Western Global Airlines (WGA) has issued an update after a stowaway was found on a Boeing MD-11 freighter in Harare in Zimbabwe on Sunday.
The freighter was carrying a shipment of South African cash for the South African Reserve Bank. The freighter was flying from Munich in Germany. The MD-11 aircraft was leased by WGA to Network Airline Management.
WGA chief executive officer, Jim Neff says: “We are saddened that a person has lost his life by stowing aboard one of our cargo aircraft. As compared to other forms of transportation, stowaways on airplanes are rare, but almost always result in fatality. In most cases airport security prevents this from happening but it should never be attempted for any reason.
“We have been working closely with the Zimbabwean authorities as they fully investigate this situation. We appreciate their professionalism and the care they have shown our crew, our cargo and our aircraft.
“Along with our customer, Network Airline Management, we express our condolences and support the efforts of the Zimbabwean government. We also appreciate the dedication of our crew, the patience of the South African government while awaiting its shipment and the engagement of the US Embassy in Zimbabwe.
“We are in continuous contact with our crew; when cleared to do so, they will complete the last leg of this charter.”
The MD-11 had stopped to refuel at Harare’s domestic airport when the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) discovered the body in the lower compartment and impounded the aircraft.
WGA says during the refueling process, ground crew attending the aircraft noticed unusual streaking on the nose gear and upon further investigation, a deceased male was discovered in a compartment adjacent to the wheel well. At present, the identity or nationality of the deceased is not known.
The carrier says it is not clear when or how the deceased accessed the aircraft and it is working with authorities to back trace the aircraft route of travel and there has been no indication that his presence is related to the company or this specific cargo shipment.
The company also explains its normal service, safety and security inspections – which meet or exceed all security, maintenance and operational standards – were performed by its maintenance personnel prior to the flight and that cockpit crews conducted exterior walk-arounds prior to departure.
WGA says the area where the body was found is visible to these inspections and there is no indication the stowaway’s presence affected the operation of the aircraft.