Snake on a plane! South African pilot finds cobra under seat

A pilot in South Africa has made an emergency landing after discovering a venomous cobra hiding under his seat.

Rudolf Erasmus was carrying four passengers on board the light plane when he felt “something cold” slide across his back on Monday’s flight. He glanced down and saw the head of a rather large cobra “receded under the seat,” he said.

“It was like my brain didn’t know what was going on,” he told The Associated Press.

After taking a moment to calm down, he told the passengers about the stowaway’s slipperiness.

“There was a moment of shocking silence,” he said. Everyone stay calm, especially the pilot.

Erasmus asked air traffic control to allow an emergency landing in the town of Welkom in central South Africa. He had to fly another 10 to 15 minutes before landing with the snake curled up at his feet.

“I kept looking down to see where it was. It was happy under the seat,” Erasmus said. “I’m not too scared of snakes, but I usually don’t go near them.”

Brian Emmenis, an aviation expert who works for Welkom radio station Gold FM, received a call asking for help. He called Fire and Rescue, which dispatched emergency responders and a snake handler to meet the plane at the airport. Emmenis was the first to arrive at the scene and saw everyone disembarking, and was “obviously spooked,” Emmenis said, but thanks to Erasmus, everything was safe.

“He remained calm and crouched a deadly venomous cobra under his seat as the plane landed,” Emmenis said.

Due to the potency of its venom, the Cape cobra is one of the most dangerous cobra species in Africa.

The drama isn’t over for the poor pilot.

Welkom snake handler Johan de Klerk and a team of aeronautical engineers searched the plane for the better part of two days but had still not found the cobra by Wednesday and were not sure if it had slipped away .

The engineering firm where Erasmus works hopes to return its aircraft to the city of Mbombela in northern South Africa. So, he had to fly it home, a 90-minute flight, and the cobra was probably still on board.

Not surprisingly, his passenger decided to find another way home.

This time, Erasmus took some precautions: He said he wore a thick winter jacket, wrapped a blanket over his seat, and kept a fire extinguisher, a can of deodorant in the cockpit, and a fire extinguisher. Bug spray and a golf club within reach.

“I would say I’m on high alert,” Erasmus said.

Erasmus said the cobra was no longer on that flight and the plane is now completely destroyed, but there is still no sign of the snake.

In theory, it had found its way onto the ship before Erasmus and his passengers took off from the Western Cape town of Worcester, where horned cobras are usually found in South Africa. It may have come out of Welkom, or it may still be hidden somewhere deep within the plane.

“I hope it finds a place,” Erasmus said. “Just not my plane.”

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Gerald Imre, Associated Press

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