A man has survived a long-haul flight from Johannesburg to Amsterdam by sheltering in an aircraft’s front wheel arch.
We’re all pretty familiar with feats of seemingly superhuman endurance. From 48hr marathons to stories of people surviving on literal desert islands, where there’s a will there really is a way when it comes to the human body and survival. So, the story that a man has survived what can only have been a harrowing 11 hours crammed into the wheel arch of a commercial jet proves, yet again, just how robust the human body can be. Dutch authorities discovered the man, who has yet to be identified, on Sunday morning at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport. The aircraft had travelled from Johannesburg to Kenya where it made a stopover, then onwards to Amsterdam. While we still don’t know if the man had slipped on at Johannesburg or Kenya, either way, it’s an impressive distance to travel through low oxygen and freezing conditions. “We were surprised upon finding this man, but even more surprised at him being alive after the plane flew over 10,000 kilometres in very, very cold temperatures,” stated Joanne Helmonds, a spokeswoman for the Royal Dutch Military Police. Surprising indeed – while the wheel arch of an aeroplane may offer some protection from the elements, it’s not designed to support human life, and therefore temperatures can get as cold as -56 Celsius! Imagine that shock you feel coming back to the UK from a warm country – now imagine that, times 100. It’s honestly a wonder this guy didn’t freeze to death. On top of that, the limited amount of oxygen available to breathe at that altitude can easily kill a person, suffocating them while simultaneously freezing them. Not a pleasant way to go, then, and that’s if you don’t lose consciousness and fall to your death (which has happened too many times before.) It’s not a surprise then, that after spotting the man lying on the tarmac, the airport’s ground crew had to call emergency services to revive the man, who had a worryingly low body temperature. He was then taken to a hospital near the airport, where he will recover and then be processed by Amsterdam’s Asylum Seekers Centre, who will decide whether he is genuinely seeking asylum. I don’t know what saddens me more – the state of the world being as it is, forcing a man to essentially risk one of the worst deaths imaginable just for a chance of an alternative life, or that fact that I see people being forced into desperate situations more and more often these days. I’m reminded of the harrowing footage of Afghan nationals falling off aircraft leaving the country after the Taliban’s recent takeover, preferring almost certain death over life under their regime. It’s scenes like these that stick in my mind and serve as a potent reminder that this world needs to change its direction, and fast, to prevent people from having to make such difficult choices.