Cases of objects, including human stowaways, falling from planes
A stowaway plunged to his death from a British Airways plane onto an office block near Richmond. Another stowaway survived the trip and receiving hospital treatment. The plane was a 747 on an 11 hour flight from Johannesburg. The spot where the man fell was just a few hundred metres from Kew Gardens. Around three quarters of plane stowaways are killed by the cold or the landing gear during flights. Earlier this year a coroner’s court heard how a Turkish man froze to death in July 2013 when he climbed into the undercariage of a BA jet from Istanbul to Heathrow. In September 2012, a stowaway from Mozambique fell to the ground in a suburban street in Mortlake. A Pakistani stow away who fell from a plane, presumably as the undercarriage came down, over Richmond in July 2001. Data from 2012 indicated that since records began in 1947, 96 wheel well stowaways are thought to have attempted to board 85 flights. Of those 73 of those stowaways died and 23 survived. More information about objects falling from planes, below.
See also other incidents of things falling from planes:
Kew ice block fall – 7th February 2018.
Block of ice from a plane smashes onto a road in Kew, captured by a taxi firm camera. No more than 25 feet from a street cleaner and a pedestrian, and perhaps 18 seconds before a car goes past. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-england-london-43006699/block-of-ice-crashes-to-earth-near-kew-gardens
Ice block (presumably off plane approaching Heathrow) damages roof just west of Windsor
There have been a number of incidents, at many airports, of lumps of ice falling off planes overhead, coming in to land. Ice can form naturally on aircraft flying at high altitudes, and this can break away and fall off when the plane comes down through warmer air. There is another recent incident of this, to someone under the approach path into Heathrow, just west of Windsor. On 10th February (some time between 7 am and 8.30am) some ice crashed through the roof of a house in Oakley Green Road near Windsor. The owners of the house were not hurt, though there is substantial damage to the roof. This is another incident where it is fortunate the ice fell onto a roof, and not onto people. Such a large object falling onto someone would kill or seriously injure them. Builders secured the property before the weekend and repairs were set to begin the next week. The CAA says this sort of incident is “‘relatively rare” and the CAA website says: “As the safety regulator for UK civil aviation, the CAA requires UK aircraft operators to minimise the risk of ice falls by performing regular maintenance to prevent leaks and take prompt corrective action if a defect is found. The CAA is unable to investigate the potential origin of an ice fall, but does record reports of this nature.”
Block of ice (from plane?) crashes through edge of roof of family home in Chelmsford
People living under flight paths not infrequently suffer from objects that fall from planes, the most common of which appears to be lumps of ice. Now (on 4th March) there has been yet another incident where a block of ice has landed on a house, narrowly missing people. The house is under a Stansted flight path, in Chelmsford, Essex and is the home of a couple and their two teenage children. The ice block, described as perhaps football size, crashed through the overhang of their roof, missing going through the bedroom ceiling by just a few feet. That part of the bedroom is where the couple sleep. The ice block left a gaping hole in the roof. Members of the family were asleep at the time, and were woken by a noise they thought was a bomb going off. The couple now face a repair bill of thousands of pounds. Had the block been only a few inches closer to the window, the couple fear it would have impacted the window, which would have shattered it – with the bed just feet away. The CAA have been contacted, to ascertain if the ice is indeed from a plane. Ice can form naturally on aircraft flying at high altitudes which falls when the plane descends into warmer air and the ice breaks away. The CAA says it is not liable for damage due to an ice fall. Other incidents of objects, including ice, falling from planes.
Block of ice from a passing plane crashes through roof of home in Twyford
An elderly couple, in Twyford, Berkshire (under a Heathrow flight path) had the unpleasant experience of a block of ice, which appeared to have fallen from a passing plane, crash through their roof. The two foot long block cracked the ceiling. Luckily it hit the roof in a different part of the house from where the couple were. They said they were lucky not to have been injured. There have been many other incidents over the years of blocks of ice falling – associated with frozen water from aircraft lavatories. Had the ice block fallen onto the road, it could have hit a car or a passer-by. Had it fallen onto a busy road like a motorway, it could have caused a serious accident. The elderly couple had to be assisted by their son in sorting out insurance, and getting the roof repaired. As the insurance company was slow, being a Sunday morning, the local fire brigade helped to patch up the damage and confirm the water and electricity supplies to their house were undamaged. Water (from a lavatory?) from the ice block was dripping through the (now sagging) damaged ceiling. The couple have kept a sample of water, so it can be tested, to identify if it is from a lavatory. Other reports of earlier incidents of items falling from planes can be seen here.
