A 26-year-old Guatemalan man survived a 2.5-hour flight stowed away in the main gear well of an American Airlines Boeing 737-800 and appeared none the worse for wear. The man was hauled out of the compartment by ground crews after the aircraft reached the gate in Miami after a flight from Guatemala City to Miami on Saturday. The airline said the aircraft “was met by law enforcement due to a security issue” after ramp workers hauled the man out of the belly of the plane. A video showed him sitting on the ramp appearing dazed but without any apparent injuries.

Authorities confirmed the basic details but offered little more. “U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at Miami International Airport apprehended a 26-year-old man who attempted to evade detection in the landing gear compartment of an aircraft arriving from Guatemala Saturday morning,” the CBP said in a statement. “The individual was evaluated by emergency medical services and taken to a hospital for medical assessment. This incident remains under investigation.” Assuming he survives, he will be among only about 30 who have done so. On the relatively short flight from Central America, the plane spent about two hours at 35,000 feet. The temperature in the exposed gear well dropped by more than 100 degrees and the man would have suffered hypoxia.

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.


  1. Was he in the wheel well, or in the baggage compartment? My guess would be the last. Very lucky dude, or somewhere around the aproach path of this flight lies a used oxy bottle?

    • See first line… “A 26-year-old Guatemalan man survived a 2.5-hour flight stowed away in the main gear well of an American Airlines Boeing 737-800”

      He should have gone to the Texas border. Then He would have been let in.

  2. Not bad but not a world record. A fellow and his friend stowed away in the wheel wells of a British Airways aircraft (type not specified) from Johannesburg to Heathrow. Flight time was 11 hours. Upon gear extension, the friend fell out into the London suburbs, and the other gent survived. He lives in Liverpool now, although with a nasty leg injury.

    • Wonder how it can be explained that the human body can sustain life @ FL350 for 10 hrs with no oxy.
      Also a -65 or 70F.

  3. Tough but less than intelligent SOB.

    I respect him and if I were king I’d grant him asylum and offer him a job.

    Anyone who wants to be here that much should be offered a chance unless there are extenuating circumstances (i.e. criminal).

    In return, however, the US gets to deport a liberal who hates America to Guatemala as an exchange program.

    • You seem to be trying to earn the award for stupidest comment on virtually every Avweb comment thread. So far you are clearly in first place.

      • Well, it was political but you over-react.

        Old line about Communists building walls to keep people in while the US builds walls to keep people out comes to mind. Central America has serious societal problems, as does Haiti – much crime thus people want to leave. Both current and previous US administration push those societies to recognize their problems. Honduras was doing better after a long dictatorship but is very vulnerable to hurricanes trashing its agricultural economy. Latin America has many attempts to impair freedom, Honduras had a strong enough constitution to withstand the attempt of a buddy of tyrant Caesar Chavez of Venezuela to take control as a dictator.

  4. The FAA’s conclusion on these unusual “survival” outcomes:

    “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.

    With descent, and warming, along with increasing atmospheric oxygen pressure, hypoxia and hypothermia slowly resolved. At the ramp, individuals were found in a semi-conscious state, and, upon treatment, recovered.”

    • Nice semi-medical explanation of how he managed to survive the flight, but no matter how you describe it, that’s one tough hombre!

  5. ‘In return, however, the US gets to deport a liberal who hates America to Guatemala as an exchange program.

    72 years in the country and over 30 years in liberal circles and working with veterans and not once ever met anyone who hates their own country. Met plenty though who hate other citizens due to their skin color, religion, politics, sexual orientation, occupation and the like.

    Seems to me the country would be healthier to deport or expel them, no?

    • Funny, it seems to me that the US would be healthier if we deported Liberals to Cuba. Or Venezuela.
      It seems that we would be doing them a favor since they’re trying to turn the US into one of these countries anyway. And it might help those countries keep up the numbers of their plebiscite, since, for some inexplicable reason, their countrymen keep fleeing these wonderful countries.
      But it’s a curious thing. While Liberals like to visit these countries, they don’t want to live in them. (Unless they’ve murdered a cop here.)
      Unfortunately for all of us, I fear that Liberals will soon be living in the country of their dreams.
      And I will just hate that.

  6. There have also been stories of one person getting crushed by the gear upon retraction. It’s a sad state for a lot of folks.