Plane stowaway survives 9,000-km South Africa-Amsterdam flight in wheel section

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By David Mac Dougall with AFP
A traveller wearing a face mask checks the flight departures at Schiphol Airport, near Amsterdam, Netherlands
A traveller wearing a face mask checks the flight departures at Schiphol Airport, near Amsterdam, Netherlands   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Peter Dejong

Police in the Netherlands say they are still not sure how a stowaway got on board a cargo flight from South Africa to Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport on Sunday.

Authorities say the man is in stable condition in hospital after being discovered in the nose landing gear of the aircraft, which flew from Johannesburg to Amsterdam via Nairobi.

But they want to talk to him to discover his identity and whether he intended to stay in the Netherlands or go to another country.

“We are investigating a few things, like his nationality and exact age," Robert van Kapel, spokesman for the Royal Netherlands Military Police told Euronews.

"He’s around 18 to 30, and we know that he came from South Africa and there’s been a stop in Kenya but which nationality that’s something we hope to find out today.

“We are doing the investigation because of the illegal border crossing or human smuggling, so did he do it alone to get into the plane or did he get help?”

The 9,000-km flight from Johannesburg to Amsterdam takes around 11 hours, but stowaways on flights to the Netherlands are rare.

In 2021, a Kenyan teenager survived a short flight from London to Maastricht Airport in the wheel well of a cargo plane and also last year border police discovered the body of a Nigerian man in the undercarriage of a plane arriving at Amsterdam.

“Sometimes we have had a few incidents when people fell out in the fields around Schiphol, and that’s strange when a farmer finds somebody. Those incidents have happened. Luckily this person has survived,” van Kapel said.

“Most of the time when we find somebody who is in a plane then he does not survive travel like that, but this is unique”.