2 ft diameter metal jet engine diffuser fell from plane near Chicago onto a water park (nobody hurt)
In July 2014, a 2 ft diameter piece of metal fell from a plane overhead, into the pool of a popular water park. Luckily it was early, before the water park opened. The metal piece came off an ExpressJet Embraer 145 XR taking off from Chicago O’Hare for Arkansas. Unknown to the pilots, the bolts on a piece of exterior equipment called a diffuser or a mixer were not securely fastened. The diffuser bounced off a play structure and plunging into an unoccupied children’s splash pool. Nobody was hurt. The diffuser, a round, wavy steel piece, mixes hot air from the engine exhaust system with air pulled in by the fans. Weighing from 5 to 10 pounds, the part was attached with 8 bolts. However, the bolts were probably not secured properly. Investigations led to more findings of loose mixers and caused ExpressJet to step up inspections, and experts say these incidents are “extremely rare.” The jet had been inspected in June 26, 2014, but the check didn’t include the mixer. Neither engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce nor ExpressJet had any comment. List of some other items that have fallen from aircraft here.
Boeing 757 escape slide fell from plane at around 3,000 feet, approaching Gatwick (Oct 2014)
A Thomas Cook Boeing 757-300 that took off from Gatwick on 31st October 2014 dropped an emergency escape chute [about 25 kg weight?] as it approached Gatwick, for an emergency unscheduled landing. The plane’s escape slide fell off at 3,000 ft as it was approaching the airport, and was later found stuck in a tree (location not specified). A report by the AAIB said several minor issues combined to loosen the slide release mechanism of the slide as the plane was taking off. A crank handle had not been in the right place. During the take off the cockpit instruments showed that the right over-wing escape slide container was not secure. With no sign that the slide had actually come loose, the crew continued with their take-off. The pilot circled around for 40 minutes, with landing gear, flaps and airbrakes deployed to burn off excess fuel and get the plane down to a normal landing weight before returning to Gatwick. As the plane descended to 3,000 ft, some of the cabin crew and passengers heard a number of bangs or felt the airframe shuddering. Two passengers reported seeing a white object falling from the right hand side of the aircraft. It was later discovered that the emergency slide had struck the body of the plane and one window before it fell.
On Sunday a body (perhaps a stowaway in the landing gear) fell from an aircraft into a suburban street in Sheen, reminding people that the area is on an approach flight path. This was not the first case of a body falling from a plane along the arrival path. The body of a Pakistani stowaway, believed to have fallen from a plane, was found in a car park in Richmond, South West London, in 2001. There are other cases of objects falling from aircraft, many being icefalls. In July this year a block of ice landed on Brentwood Cathedral, causing several hundreds of ££s of damage. In June 2010 a block of ice badly damaged the windscreen of a car in Plymouth. These incidents are rare, and so far nobody on the ground has been injured.
Recent cases of icefalls – and now a pair of pliers – from planes onto homes. Nobody injured, so far.
Date added: April 27, 2013
There have been a considerable number of cases of items falling from aircraft, onto houses under flight paths.
1. The most recent is a case of a large pair of pliers that appear to have been left in the undercarriage of an easyJet plane (as reported by the Sun newspaper) which fell onto a house in Canvey Island, on its way to land at Southend. Falling from some 7,000 feet the pliers went straight through the tiled roof and the ceiling. Luckily the occupants were not hurt.
2. In March a block of what appears to be frozen aircraft lavatory waste fell onto a static caravan in the Midlands, causing severe damage to the roof of the caravan’s bathroom and its floor, as well as ruining the rest of the bathroom.
