US teen stowaway’s flight to Hawaii shows lacunae in airport security

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The case of a stowaway American teenager, who survived five hours of intolerable temperatures as low as -60 degrees Celsius, hidden in the wheel well of a flight from San Jose to Hawaii, has brought the spotlight on the airport security system.

The 16-year old was identified by the FBI as a boy from Santa Clar in San Jose whose main motive was to run away from home.

FBI spokesman Tom Simon said that the boy was lucky enough to miraculously survive the flight to Maui in Hawaii, but he was not targeting Maui as a destination.”

The FBI informed that the teen scaled the security fence at San Jose airport in northern California, then hopped into into the wheel well of the jet going to Hawaii. The boy was noticed loitering at the tarmac at Maui’s Kahului airport only after he survived the flight and remained unconscious there for one hour.

It was not immediately clear how the boy stayed alive in the unpressurized space, where temperatures at cruising altitude can fall well below zero and the air is too thin for humans to stay conscious. An FAA study of stowaways found that some survive by going into a hibernation-like state.

The case of stowaway teen has brought under he scanner the multi-layered security, including wide-ranging video surveillance, German shepherds and Segway-riding police officers, that the boy was able to bypass without getting cauht.

San Jose International Airport spokeswoman Rosemary Barnes says airport employees monitor security video feeds from throughout the 1,050-acre airport around the clock. However, she said no one noticed images of an unidentified person walking on the airport ramp and approaching Hawaiian Airlines Flight 45 in the dark until security agents reviewed the footage after the plane had landed in Hawaii and the boy had been found.

The airport, in the heart of Silicon Valley, is surrounded by fences, although some sections do not have barbed wire and could easily be scaled.

Hours later, surveillance video at Kahului Airport showed the boy getting out of the wheel well after landing, according to a statement from Hawaii’s Department of Transportation. The video was not released because of the ongoing investigation.