Boy survives flight in wheel well of Boeing 737

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Boeing 737-400 flown by British Airways. Exposed nature of the wheel well is clearly visible.
A Boeing 737-300 flown by Virgin Express. Another view of the exposed wheel well characteristic of a Boeing 737.

A Russian teenager has accomplished an unprecedented feat in the history of world aviation. He flew a distance of 1,300 kilometres in a wheel well of a Boeing 737 and lived. The fifteen year old Andrey Scherbakov spent two hours in the wheel well of the airplane at extreme temperature of −50° centigrade. The rear wheels do not go all the way into the plane; the wheel merely retracts into an opening and remains exposed. The boy managed to bypass security at the Perm city airport to hide in the plane as it took off. Airport workers found the boy after the plane had landed at Moscow. He had collapsed on the tarmac.

The boy was delivered to the hospital by the airport staff and is said to be in a critical condition. His arms and legs were so severely frozen and swollen that the rescuers were not able to remove his coat and shoes. There is a probability that his hands may have to be amputated. However, according to the medical staff at the hospital, it is nothing short of a miracle that the boy survived the ordeal. The Boeing 737 has a cruising speed of 900 kilometres per hour and was flying constantly at an altitude of 10,000 metres for two hours. As a result, the boy suffered severe frostbite in both of his hands. Doctors in Ural city would have to remove his fingertips, which contracted gangrene after they had frozen, but they were committed to do everything within their power to stop it from spreading.

When Scherbakov finally came to his senses, he told the police that he had run away from his family so as to escape his alcoholic father. He said that he was wandering around the territory of the airport and noticed a hole in the fence. He fell asleep during his examination of the stowaway of the plane. He woke up when the plane was already flying. It is curious how the inspection staff and the technicians found nothing on their inspection of the aircraft just before the flight. The boy claims that he fainted soon after and came around only when the plane had landed in Moscow after traveling hundreds of kilometres from Perm.

The airport did not confirm the report. However, Moscow's air and water transport control department said that the claim was true. A department spokesperson said that the incident happened on Friday, and the boy's parents were immediately informed and flew into the capital on the same day.

Stowaways in wheel wells risk freezing to death after take-off or being crushed when the wheels retract. This year, a body was found in the wheel well of a jet in San Francisco after a flight from Shanghai and another body was found in Atlanta after a flight from Dakar, Senegal.