South African pilot was forced to make an emergency landing after discovering a highly venomous snake underneath his seat.
A pilot with four passengers on a Beechcraft Baron was forced to make an emergency landing on Monday in South Africa after he discovered a highly venomous snake in the cabin.
People at the airfield where the plane departed from had seen a snake lying underneath the aircraft’s wing. They tried to catch it, but it escaped into the engine cowlings. The people opened the cowlings, and when they did not find the snake, they assumed it had slithered away.
A regular flight takes a bad turn
Rudolf Erasmus, a South African commercial pilot, and four passengers were on a regular flight from Worcester in the Western Cape to Nelspruit. The crew made a stop in Bloemfontein and was headed toward Wonderboom. On the trip’s second leg, what was supposed to be a routine flight took a wrong turn.
During the flight, Erasmus felt something cold slither on his body, and when he turned to check, he saw a snake putting its head underneath his seat. The snake was a Cape Cobra, a moderate-sized, highly venomous snake commonly found in Southern Africa.
Photo: Naj Ativk/Shutterstock
Upon discovering the snake in the cabin, Erasmus consciously decided to continue flying as if everything was normal. He did not alert the passengers immediately, as any disarray at over 9,000ft would have been fatal. Erasmus told TimesLives;
“As I turned to my left and looked down, I saw the cobra putting its head back underneath my seat. I had a moment of stunned silence, not sure if I should tell the passengers because I didn’t want to cause a panic. But obviously they needed to know at some point what was going on. I just said, listen, there’s a problem. The snake is inside the aircraft. I’ve got a feeling it’s under my seat, so we are going to have to get the plane on the ground as soon as possible.”
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Declaring an emergency
Rudolf Erasmus said that he usually travels with a water bottle he lodges between his leg and hip, and he thought the bottle might have been leaking when he felt the cold sensation. With a highly venomous snake onboard, the crew had to make an emergency landing immediately.
Fortunately, they were not far from Welkom, a city in Free State, so Erasmus could land there. However, Welkom’s airport no longer has a control tower, and the weather was unfavorable for a smooth landing. They declared an emergency with Johannesburg, and the pilot communicated with aviation expert Brian Emmenis who assisted him with the landing. Erasmus said;
“I told them I had an unwelcome passenger. As soon as the aircraft came to a stop, we started getting out. The three passengers in the back came out first and then the one sitting in front with me.”
Upon landing, passengers disembarked from the aircraft calmly, trying not to startle the Cape Cobra. Erasmus left the plane last in what was called an act of heroism. As he rolled his seat forward, he saw the snake curled underneath the seat.
Searching for the snake
After assisting the Beechcraft crew, Emmenis called for assistance to catch the notorious cobra. Snake catcher Johan de Klerk arrived to help find the snake, which hid in the cabin. It got dark, so the search had to be postponed until the next day.
Photo: Richard Thornton/Shutterstock
By Tuesday, the snake still hadn’t been found, so aircraft engineers from Bloemfontein were called in to strip the plane. By midday, the snake still hadn’t been found, and the passengers opted to drive back by road. Erasmus’ courage and conduct helped save his life and his four passengers.
Various pilots around South Africa are calling for Erasmus to be declared a hero for how he handled the situation. He could have panicked and further endangered everyone’s life, but he did not; hence South African Civil Aviation Commissioner Poppy Khosa hailed the pilot as a hero.
What do you think of this incident and how the pilot handled it? Let us know in the comments.