aviation geek, but he also shows in that video and also with the simulator a real high level of understanding about electronics.

And remember, what we know from the timeline is that these systems were systemically shut down. And one of the lingering questions is whether this satellite communications link was also disabled. And that's at is a very high threshold to cross, but someone like that pilot may have had the skill set to do it, Sean.

HANNITY: He also -- going back to him being a fanatical follower of Anwar Ibrahim and wearing this "Democracy is dead" shirt, were we able to confirm that, in fact, he did attend the trial hours before that plane took off?

HERRIDGE: We were not able to independently confirm that. We're relying on the Malaysian media reporters, and there's really nothing to suggest those reports are false in any way. But I would offer that it really goes to the benefit of the Malaysian government to try in some way portray the hijacking, if you will, or the sabotage of this aircraft with some kind of connection to the opposition. It would be very convenient for them, I would argue. So I think we'd need more evidence than just a report that he attended the trial.

HANNITY: Do we know...

HERRIDGE: And that may be on the hard drive.

HANNITY: We know that they've been looking for those with aviation skills. They apparently...

HERRIDGE: Correct.

HANNITY: ... had one passenger that, in fact, had them. Do we know anything else about that passenger?

HERRIDGE: What we know about that passenger based on our reporting, Sean, is that this is someone with a flight engineering background. It was not clear to me in my reporting today whether this individual was actually on the flight or whether there may be a second individual who was part of that ground crew that's a person of interest to investigators.

HANNITY: All right, great work, as always, Catherine. The mystery deepens.

HERRIDGE: Thanks for having me.

HANNITY: Appreciate it.

Joining me now to explain more, are aerospace journalist, Kathleen Bangs, and commercial pilot Robert Mark. Guys, welcome, both of you, to the program.

Kathleen, I'll start with you.

ROBERT MARK, COMMERCIAL PILOT: Good evening.

HANNITY: I am concerned about anybody that has any fanatical views, and especially if, in fact, the Malaysian media reports are correct and he attended the trial of this Anwar Ibrahim and he's wearing a "Democracy is dead" shirt, it tells me that his state of mind may not have been as it should be in the previous 18,000 hours that he flew.

KATHLEEN BANGS, AEROSPACE JOURNALIST AND FORMER PILOT: Well, Sean, I think it's a little convenient -- I kind of agree with Catherine on this, on her report, that it's a little convenient for the Malaysian government to be pointing the finger this quickly. And certainly, it works to their advantage since he does support the opposition.

What I will agree on is that it is concerning -- as a former flight crew member and as an airline instructor, I can tell you that in the hours before a red eye flight like this, what we would call an all-night flight -- it's a long flight. It's an international flight. These are all things that would lead to a crew wanting to get as much rest as possible the day of the flight. So if these reports come in and they're true that he was at a court hearing that day, that is -- I don't know if I'd call it suspicious, I would say that's a little...

HANNITY: But there's other signs that we have. Let me bring -- let me bring Robert Mark into this, Mark, because you're a pilot now. We know now 777, that the pilot has the ability to turn off the transponder. But also, all the other communications were turned off, as well. So that -- and then it flew to 45,000 feet, which this plane is not designed to fly at. Then it went down to 22,000 feet. Somebody was in control of this aircraft. It was not on automatic pilot. Somebody was controlling this, based on that data, correct?

MARK: Well, it certainly seems that way. But let's be fair. I think we've seen so much misinformation come out of Malaysia in the last 10 days that it's very difficult for us to know which are the real facts and which are the ones that are perhaps convenient.

HANNITY: Well, we do know that it had to -- the transponder would have been turned off manually, communications, other communications would have had to have been turned off manually or not? You're saying no?

BANGS: I'm going disagree with that completely.

MARK: Most -- yes.

HANNITY: All right, go ahead. Explain.

BANGS: I'm going to disagree with that completely.

MARK: I was going to say yes.

BANGS: From the beginning, one of the things that I've maintained that I believe -- and of course, it's just -- it's just a belief -- is that there's a very good chance that this is a mechanical failure. When I say mechanical, I mean mechanical and/or electrical.

And what's really disheartening over the weekend, Sean, is there were so many reports coming out, even from major newspapers, with headlines blaring that, malfunction ruled out by investigators. Don't have any idea how they can say that this early in the game. And that's unheralded that anybody would rule out a mechanical failure at this point.

HANNITY: Well, then let me ask you this. But we -- when we -- when we see that it got so far off course and you see...

BANGS: Maybe.

HANNITY: Well, a guess (ph). That seemed to be pretty well confirmed, though, by the different satellite...

BANGS: It does.

HANNITY: ... pickups that they had...

BANGS: But the point I want to get to is...

MARK: I'm not sure I agree with that, Sean.

BANGS: ... the transponder was not necessarily mandatorily turned off by anybody. Nor was the ACARS necessarily manually turned off. There's a very good chance that this airline -- this airliner suffered some kind of catastrophic failure.

HANNITY: You're saying that, but this is an airline that has a 20- year history. There's over a thousand of them in the sky. There's been only one incident with fatalities, and that was in San Francisco and that was pilot error.

BANGS: But Sean -- and I agree, there's nobody that builds a better airliner than the Boeing company. But there's a potential for many things that could happen. It could...

HANNITY: But the level of redundancy in these airplanes -- Captain, this is what you do, Robert Mark. You're a pilot. The level of redundancy is -- is, you know, three, four times in some cases! Transponder...

(CROSSTALK)

MARK: There's no disagreement with that. But like I said earlier, I mean, we have seen so much smoke and mirrors, so many places that we've been led that are actually not verified. I mean, even that mention you made before of the 45,000 feet -- I mean, we've been hearing that for I think three or four days now. And to what I have found, the Asian -- or I'm sorry, Malaysian group does not have the capability of that kind of altitude finding on the radar that they were using. And the data blocks, as you said, if the transponders were turned off and everything else was turned off, how did they come up with that?

Well, I mean, we have found so many bets (ph). You know, then we were going to the Straits of Malacca. Then we were headed to the Bay of Bengal. And now we're going to...

HANNITY: All right...

MARK: ... go further south...

HANNITY: ... this is where it gets frustrating...

MARK: And no one knows...

HANNITY: But -- but you know and I know...

MARK: Yes. Right.

HANNITY: ... that 777s do not evaporate into thin air! They don't!

MARK: That's true.

HANNITY: There had to be some data picked up someplace, so we've got to use at least what they're giving us as at least some point of reference, which means this plane was way off course, and early on in this flight that the communications were shut down.

BANGS: But Sean...

HANNITY: There was -- yes?

BANGS: Airliners do disappear, and they have since the beginning of commercial aviation. Eventually, they get found, but there's been many mysteries that have never been solved.

HANNITY: The year is 2014, satellite imaging, GPS, come on!

BANGS: Then...

HANNITY: We've got engines sending back data...

MARK: It doesn't work that way, unfortunately.

HANNITY: ... of the performance of the engines!

BANGS: Sean, there's nothing I want to believe more than that this airplane was hijacked and that this airplane is safe somewhere and...

HANNITY: I just want an answer! I want the truth so whatever it is, we can make decisions according so it doesn't happen again.

BANGS: But as a pilot who's seen things gone wrong and who trains for the unbelievable and the fantastical to happen, my belief is that we are way too quick here to write off this as a mechanical...

HANNITY: This is 10 days! Nobody's being quick here!

(CROSSTALK)

MARK: Sean, you said you wanted the answers and you wanted the truth. And we all want that. And we want it be...

HANNITY: All right...

MARK: ... the real truth, though, and not some...

HANNITY: I agree. I want...

MARK: ... some smokescreen.

HANNITY: ... the truth. I blame the Malaysian government and the airlines in part for their very slow, well, I guess sharing of information, if you will, with everybody. But I got to run. Thank you both. I appreciate it.

MARK: Thank you.

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