When a 15-year-old managed to sneak his way into the wheel well of a jetliner and survive a five-hour flight to Hawaii, despite a lack of oxygen and freezing temperatures, he also sparked a national conversation about just how secure our nation’s airline fleet is.
According to the Associated Press, authorities are trying to understand exactly how the young boy, who is from Santa Clara, Calif., and boarded the flight at San Jose International Airport, evaded notoriously tight airport security that includes video surveillance, dogs and police officers on Segways.
A spokeswoman from the San Jose airport told AP that employees do monitor the video surveillance that extends across the huge airport 24-7. However, somehow no one noticed the unauthorized person approaching the Hawaiian Airlines flight late at night until the footage was reviewed after the boy had been discovered.
Although the airport, which is in Silicon Valley, has fences around it, some sections do not have barbed wire and can easily be climbed. The boy also had the advantage of approaching the tarmac at night. It was only when he climbed out of his potentially deadly hideaway and started wandering aimlessly on the ramp in the Maui airport that someone noticed him. He was taken by ambulance to a hospital to be checked out and was found to be unharmed.
Normally, wheel-well stowaways do not survive flights while huddled in the dangerous area. Altitude temperatures in the unpressurized location fall well below freezing as the air becomes too thin for humans to breathe. The boy was rendered unconscious for most of the flight.
Isaac Yeffet, a former head of security for an Israeli airline, told AP, "Shame on us for doing such a terrible job. Perimeters are not well protected. We see it again and again." Yeffet said that the massive breach is an example of the continuing weakness of U.S. airport security, despite the billions of dollars the country has spent on it.
The FBI questioned the young man after he was discovered, but he was later released to child-protective services without being charged.
Read more at the Associated Press.