A 16-year-old boy reportedly was able to stow away in a plane's wheel well and survive the 5½-hour Hawaiian Airlines flight Sunday from San Jose to Maui.
Incidences of people sneaking onto planes aren't as uncommon as you might think. Since 1996, there have been 105 stowaways on 94 flights worldwide, according to the Federal Aviation Administration in an e-mail to USA TODAY Network.
More than 76% of those attempts resulted in deaths, the FAA says.
The FAA's numbers reflect stowaways in the wheel wells, nose wells and other unpressurized areas. The statistics don't include people who sneak into the cargo compartment or passenger area.
Stowaways in wheel wells, as in the most recent case, have to contend with freezing temperatures, lack of oxygen and the risk of being crushed by the plane's wheels.
Though the FBI called the case "a miracle," one aviation expert says the incident raises eyebrows.
"In every circumstance I know of, it's fatal," said Cass Howell, associate dean of the College of Aviation at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, about stowaways in wheel wells. "I wouldn't be shocked to find out that some part of his story doesn't hold up."
The stowaway survived temperatures as low as 80 degrees below zero and the thin air available at 38,000 feet, FBI spokesman Tom Simon said. "He was unconscious for the lion's share of the flight," Simon said. "Kid's lucky to be alive."
A Cleveland-area emergency physician said the temperature might not have dipped quite so low in the wheel well, which could account for the teen's survival. The low oxygen is harder to explain.
"From the standpoint of science, this is a very lucky child. … It would be extremely ill-advised for anyone to try to duplicate his feat," said Howard Mell, a spokesman for the American College of Emergency Physicians.
Other recent plane stowaway instances:
•In August 2013, a teen in Nigeria survived a 35-minute trip in the wheel well of a domestic flight. The boy was seen running to the plane as it was taxiing on the runway. Despite the possible presence of the boy, who was 13 or 14 years old, the pilots continued with takeoff, the Associated Press reports. The plane did not fly above 25,000 feet, the AP reports.
•A 26-year-old man fell to his death in London as a flight from Angola began its descent at Heathrow Airport in 2012. The man, who was from Mozambique, wanted a better life in Europe, according to his employer, the AP reported.
•A 16-year-old fell from a wheel well to his death in a Boston suburb in 2010 during a flight from Charlotte. The boy had run away from home.
•In 2000, Fidel Maruhi survived a 4,000-mile, 7½-hour journey from Tahiti to Los Angeles. When he was discovered, Maruhi's body temperature was just 79 degrees,Slate reported.
•In 2000, two Cuban teens sneaked onto a flight from Havana bound for London. A doctor ruled that the boys died of lack of oxygen probably 20 minutes into the flight, according to The Guardian.