Archive for Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Shipping clerk flies in crate as air cargo

September 10, 2003

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— A homesick shipping clerk had himself shipped from New York to Dallas in an airline cargo crate, startling his parents -- and a deliveryman -- when he broke out of the box outside their home.

Charles D. McKinley, 25, was arrested and jailed on unrelated bad-check and traffic charges after his overnight odyssey. Federal officials are considering additional charges of stowing away on a plane.

"My husband asked him, 'Man, what are you doing in this crate?' He said he was coming home," McKinley's mother told KDFW-TV in Dallas.

Federal officials want to know how the stowaway bypassed airport security.

McKinley told KXAS-TV in Dallas that he made the trip because he was homesick and a friend thought he could save money by flying as cargo. McKinley said he took no food or water on the 15-hour journey.

Before setting out, McKinley filled out shipping instructions saying the crate held a computer and clothes. Authorities believe he had help from at least one co-worker in New York when he loaded himself in the box.

The box was taken by truck from New York's Kennedy Airport to New Jersey. Then it was loaded onto a pressurized, heated cargo plane operated by Kitty Hawk Cargo. It flew from Newark, N.J., to Niagara Falls, N.Y., then to the carrier's hub in Fort Wayne, Ind., and on to Dallas, the FBI said.

On Saturday, Billy Ray Thomas, a driver for Pilot Air Freight, picked up the crate at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport and delivered it to McKinley's parents' home in suburban De Soto.

Then McKinley broke the box open and crawled out, said police Lt. Brian Windham. The delivery driver called police.

Charles McKinley waits between interviews with the media at the
Suzanne Kays Jail in Dallas. McKinley had himself shipped from New
York to Dallas in an airline cargo crate to his parents' home.
McKinley, 25, a shipping clerk from New York, was arrested on
unrelated bad-check and traffic warrants.

Charles McKinley waits between interviews with the media at the Suzanne Kays Jail in Dallas. McKinley had himself shipped from New York to Dallas in an airline cargo crate to his parents' home. McKinley, 25, a shipping clerk from New York, was arrested on unrelated bad-check and traffic warrants.

De Soto police said the crate measured 42 by 36 by 15 inches. McKinley stands 5-foot-8 and weighs 170 pounds, authorities said.

His box was carried in the pressurized, heated cabins, but could just as easily have been placed in the lower, unpressurized holds, said Richard G. Phillips, chief executive of Pilot Air Freight.

"He could easily have died," Phillips said.

The freight cost -- billed to McKinley's employer -- was $550. At that rate, "he could have flown first-class," Phillips said.

"We're not aware this has happened previously, so obviously it's something we are investigating aggressively," federal Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman Suzanne Luber said.

Air cargo receives less federal security attention than passenger planes, in part because of its sheer volume, and critics have suggested that terrorists could use cargo flights as weapons.

Other than the federal statute, Dist. Atty. Bill Hill said he could not cite any law that McKinley broke.

"He violated the law of stupidity if nothing else," Hill said.

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