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How South African Stowaway who flew from Joburg to London survived flying outside the plane

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Themba Cabeka lived to tell the tale of how he and his friend were stowaways on a flight to London. He's the subject of a new documentary, The Man Who Fell From the Sky. (Photo: POSTCARD PRODUCTIONS)
Themba Cabeka lived to tell the tale of how he and his friend were stowaways on a flight to London. He's the subject of a new documentary, The Man Who Fell From the Sky. (Photo: POSTCARD PRODUCTIONS)

It was a plan so outrageous it beggars belief. Two young men desperate to escape their lives of hunger and hardship pore over aircraft engineering books and hatch a scheme to stow away on a Boeing 747.

They sneak into OR Tambo International Airport, manage to evade security and then wait until after dark before jumping over perimeter fences and dashing out onto the apron where a British Airways plane is waiting to take off for London.

They creep into the landing gear of the aircraft, strap themselves in and manage to survive the 11-hour, 9 000 km flight, enduring temperatures of up to -60 C Celsius and speeds of more than 850 km/h. As the plane approaches Heathrow, disaster strikes. One of the men, Carlito Vale, falls to his death, landing in an office block in Richmond some 10km from the airport.

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