Posts Tagged ‘aircraft’

Great Human Being: Staff Sgt. Bartek Bachleda, USAF

I just stumbled across this story on — my apologies to anyone who has already been clubbed over the head with it, but I thought it deserving of recognition.

Airman Spots Jetliner’s Fuel Leak At 35,000 Feet

From the May 15, 2009, article by Chuck Squatriglia:

Staff Sgt. Bartek Bachleda knew something was amiss almost immediately after the jetliner left Chicago.

He’d looked out the window and saw what he thought was a fuel leak. He’d know, because he’s a boom operator with the 909th Air Refueling Station based at Kadena Air Base in Japan. That’s where he was headed. He was one of 300 people aboard the flight bound for Narita.

Sgt. Bachleda took it upon himself to advise the flight attendants, who at first did not believe the situation to be serious. Only after he recorded video of the leak and persuaded them to show it to the aircraft’s captain did the flight officers realize the gravity of the situation: the aircraft was losing 6,000 pounds of fuel per hour.

According to a press release by the U.S. Air Force, the flight (whose airline was not named) was safely diverted to San Francisco before it had a chance to embark on an ocean crossing that, according to the aircraft’s captain, it would not have completed.

For remaining calm in the face of danger, collecting the necessary evidence to alert the flight crew, averting a disaster, and saving the lives of approximately 300 passengers and crew, I am happy to declare United States Air Force Staff Sergeant Bartek Bachleda a Great Human Being.

ETA: As of May 22, the airline in question has been identified by CNN as United Airlines. Also, according to their reporting, the flight crew was already aware of the problem, had no intention of attempting an ocean crossing, and was already discussing options when Bachleda’s report reached the cockpit.

Great Human Being: Chesley B. Sullenberger III

As anyone who owns a radio, television, or Internet-connected computer in the Western hemisphere knows by now, a US Airways passenger jet was forced to make an emergency water-landing in the Hudson River between Manhattan and New Jersey this afternoon, at approximately 3:30 p.m. ET.

The cause of the crash is believed to be an unavoidable midair collision between the jet and a flock of geese. The birds were sucked into the aircraft’s jet turbines, inflicting massive damage to both engines.

With both engines out, the captain, Chesley B. Sullenberger III, 57, maintained control of his aircraft as he advised his passengers to brace for a hard-impact water landing. According to multiple witnesses, he guided his aircraft to a remarkably gentle, nose-up, tail-first touchdown in the river, clear of water traffic.

All 150 passengers and the five crewmembers (including Sullenberger) were able to evacuate the aircraft and be rescued by local waterferries, Coast Guard, and police and fire department rescue vehicles. Captain Sullenberger reportedly walked and inspected the interior of his downed and rapidly flooding aircraft twice to verify that all passengers and crew had been safely evacuated from the plane before he set foot outside the aircraft.

For his quick thinking, calm action, courage, and piloting puissance that prevented an accident from becoming a tragedy, I tip my hat to Captain Sullenberger, and bestow upon him this blog’s second Great Human Being Award.