Did This Kid Really Survive a Flight to Hawaii in Plane’s Landing Gear?


Today’s strangest Internet story involves a 16-year-old kid, a plane to Maui, and hibernation.

On Monday morning the ground crew of Maui’s Kahului Airport noticed a dazed kid wandering around the tarmac. He told them he was from Santa Clara, California, and he had run away from home the day before, only to hop the fence of the San Jose airport and hitch a ride onto the landing gear wheel wall of Hawaii Airlines Flight 45. He hung on for dear life for five hours and made it relatively intact in Hawaii. Authorities seem to believe his story—there’s video of someone jumping the San Jose airport fence.

It’s unclear if the teen will face any long-term health problems: Experts say brain damage is “more likely than not” a possibility, but ultimately he’s incredibly lucky to be alive. A flight in a wheel wall is the equivalent of finding yourself on the top of Mount Everest in, oh, 40 seconds. Not a pleasant thing.

CNN—the worldwide leader in planes—interviewed an aviation analyst today and asked, how? How the hell did this kid survive in a cramped environment that reached 38,000 feet with little oxygen? Hibernation, the man surmised.

Since 1947, 105 people are known to have attempted to fly inside wheel wells on 94 flights worldwide, the Federal Aviation Administration’s Civil Aerospace Medical Institute says. Of those, 25 made it through, including a 9-year-old child — a survival rate of 24%. One of the flights went as high as 39,000 feet.

The conditions can put stowaways in a virtual “hibernative” state, the FAA says.

Someone could slip into unconsciousness so that the body cools and “the central nervous system is preserved,” said CNN aviation expert Michael Kay. Also, he said, “there could be a situation where inside the bay is warmer than the external air temperature and you wouldn’t get the instantaneous freezing of the skin.”

Still, “for somebody to survive multiple hours with that lack of oxygen and that cold is just miraculous,” airline analyst Peter Forman told CNN affiliate KHON in Honolulu.

Anyway, I think the kid should be allowed to stay the fuck in Hawaii. He’s earned it.