NASA Engineer Saves Passenger Flight From Disaster After Seeing Major Malfunction From His Seat

A NASA engineer is being hailed as a hero this week after he saved a passenger set from disaster by speaking up when he saw a malfunction from his window seat.

Rumaasha Maasha had just boarded a flight from Huntsville, Alabama to Denver, Colorado when he noticed a fluid leak from his window seat on the wing. Rumaasha, who is an aerospace engineer at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, could see right away that the leak was a malfunctioning vent valve.

“Normally, if it’s a humid day, you’ll see vortices, or circular patterns of rotating air, off the wing,” he explained afterwards. “About 1,000 feet off the ground, I started seeing something white and thought, ‘maybe we’re just hitting some humidity.’ Well, then we banked to turn cross-wind and it was still doing it, and that’s when I knew something was up. I looked closer and immediately realized that we were losing fluid.”

The engineer was also aware that as the plane increased in velocity and altitude, the Venturi effect would increase suction on the fuel tank and worsen the leak.

“I quietly motioned to the flight attendant to come over and fortunately she was very attentive,” Rumaasha said. “She called the crew and the key thing is that she did this as we were still climbing out. Within a minute or two, they reduced speed and leveled off. The fuel leak diminished immediately when they slowed down.”

The passengers were irritated at first when they learned that the plane had to return to the Huntsville airport, but when they heard the reason why, they thanked Rumaasha profusely.

Rumaasha had been obsessed with aviation all his life, and this is what led him to getting a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. When he could not find a job right away, he got his pilot’s license and worked various jobs amongst different airlines and the FAA before NASA finally hired him in 2004.

“Looking back, I guess I had the perfect sets of circumstances to recognize the issue that day,” he said. “Since I was a kid, I’ve always tried to sit in a window seat near the wing. That’s not the first time I’ve noticed something. I’m sure it won’t be the last.”


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