Snake On A Plane (Not The Movie)

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We all know the in-flight emergency mantra to "fly the airplane" but Monty Coles' handful on a flight from West Virginia to southern Ohio last week was of a different nature. Coles was just setting up to land his Piper Cherokee at Gallipolis, Ohio, when a four-and-a-half foot black snake slithered out of the instrument panel. After first swatting it to the floor (where the reptile landed under the rudder pedals) Coles finally grabbed the snake behind the head and held on while he called the tower -- as the snake wrapped itself around his arm and began reaching for anything else it could grab. "I told them I had one hand full of snake and the other hand full of plane. They cleared me in," he told The Associated Press. Coles told the AP that while nothing in his training could have prepared him for this, he did remember the standard admonishment from his instructor 25 years ago to fly the airplane, no matter what. After single-handedly landing the airplane, Coles even posed for pictures with his passenger. Then he let it go. "That snake resides in Ohio now," he said. "I wasn't about to bring it home. I don't mind snakes, but I sure like to know where they are." Assuming the snake is a black rat snake(a non-venomous constrictor), it should be right at home in Ohio, which is part of its normal range. Ironically, an old nickname for that species is the pilot snake (from the mistaken belief that they led rattlesnakes to safe denning sites). Had Coles' regular passengers -- his wife and a dachshund named Killer -- been on board, the ending might not have been as happy, however. "If my wife had been in the plane, I wouldn't have a wife, a plane, or myself," Coles said.