A stowaway is a person who secretly boards a vehicle, such as an aircraft
Fixed-wing aircraft
A fixed-wing aircraft is an aircraft capable of flight using wings that generate lift due to the vehicle's forward airspeed. Fixed-wing aircraft are distinct from rotary-wing aircraft in which wings rotate about a fixed mast and ornithopters in which lift is generated by flapping wings.A powered...

, bus
A bus is a road vehicle designed to carry passengers. Buses can have a capacity as high as 300 passengers. The most common type of bus is the single-decker bus, with larger loads carried by double-decker buses and articulated buses, and smaller loads carried by midibuses and minibuses; coaches are...

, ship
Since the end of the age of sail a ship has been any large buoyant marine vessel. Ships are generally distinguished from boats based on size and cargo or passenger capacity. Ships are used on lakes, seas, and rivers for a variety of activities, such as the transport of people or goods, fishing,...

, cargo truck
A truck or lorry is a motor vehicle designed to transport cargo. Trucks vary greatly in size, power, and configuration, with the smallest being mechanically similar to an automobile...

 or train
A train is a connected series of vehicles for rail transport that move along a track to transport cargo or passengers from one place to another place. The track usually consists of two rails, but might also be a monorail or maglev guideway.Propulsion for the train is provided by a separate...

, to travel without paying and without being detected.

Stowaways face dangerous situations. Since they are not legally on board, they must sometimes spend days without water or food when traveling by ship, risking death. A much greater risk of death is taken when trying to board an aircraft. Usually, a stowaway tries to jump into an aircraft by hanging on to the airliner's landing gear
Landing Gear
Landing Gear is Devin the Dude's fifth studio album. It was released on October 7, 2008. It was his first studio album since signing with the label Razor & Tie. It features a high-profile guest appearance from Snoop Dogg. As of October 30, 2008, the album has sold 18,906 copies.-Track...

 as the plane takes off, and the force of the wind can easily make a stowaway fall to his death. Because people flying on aircraft as stowaways must stay within the landing gear area, they face other risks, such as being crushed in a confined space when the gears retract, falling when the plane is landing, or dying from the heat produced by the engines of the aircraft. Deaths from hypothermia, caused by the extreme cold at high altitudes, or anoxia
Hypoxia (medical)
Hypoxia, or hypoxiation, is a pathological condition in which the body as a whole or a region of the body is deprived of adequate oxygen supply. Variations in arterial oxygen concentrations can be part of the normal physiology, for example, during strenuous physical exercise...

 (lack of oxygen) are also possible and probable.

FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said in 2007, that since 1947, there have been 74 known airplane stowaway attempts worldwide. Only 14 of the individuals survived.

Stowaways also risk imprisonment, as it is illegal in most jurisdictions to embark on aircraft, boats or trains as stowaways. Airport
An airport is a location where aircraft such as fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, and blimps take off and land. Aircraft may be stored or maintained at an airport...

s, sea ports and train station
Train station
A train station, also called a railroad station or railway station and often shortened to just station,"Station" is commonly understood to mean "train station" unless otherwise qualified. This is evident from dictionary entries e.g...

s are typically marked as "No Trespassing" or "Private Property" zones to anyone but customers and employees. Seaports, train stations, and airports often attempt further security by designating restricted areas with signs saying "Authorized Personnel Only".

There are several different reasons for which a person might try to become a stowaway, among them free transport and illegal immigration
Illegal immigration
Illegal immigration is the migration into a nation in violation of the immigration laws of that jurisdiction. Illegal immigration raises many political, economical and social issues and has become a source of major controversy in developed countries and the more successful developing countries.In...

. Some also become stowaways as a dare or a way to get a thrill.

Since the September 11 attacks, it has become more difficult to be a stowaway on board transportation arriving to or departing from the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. Airport security has dramatically increased, and among the new security measures is watching over the fences from which stowaways usually gain entrance to an airport's runway. Among refugees seeking passage to America, stowing away on an American-flagged ship can be an effective and comfortable way to gain entry into the United States, due to the strict humanitarian codes observed on American vessels.

