A pilot had a near-death experience when he discovered a 4-ft cobra snake in the cockpit of his aircraft while flying 11,000 feet above South Africa.
The pilot, Rudolph Erasmus, was initially unaware of the snake’s presence until he felt a “cold sensation” on his back.
When he looked down, he saw the cobra slithering about the cockpit, forcing him to make an emergency landing.
Erasmus was flying a Beechcraft Baron 58 from Bloemfontein to Pretoria with four passengers on board.
The pilot recalled the moment he saw the snake, saying, “I felt this cool sensation, sort of, crawling up my shirt. As I turned to the left and looked down, I saw the cobra… receding its head backwards underneath the seat.”
He was aware that the Cape cobra on his flight had venom that could kill a person within 30 minutes, so he didn’t want to panic his passengers by telling them about the animal.
However, he eventually informed them, “Listen, the snake is inside the aircraft, it’s underneath my seat, so let’s try and get down to the ground as soon as we can.”
Despite the potential danger, the passengers remained remarkably calm, and Erasmus praised their bravery, saying, “You could hear a needle drop, and I think everyone froze for a moment or two.”
The pilot made an emergency landing in Welkom, just shy of 100 miles from where the flight began.
The South African civil aviation commissioner, Poppy Khosa, commended Erasmus for his “great airmanship” and quick-thinking, which saved the lives of everyone on board.
Erasmus, however, remained humble, saying, “I think that’s a bit blown up if I can be direct. It’s also my passengers that remained calm as well.”
It’s worth noting that encounters with snakes on airplanes are rare, but not unheard of.
According to the BBC, in 2012, a snake was found on a Qantas flight from Australia to Papua New Guinea, and in 2016, an Emirates flight was delayed after a snake was found in the cargo hold.
While the incident is certainly alarming, it highlights the importance of remaining calm and level-headed in emergency situations.
In this case, the passengers’ and pilot’s composure allowed them to land safely and avoid any harm.
As Rudolph Erasmus himself said, “It’s always better to be safe than sorry.”