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Airplane passenger spots fuel leak

May 22, 2009 8:38:01 AM PDT
A passenger on board a United Airlines flight from Chicago to Tokyo looked out his window and saw the plane was losing fuel, so he videotaped the incident.Staff Sgt. Bartek Bachleda of the U.S. Air Force said he noticed what looked like white smoke pouring out of the left side of the Boeing 747 during takeoff and then again once the jet hit cruising altitude.

Sgt. Bachleda knew what he was observing. He serves in an air refueling squadron in the U.S. Air Force. Almost an hour into the flight, Bachleda tried to alert a flight attendant but she did not take him seriously. Eventually, though, he showed the flight attendant the video he took.

"She was completely serious and was no longer handing out drinks," Bachleda said in a U.S. Air Force statement. "I told her you need to inform your captain before we go oceanic."

The flight attendant then immediately went and told the flight crew. But Jeff Kovick, a spokesman for United Airlines, said the crew already knew about the leak and was considering what action to take when the flight attendant brought news of Bachleda's video to their attention.

The jet ended up landing safely in San Francisco.

"When we got off the airplane everyone was thanking us," said Staff Sgt. Bachleda.

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