Stowaway survives 11-hour flight in nose wheel of cargo plane

A rear view of an aircraft landing behind the runway lights in Amsterdam Schiphol AMS EHAM International Airport in The Netherlands. Nicolas Economou / NurPhoto via Getty Images

Dutch authorities were surprised to discover a stowaway hiding in the nose wheel of a cargo plane when it touched down at Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport on Sunday morning.

The man, whose identity is being withheld, is believed to be between 16 and 35 years old; he somehow survived an 11-hour flight from Johannesburg, South Africa, reports CNN.

“We learned that a person was found having stowed away on a cargo plane at the airport’s cargo platform this morning,” Schiphol Airport spokeswoman Willemeike Koster said.

A spokesperson from the Royal Dutch Military Police told the BBC that it’s unusual that a stowaway would be able to survive such a long flight due to the extreme cold and lack of oxygen at high altitudes.

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“It is quite remarkable that the man is still alive,” said Joanna Helmonds.

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According to the BBC, the cargo plane made one stop on its journey from Johannesburg to Amsterdam, touching down in Nairobi, Kenya, which only lengthened the duration of the trip.

Helmonds told CNN that Dutch airport ground crews were shocked when they spotted the man. He was suffering from a low body temperature when he was removed from the plane.

NBC reports the man was stabilized and his body temperature elevated by emergency crews before he was taken to hospital. Police said the man applied for asylum on Monday.

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Cargolux, the Luxembourgian cargo airline the stowaway was aboard, says an investigation is pending.

The incident was reminiscent of footage that was captured of a stowaway who travelled in the landing gear compartment of an American Airlines jet from Guatemala to Miami in late November of last year. He survived the two-and-a-half hour flight.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration in the U.S., 129 people have attempted to hide in the wheel wells or other areas of commercial aircraft worldwide since 1947. Of those, the agency said, 100 have died of injuries or exposure.

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