This past February, on International Delta Flight 59 from New York to Tokyo, AP reported that flight mechanics uncovered the frozen corpse of the man nestled deep in the landing gear of a Boeing 777. The circumstances surrounding his death has since gone unreported, but investigator’s speculations assume the man passed sometime during mid-flight.
Reporting on the incident, Tokyo police official Zenjiro Watanabe reported no injuries to the man, other than frostbite and hypothermia. The unpressurized sections of the plane as it flies through the higher levels of the atmosphere encounter temperatures roughly minus 50 degrees Celsius, discouraging the already difficult business of becoming a stowaway in the first place.
Yet even for some, this is not discouragement enough. A few weeks ago, Nigerian news sources reported that Emeka Okechukwu Okeke stowed himself away in the front wheel well of a B777 on a flight leaving from Murtala Muhammed International Airport. Claimed to have already been rejected an American passport, and ready to leave a country more recently wrought with turmoil, it is assumed by investigators that he had covert assistance from the Nigerian airport security staff. His remains were discovered later on in Atlanta, where he was not so well preserved as was the anonymous man in Tokyo.
These two stowaway incidents, among only a small handful of others, are few and far between. Security has increased substantially over the past decade, and as the back-stories of the stowaways often reveal, it is often a mix of politics and psychical desperation which will drive a man to employ such drastic measures.
Further speculation suggests that the Tokyo stowaway may also have originally boarded in Nigeria, which further sustains the notion that desperate times call for desperate measures. However, Olumide Ohunayo, former President of National Cabin Crew Association of Nigeria (NACCAN), emphasizes that, “[Stowaways are] not a Nigerian problem but a universal one, so our airlines operating international flights in conjunction with departing airports must overhaul their security and conduct background checks on airside employees.”
[Engineer Image: Jideogunleye.com]