Alert Air Passenger Warns of Fuel Leak

Air force sergeant spotted leak before 747 headed over the Pacific

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted May 22, 2009 7:31 AM CDT

(Newser) – An eagle-eyed passenger warned a 747 flight crew about a fuel leak on a recent Japan-bound flight from Chicago, CNN reports. Air Force Sgt. Bartek Bachleda, who serves in an air refueling squadron, spotted vapor billowing from behind the wing and realized the jet was losing fuel fast. He alerted a flight attendant, who—after at first brushing him off—told the cockpit crew. The plane landed safely in San Francisco.

"I decided, if the captain doesn't know about this before we go oceanic—meaning once we fly over the ocean—and we're leaking this massive amount of fuel, this is going to be a bad day," said Bachleda, who shot video of the leak from his seat. United Airlines, which says the flight crew had known the plane was losing fuel and had been debating what course of action to take, rewarded Bachleda with first-class tickets.

A 747 takes off in Japan in this file photo.
A 747 takes off in Japan in this file photo.   (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)
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CNN's story about the leak.   (YouTube)

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When I initially hit the call button, she thought maybe I wanted something, and she said, 'Sir, I'm handing out drinks, I'll be right back with you.' - Staff Sgt. Bartek Bachleda

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