3. In February a block of ice did serious damage to the conservatory of a house in Clanfield, Hampshire, shattering glass. Again, fortunately, nobody was in the room when the block fell, as they would possibly have been badly injured by flying glass.
Click here to view full story…about these three falls.
Latest falling objects report includes a door, a fuselage panel and other aircraft parts
Jul 29 2010 (AEF)
The latest report for AEF from the CAA lists the following as having fallen from aircraft between 1st January and 30th June 2010.
For information about how to report objects that you believe may have fallen from aircraft, see the introduction to our safety section.
- 11 icefalls
- 3 aircraft parts
- 2 fuselage panels
- 1 door
- 1 cable and banner
There was also 1 reported stowaway in the UK or in UK airspace during this period.
Postcodes for the icefalls were as follows:
- Twyford, RG10 0LQ
- Hawarden, CH5 3TQ
- Hounslow, TW4 7AA
- Benfleet, SS7 4NE
- Buntingford, SG9 0LA
- Great Stoke Way, Nr Filton, BS34
- Haringey Park, N8 9JP
- Leicester, LE2
- South Oxhey, WD19 6HA
Couple left with hole in roof after frozen poo fell from passing plane
A retired couple were left with a hole in their roof after a chunk of frozen poo fell from a passing plane. Keith Mead, 70, and his wife Ruth, 67, heard a loud bang. He rushed outside thinking there had been a car accident.
But the couple were astonished when they saw a hole in their roof and found the seven-inch long chunk of ice on the lawn. The lump of frozen urine and faeces had fallen from a jet about 30,000ft overhead after being flushed from a toilet on the plane, they claim.
Mr Mead, from Melksham, Wiltshire, bagged up the ice ball and put it in his freezer to show insurance assessors who visited that day. It was just as if someone had crashed into our house. I looked up and there was a gaping hole where a large lump of ice had impacted the roof.
Around 25 ice falls in the UK are reported to the Civil Aviation Authority each year.
Brentwood Cathedral struck by ‘aeroplane ice block’
Father James MacKay was leading the Eucharistic prayer at Brentwood Cathedral when he heard an “explosion”.
The congregation looked on as a shower of roof slate and ice fell outside the building. The cathedral’s roof and beams were damaged.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said ice strikes from planes were rare.
‘Trembling with shock’
Fr MacKay said: “Halfway through the celebration there was what sounded like a massive explosion to the left side of the cathedral.
“I was trembling with a bit of shock.
“After a couple of seconds of shocked pause I said ‘right, let’s crack on’ and we did so.”
An usher who went to investigate told Fr MacKay the cathedral had been hit from above, possibly by ice from a plane.
Fr MacKay said: “You think this sort of thing is a myth. But when you see the damage in the roof, you realise it is not. It went straight through the slate.”
The CAA gets about 30 reports each year of ice falling from aircraft.
A CAA spokesman said: “Ice falling from planes does not happen that often – it can happen around hose connections and if washers fail.
“You can have a big lump of ice come off an aircraft as it descends into warmer air.
“But increasingly, a lot of these incidents are natural meteorological phenomena.”
The building, near the High Street, is England’s newest cathedral and was built between 1989 and 1991.
The damage caused on 1 July has been repaired and cost hundreds of pounds, the cathedral said.
What happens to ice falling from planes?
In a freak accident a man in Bristol has been hit by a lump of ice falling from a plane. What happens to the ice that forms on aircraft?
It is the stuff of a spoof news report – an injury sustained from ice hurtling to earth after breaking off a plane.
Bristol pensioner David Gammon is badly bruised after a grapefruit-sized ice block fell from the sky and into his lap. He was in his garden, under the flight path of Bristol International airport.
The airport has found no proof the ice came from any of its planes, and its air traffic controllers calculate it could have fallen from another plane flying within a five mile radius.
In such incidents, the ice typically forms from water leaking from the aircraft, says Richard Taylor, of the Civil Aviation Authority. Unlike in The Day Today sketch where a woman is lanced by a falling urine icicle, toilet waste is not always to blame.
