Once again, we have reason to give thanks for the United States Military – in this case a United States Air Force Airman, Staff Sgt. Bartek Bachleda. Thanks to his alert action, a jumbo jet full of passengers was saved. Here is an account
from the US Air Force: A fuel leak on a civilian aircraft caught the attention of Staff Sgt. Bartek Bachleda, 909th Air Refueling Squadron boom operator, during a flight from Chicago to Narita airport, Japan. After alerting the pilots and aircrew, the ranking pilot made the decision to divert the flight to San Francisco. "I noticed the leak on the left side of the aircraft right behind the wing earlier during take-off," said Sergeant Bachleda. Sergeant Bachleda continued analyzing the outflow of fuel to be 100 percent sure it was a leak while the plane was reaching cruising altitude. Almost an hour into the flight, he told a stewardess of the possible leak, but was given an unconcerned response. Sergeant Bachleda then began to capture the possible leak on video. He then got the stewardess' attention by saying, "Ma'am it's an emergency." He identified himself to her and showed her the leak on video. "She was completely serious and was no longer handing out drinks," he said. "I told her you need to inform your captain before we go oceanic." The captain came from the cockpit to where Sergeant Bachleda was sitting to see the leak and view the video footage. Sergeant Bachleda said the captain and the crew were trying to figure out how the aircraft was losing 6,000 pounds of fuel an hour and then they knew exactly what was going on. The captain made a mid-air announcement the flight would be diverted back to Chicago, but then changed it to San Francisco so passengers could catch the only existing flight to Narita airport. Sgt. Bacleda stayed behind in San Francisco to speak with authorities. The following day, the airline flew him back to Tokyo, first class. An honor richly deserved, I would say. The men and women who serve America in the Armed Services are America's best and brightest, despite prevailing attitudes on campus.