At sea

  • A man named Furness was a stowaway on the Queen Bee
    Queen Bee (ship)
    The Queen Bee was a three masted barque, constructed in Sunderland and launched in 1852. It was used primarily for transporting immigrants from England to New Zealand, having made about 11 journeys before grounding on Farewell Spit in 1877.- Journeys :...

     that left London on 21 April 1877 and ran aground at Farewell Spit
    Farewell Spit
    Farewell Spit is a narrow sand spit situated at , at the northern end of the South Island of New Zealand. Known to the Māori as Tuhuroa, it runs eastwards from Cape Farewell, the island's northernmost point...

    , New Zealand on 6 August 1877.
  • Perce Blackborow was a stowaway on Ernest Shackleton
    Ernest Shackleton
    Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton, CVO, OBE was a notable explorer from County Kildare, Ireland, who was one of the principal figures of the period known as the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration...

    's ship Endurance
    Endurance (1912 ship)
    The Endurance was the three-masted barquentine in which Sir Ernest Shackleton sailed for the Antarctic on the 1914 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition...

    on the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition
    Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition
    The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition , also known as the Endurance Expedition, is considered the last major expedition of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. Conceived by Sir Ernest Shackleton, the expedition was an attempt to make the first land crossing of the Antarctic continent...

    . He was found after 3 days and was later signed onto the crew.
  • Averill Wanchove, a 25-year-old seamstress was a stowaway on the Empire Windrush in June 1948.

  • In 1992, crew members of the cargo ship McRuby discovered a group of nine African stowaways aboard and murdered eight of them. Ghanaian Kingsley Ofosu
    Kingsley Ofosu
    Kingsley Ofosu is a Ghanaian who made international news in 1992, when he survived the slaughter of a group African stowaways by the crew of the Bahamian-flagged cargo ship McRuby. In all, eight men were killed, including Ofosu’s brother...

     was the lone member of the group to escape the massacre. His story was dramatized in the 1996 television movie Deadly Voyage
    Deadly Voyage
    Deadly Voyage is a 1996 television film directed by John Mackenzie and written by Stuart Urban. Produced by Union Pictures and John Goldschmidt's Viva Films for joint distribution to BBC Films and HBO Films, it tells the true story of Kingsley Ofosu, the sole survivor of a group of nine African...


By air

  • 19-year-old Clarence Terhune hid himself on board the LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin
    LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin
    LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin was a German built and operated passenger-carrying hydrogen-filled rigid airship which operated commercially from 1928 to 1937. It was named after the German pioneer of airships, Ferdinand von Zeppelin, who was a Graf or Count in the German nobility. During its operating life,...

     airship in 1928, becoming the first stowaway to fly across the ocean.

  • On 4 June 1969, Armando Socarras Ramirez and Jorge Perez Blanco climbed into the right landing gear well of an Iberia DC-8, Flight 904 from Havana, Cuba to Madrid, Spain. Socarras survived the flight with severe shock and exposure. Initially it was thought Perez fell from the aircraft during flight, either during a secondary retraction to clear a warning light, or during landing preparation as Socarras indicated he spoke to Perez during some duration of the flight. Later he claimed that Perez attempted to climb into the left well, failed and believes Perez is in a Cuban prison.

  • In 1970, Keith Sapsford, a 14-year-old boy, died after falling from the wheel-well of a Tokyo-bound Japan Air Lines DC-8 taking off from the Kingsford Smith Airport at Sydney, Australia.

  • On 28 July 1999, Yaguine Koita and Fodé Tounkara
    Yaguine Koita and Fode Tounkara
    Yaguine Koïta and Fodé Tounkara were stowaways who froze to death on a Sabena Airlines Airbus A330 flying from Conakry, Guinea, to Brussels, Belgium, on July 28, 1999...

     were stowaways who froze to death flying from Conakry
    Conakry is the capital and largest city of Guinea. Conakry is a port city on the Atlantic Ocean and serves as the economic, financial and cultural centre of Guinea with a 2009 population of 1,548,500...

    , Guinea
    Guinea , officially the Republic of Guinea , is a country in West Africa. Formerly known as French Guinea , it is today sometimes called Guinea-Conakry to distinguish it from its neighbour Guinea-Bissau. Guinea is divided into eight administrative regions and subdivided into thirty-three prefectures...

