There have been many news reports of stowaways who hide in the wheel wells of subsonic airliners and survive the flight.

I assume this would not be survivable with a Concorde because they'd be unable to breathe above ca. 50,000 ft [citation needed]. Therefore, would their death have been certain? Would a human even fit into the Concorde's wheel well? Are there any known examples of attempts?

I wonder what exactly would happen to their body over the course of the Concorde's cruise, as opposed to a normal airliner stowaway. What effects would the supersonic cruise have on their bodies when in the unpressurized wheel well?

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    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – DeltaLima
    Nov 23, 2022 at 19:40

1 Answer 1



Let's presume a person could fit themselves into the wheel well, and we now wish to establish an objective survival time, say, 90 minutes, for the flight at altitude. The Concorde altitude at cruise is 18300 m, or 60000 ft. A long out-of-print insert by McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Company, that was in my aeronautics and astronautics text, has the following somewhat cautionary statement:

Blood at normal body temperature (98.6$^\circ$F), boils at this pressure altitude (63000 ft).

Quite obviously, the air density is so low that insufficient oxygen is present for survival. Even with a pressure mask, and oxygen, the experience outside of the aircraft would be harrowing.

  • $\begingroup$ Blood doesn't boil at altitude because the positive blood pressure. $\endgroup$
    – Sanchises
    Nov 23, 2022 at 18:48
  • $\begingroup$ And even if the person'd be wearing an oxygen mask he'd be dead from exposure to the very low temperature up there. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Nov 24, 2022 at 7:57
  • $\begingroup$ @Sanchises wrong, Depends on the altitude whether the positive pressure can compensate for the very low pressure outside. At the temperatures we're talking about it can't and would fill the lungs, causing you to drown. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Nov 24, 2022 at 7:58
  • $\begingroup$ @jwenting Even in the vacuum of space, blood does not boil as long as it's inside of your body. Water boils at 47mmHg@37°C, diastolic pressure is much higher. Nitrogen may form bubbles in the bloodstream, and indeed water may travel through thin membranes like your lungs and boil off there. $\endgroup$
    – Sanchises
    Nov 24, 2022 at 11:57
  • $\begingroup$ @Sanchises it won't remain in your body as it'll diffuse into the lungs. Don't think the pressure will be low enough to have it diffuse through the skin. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Nov 24, 2022 at 13:07

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