10/09/2012 14:51 BST

Heathrow Stowaway? The Risky Business Of Scaling Security Fences To Smuggle Into Foreign Countries

Two weeks ago, a man scaled a perimeter fence at Cape Town airport. He was detected, but soon lost, by security guards.

The next day his lifeless body was found in a British Airways 747 after it arrived at London's Heathrow.

On Monday, reports emerged that a body found in the middle of the road in West London could have been a stowaway who fell from a plane.

The man, believed to be in his 30s, suffered multiple injuries. Residents reported that his limbs flew 20 feet on impact and there was "blood everywhere".


The body in Heathrow discovered inside the landing gear bay of a 747

But how common is it for people to smuggle themselves into the UK on a plane? And how do you do it?

The Home Office doesn't keep any figures, but according to Chris Yates, aviation analyst at Yates Consulting, it happens about once a year - and those who try it, die.

Yates told The Huffington Post UK people usually smuggle themselves into the undercarriage of a jet aircraft.

"It's usually from places in Africa, and the Far East. These people get on board airplanes, usually at airports where perimeter security isn't as tight as it should be," he says.

"In the instance here, it's my understanding that the police haven't revealed too much information. But it's likely that he would have entered an airport through an insecure perimeter, climbed into the undercarriage of a jet aircraft, thinking he'd make the great escape.

"But when you get up to an altitude, you're starved of oxygen, you die. Then when the undercarriage is opened on descent you fall out."

cape town international airport

Two weeks ago a man attempted to stowaway in a flight from Cape Town, South Africa

So just how secure are our airports?

Yates says there have been similar instances where fences have been scaled even at John F Kennedy airport in New York. "A guy scaled the fence and walked up to a terminal building before he was arrested," he said.

But there are rules. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) require airports to have secure perimeter fences (or in Yates' words "a bloody great fence to prevent people getting up close and personal with planes"). So how do people get into airports? "The practice is often very different from the theory," he says.