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A 16-year-old teen is lucky to be alive after having survived a flight in the wheel well of a plane. The boy stowed away in the landing gear for a five-and-a-half-hour flight to Maui from San Jose. The teen, whose name was not released, had a fight with his parents and jumped over the airport's security rails to gain entry into the gear. He slept through the flight and was spotted on the Maui tarmac an hour after the plane had landed. Medical experts, as well as plane officials who have seen this happen before, say it’s a “miracle” he’s still alive.
At 30,000 feet in the air, the boy was exposed to very thin oxygen levels and temperatures as low as negative eighty degrees. USA Today states people frequently survive nights sleeping at temperatures as low as ten degrees, but experiencing temperatures like this would be nearly impossible. Before this incident two had survived these same type of conditions before, one who flew from Cuba to Madrid, and another from Colombia to Miami.
Here's what an official from the FAA had to say...
"The presence of warm hydraulic lines in the wheel-well and the initially warm tires provided significant heat. The stable climb of the aircraft enabled hypoxia to lead to gradual unconsciousness. As the wheel-well environment slowly cooled, hypothermia accompanies the deep hypoxia, preserving nervous system viability."
Hypoxia, which is more commonly referred to as oxygen deprivation, led the boy to unconsciousness as the plane ascended into the high altitudes, As the plane descended, oxygen and pressure rushed back to the individual, reviving them into a conscious but shaky state. Those lucky enough to regain consciousness oftentimes recover from their injuries, but most people who attempt stowing away in landing gear lose consciousness shortly after take off and over 74% of the time die during the flight. They often either succumb to the elements, get crushed by the landing gear, or fall out of the plane when the gate opens a few thousand feet from landing.
As of this writing, the Hawaiian airline officials don’t plan to press charges against the boy and placed him in protective services.