    , to Brussels
    Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

    , Belgium
    Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

    . Their bodies were later discovered in the aircraft's wheel bay. The boys were carrying a letter, written in imperfect French
    French language
    French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

    , which was widely published in the world media.

  • On 12 August 2000, Roberto Viza Egües hid himself in an Air France cargo container in Havana, Cuba and arrived in Paris, France the following day suffering from exposure but otherwise in good condition. France eventually denied his application for asylum based on lack of evidence of persecution and deported him back to Cuba.

  • On August 5 2000, an unidentified Tahitian man was discovered in the wheel well of Air France flight 71 in Los Angeles that originated in French Polynesia and was to go on to Paris. The man spent seven hours inside the unheated and unpressurized landing gear at 38,000 feet and survived temperatures of -50 °F below zero. His body temperature registered 79 °F (26.1 °C), which can be fatal, and he was taken to UCLA medical center where he recovered fully. He was flown back to Tahiti under orders from the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

  • On 24 December 2000, 16-year-old Maikel Almira and 15-year-old Alberto Rodriguez climbed into the wheel wells of a British Airways Boeing 777
    Boeing 777
    The Boeing 777 is a long-range, wide-body twin-engine jet airliner manufactured by Boeing Commercial Airplanes. It is the world's largest twinjet and is commonly referred to as the "Triple Seven". The aircraft has seating for over 300 passengers and has a range from , depending on model...

     in Havana, Cuba. Almira's body was found in a field five miles from Gatwick airport in England. Rodriguez's body fell from the aircraft the following day as it departed for a flight to Cancún, Mexico. Almira had left a note for his mother indicating he was going to the United States, however tragically the departure of a Miami bound flight had been delayed and the flight to Gatwick took over its take off slot.

  • On June 8, 2005, the remains of a stowaway were found inside the wheel well of a South African Airways
    South African Airways
    South African Airways is the national flag carrier and largest airline of South Africa, with headquarters in Airways Park on the grounds of OR Tambo International Airport in Kempton Park, Ekurhuleni, Gauteng. The airline flies to 36 destinations worldwide from its hub at OR Tambo International...

     aircraft when it landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport
    John F. Kennedy International Airport
    John F. Kennedy International Airport is an international airport located in the borough of Queens in New York City, about southeast of Lower Manhattan. It is the busiest international air passenger gateway to the United States, handling more international traffic than any other airport in North...

    , arriving from Johannesburg
    Johannesburg also known as Jozi, Jo'burg or Egoli, is the largest city in South Africa, by population. Johannesburg is the provincial capital of Gauteng, the wealthiest province in South Africa, having the largest economy of any metropolitan region in Sub-Saharan Africa...

     via Dakar
    Dakar is the capital city and largest city of Senegal. It is located on the Cap-Vert Peninsula on the Atlantic coast and is the westernmost city on the African mainland...

    , Senegal
    Senegal , officially the Republic of Senegal , is a country in western Africa. It owes its name to the Sénégal River that borders it to the east and north...


  • On January 28, 2007, a 17-year-old male from Cape Town, South Africa was found in the wheel well of a British Airways
    British Airways
    British Airways is the flag carrier airline of the United Kingdom, based in Waterside, near its main hub at London Heathrow Airport. British Airways is the largest airline in the UK based on fleet size, international flights and international destinations...

     flight in Los Angeles
    Los Ángeles
    Los Ángeles is the capital of the province of Biobío, in the commune of the same name, in Region VIII , in the center-south of Chile. It is located between the Laja and Biobío rivers. The population is 123,445 inhabitants...

    , CA. He had died from exposure as a stowaway on a previous flight and the body had not been immediately found. That flight had last been in Cape Town five days earlier, on January 23, 2007.

  • On July 19, 2007, maintenance workers at San Francisco International Airport
    San Francisco International Airport
    San Francisco International Airport is a major international airport located south of downtown San Francisco, California, United States, near the cities of Millbrae and San Bruno in unincorporated San Mateo County. It is often referred to as SFO...

     found a dead man in the nose gear wheel well of a United Airlines
    United Airlines
    United Air Lines, Inc., is the world's largest airline with 86,852 employees United Air Lines, Inc., is the world's largest airline with 86,852 employees United Air Lines, Inc., is the world's largest airline with 86,852 employees (which includes the entire holding company United Continental...

