Authorities in South Africa are applauding a pilot’s ability and courage to manage an undoubtedly scary inflight situation. The pilot, 30-year-old Rudolf Erasmus, safely landed an aircraft after discovering a venomous snake that was a stowaway onboard.
Last week, Erasmus was flying with four passengers from Bloemfontein to Tshwane, South Africa. He was unaware of the snake until he reportedly felt something cold underneath his shirt near his hip.
Erasmus, along with his colleagues, were flying on a multi-leg trip, according to CNN. Before departure, the pilot said he recalled hearing people at the airport say they saw a cape cobra seeking refuge underneath the aircraft’s wing. Erasmus also said he heard people wondering that the animal may have crawled into the Beechcraft Baron’s engine cowling.
In response, they searched the plane and could not find anything, leading them to assume that the snake had ventured out of the aircraft and back into the wild. But, that was not the case as the venomous animal was hiding and emerged inflight.
Erasmus recounted the incident in a statement to CNN. “At first, I thought it was my water bottle leaking. As I then turned to my left and I looked down, I saw the head of the snake receding back underneath my seat. I had a moment of stunned silence. It was more as if my brain did not register what is going on to be truly honest. It was a moment of disbelief, I think.”
Then, the pilot described how he did not want to startle the passengers onboard, according to News24. “I kept quiet for minute or two, because I didn’t want the passengers to panic,” Erasmus said. “I informed them a snake was under my seat in the cockpit and I needed to land the plane as soon as possible. Luckily everyone remained calm.”
After informing air traffic controllers of the situation and asking for permission, Erasmus landed the pilot safely at a nearby airport in Welkom. All five people exited the aircraft unharmed, and the snake was found coiled up under the pilot’s seat. According to CNN, the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) said the snake was a large cape cobra.
The authority commended Erasmus for thinking quickly and keeping his composure in the now-viral incident.
Poppy Khoza, the SACAA Director, congratulated the pilot in a statement obtained by News24.
“In an incident that has gone viral globally this week, Erasmus needed to make an emergency landing in Welkom. He was initially flying from Bloemfontein to Pretoria with four passengers,” Khoza said. “I wish to congratulate Rudolf for the courageous steps taken and for how he handled what could have been a major aviation incident. He remained calm in the face of a dangerous situation.”
The director also applauded Erasmus for putting safety first.
“He managed to land the aircraft safely without harming him or his fellow passengers, displaying to the world that he is an aviation safety ambassador of the highest order.”
Sources: CNN, News24, Simple Flying