A teenage stowaway has beaten the odds with his miraculous survival crossing the Pacific ocean. He was hidden in the flight wheel of a Hawaiian airlines plane. The boy, who has been taken into child services, was said to be unconscious for the entirety of the flight, which went from San Jose to Maui.
The 16-year-old was found wandering dazed and confused around the airstrip of the Kahului airport in Maui on Sunday. The air at the height that the plane was travelling, around 38,000 feet, is quite thin, which probably caused the boy to black out. This could have caused problems, as he was lucky not to fall out when the wheels descended for landing. Temperatures in the air drop to 80 degrees below zero and some are wondering exactly how the stowaway survived.
However, security footage shows him jumping the fence in San Jose on Sunday and climbing into the plane. After the plane landed, he did not recover consciousness for a full hour, after which he hopped down from the port side-wheel well. Ground staff saw the teen near one of the planes and approached him.
He was without any identification, and only carried a comb. The boy claimed to have run away from home after a family argument. FBI agents have been called in to verify the teenager’s story. It is believed that he meant no harm to the flight, and has not been charged with any crime. However, investigators are worried that he was able to gain access to the tarmac in San Jose so easily.
The teenager is not the first to survive such an ordeal, but his survival is still miraculous, considering the numbers of others who have died from similar experiences. Jeff Wise, an expert in aviation reportedly said that the temperature and lack of oxygen is equivalent to the peak of Mount Everest. The life expectancy drops to “minutes.” However the US Federal Aviation Administration has weighed in, noting that the body can go into a sort of “enforced hibernation” in cases like this.
In August last year, a Nigerian teenager stowed away on a short-haul domestic flight, but his survival was put down to the short flight time of 35 minutes. Another individual made a miraculous journey from Havana to Madrid. The residual heat left in the plane’s tires and hydraulic lines are said to help keep the body warm at high altitudes.
There have been several other cases of people stowing away on flights and not surviving. In 2012, the body of a 26-year-old was found on the streets of London. It is believed that the individual stowed away on a British Airlines flight that took off from Angola. The stowaway was thought to have been either dead or near death as the plane came into Heathrow, and that they had fallen out when the plane was still in the air.
In this case, the teenager said he did not recall anything of the five in a half hour flight. Authorities are calling the stowaway’s survival a miracle.
By Sara Watson