A pilot in South Africa made a hasty emergency landing after discovering a highly venomous cobra hiding under his seat. Rudolf Erasmus had four passengers on board the light aircraft on Monday’s flight when he felt “something cold” sliding across his lower back.
Mr Erasmus said he glanced down to see the head of a fairly large Cape Cobra “receding back under the seat.”
He told The Associated Press: “It was as if my brain didn’t know what was going on.”
After taking a moment to compose himself, he informed his passengers of the slippery stowaway. He said: “There was a moment of stunned silence.” But everyone managed to keep cool, especially the pilot.
The incident has been likened to that of 2006 blockbuster film, Snakes on a Plane, whereby snakes manage to make their way into the cabin and cockpit of a commercial aircraft.
He called the fire and rescue department which sent emergency responders and a snake handler to meet the plane at the airport.
Mr Emmenis was first at the scene and saw everyone disembark “visibly shaken,” but all safe thanks to Mr Erasmus.
Gold FM’s technical head said: “He stayed calm and landed that aircraft with a deadly venomous Cape Cobra curled up underneath his seat.” But the drama wasn’t over for the poor pilot despite making a safe landing.
Welkom snake handler Johan de Klerk and a team of aviation engineers searched the plane for the best part of two days but still hadn’t found the cobra by Wednesday. They were uncertain whether it had snuck out unnoticed.
The engineering company Mr Erasmus works for wanted its plane back in the city of Mbombela in northern South Africa.
So, he had to fly it back home, a 90-minute voyage with the possibility that the cobra was still onboard. His passengers, however, decided to look for another way to get home.
Cape Cobras are one of Africa’s most dangerous cobra species because of the potency of their venom.
On the return flight, Mr Erasmus took some precautions. He said he wore a thick winter jacket, wrapped a blanket round his seat, and had a fire extinguisher, a can of insect repellent and a golf club within arm’s reach in the cockpit.
Mr Erasmus said: “I would say I was on high alert.” He said the cobra didn’t reappear on that flight and the plane has now been completely stripped, but there has still been no sign of the snake.
The theory is it found its way on board before Mr Erasmus and his passengers took off at the start of their trip from the town of Worcester in the Western Cape province.
This is where Cape Cobras are usually found in South Africa. The snake might have got out in Welkom or might still be hiding somewhere deep in the plane.
Mr Erasmus said: “I hope it finds somewhere to go. Just not my aircraft.”