South African pilot has told how he discovered a deadly cobra in the cockpit at 11,000 feet, forcing him to make an emergency landing.
Rudolph Erasmus had been flying from Bloemfontein to Pretoria when he noticed the deadly Cape cobra, whose bite can kill someone within half an hour, slithering under his seat.
Four passengers were on board the private Beechcraft Baron 58 flight at the time.
He told the A1TV: “To be truly honest, it’s as if my brain did not register what was going on.
“As I turned to the left and looked down I saw the cobra … receding its head backwards underneath the seat.”
He said he thought carefully before telling the other passengers about the unwanted snake, saying he was scared that it could go to the back and cause “mass panic”.
“You could hear a needle drop and I think everyone froze for a moment or two,” he said.
The plane made an emergency landing in the city of Welkom, about halfway between Bloemfontein and Pretoria.
The snake had been spotted at the Worcester flying club where the flight first took off attempting to take refuge under the aircraft.
Mr Erasmus said he tried to find the snake before boarding, but “unfortunately it was not there, so we all then safely assumed that it must have crawled out overnight or earlier that morning, which was on Monday”.
The snake is still yet to be found.
According to South African media, Mr Erasmus has been hailed as a life-saver for his “great airmanship” by the country’s civil aviation commissioner, Poppy Khosa.
However, the modest pilot said that was “a bit blown up if I can be direct”, adding: “It’s also my passengers that remained calm as well.”