Man survives flight from Guatemala to Miami in plane's landing gear

Stowaway appeared largely unharmed and faces deportation after undergoing medical checks

An American Airlines flight lands at Miami International Airport in Florida. Photo: AP
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A Guatemalan man hidden in the wheel well of an American Airlines aircraft survived a flight of more than two and a half hours to Miami on Saturday.

The stowaway appeared dazed but otherwise unharmed in a video taken shortly after the plane landed at Miami International Airport. He was sitting on the tarmac beside the plane dressed in blue jeans, a T-shirt, jacket and boots as ground crew personnel tended to him.

The US Customs and Border Protection agency said officers at the 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 individual was evaluated by emergency medical services and taken to a hospital for medical assessment," the agency added. "This incident remains under investigation."

American Airlines said its Flight 1182 from Guatemala City to Miami arrived shortly after 10am local time and "was met by law enforcement due to a security issue."

The airline gave no further details, except to say it was assisting in the investigation.

Immigration lawyer Angel Leal told the Miami-based WTVJ channel that the stowaway would be detained by the border agency while facing an expedited removal order.

Federal Aviation Administration figures show 129 people have attempted to stow away in the wheel wells or other areas of commercial aircraft worldwide since 1947. Of those, the agency said, 100 have died of injuries or exposure.

In one such incident in April 2014, a 16-year-old boy who ran away from home survived five hours in the wheel well of a jet as it flew from California to Hawaii.

Guatemala accounts for a large portion of about 1.7 million migrants apprehended or expelled by US border agents over the past year, many of them Central Americans fleeing violent gangs and grinding poverty.

Updated: November 28, 2021, 11:28 AM
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