Earlier this week, commercial pilot Rudolf Erasmus was flying four passengers from Worcester, South Africa, to Johannesburg, when he felt something against his body. "We were cruising at 11,000 feet in the air when I felt something cold against my hip," Erasmus recalls. At first he thought it was his water bottle, but when he looked down, he saw the head of a cobra pull back underneath his seat.
Not wanting to alarm the passengers, Erasmus told them they had an "unwelcome passenger" on the plane and that he would have to make an emergency landing. Around 15 tense minutes later, they were on the ground and everyone on the plane made it out unscathed. Local snake wrangler Johan de Klerk was called in, but by the time he made it to the airport the snake had disappeared.
Based upon a picture taken just before the flight, the snake is believed to have been a deadly Cape cobra, one of the most venomous cobras in Africa. But thanks to Erasmus, everyone made it out of the place safely. "The pilot, Rudolf Erasmus, is the hero of the story," de Klerk says. "He was able to remain calm and perform an emergency landing in Welkom without getting bitten by the snake.” Then adds, “He saved his four passengers' lives through his own cool headedness."