Dead stowaway found in SAA wheel well

South African Airways crew made the grisly discovery at the Dulles Airport in Virginia.

A South African aircraft takes off at OR Tambo International airport in Johannesburg. Picture: AFP.

USA - A man's body has been discovered in the wheel well of a South African Airways (SAA) jetliner parked at Dulles International Airport outside of Washington.

Officials say investigators are still seeking to determine when and how the man died.

A ground crew assigned to the Airbus A340 found the body at about 1.30 pm local time (8.30 pm SA time), according to a statement from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

The plane arrived at Dulles in Virginia on Thursday morning from Johannesburg after a stop in Dakar, Senegal, authority spokesman Christopher Paolino said in an email.

The plane was parked in a remote parking area at the airport.

Airport police, fire and rescue crews responded to the scene, along with the FBI and US Customs and Border Protection officers.

The body was turned over to the Fairfax County Medical Examiner's Office, according to the airport authority.

The grisly discovery did not alter operations of the terminals or runways at Dulles, a major international flight gateway in northern Virginia.

The wheel well, the portion of the plane where the body was discovered, is a recessed compartment that wheels are retracted into during flight.