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Phuket: The Big List: Weird Aircraft Cargoes

THE BIG LIST: In these days of tough aircraft security, frequent fliers are often bombarded with reminders of the sorts of things they cannot take on to a plane. But sometimes that message just doesn’t get through. Here are some of the stranger aircraft cargoes on record:


Tom Metcalfe

Tuesday 22 January 2013, 10:40AM


An elderly white man who boarded a plane in Hong Kong disembarked in Canada a few hours later as a young Asian male.
An elderly white man who boarded a plane in Hong Kong disembarked in Canada a few hours later as a young Asian male.

Corpse on a plane: A woman and her daughter were arrested at Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport when they tried to sneak a corpse onto a flight to Germany. Police said they sat the body of the woman’s dead 91-year-old husband in a wheelchair, and placed sunglasses to cover his eyes. Airport officials stopped the pair as they pushed the corpse through the departure area. When they were caught, the women expressed disbelief that the man was dead, and claimed that he was only sleeping. But a doctor said the man had been dead for at least 24 hours, and the two women were charged with failing to report his death.

Croc on a plane: An animal smuggler in the Democratic Republic of Congo who hid a crocodile in his luggage didn’t count on the beast getting out of the bag. The animal struggled free as the aircraft was about to land, and caused panic in the cabin. As the passengers and flight crew fled to the front of the plane, the sudden redistribution of weight caused the pilot to lose control and the plane crashed. Twenty of the 21 people on board died, and the lone survivor related the bizarre tale to the crash investigators. The crocodile survived the crash, but was later dispatched with a machete.

Fake on a plane: An elderly white man who boarded a plane in Hong Kong disembarked in Canada a few hours later as a young Asian male. The man had disguised himself with a silicone mask to make himself look old, donned spectacles, a brown cardigan and flat cap, and used a borrowed boarding pass to get on the plane. Although he moved with exaggerated effort in an attempt to appear elderly, the cabin crew became suspicious when they saw his “youthful” hands and were watching when he emerged from the aircraft toilets without his disguise. The man was was arrested when the plane landed, and filed a claim for refugee status after admitting his ruse to authorities.

Cocaine cast on a plane: Spanish police arrested a man arriving at Barcelona airport from Chile after finding that the cast on his broken leg was made almost entirely from cocaine. Officials became suspicious of the leg cast when other drugs were found in the man’s luggage, and it turned out to be made from cocaine mixed with plaster. But they also found that the 66-year-old man had genuinely broken his leg in two places – possibly on purpose, to allay suspicions in case his leg was X-rayed by airport security. 

Skeleton on a plane: A Christian monk and two accomplices were arrested trying to board a plane in Athens in Greece with the skull and bones of a nun in a suitcase. When the remains were discovered, the monk explained that the nun, named Eleni Vathiadou, was a saint, and that he had planned to take the bones as holy relics to a monastery in Cyprus. Vathiadou’s bones were stolen after a memorial service in Greece to mark four years since her death. But the Cypriot Orthodox church denied Vathiadou was a saint. “It appears to be the work of charlatans with a financial interest,” said a spokesman.

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