A 16-year-old miraculously lived through a flight leaving San Jose, California, to Maui, Hawaii, while stowed in the wheel well of a Boeing 767 plane on Sunday April 20, according to Hawaiian Airlines. The boy took the flight lasting five-hours to Hawaii while crammed into a small compartment in the landing gear of the plane that reached an altitude of 38,000 at one point during the flight.
Some flight experts from Hawaiian Airlines question the validity of the boys story since lack of oxygen, and sub-zero temperatures make it next to impossible to survive such a five-hour journey. The same experts claim temperatures can drop to less than negative 40 degrees. The ground crew first noticed the boy when he was aimlessly walking around the plane on the tarmac at the Kahului Airport in Maui.
Although the boy’s story about a stowaway flight in the wheel well of the flight from California to Hawaii is being questioned by many, some evidence seems to indicate his story may be true. Surveillance camera footage shows the boy climbing over the fence at San Jose Airport then walking towards the Hawaiian Airlines plane. When he arrived in Hawaii additional camera footage shows him climbing out of the left main gear of the Boeing 767.
The teen told authorities that he ran away from his home in San Jose on Sunday after an argument with his parents. He claims he climbed into the wheel well and blacked out when the plane took off. The boy said he did not regain consciousness until an hour after the plane landed in Hawaii. According to the FBI, the boy does not remember the flight at all. The identity of the teen is unknown. All he had in his possession was a comb, but no identification. The boy was placed in child protective services, and federal charges were not served by the airline. The boy left the airport via ambulance to a local hospital.
The homeland security committee for San Jose will be taking a closer look at the security situation of the airport perimeters. A committee member claims the security program for the airport reaches all requirements at the federal level, but nothing is perfect. Airport police, FBI, and Transport Security Administration will investigate the incident as well as review the security program to ensure something like this does not happen in the future.
Report of an incident like the boy’s flight from California to Hawaii in the wheel well of the plane is not uncommon and not the first case scenario of stowaway in the recent past. In August of 2013, a 14-year-old boy stowed away on a 35-minute domestic airline flight to Nigeria. The short flight was attributed to his safe journey. In 2010, another 16-year-old boy who stowed away on a domestic airline flight from Charlotte, North Carolina to Boston, Massachusetts, died during his ‘on’ flight journey. A man was found in the suburban streets of London in 2012 after falling from a wheel well on an airline flight from Angola. More often than not most people will not survive such a flight. The boy on the flight to Hawaii is nothing less than a miracle. Both airports and Hawaiian Airlines are hoping the boy is recuperating well, and there are no long-term injuries.
By Christina Thompson
Follow on Twitter @IAHemingway