Pilot Gets Birds-Eye View of Quake, Tsunami

Doug Leja was forced to divert the commercial airliner from Tokyo to Sapporo

View Comments (
)
|
Email
|
Print

    NEWSLETTERS

    Yucaipa resident who flies the LAX to Tokyo route says he flew his Boeing 777 to Japan just after the quake and found airport closed. Had to reroute to Sapporo.

    A commercial pilot who flies a Boeing 777 jetliner was about to land at Tokyo's Narita Airport last Friday when he was told about the earthquake and warned that Narita was closed.

    Doug Leja who lives in Yucaipa knew he was in charge of 250 worried passengers.

    His was one of about two dozen planes that were less than an hour away from Narita when the quake occurred.

    Jetliner Pilot Arrived in Japan Just Before Quake

    [LA] Jetliner Pilot Arrived in Japan Just Before Quake
    Yucaipa resident who flies the LAX to Tokyo route says he flew his Boeing 777 to Japan just after the quake and found airport closed. Had to reroute to Sapporo.

    "(I was) shocked at first," Leja admitted.

    He had to burn fuel and find some place to land. He finally took the big jetliner to Sapporo, 400 miles to the north.

    He told NBC LA he remained cool during the entire time -- likely because he had 28 years of military experience flying F-4 Phantom jets and teaching air combat.

    But he admitted the photos he took once he landed in Sapporo were disturbing.

    On Monday, he'll resume his weekly, non-stop LAX to Japan flight.