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Corpse plunge sparks airport security concerns and questions

July 5, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email

 

The sudden arrival of a frozen dead body, which hurtled out of an airliner last Sunday and almost hit a sunbather in a London garden below, has sparked debates about airport security and has driven the horrified sunbather from his home in shock, following his lucky escape.

The body plummeted from a Kenya Airways plane coming in to land and slammed into a London garden. See: Frozen corpse from the sky narrowly missed sunbather. The corpse  was that of a stowaway who started his journey from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, raising questions about the effectiveness of security checks there.

The horrific incident has also sparked questions about whether anyone can survive such a journey. Weirdly, the answer is “yes” – though survival is very rare. More on that in a minute.

Security at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport had already been tightened, mainly because the murderous terrorist group al-Shabab is based in neighbouring Somalia. If a stowaway can reach an aircraft unnoticed, so can a terrorist, saboteur or suicide bomber.

The Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) has assembled a team to investigate how the stowaway got to the plane, the BBC reports. The airline says the stowaway must have had security cle

The falling corpse, which hit the ground like a meteorite, left a crater in the garden where it landed, smashing a heavy concrete paving slab. Given the approach-speed of an aircraft and the terminal velocity of a body in freefall, the corpse could have been travelling at 500 km/h.

The sunbather was left shaking, trembling and speechless after the nightmare incident.  A software engineer in his 20s, he has since fled London and returned to his hometown of Exeter as he comes to terms with the near-miss, London’s Sun reported.

Questions are buzzing around the internet about whether anyone can survive such a flight in the wheel well of an aircraft.

The answer:

Lack of oxygen and sub-zero temperatures almost always kill stowaways hiding in the external sections of planes.

However…

… in April 2014, a 15-year-old boy pulled off the almost impossible stunt and survived a flight from the US mainland to Hawaii, sitting in the wheel well of a Hawaiian Airlines B767.

The flight takes five and a half hours.

The temperature at a plane’s cruising altitude of 38,000 feet can plunge to 50 degrees below zero or lower. That altitude is 11.5 kilometres high in the sky.

To put it in perspective, Mt Everest is far lower. The world’s highest mountain is 8.8 kilometres high, and climbers generally wear oxygen masks to reach the summit. There is little oxygen atop Mt Everest, let alone at more than 2 kilometres higher, the altitude at which the boy flew.

The stunt is insanely dangerous and the boy’s survival is considered a miracle.

In 2011, a 20-year-old Romanian man survived the far shorter flight from Vienna to Heathrow while curled up clinging to a retracted undercarriage. He was incredibly lucky because the plane flew much lower than normal to avoid bad weather and the flight lasted just 97 minutes.

Even so, temperatures dived below minus 40C. The weird aspect of that case was that the Romanian had no idea where the plane was headed and besides, he could have entered Britain legally with far less hassle, as Romania is in the European Union.

A 1993 paper by the US Federal Aviation Administration Office of Aviation Medicine suggested that some people lose so much body heat that they enter a sort of hibernation, thus preventing the lack of oxygen damaging their brain and other organs.

But don’t bet on it.

Verdict:

Better just buy a ticket, sit in a seat and eat the in-flight meal.

Written by Peter Needham

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