“Stowaway Revisited” Armando Socarras and Interview

This is an incredible true story that should have been told more often than it has and not only because of its amazement but also for what it represents. I am also surprised and kind of bewildered at myself for not republishing this account of a young 17 year old, Armando Socarras Ramirez who with his friend, Jorge Perez Blanco, was 16, climbed into the wheel wells of an Iberia Airlines plane. This account took place on June 3, 1969 and after intensely searching on this event throughout the internet I could only find this literally shivering account.

The jet engines of the Iberia Airlines DC-8 thundered in earsplitting crescendo as the big plane taxied toward where we huddled in the tall grass just off the end of the runway at Havana’s Jose Marti Airport. For months my friend Jorge Perez Blanco and I had been planning to stowaway in a wheel well on this flight, No. 904-lberia’s once-weekly, nonstop run from Havana to Madrid! Now, in the late afternoon of last June 3, 1970, our moment had come.

We realized that we were pretty young to be taking such a big gamble; I was seventeen, Jorge sixteen. But we were both determined to escape from Cuba, and our plans had been carefully made. We knew that departing airliners taxied to the end of the 11,500-foot runway, stopped momentarily after turning around, then roared at full throttle down the runway to take off. We wore rubber-soled shoes to aid us in crawling up the wheels and carried ropes to secure ourselves inside the wheel well. We had also stuffed cotton in our ears as protection against the shriek of the four jet engines. Now we lay sweating with fear as the massive craft swung into its about face, the jet blast flattening the grass all around us. “Let’s run!” I shouted to Jorge.

We dashed onto the runway and sprinted toward the left-hand wheels of the momentarily stationary plane. As Jorge began to scramble up the forty-two-inch-high tires, I saw there was not room for us both in the single well. “I’ll try the other side!” I shouted. Quickly I climbed onto the right wheels, grabbed a strut and, twisting and wriggling, pulled myself into the semidark well. The plane began rolling immediately, and I grabbed some machinery to keep from falling out. The roar of the engines nearly deafened me.

As we became airborne, the huge double wheels, scorching hot from takeoff, began folding into the compartment. I tried to flatten myself against the overhead as they came closer and closer; then, in desperation, I pushed at them with my feet. But they pressed powerfully upward, squeezing me, terrifyingly against the roof of the well.

Just when I felt that I would be crushed, the wheels locked in place and the bay doors beneath them closed, plunging me into darkness. So there I was, my five-foot-four- inch, 14 0-pound frame literally wedged in amid a spaghetti-like maze of conduits and machinery. I could not move enough to tie myself to anything, so I stuck my rope behind a pipe………Read More

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