Imagine walking down a quiet street and suddenly, a body just falls out of the sky. It's a crazy, horrifying thought. But it's nearly what happened in a suburb of London last weekend, when a stowaway hiding in the undercarriage of a plane en route to Heathrow plunged to his death. Sounds like a freak situation, but just how often does this madness happen?
Turns out, not as infrequently as you'd think, especially given the obvious immense risk. There has been one other case this year alone. The FAA says since 1947, 96 people have tried to hitch a ride in plane wheel wells on 85 different flights. Just 24 per cent have survived the attempt. Even that number seems high because it's literally impossible to survive the conditions as the plane climbs into the sky -- at high altitudes you can't breathe, you can't see, and you're probably going to get hypothermia. The plane's landing gear doesn't have the oxygen or pressure which let you ride comfortably in the cabin. And those are just the conditions. The landing gear could also crush you or drop you to your demise, like the poor soul in London.
A reasonable person would wonder why someone would resort to such a stupid tactic. The answer, sadly, is almost always desperation -- people travelling from extreme poverty or a violent war, most often from third world countries to the West. You've probably never had the urge to sneak a free ride like this, but in the event you're crazy and you have, stop that. Stop it right now. [BBC]
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