Stowaway survives 11-hour flight in landing gear between South Africa and The Netherlands

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Photo by Maxim Hopman on Unsplash

This weekend, a stowaway was found in the nose wheel of a cargo aircraft that operated a flight between South Africa and Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The man is, given the circumstances, in good health but it’s rather unusual that a stowaway can survive the cold at a high altitude for a long time. 

The stowaway was taken to the hospital, reports the Marechaussee on Twitter, who didn’t disclose the age and the nationality of the extra passenger.

That a stowaway in the landing gear survives a flight is in itself exceptional, and seems completely unlikely after an 11-hour flight.

The landing gear of an aircraft is not heated. When the plane flies at an altitude of 10 kilometers, the temperature drops to about minus 50 degrees Celsius and the air becomes increasingly thin. A stowaway loses consciousness and suffers hypothermia. Sometimes stowaways also fall out of the plane when the landing gear is extended. Every now and then someone manages to survive.

It is absolutely very unusual that someone has been able to survive the cold at high altitudes,” acknowledges Joanna Helmonds, spokesman for the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee. “Very, very unusual.”

The Marechaussee is investigating the case.

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