Although it wasn’t precisely like the movie “Snakes on a Plane,” a single lethal cobra necessitated an emergency landing in South Africa on Monday by causing the pilot to lose composure.
“I felt this cool sensation, sort of, crawling up my shirt,” pilot Rudolph Erasmus told the BBC. “As I turned to the left and looked down I saw the cobra… receding its head backwards underneath the seat.”
Erasmus initially experienced a chill running down his back, but he didn’t grasp the situation right away. When he noticed the snake, he alerted his four passengers about the presence of the crawling reptile on board and readied for an emergency landing in the northeastern city of Welkom, which was about 95 miles away from their starting point.
“You could hear a needle drop and I think everyone froze for a moment or two,” Erasmus said.
While flying at an altitude of 11,000 feet, Erasmus noticed the cobra onboard the Beechcraft Baron 58. Although the snake’s venomous bite could have been fatal, Erasmus was able to land the aircraft safely. However, the cobra is still at large.
According to the African Snake Bite Institute, South Africa is inhabited by seven species and one subspecies of cobras, and it is unknown which one caused the plane to make an emergency landing.
The civil aviation commissioner of South Africa applauded Erasmus for rescuing “all lives on board,” although the pilot believed it to be an overstatement.
“It’s also my passengers that remained calm as well,” he said.
Two workers at the airfield, where the flight departed, asserted that they had spotted a snake near the aircraft the previous night, but were unable to capture it. Erasmus confirmed that he had inspected the plane before takeoff and found no trace of the snake. They all concurred that the snake must have “slithered out” either overnight or earlier in the morning.