A stowaway who climbed into the unheated and oxygen-deprived landing gear of an American Airlines jet managed to survive a more than two-hour flight from Guatemala City to Miami on Saturday.
The Guatemalan stowaway was discovered by engineers at Miami International Airport (MIA) shortly after the Boeing 737-800 pulled up at the gate. Video uploaded to Instagram by the local Only in Dade account showed the dishevelled man struggling to stand up after the tortuous flight.
The vast majority of stowaways who try to hitch a ride within the landing gears of commercial aircraft do not survive the perilous conditions. The lucky ones who get to their destinations alive are often harmed by the treacherous conditions they face, including sub-zero temperatures and crush injuries.
American Airlines said that flight AA1182 was “met by law enforcement due to a security issue.” A spokesperson for the carrier said it was “working with law enforcement in their investigation.”
The stowaway from taken to a local hospital for evaluation and has since been detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The agency said the 26-year-old stowaway “attempted to evade detection in the landing gear compartment of an aircraft arriving from Guatemala Saturday morning”.
“The individual was evaluated by emergency medical services and taken to a hospital for medical assessment,” a spokesperson for CBP continued. “This incident remains under investigation.”
The flight time was just over two hours but the jet still got to altitudes of in excess of 30,000 feet.
In 2019, the dead body of a stowaway fell from the landing gear of a jet on final approach to Heathrow Airport. The body reportedly fell into the garden of a South London home, narrowly missing a sunbathing resident who was laying just three feet away from where the body fell.
The stowaway had climbed into the landing gear of a Kenya Airways flight from Nairobi and would have been exposed to temperatures of -60C (-76F).
And in 2015, a man fell from a British Airways plane onto the roof of an office block in Richmond, West London after an 11-hour flight from Johannesburg. The man was decapitated in the fall and was found by police in an air conditioning unit on the roof.
A second man was found unconscious still in the undercarriage of the plane but died several months later from injuries sustained during the flight.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.