“The misconception is that a toilet has been flushed and the remnants, when falling to earth, have frozen,” says Mr Taylor. Hence the name “blue ice”, so called for the chemicals added to plane toilets to mask odour and break down solids.
“But toilets are not emptied until the plane is grounded.”
While a leaking plane is not a particularly reassuring explanation, Mr Taylor says it is water seeping out that’s to blame for these ice incidents. “It leaks from the galley pipes and seeps out of the aircraft, freezing quickly.”
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, modern commercial aircraft cruise at high altitudes, and the sub-zero temperatures outside cause any liquid to freeze immediately.
The resulting ice then breaks off the plane, gaining speed as it falls to the ground far below. Most ice will break up on descent, says Mr Taylor.
“It is very rare, but sometimes the ice fails to thaw. As a rule it falls unnoticed and without harming anyone.”
And for a person to be hit is extremely rare. Out of three million flights in the UK in the past year, there were just 35 reported cases of ice falling. And in the 40 years the CAA has been recording such incidents, there have been just five cases of a person being hit.
“That really puts this circumstance into perspective,” says Mr Taylor.
But there have been numerous reports of cars or buildings being damaged by falling ice.
In 2003 Chris Hastings was awakened by a large crash. He emerged from his house in Manitoba, Canada, to find a basketball-sized chunk of yellowish ice on the roof of his blue estate car.
And two years ago in California, an ice boulder punched a hole through the wall of a recreation centre, and shattered into fragments said to be as large as bowling balls. The local airport said the ice may have fallen from planes flying overhead.
Motorist’s miracle escape as giant block of ice smashes through windscreen seconds after he leaves the car
17 June 2010 (Daily Mail)
A pensioner had a miracle escape after a block of ice smashed through his car windscreen and landed on the driver’s seat.
Kenneth Hendy, 71, had just got out of his Volvo when he heard an enormous crash.
The father-of -seven rushed back to discover a block of ice the size of a rugby ball had landed where he had been sitting just seconds before.
The ice is thought to have fallen from a passing aircraft before landing on the car outside his home in Plymouth, Devon.
Falling Ice Crashes Through Roof, Destroys Colorado Home
11/18/09 (Huffington Post)
A basketball-sized chunk of ice crashed through the roof of a family’s Colorado home after apparently falling from an airplane passing overhead. Danelle Hagan and her 9-year-old daughter were at home in Brush on Saturday when they heard the kitchen ceiling come crashing down. They were not injured.
FAA spokesman Mike Fergus said Wednesday the ice chunk appears to be “Rime ice,” which can build up on the outside of a plane’s fuselage when it flies through cold and wet air.
Fergus says that it doesn’t appear the ice was “blue ice,” which comes from an airplane’s toilet.
After investigators determine whether the ice came from a plane, Fergus said they’ll look at which planes are in the area at the time to see if it’s possible to tell which craft dropped the ice.
Fergus said that in cases of falling blue ice, FAA investigators would inspect any plane that was in the area to make sure it doesn’t have a dangerous pressure leak. He said that ice falls from airplanes are alarming, but extremely rare.
He said the chances of getting hit by ice from a plane is “on the magnitude of a lightning strike.”
Hagan’s family is staying out of the house until it’s repaired because the crash loosened some asbestos. She says people were in the kitchen just before the ice fell, so they’re just glad to be OK.
“That low-flying wee almost landed on me”
9.5.2008 (Metro and others)
A shop assistant was almost crushed by a lump of frozen urine which fell 10,000
m (33,000 feet) from a plane and landed at her feet. Joanne Bojas, 25, was walking
to work when the 20kg (44 lb) lump of frozen toilet waste fell from the sky.
The shocked 25-year-old from Chelmsford, Essex, said: “It was unbelievable; it if had hit me on the head I would have been killed”. (source no longer available)
Sutton Shed Shat On
January 16th 2008 (Londonist)
Now we hear that a shed in Sutton has been obliterated by a block of ice that fell from a passing airplane’s leaky toilet.
