An Indonesian man has survived a one-hour flight stowed away in the wheel well, or landing-gear bay, of a Garuda passenger aircraft.
Mario Steven Ambarita, 21, is said to have stowed away by sitting on one of the retracted wheels of an the Garuda Indonesia jet which flew from Pekan Baru in Sumatra to Jakarta.
According to an ABC News report, Ambarita’s mother found out about his dangerous escapade only when she heard about it on television.
Reportedly, Ambarita clambered into the landing gear bay when the plane stopped to turn at the end of the runway before starting its take-off run.
Ambarita survived bone-chilling temperatures. Local news outlet Kompas reported that the young man was dazed and staggering when he crawled out of the landing-gear bay at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta airport.
In a coup for the Australian broadcaster, ABC News tracked down Ambarita’s mother, Tiar Sitanggan, who lives in a town called Bagan Batu, six hours from Pekan Baru.
She burst into tears, telling the ABC she had no idea her son was planning to go to Jakarta.
Ambarita probably survived because he was young and strong and the flight was relatively short. On longer flights, the bitter cold causes fatal brain damage or the stowaway simply dies of hypothermia – extreme cold.
Other stowaways fall from their precarious perches, are crushed by landing gear, or succumb to lack of oxygen. Planes fly at altitudes far higher than the heights at which mountaineers don oxygen masks.
A 15-year-old boy survived a five-and-a-half-hour flight from the US mainland to Hawaii last year, sitting in the wheel well of a Hawaiian Airlines B767. He arrived in good health, to the amazement of airport staff.
Five years ago, a 20-year-old Romanian man survived a flight from Vienna to Heathrow while curled up clinging to a plane’s retracted undercarriage. He was incredibly lucky because the aircraft (a privately owned B747) flew much lower than normal to avoid bad weather and the flight lasted just 97 minutes. The Romanian stowaway had no idea where the plane was headed.
Written by : Peter Needham