Pilot Who Felt ‘Cool Sensation’ on Back Made Terrifying Find

A cobra encounter is nerve-wracking no matter where it takes place, but we imagine it’s worse when trapped in a small plane 11,000 feet high in the sky. That was the plight earlier this week of a South African pilot and his passengers when he was confronted by the venomous creature during a flight to the northern part of the nation. Per TMZ, Rudolf Erasmus was flying four people Monday in his twin-prop Beechcraft Baron aircraft when he suddenly noticed something strange on his lower back. “I felt this cool sensation, sort of, crawling up my shirt,” he tells the BBC, noting he thought at first that his water bottle had leaked onto him.

However, Erasmus glanced down and saw, to his left, “the head of [a] snake receding back underneath my seat,” he tells NPR. He says he sat in “stunned silence” for a moment, as he tried to figure out what to do next. He knew he had to make an emergency landing, as the cape cobra he’d recognized has enough potent venom in one bite to kill nine humans, with death coming within 30 minutes in some cases. So Erasmus turned the plane toward Welkom and then steeled himself to tell his passengers what was going on. He says when he informed the others on the plane about the cobra, “you could hear a needle drop,” per the BBC. “I think everyone froze for a moment or two.”

Everyone stayed calm, however, and Erasmus piloted the plane safely to Welkom. Erasmus says when he pulled his seat forward after landing, he spotted the snake curled up on the floor, but a crew member who went into the aircraft to inspect couldn’t find it. Two workers at the airport where the plane took off from say they’d seen a creature underneath the plane before it left; they’d tried to grab it but weren’t able to. The stowaway cobra remains missing. Erasmus acknowledges the similarities between his frightening flight and 2006’s Snakes on a Plane, starring Samuel L. Jackson. “That’s how I felt at some point,” he tells NPR. No word on how much profanity was spewed during his own predicament. (Read more snakes stories.)