Lloyd Gater and his partner were sitting at the kitchen table, when they heard
an almighty crash outside. Rushing to the garden, they found their shed had been
destroyed by an object fallen from the sky. Ice was scattered all around the splintered
remains of the shed, and a path could be seen through the surrounding trees showing
the trajectory of the block (oddly described in the news article as “the size
of a potable TV”). Reports of a man in a fearsome-looking rabbit costume sneaking from the
scene were quickly dismissed as the “wild-eyed stories of a delusional Londonista”.
The Civil Aviation Authority, striving to appear that they know what’s going
on, said it would be impossible to tell from which passing jet the block fell.
They did however confirm that around 35 reports of falling ice are received each year, normally in the form of a “poodlebug”. Essentially the aviation equivalent
of a dingleberry, the poodlebug is a “football-sized lump of frozen effluent that
drops from fuselages when planes descend into warmer air”. So now you know.
Poodlebug is also a wonderful word that Londonist will strive to introduce into
its daily lexicon. Just typing it out brings joy, so imagine the fun that can
be had throwing it casually into everyday conversation
and from The Guardian, May 5 2006
……………..Airlines, understandably, are not allowed to release sewage
into the sky. Most planes use vacuum toilets connected to a central tank, making
a resounding sucking sound when flushed. Plane manufacturer Airbus says one of
the challenges is to ensure these can handle mobile phones, which are often dropped
down the pan. Tanks are pumped out at airports by charmingly named “honey wagons”,
and the contents go to the local sewage works.
Occasional leaks can occur: the Civil Aviation Authority got 31 reports last
year of ice falling from the sky. The CAA says many cases involve frozen condensation
slipping off the aircraft wings as they reach warmer air on their approach to
land. Butsometimes the ice has a giveaway blue tint, coloured by disinfectant
from airline toilet tanks. If the ice is blue, the rule of thumb is not to lean
too close and sniff.
Blue ice (aircraft)
CAA page on Icefall at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_ice_(aircraft)
There have been cases of people falling from planes over London.
This is a somewhat gruesome story, of a Pakistani stow away who fell from a plane,
presumably as the undercarriage came down, over Richmond in July 2001.
The man who fell to earth
Part of the long article:
A month after he died, police have finally managed to piece together the skeletal
details of Mohammed Ayaz’s long journey from a remote village in north west Pakistan
to his final, sorry end in the car park of a DIY superstore in Richmond, west
London. It is a story of breathtaking courage fired by a fierce hope that a decent
life might lie in a distant country where he knew no one. It seems all the more
tragic that this heroic odyssey should have ended in desperate bathos on a sunny
Thursday morning, in the sort of quiet, affluent suburb in which the young man
probably hoped he would one day raise a family.
At takeoff, a number of passengers noticed that the man in black had not emerged
from under the plane. Local Bahrain news reports claimed that by the time it was
lumbering into the air, the captain had been told there might be a stowaway. But
for some reason, perhaps because the sighting was unconfirmed, or because schedules
were tight, or because runway security was not his responsibility, he did not
turn back. This was put to BA and its response was that a captain would never
take off if he believed security had been breached. Tim Goodyear, a spokesman
for the International Air Transport Association in Geneva, describes the apparent
decision to proceed with the flight as “somewhat unusual”. “On the other hand,
one cannot say that any captain should have behaved in a certain way.” Hindsight,
he says, is a terrible thing.
By the time the plane reached British airspace, he was almost certainly long
dead. Shortly after 6am, somewhere between 12 and 20 miles from Heathrow, the
plane locked on to its approach path and began to descend over Barnes in south
west London. Between 2,000 and 3,000ft, the captain opened the undercarriage and
lowered the wheels; the young man was tipped out into the early morning sky.
UPDATE: ‘I heard a monstrous bang’, says woman after body found in East Sheen
10th September 2012 (Richmond Times)
Quiet street: Portman Avenue, East Sheen
Neighbours have described the horrific moment when a man’s body, believed to be a stowaway from a landing aircraft, was found in an East Sheen street.
Annie Williams who lives in the house where the body was found said she heard a loud noise when she was opening her curtains.
She said: “I heard a monstrous bang. I thought someone had been hit by a car. There were two fellows going to church and they said there’s a dead body in the street . Not your usual Sunday in Sheen.”