     Boeing 747
    Boeing 747
    The Boeing 747 is a wide-body commercial airliner and cargo transport, often referred to by its original nickname, Jumbo Jet, or Queen of the Skies. It is among the world's most recognizable aircraft, and was the first wide-body ever produced...

     arriving from Shanghai
    Shanghai is the largest city by population in China and the largest city proper in the world. It is one of the four province-level municipalities in the People's Republic of China, with a total population of over 23 million as of 2010...

     after an 11-hour trip. The man, who appeared to be Asian and in his 50s, had few obvious injuries and was wearing several layers of clothing, including two jackets.

  • On October 11, 2007 A man known as Osama R.M. Shublaq was reported to have been a stowaway aboard Singapore Airlines
    Singapore Airlines
    Singapore Airlines Limited is the flag carrier airline of Singapore. Singapore Airlines operates a hub at Changi Airport and has a strong presence in the Southeast Asia, East Asia, South Asia, and "Kangaroo Route" markets...

     Flight 119. The flight, which took off from Kuala Lumpur
    Kuala Lumpur
    Kuala Lumpur is the capital and the second largest city in Malaysia by population. The city proper, making up an area of , has a population of 1.4 million as of 2010. Greater Kuala Lumpur, also known as the Klang Valley, is an urban agglomeration of 7.2 million...

    , Malaysia at around 10:56 PM, arrived in Singapore.

  • On July 3, 2009 The body of a man was found in the undercarriage of a jet traveling from Ghana
    Ghana , officially the Republic of Ghana, is a country located in West Africa. It is bordered by Côte d'Ivoire to the west, Burkina Faso to the north, Togo to the east, and the Gulf of Guinea to the south...

     to Britain
    United Kingdom
    The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...


  • On August 9, 2009, the body of 19-year-old Filipp Vitaliyevich Yurchenko from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky
    Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky is the main city and the administrative, industrial, scientific, and cultural center of Kamchatka Krai, Russia. Population: .-History:It was founded by Danish navigator Vitus Bering, in the service of the Russian Navy...

     was discovered in the landing gear bay of an Airbus A320
    Airbus A320
    The Airbus A320 family is a family of short- to medium-range, narrow-body, commercial passenger jet airliners manufactured by Airbus Industrie.Airbus was originally a consortium of European aerospace companies, and is now fully owned by EADS. Airbus's name has been Airbus SAS since 2001...

     aircraft after the flight from Irkutsk
    Irkutsk is a city and the administrative center of Irkutsk Oblast, Russia, one of the largest cities in Siberia. Population: .-History:In 1652, Ivan Pokhabov built a zimovye near the site of Irkutsk for gold trading and for the collection of fur taxes from the Buryats. In 1661, Yakov Pokhabov...

     to Vladivostok
    The city is located in the southern extremity of Muravyov-Amursky Peninsula, which is about 30 km long and approximately 12 km wide.The highest point is Mount Kholodilnik, the height of which is 257 m...

    , Russia
    Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

    . According to experts, the man had been dead for at least five days.

  • On December 26, 2009, Habib Hussain (25) from Moradabad
    Moradabad is a city and a municipal corporation in Moradabad district in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. It was established in 1600 by prince Murad, the son of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan; as a result the city came to be known as Moradabad. It is the administrative headquarters of...

     in Uttar Pradesh
    Uttar Pradesh
    Uttar Pradesh abbreviation U.P. , is a state located in the northern part of India. With a population of over 200 million people, it is India's most populous state, as well as the world's most populous sub-national entity...

    , India
    India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

     who was working at Medina airport, Saudi Arabia, with a Saudi ground handling company, entered the plane which returned to Jaipur, Rajasthan from Medina, and hid in the toilet. Habib’s presence came to light after the Air India flight took off from Medina when a passenger went to the toilet. Air India sources said he got into the plane on the pretense of cleaning it. Crew members handed him over to immigration officials at Jaipur Airport. During questioning, it was ascertained that Habib, an Indian national, was fleeing Saudi Arabia, where his passport had been confiscated, and he was forced to work as a bonded labourer.

