A Stowaway Survived Over Two Hours Inside a Boeing 737's Wheel Well

Surviving bone-shakingly cold temperatures.
Chris Young
The photo credit line may appear like thisJoel Carillet/iStock

A 26-year-old man was found stowed away in a plane's landing gear compartment at Miami International Airport on the morning of Saturday, Nov. 27, a report by NBC News explains.

According to a statement by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency, the man was apprehended after he "attempted to evade detection in the landing gear compartment of an aircraft arriving from Guatemala." The incident remains under investigation.

Once discovered, the stowaway was given a checkup by an emergency medical team and then sent to a nearby hospital for further evaluation. The medical condition of the man, following what would have been a grueling journey, was not revealed. However, a video published by Instagram account onlyinade shows him standing, and also provides an idea of the space in which he hid himself to flee Guatemala.

According to American Airlines, the flight on which the man was stowed away was flight 1182 from Guatemala City to Miami. It had a duration of 2 hours and 37 minutes and was undertaken by a Boeing 737-800. The stowaway was incredibly lucky not to have died from exposure to extreme temperatures and a lack of oxygen throughout the duration of that flight.

How do some stowaways survive?

Though stowing away on an aircraft is an incredibly dangerous undertaking, there are some factors that might, very precariously, help stowaways survive, as pointed out by a Los Angeles Times article following a similar incident in 2016 that saw a 16-year-old boy survive a five hour trip from Hawaii to California inside a wheel compartment. The weight of a passenger airline creates a great amount of friction during takeoff, causing its tires to heat up. The heat from hydraulic lines in the wheel well as well as heat from the tires themselves might help to keep stowaways warm as they travel at high altitudes without the protection afforded to those in the cabin. 

Still, commercial aircraft typically fly at an altitude between 31,000 and 38,000 feet (5.9 and 7.2 miles). A lack of oxygen at those altitudes can lead to serious brain damage, and, sadly in many cases has led to the death of stowaways. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), temperatures in non-pressurized, non-climate-controlled parts of a passenger plane can drop to 65 degrees below zero, meaning the majority of people who attempt to hide inside an aircraft's wheel well will die of hypothermia or hypoxia, and they are also at risk of being crushed by heavy equipment such as the aircraft's wheels. In fact, the FAA says some 129 people have attempted to stow away in commercial aircraft since 1947, and only 29 of those survived. 

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