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Stowaway survives 11-hour flight to Amsterdam in wheel section of cargo plane

“This is definitely very unusual that someone was able to survive the cold at such a height," a spokesperson for the Dutch military police said.
Boeing 747
A Cargolux Boeing 747 lands in Amsterdam at Schiphol International Airport in August, 2018. A stowaway survived an 11-hour flight from South Africa to Amsterdam, Dutch military police have said.Nicolas Economou / NurPhoto via Getty Images file

A 22-year-old man who was discovered hiding in the wheel section of a cargo plane at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport on Sunday survived an 11-hour flight, Dutch military police have said.

The stowaway, who police said is from Nairobi, Kenya, had been found in the nose wheel of a cargo plane that had flown from South Africa, said the military police, or Marechaussee, in a statement on Sunday.

He was "doing well under the circumstances and has been transported to the hospital," according to the statement.

On Monday, the Marechaussee said the man had applied for asylum.

"We're investigating the man's travel route, as well as whether it's a case of migrant smuggling," they added.

"Our first concern of course was for his health," Marechaussee spokeswoman Joanna Helmonds told Reuters in a separate statement. "This is definitely very unusual that someone was able to survive the cold at such a height — very, very unusual."

As of Monday morning, the man's status was unclear. NBC News has contacted the Dutch military police for further comment.

A spokesperson for freight carrier Cargolux confirmed the incident, telling NBC News the airline was investigating the matter.

"We are not in a position to comment until the authorities and the airline have completed their investigations," the spokesperson said.

The only Cargolux flight arriving at Schiphol on Sunday was a freighter that travelled from Johannesburg and made a stop in Nairobi, Kenya, according to online flight tracking platform FlightRadar24.

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News.

The flight is far from the first to see a stowaway survive a perilous journey.

In November, a 26-year-old man was found in a plane's landing gear compartment at Miami International Airport. Authorities said he had survived the 2-hour and 37-minute flight journey from Guatemala.

In March, a woman with a history of being a "serial stowaway" and sneaking onto flights was arrested at Chicago O'Hare International Airport after police were tipped off by an ankle bracelet she was wearing.

Not all stowaways survive, however. In January 2020, the body of a stowaway was found in the landing gear of an Air France plane that landed in Paris after a flight from the Ivory Coast in West Africa.

At the time, the airline expressed its “deepest sympathy and compassion at this human tragedy.”