IRL Snakes on a Plane: Cobra forces emergency landing

A pilot in South Africa is being hailed for keeping his cool — and his passengers safe — when he recently found himself sharing the cockpit with a venomous cobra. 

Rudolph Erasmus tells the BBC he was ferrying four passengers between South African cities Bloemfontein and Pretoria when he felt “something cool” on his shirt. “As I turned to the left and looked down, I saw the cobra … receding its head backwards underneath the seat.”

He was cruising at 11,000 feet at the time. 

Erasmus added, “To be truly honest, it’s as if my brain did not register what was going on.”

That said, the Cape cobra — whose bite can kill a human in 30 minutes, according to the University of San Diego — also kept its cool and didn’t bite. 

Not to panic his passengers, Erasmus first told them that an “extra unwanted voyager” was prompting them to return to land sooner than expected.

Eventually, however, he came clean. 

He recalled to the BBC, “I did inform the passengers: ‘Listen, the snake is inside the aircraft, it’s underneath my seat, so let’s try and get down to the ground as soon as we can.’ You could hear a needle drop, and I think everyone froze for a moment or two.”

Erasmus safely landed in Welkom, South Africa, a little more than 200 miles away from their intended destination.