Stowaway Themba Cabeka tells of surviving incredible 9000km journey in plane's landing gear

  • 04/01/2021

A man who survived a 9000km journey from South Africa to the UK as a stowaway on a British Airways flight has spoken about how he did it.

Themba Cabeka managed to get into the landing gear of a British Airways Boeing 747-400 taking off in 2015 from Johannesburg. He made it all the way to London's Heathrow Airport - but his best friend Carlito Vale wasn't so lucky and fell to his death.

During the flight, Cabeka is said to have survived temperatures of -60C and a severe lack of oxygen that meant he was unconscious for most of the journey.

His identity has just been revealed as he spoke to Channel 4 for a documentary the UK network has produced on plane stowaways.

"When the plane was flying, I could see the ground, I could see the cars, I could see small people," Cabeka told Channel 4, according to The Mirror

"After a little time, I passed out through lack of oxygen. The last thing I remember just after the plane took off was Carlito saying to me: 'Yeah, we've made it'."

He was discovered unconscious at Heathrow Airport after landing and only came out of a coma months later in hospital.

There a police officer showed him his friend's passport and asked: "Do you know him?"

Cabeka said he responded: "Of course I know him. That’s my friend, Carlito." 

The police officer replied: "He never made it. He fell on top of a building."

The pair carried out the stowaway act to escape their poverty-stricken lives in South Africa.

While shockingly dangerous, desperate people trying to move around the world by sneaking into a plane's wheel arch is not extremely uncommon.

There have been over 100 recorded stowaway attempts globally, but only 24 people have reportedly survived a journey in a plane's landing gear.

Cabeka successfully won asylum in the UK and now lives in Liverpool.

The Channel 4 documentary is entitled The Man Who Fell From The Sky and airs this week.