TODAY   |  April 22, 2014

Expert surprised stowaway was able to move so freely

Greg Feith, a former investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, joins TODAY to discuss the latest news on the teen stowaway, and how he managed to get on board.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> let's bring in greg feith . he's a former investigator with the ntsb. good morning.

>> good morning.

>> it's one thing to scale a fence. it's another thing to walk across a tarmac and climb in the wheel well of a flight that's being prepared to take off. who's in charge of security at that area of the airport?

>> well, on the tarmac, really, it's self-policed. there is airport officials. there is the operations department of the airport. but the employees have to be aware of who's on the ramp. they're looking for specific i.d. tags and uniforms and that kind of stuff. so to have a 16-year-old kid wandering around, he sticks out. and so the question is how he was able to move so freely for that period of time, because he was out there for quite a long time before that airport took off.

>> yeah, it's remarkable, though. he climbs up into the wheel well. i've seen footage, greg, of those wheels, the landing gear being retracted after takeoff. the tires and wheels are spinning. what's that space like?

>> you have to make yourself real small, matt. that wheel tucks up into that wheel well, there's a lot of hydraulic lines. there's electronic or electrical cables in that area. he would have had to get way up into that wheel well either one direction or another, left and right as well as up and down. because you've got 3,000 psi of pushing that gear up and closing the gear doors on top of it, and they come up pretty quick. and like you said, those wheels are spinning.

>> and so then the conditions once you get to altitude, very little oxygen. ridiculously cold temperatures. do you buy this story that he stayed in that wheel well the whole time and went into kind of a hibernating state?

>> i have a real hard problem with that, matt. only because two months ago, there was a guy that stowed away on a south african airways airplane, and on the way into dulles when the landing gear came down, unfortunately he was deceased and he fell out. it's very rare. and given the fact that normally people that are outside in the snowstorm die of hypothermia and exposure and get frostbite, how he survived at 50 below zero -plus without any kind of effects of hypothermia and frostbite. and the fact that we talked about hypoxia even with mh-370 and how fast the crew would pass out. i find it real difficult.

>> just ten seconds left. what are you thinking happened? he maybe made it into a luggage compartment ? a baggage compartment?

>> that's happened before , where there was somebody in a baggage compartment. it is heated. it is pressurized so. you can breathe. he may have scurried out of there and then got into the wheel well in trying to keep, you know, hidden, if you will, once the airplane landed. because i would have expected him -- he would have had to have been entwined in those hydraulic lines not to fall out of the landing gear unconscious when they landed in maui.

>> a lot more questions than answers. greg, thanks very much.

>> you're welcome.