The not-so-easy way out

 If you don’t like the country you’re in  and you think stowing away in the undercarriage of an aircraft might be an easy way out, forget it.

Really,  forget it.

“Police are investigating whether a man found dead on a west London street was a stowaway who fell from a plane,” says the BBC.

It goes on, “Police say the death is being treated as unexplained. But early media reports all shared the same assumption – that he had stowed away in the landing gear of a plane flying to Heathrow, less than 10 miles away.”

“He must have come down pretty much vertically to miss the parked cars,” John Taylor, who heard a thump from his home across the street in this placid, affluent suburb, is quoted as saying.

“I expect he was dead already. Poor chap must have been desperate.”

He must have been.  But if he’d decided stowing away on a plane was his only way out, he wasn’t the first.

“In 2001, the body of Mohammed Ayaz, a 21-year-old Pakistani, was found in the car park of a branch of Homebase in nearby Richmond,”  says the Beeb, continuing,  “Four years prior to that, another hidden passenger fell from the undercarriage of a plane on to a gasworks close to the store.

“On 24 August, just 16 days before the discovery on Portman Ave, the remains of another man were found in the landing gear bay of a Boeing 747 after it touched down from a 6,000-mile flight from Cape Town.

And in an even worse tragedy,  “The bodies of two boys, thought to be as young as 12, were discovered in the undercarriage of a Ghana Airways flight from Accra in 2002,”  says the story, adding.

“Dr Stephen Veronneau, of the US Federal Aviation Administration, has identified 96 individuals around the world who have tried to travel in plane wheel wells since 1947. The incidents happened on 85 flights. Veronneau is working on the assumption that the Mortlake fatality was a stowaway.

“Of these, more than three-quarters have proved fatal.

The story has aviation expert David Learmount, of Flight International magazine  stating,

“Those stowaways whose bodies are not mangled by the retracting landing gear or killed by these extreme conditions will almost certainly be unconscious by the time the compartment doors re-open a few thousand feet above ground, causing them to plunge to their deaths.

“They either get crushed or frozen to death.”

But is taking an unauthorized flight on a jet plane always fatal?

“Some stowaways have survived,” says the story.

“They tend to have travelled fairly short distances, but all rely more on luck than judgement.

“In 2010 a 20-year-old Romanian survived a flight from Vienna to Heathrow stowed in the undercarriage, but only because the private jet flew below 25,000ft due to bad weather.

“In 2000 Fidel Maruhi Tahiti survived the 4,000-mile journey from Tahiti to Los Angeles and, two years later, Victor Alvarez Molina made it from Cuba to Canada alive. But all suffered severe hypothermia.

With such a low survival rate, the obvious question is why anyone would embark on such a high-risk journey,  asks Jon Kelly  in his BBC story.

“A handful of stowaways appear to have done so as a prank or out of a misguided sense of adventure. In 2010, the body of 16-year-old American Delvonte Tisdale was found on the flight path to Boston’s Logan airport after he apparently hid in the wheel well of a US Airways Boeing 737 from Charlotte, North Carolina,” he adds.

(The pic on the right is from ukzambians.co.uk.  It’s of  someone who “fell thousands of feet to his death from a jet”, says the caption).

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