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It was “extraordinary” that a stowaway survived after hitching a ride in the nose wheel cavity of a cargo flight between SA and Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, Guy Leitch, editor of SA Flyer Magazine, said.

“There is not enough oxygen to breathe so people will not understand how any stowaway manages to survive,” said Leitch.

Dutch military police in Amsterdam discovered the stowaway when the aircraft landed on Sunday.

“The fact is, no-one can believe it. It’s extraordinary that anyone can survive like that,” said Leitch. “It takes humans about six months to acclimatise to be able to climb Mount Everest, which is about 8.5km, and these aeroplanes fly at 11.5km and the temperature up there can be anywhere from -50°C to -100°C,” he said.

Leitch said there was only speculation on how some stowaways manage to survive.

“There is speculation, and it’s only speculation, that they somehow fall into a sleep and go into suspended animation like a hibernating bear and wake up when the aircraft descends to warmer air with more oxygen,” he said.

Leitch said though most stowaways die, there have been survivors.

“It’s a 10-and-a-half-hour flight which makes it particularly impressive or hard to believe that anyone could have survived.”

Reuters reported that the only Cargolux freight flight arriving at Schiphol on Sunday was a Boeing 747 freighter that travelled from Johannesburg and made a stop in Nairobi, Kenya, according to Schiphol’s website and flight-tracking data.

The stowaway’s nationality and whether he is seeking asylum is yet to be determined. 

“The man is doing well considering the circumstances and has been taken to hospital,” said Dutch border police.



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