Passengers on a Qantas jet flying over Australia got a shock when they spotted a 12ft python clinging on to a wing at 30,000ft.
The plane was around 20 minutes into its flight from Cairns in northern Australia to Papua New Guinea when a female passenger first announced she could see the reptile.
Those on board could only watch as the snake – thought to be a Scrub Python – spent the flight battling to survive in freezing conditions.
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Unlike in the Hollywood movie, Snakes on a Plane, which featured a nest of vipers causing havoc when they escaped inside a jet – this reptile was more concerned about keeping itself alive
The snake fought to find some shelter from the 300mph wind as temperatures dropped to as low as -12C°.
Passenger Robert Weber told the Sydney Morning Herald that people at the rear of the plane were totally focused on the snake and were asking how it could have got there.
‘There was no panic,’ he said, ‘at no time did anyone stop to consider there might be others on board.’
Mr Weber said that at first the snake must have been tucked itself away in a small space near the wing but that the wind must pulled him ‘straight out,’ he told the newspaper. What followed, said Mr Weber, was a life and death struggle for the snake.
‘I felt quite sad for it really,’ he said, ‘for the remainder of the trip he was trying to pull himself back into the plane.’
Despite the cold and wind, he said, the snake still managed to hang on, but each time it managed to pull itself back into a cavity, the wind forced it out again.
At one point the pilot came out into the main cabin and took a look a the wing snake – which he said ‘should be dead,’ given the battering it had taken.
But, amazingly, when the plane touched down in Port Moresby the snake was still moving. It was not immediately known what happened to the reptile but passengers suspected it would have been destroyed by Papua New Guinea quarantine officials.
Australian snake experts said it was a non – toxic scrub python, the longest snake species in Australia, which are common in North Queensland.
Paul Cousins, who represents an aircraft engineers’ association, told the Herald the snake had probably crawled up inside the landing bay before crawling into the trailing ledge flap assembly.
‘Nice and warm there,’ he said, ‘but [as] the plane later takes off, the flaps move back and he’ s probably become shaken because of all the noise and vibration. Once he’s moved, he’s become caught in the wind.’