Why teenage stowaway did not die – Experts

As Nigerians continue to wonder how a 13 year old teenager, Daniel Ohikhene, secretly entered the landing gear compartment of Arik Air aircraft and survived the flight from Benin Airport to the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos, experts have said that the teenager survived because the altitude of the flight did not go beyond 10,000 and 15,000 feet.
Daily Independent recalls that the remains of a young Nigerian man was discovered in October 2012 in the undercarriage compartment of an Arik Air aircraft Airbus A340-500, after it returned from a flight to New York, United States.
The deceased was said to have hid himself in the wheel well for days and was crushed to death while the flight was airborne to the JF Kennedy Airport, New York, from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos.
According to experts, while the undercarriage compartment of the Airbus A340-500 is big enough to accommodate a person, besides the space for the landing gears, the chances of anyone, who hid there coming out alive is slim due to lack of oxygen, most especially if it is a long haul flight.
An aviation expert who does not want his name in print due to his relationship with both airline and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), said that the Benin stowaway was due to porous security at the airport, adding that if there was a perimeter fence at the Benin airport, the teenager would not have had access to the aircraft.
He also said that the airline should share in the blame because security is a collective thing and that when the captain was informed of the presence of the teenager, he should have carried out another check on ground before taking off.
Another source, who also spoke on the issue under the condition of anonymity, wondered why the same incident that occurred in the airline in 2012, in which a young Nigerian died in the landing gear compartment should repeat itself in the same airline.
Daily Independent learnt that stowaways sometimes connive with ground handling companies for them to have access to airplanes.
Speaking, the Founder/Executive Director, Centre for Aviation Safety and Research (CAS-R), Sheri Kyari, said that the stowaway issue is a wakeup call to the aviation industry. He posited that if he were the Federal Government, he would release the teenage stowaway for him to go home, adding that the boy has exposed how porous our security is.
He, however, stated that if there was any indication that passengers saw the stowaway and nothing was done to arrest him at Benin Airport, these people should be call to question.
The aeronautic engineer added that if it was true that the control tower was informed, the aircraft should not have been given clearance to take off.
On why the stowaway did not die during the flight, the CAS-R boss said that Benin to Lagos is a very short flight, adding that the aircraft did not fly so high to a level where oxygen would be a problem.
He therefore called on Arik Air and other domestic airlines to learn from the security breach.
According to him, “I pray that we have learnt a good lesson from the incident. I pray also that other airlines have learnt from this.”
On his part, the President of Concerned Aviation Professional (CAP) and a former pilot with the liquidated Nigeria Airways Limited (NAL), Capt. Omaghomi Tito, said that the young stowaway survived the duration of the flight despite being in the wheel well because the flight may not have gone between 10,000 and 12,000 feet.
He added that if the aircraft had gone beyond that and if the flight was to be for hours, the possibility of the stowaway surviving would have been very slim.
Tito maintained that what still baffles everybody is how the boy got to the airside and to the holding point where he secretly went into the wheel well of the aircraft without the Benin Airport security knowing.
According to him, “We have read that the passengers drew the attention of the pilot who in turn radioed the control tower .At that point the aircraft should have been thoroughly searched before taking off. Why didn’t the aircraft check if it suspected that a boy was seen at the holding point?”
He attributed the breach to the porous security at the airport, which according to him has no perimeter fence.
“How do farmers work around the airside of the airport” he further queried.



Daily Independent
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