A commercial pilot in South Africa had to make an emergency landing mid-flight to remove a highly venomous Cape cobra that had sneaked aboard the aircraft. Pilot Rudolf Erasmus was flying with four passengers from Worcester in the Western Cape to Nelspruit when he felt a cold sensation on his body. As he looked down, he saw the cobra putting its head back underneath his seat. Erasmus immediately declared an emergency and landed the plane safely in Welkom.
Erasmus displayed “the greatest skill in aviation,” according to aviation specialist and SA chief air show commentator Brian Emmenis. Emmenis said Erasmus could have panicked or put the plane in an uncontrollable spin, but instead, he stayed calm and landed the plane safely.
Hardly ever such incidents happen, said Emmenis, adding that Erasmus was a hero for his exceptional handling of the situation. “He really displayed the greatest skill in aviation,” said Emmenis.
After the emergency landing, the passengers got off the plane, trying not to get out too hastily as they were not sure where the snake was at the time. Engineers stripped the plane trying to find the snake, but it had disappeared. They are hoping it found its way out. Meanwhile, Erasmus will be flying the plane out on Wednesday.
Quoting Emmenis, “When I got to the airport, I saw the aeroplane as in the meantime, the pilot had radioed and put out an emergency call requesting landing at Welkom. The weather was horrendous. The pilot had already done well, having to concentrate on foul weather, having a cobra in his aircraft and four passengers to look after.”
The passengers opted to drive back by road, and the snake was eventually caught with the help of a snake catcher who worked until last light to find it.
In a statement, the airline commended Erasmus for his quick thinking and professionalism, saying it was proud to have him as part of its team. “Our passengers’ safety and well-being are always our top priority, and we are grateful that our pilot was able to land the plane safely despite the unexpected situation,” the statement said.