Plane Stowaways: Putting an end to a deadly gamble

Kenyan capital Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport has more than three levels of security checks and a relatively solid perimeter fence dividing passengers from its airfield, where large numbers of aircraft are parked before departure.

Despite these security measures, in July, a man managed to hide inside the undercarriage of a London-bound Kenya Airways aircraft and embark on what was, tragically, the final flight of his life.

The man, who reports suggest could have been a member of Jomo Kenyatta airport staff, stowed away inside the most dangerous part of the aircraft for eight or more hours, before his lifeless body fell into a south London private garden as the plane approached Heathrow Airport.

This was not an isolated incident; it is the latest on a not-so-short list of dead stowaways registered in the UK and elsewhere in the world. However, July’s case brought back to public attention an issue that, despite being less common than its counterparts at sea or on the roads, has been affecting aviation for many decades.

Figures from the US Federal Aviation Administration show a staggering 126 people have tried to hitch a ride on an aeroplane since 1947, facing a 77% chance of never reaching their destination alive.

Profiling a stowaway

The migrant and refugee crisis currently gripping the world has formulated an image within our collective mind of a typical asylum-seeker, which happens to almost perfectly match the profile of the typical stowaway.

“We are normally talking about extremely desperate individuals who feel that they have to flee their homelands or current place of residence in search of a better life,” explains aviation expert Philip Baum, visiting professor at Coventry University and managing director of Green Light, a global provider of security consultancy and training services


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