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Boy beats Reaper at 20,000 feet

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Perhaps you heard this story bouncing around the internet a couple days ago: a kid in Russia survived a two-hour flight from Perm to Moscow by hanging on to the wing of a Boeing 737.

If your bullshit meter didn't go off, we're here to correct that. Take our hand.

nightmare at 20,000 feet

Surely someone would have noticed.

The boy, of course, didn't catch a ride on the wing as several stories about the incident suggested. That's impossible unless you happen to be a T-1000 Terminator. Lacking in liquid metal mimetic polyalloy and you're pretty much boned.

The error came from a mistranslation of the Russian newspaper Tvoi Den, which first carried the story. What 15-year-old Andrei Scherbakov did do was ride in the wing of a plane.

Or to be accurate, the wheel well of a plane.

Hey, sometimes a story is too fantastic to fact-check. But surviving was still impressive. Darwin is demanding a do-over.

According to reports, after running away from home last week, the boy hitchhiked to the airport at Perm and snuck into the wheel well of a 737 passenger plane. Shcherbakov managed to survive temperatures of minus 50 degrees Celsius (-58 Fahrenheit for the colonies) on a two-hour flight from Perm to Moscow cruising at about 900 km/h (560 mph).

The boy reportedly went on the lam to his grandmother's village after a family argument. When he arrived at the village, he decided to go on.

When the plane landed, the boy collapsed on the tarmac. His arms and legs were reportedly so frozen that rescuers couldn't remove his coat and shoes. He was taken to the hospital in a half-conscious state. When he arrived, the boy complained his hands were burning.

Riding a jet 101

Riding a Jet 101

According to Russia Today, Shcherbakov was taken back to Perm when his family could not afford the expensive treatment.

“Right now his condition is satisfactory. He doesn't have a fever and says he feels fine. He's also pretty active. He'll be in hospital for two or thee weeks, because the extent of the frostbite is still being determined, but we're all optimistic,” said Dr Natalya Pavlenko at the children's hospital in Perm where he is being treated.

Perm airport is still trying to find out how he sneaked on without anyone noticing. A spokesman for the airport said the weight and balance engineers checked the compartments for technical failures, but did not check inside them. He added that this will now be obligatory.

Few wheel well stowaways survive their flight. If they don't perish from the frigid temperatures, there's the asphyxiation as oxygen is depleted at high altitudes in the unpressurized compartment. Survive that, and the landing gear lowering at 1,500 feet often does the trick. ®

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