South African Pilot Forced To Do Insane Emergency Landing After Discovering Killer Cobra In Cockpit

"I have had it with these mother-f****ing snakes on this mother-f***ing plane!"

South African Pilot Forced To Do Insane Emergency Landing After Discovering Killer Cobra In Cockpit

Image: Getty

Passport? Check. Boarding Pass? Check. Obnoxiously large neck pillow? Check. Highly venomous killer reptile? Regrettably, he’s here too. This is the story of how one legend managed to land a plane with nothing but a cobra for a co-pilot.

How do you feel about snakes? Chris Hemsworth rates them, but most of us are – quite sensibly – much less keen. How do you feel about flying? Probably pretty good, even if aircraft can be prone to malfunctions and uncharacteristic behaviour from time to time…

And how would you feel if those two things came together? Well, one unlucky pilot and his small clutch of passengers had the precise misfortune of finding out last week.

South African pilot Rudolph Erasmus had a turbulent flying experience when he found an unexpected stowaway on his plane at 11,000ft: a deadly cobra slithering under his seat.

The pilot told the BBC it sparked a moment of “awe” after he initially mistook the cool sensation on his back for water dripping from his bottle… He then looked down and saw the cobra, which had already made itself comfortable underneath his seat.

Somehow, Erasmus then made an emergency landing on his flight from Bloemfontein to Pretoria. The private plane, a Beechcraft Baron 58, was carrying four passengers as well as the unwelcome snake.

The heroic pilot, Rudolph. Image: BBC

A bite from a Cape cobra is lethal and can kill an adult human in just 30 minutes, putting a great deal of pressure on Erasmus to act calmly, quickly, and precisely.

Not wanting to cause panic, he carefully informed the passengers about the cobra’s presence on board.. as it was crawling up his back. The passengers froze for a moment or two, but Erasmus reassured them that they would get down to the ground as soon as possible. The plane made an emergency landing in the city of Welkom.

Erasmus’s quick thinking and level-headedness have been hailed as heroic by South African civil aviation commissioner Poppy Khosa, who spoke of his “great airmanship indeed, which saved all lives on board”.

But wait – there’s a little more to this story: the snake’s presence didn’t come as a total surprise to two members of staff working at the Worcester flying club where the plane first took off – they had spotted the reptile taking refuge under the plane’s fuselage before take off. Thanks for the heads up, lads…

The offending snake was believed to be a killer Cobra. Image: TravelWeek

Reportedly, they had tried to “grab” the animal without success. Erasmus had been alerted to this but said he had “safely assumed that it must have crawled out overnight or earlier that morning.”

Apparently undeterred by the emergency landing, the slithering passenger is still missing, with engineers who stripped the plane unable to find it. Erasmus remains modest about his role in the incident, thanking his passengers “who remained calm as well”.

A slippery situation well handled, Erasmus. But rest assured that next time I’m taking off Bloemfontein, I’ll be doing a pretty thorough fuselage inspection myself…