Wheel Well Stowaway Learned To Hitch Free Plane Rides On Net, But How Did He Survive?

Talk about a white-knuckle ride. A 21-year-old Indonesian stowaway squeezed himself into the wheel well of an airplane this week and lived to tell the tale, and he learned how to do it online.

Mario Stevan Ambarita was found stumbling on the tarmac Tuesday after a two-hour flight from Pekanbaru, Riau’s provincial capital, to the national capital, Jakarta, the Associated Press reported. Somehow, he’d survived low oxygen, subzero temperatures and an altitude of 40,000 feet while nestled relatively safely in the plane’s wheel well.

Needless to say, everyone was quite surprised to see him. As soon as someone approached the stowaway – whose only obvious injury was a bleeding ear – he said he wanted to meet “Jokowi,” the nickname for the Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, the New York Post added.

He swiftly collapsed and was taken to the hospital; he’s reported to be fine, according to Reuters.

Ambarita evidently wanted to see the president quite badly. The stowaway spent a whole year prepping for his daring plane ride, studying aircraft at the airport and finding out online how to fly for free by shoving your body inside a wheel well. A couple of previous attempts to hitch a ride had failed.

But this time, the stowaway scaled a fence and got into the wheel well as the aircraft was getting ready to take off, a spokesman told the AP; the security officer at that airport has been fired.

“The man’s deed has endangered flight and aviation safety,” one official said, meaning Ambarita’s mischief isn’t going to get him to Jokowi – it may land him in jail for a year.

So how on Earth did this latest stowaway – and it has happened before – even survive the journey? After the last incident, LiveScience pulled out some facts to explain why a teenage stowaway survived a much longer journey over the Pacific, also in the wheel well of a plane.

The conditions were similar – 38,000-foot altitude, subzero temps, low oxygen. The teen was unconscious most of the flight – and we don’t know if Ambarita was. But LiveScience suggests the teen’s survival was possible because his body went into suspended animation, meaning the metabolism slows to conserve oxygen and energy.

Low oxygen likely put the teen to sleep and the cold temperature “put his cells in a frozen state.” When the plane descended, the cells warmed up and his body kick-started back to life.

However, even though it’s technically possible to survive in the wheel well of plane – and it’s a cheaper way to travel – it’s obviously not recommended. Just fly coach and stay warm.

[Photo Courtesy Sean Gallup/Getty Images]