Boy hops airport fence, survives flight to Hawaii in wheel well

Rachel Stoltzfoos Staff Reporter
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A 16-year-old hopped an airport fence, snuck into the wheel well of a jet and survived a five-and-a-half hour flight across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii Sunday.

The Santa Clara boy snuck into the San Jose airport after running away from home, and positioned himself in the wheel well of a Boeing 767 jet on its way to Hawaii undetected.

“Kid’s lucky to be alive,” said FBI spokesman Tom Simon, according to Fox News.

Despite spending most of the flight unconscious due to frigid temperatures at 38,000 feet and a lack of oxygen, the boy arrived in Hawaii essentially unharmed.

“He was unconscious for pretty much the entire flight,” Simon told the Los Angeles Times.

FBI officials questioned him after airline personnel discovered him wandering around without identification on the Maui Airport tarmac.

“Our primary concern now is for the well-being of the boy, who is exceptionally lucky to have survived,” said Hawaiian Airlines spokeswoman Alison Croyle in a statement Sunday night.

The boy will not be charged and was referred to child protective services.

Heat from hydraulic lines in the wheel well and retained heat in the tires can give a stowaway some warmth, reports the Federal Aviation Administration. And the plane’s steady climb can allow a stowaway to drift into an unconscious state. However, as the heat dissipates, the stowaway can develop hypothermia.

Multiple people have attempted to fly from Cuba to the U.S. in this manner, and one was successful, reports the FAA. But in September, 2012, a man fell out of the landing gear of a plane as it was descending into Heathrow Airport and died.

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