WASHINGTON DC —
An aviation expert says the impounding of an American registered cargo plane by Harare is puzzling as it is unusual for stowaways to travel from Europe to Africa.
Guy Leith of Fly South Africa Magazine told VOA Studio 7 the aircraft saga has been deepened by the behavior of Zimbabwean security agents, who do not want to release information about their investigations.
“There is obviously more to this story than meets the eye. It’s just a huge coincidence that there should be, let’s say, a possible stowaway on a flight that was carrying nothing but money and the stowaway would have been going the wrong direction, normally a stowaway goes from Africa to the more development countries and not the other way round.
“So, there is a lot that does not make sense in this story. The other question is why the plane wanted to land in the first place. And the only reason that we can think of at this stage without having spoken to the flight crew is that they had a pressurization problem perhaps because of this person in the area that is equipped with the navigation in the front of the aircraft which caused a pressurization problem and they had to fly lower which uses much more fuel and therefore they were running out of fuel.”
Leitch further said it is unlikely that Mozambique denied the plane entry into the country as it is tied to international regulations pinning all nations to help distressed aircraft crews.
The Western Global Airlines aircraft in question is leased to Network Airline Management, a logistics provider, which was engaged to deliver a diplomatic shipment of South African currency from Munich, Germany, to Durban on behalf of the South African Reserve Bank.
The company says the body found in the plane was that of a stowaway, which has undergone a post-mortem in Harare.
Since 1996, there have been 105 stowaways on 94 flights worldwide, according to the Federal Aviation Administration in an e-mail to USA TODAY Network.
More than 76% of those attempts resulted in deaths, the FAA says. The FAA's numbers reflect stowaways in the wheel wells, nose wells and other unpressurized areas.
The statistics don't include people who sneak into the cargo compartment or passenger area.