  • On February 8, 2010, a body was discovered in the landing gear compartment of the Delta Air Lines flight which arrived in Tokyo from New York. A mechanic found the body inside one of the wheel wells of a Boeing aircraft during maintenance. The man, who was of dark complexion and dressed only in blue jeans and a long-sleeved shirt, was carrying no passport or personal belongings, police say. He was possibly a stowaway and probably froze to death, they added.

  • On February 18, 2010, the body of an apparent stowaway fell from the wheel well of a plane taking off from the Dominican Republic. The 767 aircraft — Amerijet flight 840 — landed about two hours later without incident at Miami International Airport. The flight originated in Santo Domingo.

  • On June 9th, 2010, a 20-year-old Romanian stowaway survived a flight from Vienna
    Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

     to Britain
    United Kingdom
    The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

     in the undercarriage of a Boeing 747
    Boeing 747
    The Boeing 747 is a wide-body commercial airliner and cargo transport, often referred to by its original nickname, Jumbo Jet, or Queen of the Skies. It is among the world's most recognizable aircraft, and was the first wide-body ever produced...

     owned by a wealthy Arab sheik. The man, whose name is believed to be Andrei Culea stated that he had crawled “under the wire” of the Schwechat airport’s perimeter fence and climbed into the undercarriage of the parked aircraft with no idea where the aircraft was heading. He was taken into custody at Heathrow airport, where he reportedly fell out of the landing gear undercarriage
    The undercarriage or landing gear in aviation, is the structure that supports an aircraft on the ground and allows it to taxi, takeoff and land...

    . Paramedics checked him over, but he had suffered only minor injuries. It was reported he only survived because the jet flew at a lower cruising altitude of 33,000 ft (rather than the standard 37,000 ft) because of poor weather. He was cautioned by police and freed with no further action being taken.

  • On January 15, 2011, Qasim Siddique, a ninth grade student from Lahore fell to death from an Air Blue flight headed for Dubai which had taken off from Allama Iqbal International Airport, Lahore. His body was found on the rooftop of a house located close to the airport. Reportedly, the residents of Street 5 in Al Faisal Colony, Lahore heard a loud bang as Qasim fell to his death between 9:10 and 9:15 pm. The captain of the flight had contacted the control room immediately after take-off and reported a malfunction while closing the plane's wheels, air traffic control sources said, informing the controllers a few minutes later that the problem had been rectified. The postmortem of Qasim confirmed that he fell to his death. Police are still investigating the case which involves another missing boy who was friend of Qasim.

  • On June 24, 2011, a man with dual citizenship from the US and Nigeria boarded a flight departing from New York's JFK airport using an expired boarding pass and no valid ID, the same man tried to board a flight from LAX to Atlanta a few days later, again, with an expired boarding pass and no valid ID, he was detained by the FBI, and charged with being a stowaway on an aircraft

Instances in film

  • In Airport, Ada Quonsett (Helen Hayes
    Helen Hayes
    Helen Hayes Brown was an American actress whose career spanned almost 70 years. She eventually garnered the nickname "First Lady of the American Theatre" and was one of twelve people who have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony Award...

    ) is a sneaky elderly stowaway aboard an airplane that has a suicidal bomber among its passengers. She was honored with the Best Supporting Actress Oscar.
  • In Stowaway to the Moon
    Stowaway to the Moon
    Stowaway to the Moon is a 1975 made-for-TV movie, starring Lloyd Bridges among others. The basic plot centers around a pre-teen boy who stows away on an Apollo mission to the moon. The movie also features Pete Conrad the third person to walk on the Moon....

    , a television film that originally aired on CBS
    CBS Broadcasting Inc. is a major US commercial broadcasting television network, which started as a radio network. The name is derived from the initials of the network's former name, Columbia Broadcasting System. The network is sometimes referred to as the "Eye Network" in reference to the shape of...

     in 1975 and stars Lloyd Bridges
    Lloyd Bridges
    Lloyd Vernet Bridges, Jr. was an American actor who starred in a number of television series and appeared in more than 150 feature films. Bridges is best known for his role of Mike Nelson in Sea Hunt, the most-popular syndicated American TV series in 1958...

    and Michael Link, an 11-year-old child, who has been fascinated by space and astronauts, wishes that he could go into space also.

External links

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