A Guatemalan man described as a ‘serial stowaway’ was caught in the act once again when he snuck into an American Airlines plane wheel well to catch a flight from Houston to Miami, after hopping over a security fence.
The event happened at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas, and is the latest in a series of trespassing charges against 26-year-old Jehffrey Gutirres. Indeed, it’s the second time he has been caught in the same airport.
Gutirres had been ordered to stay away from Bush Intercontinental and Hobby airports and required to wear an electronic monitor, but he removed the monitor before the incident, local Houston news KHOU 11 reported.
Gutirres’ reckless act put everyone onboard American Airlines Flight 1551 in “imminent danger of serious bodily injury as the aircraft was about to depart,” according to Harris County court documents. The stowaway had hidden inside the wheel compartment containing critical steering and hydraulic components and was found while performing a pre-flight check. Each of the 166 passengers had to be deboarded, resulting in a delay of 44 minutes.
Between 1947 and 2015, the US Federal Aviation Administration documented 113 stowaway attempts on 101 flights. They resulted in 86 deaths, a 76% fatality rate.
The risks involved are immense. At cruising altitudes, the landing gear compartments are unpressurized, and temperatures can plummet as low as −63 °C, leading to a high probability of hypothermia. The decreased oxygen levels at these heights could also cause asphyxiation. Furthermore, the presence of a person in the landing gear interferes with its operation, endangering the entire flight.
However, Gutirres previously managed to pull off a similar stunt thar should almost certainly have proved fatal. In November 2021, he was hospitalized after traveling from Guatemala to Miami in the landing gear of another plane.
This alarming pattern of risking his own life and the lives of others through repeated attempts to stow away in the landing gear of aircraft caused the court to question the 26-year-old’s mental capabilities. Police also noted that Gutirres entered the country illegally and is currently homeless.
Jehffrey Gutirres is now being held on a $1 million bond, as ordered by the court.