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Stowaway survives flight in US jet's wheel

Youth "lucky to be alive" after five-and-a-half hour California-to-Hawaii flight at altitudes of up to 11,000 metres.

Last updated: 21 Apr 2014 11:47
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The youth spent more than five hours in the wheel well [AP]

A teenager has survived a trip across the Pacific Ocean hiding in the wheel well of an airliner, enduring frigid temperatures and a lack of oxygen at altitudes of 11,000 metres, authorities say.

The boy was found wandering around Maui airport on Sunday night after his five-and-a-half-hour flight from San Jose, California, Tom Simon, an FBI spokesman, said.

Doesn't even remember the flight... kid's lucky to be alive.

FBI spokesman, Tom Simon.

Video footage from San Jose showed that the boy scaled a fence to get to Hawaiian Airlines Flight 45.

When the airliner landed in Maui, the boy jumped from the wheel well and started wandering around the airport grounds, Simon said.

"He was unconscious for the lion's share of the flight," Simon said. "Doesn't even remember the flight ... kid's lucky to be alive."

Simone said that the youth, who had run away after a family argument, appeared unharmed.

The teenager would not be charged and was referred to child protective services, he said.

A spokesman for the airline, Alison Croyle, said staff noticed the boy on the ramp after the flight landed.

"Our primary concern now is for the wellbeing of the boy, who is exceptionally lucky to have survived," Croyle said.

Air temperatures at 11,000 metres - the typical cruising altitude for commercial airliners - are about -55C, while altitudes above 8,500 metres are referred to as the "death zone" by mountaineers for the effect on breathing.

Such stowaway attempts often end in death. In 2012, a man fell onto a suburban London street as the flight he was hiding on from Angola came in to land at Heathrow airport. 

In August, a 13- or 14-year-old boy in Nigeria survived a 35-minute trip in the wheel well of a domestic flight after stowing away. Authorities credited the flight's short duration.

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