The FBI is calling it a “miracle” and the airline says a teen who hopped the fence at a San Jose airport is “luck to have survived” a 5 1/2-hour flight to Maui — in the wheel well of a Boeing 767.
The 16-year-old stowaway survived temperatures as low as 80 degrees below zero and the thin air available at 38,000 feet, FBI spokesman Tom Simon told the Los Angeles Times.
“He was unconscious for pretty much the entire flight,” said Simon. “I imagine he must have blacked out at about 10,000 feet.”
Security video indicated the teen was able to breach San Jose’s Mineta International Airport security and climb undetected into the wheel well of Hawaiian Airlines Flight 45.
The Times, citing FAA officials, said heat from hydraulic lines and retained in the tires could help keep the temperature up. The newspaper said the steady altitude increase could slowly put a stowaway to sleep, and hypothermia could preserves the central nervous system.
Simon said the boy ran away from his family and to the airport after an argument, Simon said. He apparently slept through the flight, awaking about an hour after it landed and then hopping onto the tarmac in Maui.
“Our primary concern now is for the well-being of the boy, who is exceptionally lucky to have survived,” Hawaiian Airlines spokeswoman Alison Croyle told the Associated Press.
Simon said the boy appeared to be unharmed. He was released to child protective services and not charged with a crime, Simon said.
In August, a 13- or 14-year-old boy in Nigeria survived a 35-minute trip in the wheel well of a domestic flight after stowing away. Authorities credited the flight’s short duration and altitude of about 25,000. Others stowing away in wheel wells have died, including a 16-year-old killed after stowing away aboard a flight from Charlotte, N.C., to Boston in 2010 and a man who fell onto a suburban London street as a flight from Angola began its descent in 2012.