A highly venomous cobra forced a South African pilot, Rudolph Erasmus, to make an emergency landing while at 11,000ft in the air.
Erasmus had four passengers on board the light aircraft during the flight on Monday, April 3, when he felt “something cold” slide across his lower back.
He glanced down to see the head of a fairly large Cape Cobra “receding back under the seat,” he said.
“It was as if my brain didn’t know what was going on,” he told The Associated Press.
After taking a moment to compose himself, he informed his passengers of the snake on board.
“There was a moment of stunned silence,” he said. Everyone stayed cool.
Erasmus called air traffic control for permission to make an emergency landing in the town of Welkom in central South Africa.
He still had to fly for another 10 to 15 minutes and land the plane with the snake curled up by his feet.
“I kept looking down to see where it was. It was happy under the seat,” Erasmus said. “I don’t have a big fear of snakes but I normally don’t go near them.”
Brian Emmenis, who works at Welkom radio station Gold FM and is also an aviation expert, received a phone call to see if he could help.
He called the fire and rescue department, which sent emergency responders and a snake handler to meet the plane at the airport. Emmenis was first at the scene and saw everyone disembark, “visibly shaken,” Emmenis said, but all safe thanks to Erasmus.
“He stayed calm and landed that aircraft with a deadly venomous Cape Cobra curled up underneath his seat,” Emmenis said.