Most Airplane Stowaways in Wheel Wells Do Not Survive

A 16-year-old boy, seen sitting on a stretcher center, who stowed away in the wheel well of a flight from San Jose, Calif., to Maui is loaded into an ambulance at Kahului Airport in Kahului, Maui, Hawaii Sunday afternoon, April 20, 2014. The boy survived the trip halfway across the Pacific Ocean unharmed despite frigid temperatures at 38,000 feet and a lack of oxygen, FBI and airline officials said. FBI spokesman Tom Simon in Honolulu told The Associated Press on Sunday night that the boy was questioned by the FBI after being discovered on the tarmac at the Maui airport with no identification. "Kid's lucky to be alive," Simon said. (AP Photo/The Maui News, Chris Sugidono)
A 16-year-old boy, seen sitting on a stretcher, who stowed away in the wheel well of a flight from San Jose, Calif., to Maui is loaded into an ambulance at Kahului Airport in Kahului, Maui, Hawaii Sunday afternoon.
AP Photo/The Maui News, Chris Sugidono

After a 16-year-old boy climbed into a plane’s wheel well and traveled 5 1/2 hours from California to Hawaii, landing unharmed, officials are saying he’s “lucky to be alive” and are calling his survival “a miracle.”

That’s because most who attempt such travel do not survive.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, from 1996 to August 2012, there have been 95 stowaways on 84 flights worldwide and more than 75 percent of them have died, reports usatoday.com.

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Health risks include getting crushed when the landing gear retracts, falling when compartment doors reopen, hypothermia, frostbite, hearing loss, tinnitus, hypoxia, and acidosis, according to a bbc.com report.

“They either get crushed or frozen to death,” aviation expert David Learmount told bbc.com.

The latest stowaway survived temperatures as low as 80 degrees below zero, reports usatoday.com. The FBI reported the boy was unconscious for most of the trip.

Other lucky stowaways in recent years include a teenage boy in Nigeria who stowed away in August for a 35-minute flight and a 20-year-old Romanian man who survived a trip from Vienna to Heathrow in 2010 inside the landing gear of a Boeing 747. In both of those incidents, experts said the lower altitude of 25,000 is what helped save them.

Examples of stowaways who didn’t make it include a 16-year-old boy named Delvonte Tisdale who fell to his death in Milton after stowing away aboard a flight from Charlotte, N.C., to Boston in 2010 and a 26-year-old man who fell onto a London street in 2012.