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Freight

Stowaway survives flight from South Africa to Amsterdam in front wheel section of cargo plane

African stowaway survives flight in front wheel section of Boeing 747 freight plane which flew from South Africa to Amsterdam

  • A stowaway has miraculously survived the brutal journey in bitter temperatures
  • The man was discovered hiding under the fuselage of a Cargolux freight plane
  • The plane flew from South Africa to Kenya, before landing in Amsterdam today
  • A spokesperson for the Dutch military police said it was ‘remarkable’ he survived
  • The stowaway’s identity, age and nationality have not yet been identified 










A stowaway has miraculously survived a brutal journey from South Africa to the Netherlands while hiding in the front wheel section of a cargo plane.

The man was discovered squeezed into the wheel section under the fuselage of a Cargolux Boeing 747 freight plane at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport earlier today, according to Dutch military police.

A flight from South Africa’s largest city, Johannesburg, to Amsterdam is around 11 hours alone – but this plane also made a stop in Nairobi, Kenya, which made the journey even longer.

A spokeswoman for the Dutch police said it was ‘remarkable’ that the man – whose identity, age and nationality have not yet been established – had survived the perilous conditions.

‘Our first concern of course was for his health,’ said Joanna Helmonds.

‘This is definitely very unusual that someone was able to survive the cold at such a height – very, very unusual.’ 

‘It is quite remarkable that he is still alive.’

A stowaway has miraculously survived a brutal journey from South Africa to the Netherlands while hiding in the front wheel section of a cargo plane. The man was discovered squeezed into the wheel section under the fuselage of a Cargolux Boeing 747 freight plane at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport earlier today, according to Dutch military police (stock pic)

A stowaway has miraculously survived a brutal journey from South Africa to the Netherlands while hiding in the front wheel section of a cargo plane. The man was discovered squeezed into the wheel section under the fuselage of a Cargolux Boeing 747 freight plane at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport earlier today, according to Dutch military police (stock pic)

According to Schiphol airport’s website, a Boeing 747 cruises at an altitude of just over 35,000ft and a speed of over 550mph.

Meanwhile, the standard ambient temperature at 35,000ft is around -54C, with around 25 per cent less oxygen in the air than at sea level – conditions which would typically result in hypoxia, frostbite, hypothermia and a host of other ailments.

What’s more, people attempting to cling onto the undercarriages of planes also risk being crushed by the landing gear as it is retracted following take-off – or falling to their deaths when the landing gear is deployed. 

Yet the stowaway somehow managed to survive these horrendous conditions for several hours. 

A police statement said: ‘The man is doing well considering the circumstances and has been taken to a hospital.’ 

A spokesperson for freight carrier Cargolux confirmed that the stowaway had been on a flight operated by Cargolux Italia.

‘We are not in a position to make any further comment until the authorities and the airline have completed their investigation,’ they said.

The only Cargolux freight flight arriving at Schiphol on Sunday was a Boeing 747 freighter that travelled from Johannesburg and made a stop in Nairobi, Kenya, according to Schiphol’s website and flight tracking data.

A spokesperson for the airport declined to answer questions about the incident.

A flight from South Africa's largest city, Johannesburg, to Amsterdam alone is around 11 hours alone - but this plane also made a stop in Nairobi, Kenya, which made the journey even longer

A flight from South Africa’s largest city, Johannesburg, to Amsterdam alone is around 11 hours alone – but this plane also made a stop in Nairobi, Kenya, which made the journey even longer

Stowaways on flights to the Netherlands are rare, Helmonds added, noting that previous attempts had involved would-be migrants from Nigeria and Kenya. 

Last year, the body of a Nigerian man was found in the landing gear of a plane arriving at Schiphol airport.

In November, US border officials in Miami apprehended a 26-year-old man who had stowed away in the landing gear of a plane arriving from Guatemala.

Several people attempted to stowaway on US aircraft during the military withdrawal from Afghanistan last year, with many falling to their deaths as the planes took off from Kabul airport.

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