The 47-year-old said there were remains on her car and doorstep, which were later cleaned by a council worker.
Neighbours said the body was lying in between two cars outside numbers 18 and 20 in Portman Avenue.
Dawn Taylor, 83, said she heard a noise and thought it was something inside her house, until her husband went outside and saw the police.
She said: “We thought it was a bump in the house and thought we would discover something had fallen off a shelf, it wasn’t loud enough to worry us.
“The place was swarming with cops. They wanted us to stay in our houses and we were advised it was a bit unpleasant, so don’t look.”
Her husband, John Taylor said he spoke to neighbours about the incident.
He said: “They said there was human flesh on the ground and there were flies buzzing around it.”
The death is currently being treated as unexplained and a post-mortem examination was due to take place this week.
Richard Taylor from the Civil Aviation Authority said this kind of incident was not unheard of and added there was very little chance of survival for stowaways.
He said: “The temperatures in the undercarriage reaches -40C at high altitudes, so the person has basically frozen to death. There is virtually no chance of someone surviving that.”
In 2001, a man fell from a British Airways Boeing 777 which was heading towards Heathrow and landed in a Homebase car park in Richmond.
On August 24 this year a stowaway was found dead inside a British Airways jumbo jet at Heathrow after a man climbed into the plane at Cape Town.
Mr Taylor said stowaways were sometimes crushed by the mechanisms in the plane.
He said: “It is a very dangerous environment. Very often people get crushed to death by the landing gear when it retracts. It is surprising that people still do it. I guess they don’t realise they have very little chance of surviving.”
The flight path over Portman Avenue where the body was found, around 10 miles from Heathrow, is where the planes prepare to land.
The migrant who fell to earth in 2,000ft horror jet plunge
A man was found dead last month in the landing gear of a BA jet from Cape Town to Heathrow.
The body of a Pakistani stowaway, believed to have fallen from a plane, was found in a car park in Richmond, South West London, in 2001.
A month later another suspected Heathrow stowaway plunged to his death near a New York restaurant after sneaking aboard a US-bound flight.
Incredibly, a 20-year-old Romanian man SURVIVED temperatures of -41°C after hiding inside the landing gear of a Boeing 747 from Vienna to Heathrow in 2010.
It is not the first incident of this kind on the Heathrow flightpath.
In 2001, the body of Mohammed Ayaz, a 21-year-old Pakistani, was found in the car park of a branch of Homebase in nearby Richmond. Four years prior to that, another hidden passenger fell from the undercarriage of a plane on to a gasworks close to the store.
Others turned up at Heathrow itself. On 24 August, just 16 days before the discovery on Portman Ave, the remains of another man were found in the landing gear bay of a Boeing 747 after it touched down from a 6,000-mile flight from Cape Town. The bodies of two boys, thought to be as young as 12, were discovered in the undercarriage of a Ghana Airways flight from Accra in 2002.
Stowaways found dead after falling from planes
26 Dec 2000 (Telegraph)
POLICE were last night trying to reconstruct the final moments of two aircraft stowaways who fell to their deaths from the undercarriages of passenger jets.
The first, a man in his twenties, was found by farm workers on Christmas Eve in the middle of an 80-acre field at Rudgwick, on the West Sussex-Surrey border. The man’s injuries and the location of the field, directly beneath the main flight path into Gatwick and Heathrow airports, suggested that he had fallen to his death as an aircraft lowered its undercarriage in preparation to land.
At 9.30am yesterday, a man fell from the undercarriage of a British Airways Boeing 777 as it took off from Gatwick, bound for Mexico. Any connection between the incidents was ruled out.
Police said the first body might have been in the field at Broadstone Farm for several days. A spokesman said: “The man was of Mediterranean appearance and was thought to have been a stowaway aboard a plane flying into Gatwick.
“The probability is that he had sought refuge in the nose wheel or main landing gear of the plane and, as it flew over Rudgwick on the approach to Gatwick, the victim fell out as the wheels were lowered. The man was certified dead at the scene and had quite possibly been dead when he fell from the plane. We have been unable to identify the man and have no idea yet which plane he fell from.”