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A homesick New York shipping clerk climbs into a crate and ships himself home to Dallas.

By Associated Press
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 10, 2003

DALLAS - Charles McKinley 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.

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

McKinley, 25, a shipping clerk from New York, was arrested and jailed on unrelated bad-check and traffic charges after his overnight odyssey. Federal officials are considering charges of stowing away on a plane and want to know how he bypassed airport security.

McKinley told KXAS-TV in Dallas 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, just a cell phone, which did not work.

"I'm sitting there thinking, "Oh God, I don't know why I'm doing this,' " he said. "I'm sitting there thinking like any minute somebody will notice that there's somebody sitting inside this crate. . . . No one did."

McKinley had filled out shipping instructions saying the crate held a computer and clothes. Authorities believe he had help from a co-worker at the warehouse where he works 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.

McKinley said he got out of the crate during flights once or twice and walked around.

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 DeSoto.

When Thomas went to unload the 350-pound crate from his truck, he saw a pair of eyes and thought there was a body inside. McKinley broke the box open and crawled out, said police Lt. Brian Windham. McKinley's mother was stunned. The delivery driver called police.

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

The freight cost, billed to McKinley's employer, was $550. At that rate, "he could have flown first-class," said Richard Phillips, chief executive of Pilot Air Freight.

The box was carried in the pressurized, heated cabins, but could just as easily have been placed in the lower, unpressurized holds.

"He could easily have died," Phillips said.

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