Stowaway survives London-Austria flight

A stowaway hid himself in the landing gear of a jet and survived a one-and-a-half hour flight to Heathrow Airport from Austria, it emerged today.

The unnamed 20-year-old Romanian would have withstood freezing temperatures and a lack of oxygen to reach London from Vienna Airport, experts said.

Austrian police said he told British officers he crawled under the wire of the fence surrounding the airport and climbed into the undercarriage of the Boeing 747 parked near a building site.

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The private jet, belonging to a high-ranking sheikh from the United Arab Emirates, then took off from the Austrian capital and landed at Heathrow on Sunday night, according to reports.

It is said that after landing at Heathrow, the man – who claimed he was looking for work – fell out of the gear's cavity and was caught by security.

He was arrested for stowing away in an aircraft contrary to the Air Navigation Order 2009 but cautioned and freed with no further action being taken.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: "Police were alerted at 7.37pm on Sunday June 6 re: a suspected stowaway on a private aeroplane that had landed at Heathrow.

"A 20-year-old Romanian national was arrested for stowing away on an aircraft, contrary to Article 143 and 241(6) of and Part B of Schedule 13 to the Air Navigation Order 2009."

He added: "It is alleged that he had stowed himself in the rear wheel compartment of the aircraft at Vienna Airport."

It is understood that there is no immigration issue and no involvement from the UK Border Agency in seeking to deport him.

As Romania is part of the EU, the man is free to enter the UK.

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Austria's daily Kurier newspaper reported that he escaped with slight bruises following the flight, which lasted one hour and 37 minutes.

A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said he was "very lucky" to be alive.

He said: "It's not unheard of for people trying to escape from a country to use this method.

"If they do stow away in the wheel wells, then there are a number of things that can happen to them.

"If they don't find the right part to stow away, they can be crushed when the undercarriage comes up.

"Because of the altitude and temperatures during the flight, there is a severe risk to them through exposure and lack of oxygen.

"If that doesn't kill them, then they could be unconscious when the aircraft descends, and that can mean that when the undercarriage opens again, they will fall out."