SAN JOSE, Calif. —
An FAA review of high-altitude wheel well survivors said they typically clamber past the main landing gear into a wing recess area next to where the gear retracts. On some aircraft, that space is large enough for two small adults.
The FAA found that all wheel-well stowaways will lose consciousness at high altitude from lack of oxygen, and that their freezing bodies go into a state somewhat similar to hibernation. At 38,000 feet — the cruising altitude of the Hawaiian Airlines flight — the outside air temperature is about minus 85 degrees. That would usually be deadly, but some people survive because their breathing, heart rate and brain activity slow down.