Stowaway Bodies Found After Three Days In Gear Well


Authorities in Colombia say an Avianca A320neo likely flew around South America for three days with the bodies of two stowaways in a gear well. The airline said it found the two, likely teenage boys, on Friday night when the plane went in for scheduled maintenance. “At its arrival to the El Dorado airport in Bogota, personnel from the airline discovered the bodies of two people who flew irregularly (stowaways) in the undercarriage of the airplane,” Avianca said in a statement.

The airline said they also found documents and money suggesting the boys were from the Dominican Republic. The last time the plane was there was Jan. 3. The airline added that the bodies had been frozen and were partially thawed and that one had burns. Authorities in both countries are working to identify the pair and to notify next of kin.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. I have used swizzle sticks and Sweet-n-Low packets to test a student’s unobserved preflight regiment. Apparently Avianca crews have not been subjected to such training.

    • I’m curious.

      How do you use Swizzle Sticks and Sweet-n-Low packets to test a student’s unobserved preflight regiment?

      • I’m guessing SV is referring to leaving them in places the student should be looking, to see if the student finds them or not.

  2. Human brains do not reach full functionality until the 21st year or so. Hence, teenagers understanding of many things appears foolish. Think back to your own teenage years and even earlier when you engaged in behaviors that today (hopefully) you would deem as either foolish or downright life threatening. I look back at my some of my own preteen and teenage stunts with a mixed sense of “I really did that?” and “Jeez! I really could have killed myself!”

  3. I wonder about the many times a cockpit crewperson did the “walkaround” prior to each flight since the victims were killed. The smell must’ve been noticeable, never mind the actual sight of them in the exposed wheel wells for days. I’ll not be flying Avianca any time soon…

  4. The “gear bay area” of the airbus is not entirely visible from the ground. You could, if you know how, open the gear doors and look in there. Not something I am expected to do or know how. That is a maintenance function. I am more concerned about security than the integrity of a walk around.

    As far as the smell goes, the ramp often smells like feces (lav trucks), diesel, jet fuel, fish and exhaust.

  5. When we were kids in NJ we would hop trains for fun and to visit nearby areas too far to get to on our bicycles. This may be the same sort of teenage thrill seeking.

  6. Couple of kids, maybe small town, likely totally unsophisticated in terms of jet planes, pressurization, or indeed air travel in general, they just want to get away to somewhere, anywhere. They identify the opportunity to get into the gear well unobserved and figure hey, the doors close, we’re up inside the plane just like the passengers, just not as comfy. What seems nuts to you and me looks well within reason to them.

    • Aircraft are covered in warning placards already. Has no one thought of putting a “You will die in here” placard inside the gear well?

  7. As a long time Cpt of large 4 holers I never did one outside check. My airline was basically a pax transport oriented company, flying dedicated destinations who all had at least one ground engineer, or contracted company present.
    Freight haulers who have many unique and ad hoc destinations have either a dedicated GE flying on board or maybe those pilots do it.
    Crew duty time is at times so limiting that a 15 minutes outside check can mean no flight at all or needing a 3-pilot crew. Ground engineers are trained for that job and do it way better as pilots kicking the tires.
    Long time ago we flew with (dedicated) Flight Engineers (unlike as in the US a pilot as the first stage in his flying career), I sometimes accompanied the FE and he pointed me at so many things to look for, and indicate what was acceptable. You have to be trained for that and repeat it regularly, not once a Year.
    We entered the plane many times via a jet bridge, seeing close to nothing from the plane itself. Jokingly in the cockpit I remarked that if the plane would have no tail we wouldn’t know 🙂