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Bodies of Two Stowaways Found Dead in Landing Gear of South American Plane Shortly After Landing in Colombia

Bodies of Two Stowaways Found Dead in Landing Gear of South American Plane Shortly After Landing in Colombia

a plane flying in the air

The dead bodies of two stowaways were found in the landing gear of an Airbus A320 aircraft operated by the Colombia-based airline Avianca shortly after the aircraft arrived in Bogota on Friday night, aviation officials and the airline have confirmed.

The five-year-old single-aisle aircraft had just operated Avianca flight AV116, which was a scheduled service between Santiago de Chile and Bogota. Data supplied by Flight Aware shows that the aircraft was in the air for nearly five and half hours and flew at over 36,000 feet for much of the journey.

In a statement, Colombia’s aviation regulator, the Aeronautica Civil de Colombia, said two people were discovered ‘lifeless’ in the landing gear as engineers carried out a routine maintenance inspection shortly after the aircraft arrived in Bogota.

A spokesperson for Avianca said the airline immediately activated an established security protocol for such an eventuality and notified the relevant authorities in both Colombia and Chile.

The airline says the pilots carried out a pre-check of the aircraft, and there was nothing suspicious found. Once the aircraft departs the gate, however, the security of the aircraft becomes the responsibility of the airport authority.

It is incredibly rare for stowaways to survive such long flights hidden in the unheated, unpressurised surroundings of an aircraft landing gear. Stowaways will be starved of oxygen and subjected to brutally cold conditions that can cause severe frostbite.

In January 2022, however, a stowaway was found alive after a 12-hour flight hiding in the landing gear of a cargo aircraft that had just arrived in Amsterdam from South Africa.

Several months earlier, in November 2021, a man survived a more than two hour flight from Guatemala City to Miami. Airports in the region are considered at very risk of stowaway attempts.

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