Errant Passenger

Errant Passenger

We come across snakes now and then in normal life and, for many, it is not a pleasant experience – although, generally, if you leave them alone then they will leave you alone. But the following is a more unusual encounter.

It happened at our local airfield the weekend before last. One of our younger pilots, who was recently licensed, had arrived for a pleasant hour’s flying around the lakes and was met by fog and low cloud. While this was clearing, he did some maintenance on his new-to-him, secondhand aircraft, which he had recently purchased.

As the sky cleared, he gave the machine his usual thorough pre-flight inspection, then hopped in and fired the motor up. Movement in the corner of his eye had him horrified to see a large brown snake emerging from one of the leading edge wing spars.

On this machine, the spars are high tensile alloy tube 2.5′ (65mm) in diameter – so there is plenty of room inside!

Fortunately, the snake came out at the wing tip end rather than the cockpit end, which is inches from the pilot’s ear!

Mark closed down the motor and bolted.

A few minutes later, a group of us had gathered to help out, which involved using a broom handle to get the snake fully out of the wing and onto the ground. The snake took a dim view of all this and as soon as it landed it promptly started chasing one of our group.

Fortunately, Wally could run faster than the snake. There was a lot of motivation there as this was 5 feet (1.5m) of plump brown snake in pristine condition, and very poisonous.

Equally fortunately, Wally kept his head. He slowed down and lured the snake into the long grass into which it vanished, to go about its normal business.

Mark, of course, was the subject of many ribald comments about the standard of his pre-flight inspections, missing something that big. “Did he have any other pets about the place?” and it was pointed out to him that he does not have a passenger carrying rating yet!

There may have been a very humorous side to this but, equally, it could have been more serious if the snake had appeared in the cockpit while the machine was in flight. While I have heard of snakes in aircraft before, but after 38 years of flying, this is the first time I have actually seen it happen, so it is a once in a blue moon sort of occurrence.

On the other hand it could happen anywhere – so if you know that snakes may be around, it might be best to look before groping around in dark crannies on hot days.

– Tony Hayes
Toogoolawah, Queensland, Australia.

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