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Teen stowaway survives flight in wheel well of jet: Unconscious most of trip

Teen stowaway survives grueling conditions in wheel well of jet in flight from San Jose to Hawaii
Teen stowaway survives grueling conditions in wheel well of jet in flight from San Jose to Hawaii
Wikimedia Commons

At teen stowaway is alive after hiding in the wheel well of a jet that took off from San Jose and landed in Hawaii. The 16-year-old survived conditions that have killed others who have tried this stowaway scheme before him, according to the Los Angeles Times on April 21.

The FBI agents who are now working this case are is stunned and at a loss for words when explaining how this kid survived this almost six hour trip. The teen climbed into the wheel well of the jet, which is exposed to the bitter temperature change once hitting higher altitudes. The trip took him over the Pacific Ocean in temperatures that reached 80 below freezing on a flight that soared to the altitude of 38,000 feet.

He lived through the lack of oxygen in conditions that would have caused him to blackout at about 10,000 feet. “The kid was unconscious for pretty much the entire flight,” said Tom Simon, an FBI spokesperson based out of Honolulu. Security tapes from San Jose’s Mineta International Airport backed up the teen’s claim that he climbed an airport fence and made his way into the wheel well of Hawaiian Airlines Flight 45. There he remained undetected until the plane landed in Maui, according to the New York Post.

The flight landed in Maui at about 10:30 a.m. local time. The teen remained in the wheel well unconscious for about an hour until he woke up. He climbed out of the wheel well onto the tarmac and he was making his way up a ramp when security spotted him on their cameras. While this is a major security breach, this wasn't the airlines main concern at this point. Airline spokesperson, Alison Croyle, said in a statement that their “primary concern now it he well-being of the boy, who is exceptionally lucky to have survived.”

The boy did not pose a threat and was not charged in any crime as of yet. He was transported to the hospital where he was cleared medically and then turned over to the department of child welfare in Hawaii. Back at San Jose Airport, the Transportation Security Administration and the FBI is investigating this security breach.

While people have tried to hitch a free ride on a jet by climbing into the wheel well before, they are usually discovered dead once the plane lands. Last year a Nigerian teen hitched a ride in a wheel well of a jet and he made it, much like this teen. The conditions for the teen from Nigeria were a bit more favorable time wise.

The Nigerian teen was alive most likely because his flight was short, just 30 minutes. Officials there credited the short amount of time he spent in the wheel well during the quick trip for the teen’s survival. Others have met with a gruesome death trying to take a free flight in a wheel well.

In 2012 the crumpled body of a 26-year-old stowaway fell onto a London street as the plane was coming in for a landing at Heathrow Airport. He had climbed aboard the flight in Angola and he was either dead or close to death when his flight ended in that fall.

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