"Ma'am, it's an emergency," a polite, but professional Air Force sergeant firmly told a United Airlines flight attendant after realizing that the Tokyo-bound commercial jet they were flying in was spewing fuel from a left-wing tank.
In fact, The New York Post reported, the jet was pouring about 6,000 pounds of fuel into the atmosphere, and as the passenger was sharing his observation with the flight attendant, the pilot was at the controls trying to figure out why the aircraft was going through so much fuel.
Rather than make an emergency landing, the crew opted to fly down to San Francisco to put the jet down carefully in United-friendly territory.
The passengers' trip was delayed by 6 1/2 hours, although Bachleda and a colleague stayed behind to help investigators.
"When we got off the airplane, everyone was thanking us," he said. The airline thanked him, too, by putting him in the first class section on a flight to Tokyo the next day.