Meet stowaway who survived 10 hour flight by hiding in landing gear


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LONDON – A stowaway who survived a 10-hour flight from India to London now works at Heathrow airport.

In October 1996, two brothers from India sneaked onto a British Airways plane and attempted to enter the UK as stowaways.

Landing gear boeing 747

Pardeep Saini, then 22, and his brother Vijay, 19, braved temperatures of -60C and as they flew at over 40,000ft with virtually no oxygen while hidden inside the wheel bay of the massive Boeing 747.

The elder brother survived the treacherous flight from New Dehli to Heathrow, but sadly Vijay did not.

Just hours after touchdown, astonished airport staff found Pareep Saini staggering on the runway in a state of total confusion.

He was taken to hospital where he was treated for severe hypothermia.

The brother had sneaked into the wheel bay of the Boeing 747 (file photo)

“My next memory is of being in a detention centre in Britain, where I was told my brother was dead”, Pardeep later said.

Vijay had quickly succumbed to the extreme conditions and died “probably before the first drinks were served”.

His body fell 2,000ft to the ground as the gears of the airliner opened in preparation for landing.

It was eventually recovered five days later at a disused gasworks in Richmond, Surrey.

Pardeep himself had passed out just minutes after take-off as passengers and crew remained completely oblivious in the cabin above.

Mr Saini says he fled India after being accused of having links to a Sikh militant group fighting for the independence of their home-land.

In desperation, the men were introduced to a people smuggler who offered to help them get into Britain.

After paying £150 pounds, they were then incorrectly told they could get into the luggage compartment from the wheel bay.

That lie meant that they has very little to protect them for the extreme cold and wind.

Once in the air, the brothers had little chance to say goodbye to each other due to deafening jet engine while the cold sent their heart-rates plummeting.

“The noise was terrible,” said Pardeep told the Mirror just 10 months after his ordeal.

“As the wheels came up they were glowing hot. They were burning us.    

“The wheel house was shaking. It was like an earthquake. My whole body started feeling numb.”

Mr Saini’s story has hit the headlines again after a stowaway’s body plunged 3,500ft from a Kenya Airways jet as it landed at Heathrow Airport last Tuesday.

Speaking to the Mail on Sunday, he said the recent tragedy triggered memories of his own trauma and the loss of his brother.

“I was in a depression for six years. If the two of us died, then it’s one thing, or if both of us lived, it’s another story,” he said.

“But I lost my younger brother, he was like a friend to me. We grew up playing together.”

He was initially threatened with deportation but after a lengthy legal battle he was allowed to remain in the UK.

Mr Sani has since married and had two sons, aged four and one.

He lives in Wembley, north London and works as a driver for a catering company at Heathrow airport.

Mr Sani is one of only two people known to have survived after hiding in a plane’s undercarriage.

Experts at the time claimed that the lack of oxygen should have caused significant brain damage. Only the very fit could hope to withstand such extremes, they claimed.

But Pardeep’s incredible story of survival came at a serious physical and mental cost.

He later reported having hearing issues, joint pain as well as depression following the trauma of the event.

Pardeep also said he suffered violent nightmares where he called out his dead brother’s name.

Pardeep’s uncle Tarsem Singh Bola, said his nephew felt extreme guilt at being the only one to survive.

He said: “Some people say he is the luckiest man alive.

“Some days he feels lucky, but then he realises the agony that luck has brought.

“It is then that he feels he might as well have died with Vijay.”



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