I'm curious about how and where a stowaway could hide in the undercarriage of a plane.

According to this news report:

The man, believed aged 24, was found in the undercarriage of the plane and was taken to hospital.


1 Answer 1


Wheel wells are deceptively large spaces when the gear is down. It is fully possible to climb up and hide inside one. It's a very different story when the gear is retracted. On many aircraft, the gear doors are closed when the gear is not in motion, making the space look bigger.

They are fairly easy to access through the landing gear with a little bit of climbing, or if low enough (like the example below) just jump up into.

The insides of a 737 wheel well. Looking through the hole, we can see the wheel of the plane. On the inside, there are lots and lots of tubes and lines as well as other parts.
737 Wheel Well, Petr Volek, from airliners.net

A graphic about a similar event in Hawaii a few months ago:

An infographic titled "Up in the air — A miracle at 38,000 feet".The events of the flight are shown: the plane leaving San Jose around 8am local time, leaving for a 5½ hour flight to Hawaii with a stowaway in its wheel well, the teenager losing conciousness at 38,000 feet, the temperature dropping to -81F/-62C, the plane landing, the boy seen wandering around the airport on CCTV and being taken into custody. It also shows that from 1947 to 2012, 23 wheel well stowaways survived while 73 died.
From the Independent

Gear stowaways are not new and there have been plenty of occurrences over the years, unfortunately most result in fatalities.

  • Gear bays are unpressurized, hence normally very cold with air too thin to sustain life.
  • Gear bays are very cramped when the gear is up. If you're in the wrong spot, you will be injured.

It is when the landing gear is lowered (and doors opened) for landing that the fatalities occur, assuming they have not already expired from the environment during the flight. Unable to hold onto the airframe and stay off moving parts they (very gruesomely) fall out minutes away from landing. This is also the story that media often picks up.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ So, presumably the hypothermia protects against hypoxia making this potentially survivable? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 21, 2015 at 19:48
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @CountIblis that's a question for health.stackexchange.com $\endgroup$
    – Agent_L
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 7:10
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @CountIblis This high altitude climbing article suggests the opposite: "The combination of low barometric pressure, cold temperatures and high winds that are common in high-altitude environments can compound hypoxic physiological stresses, resulting in an increased risk of hypothermia and frostbite" Source $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 12:30

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .