A young pilot from Mpumalanga is hailed as a hero after he remained calm and made an emergency landing when a snake surprised him in his Beechcraft Baron 58 on Monday.
Rudolf Erasmus (30) was flying from Worcester to Mbombela with four passengers when he spotted the snake – presumably an extremely poisonous Cape Cobra – right next to him and even felt it against his body.
Brian Emmenis, air show commentator and aviation expert, told Rhewal on Wednesday that Erasmus stayed cool and finally made an emergency landing at a small airport in Welkom in the Free State after he had refueled in Bloemfontein shortly before.
This, moreover, in inclement and stormy weather conditions.
“Hy [Erasmus] is now widely described as an absolute hero,” said Emmenis.
“He was praised by the head of civil aviation as an outstanding pilot and a true aviation hero. He not only saved his life, but also that of his four passengers. If he had panicked, that plane could have crashed, also on top of houses located near the airport.”
Emmenis, who has more than 40 years of experience in various aviation fields, was himself extremely impressed with the young pilot he met for the first time on Monday.
“I work with hundreds of pilots and know what they are capable of.
“He was calm and didn’t brag about himself as a hero. He said ‘I did what I had to do’. I, who am afraid of snakes, might have jumped out of that plane.”
Emmenis, who lives in Welkom, says he was “scared the hell out” when he was told by a senior official of Kishugu aviation on Monday [in Mbombela waar Erasmus werksaam is] was called to the scene with news that one of Kishugu’s pilots had to make an emergency landing after “a Cape cobra landed in his shirt”.
Emmenis immediately also called a local snake catcher, Johan de Klerk, to the scene.
According to Emmenis, Erasmus felt something “cold and wet” against his hip and initially thought it might be his water bottle leaking. When he looked, he saw the big snake.
“He remained calm and landed the plane safely. This despite the weather and a deadly snake.”
In ŉ maintenance met Low fielderthe Mpumalanga newspaper, Erasmus says that the snake sailed under his seat and that he remained dead silent for a few minutes, before informing his passengers.
“When they landed, they got out of the plane in a flash. I then joined them and we waited for the snake catcher,” Emmenis continued.
According to him, the snake catcher and his team searched for the snake until late at night and tried to set traps, but found nothing.
It is understood that Erasmus remained in the Welkom area until Wednesday while technicians also combed the plane in search of the snake – again without any success. Erasmus returned to Mbombela on Wednesday – possibly with his uninvited passenger still on board.
“We know the snake came along from Worcester. No one knows where the snake is at the moment.”
The snake was spotted in Worcester by the wheel of the plane. However, the engines and plane were reportedly searched before the plane took off, and it was assumed that the snake was not on the plane.
Chris Hobkirk from Lowveld Venom Suppliers says he is aware of the incident, but that it has not yet been confirmed whether it is indeed a Cape cobra. He says that if this is the case, it is one of the most poisonous snakes.
He says that although it is an extremely intimidating snake, it is not aggressive, and will probably only bite if it feels threatened.
Hobkirk says Erasmus did the right thing by staying calm and sitting still.
The plane will presumably be searched further in Mbombela.
- Keep an eye on Rhewal for more information on this story.
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