A group of passengers on board a flight in South Africa on Monday (April 3) are lucky to be alive after an uninvited guest made its way onto the aircraft. Rudolf Erasmus was mid-flight when he felt “something cold” against his back. To his absolute horror, it was a deadly cobra.

In an article published by The Associated Press today (April 6), the pilot told the outlet that after the slithery serpent moved across his body, he saw the large snake “receding back under the seat.” The Cape Cobra is native to southern Africa and can grow to around 5 feet. It is one of the most venomous species, and its bite can kill a person within an hour. “It was as if my brain didn’t know what was going on,” the pilot said of his initial reaction to seeing the stowaway.

Erasmus tried his best to remain calm and made an announcement over the plane’s speakers, informing his four passengers of the situation. “There was a moment of stunned silence,” he recalled. Next, he alerted the air traffic controllers and requested assistance for an emergency landing. Unfortunately, he still had to fly 10 to 15 more minutes before reaching the town of Welkom in central South Africa — all the while, the deadly cobra was still at his feet. Emergency responders and a snake handler were present once the “visibly shaken” group finally landed.

While most may think the story ended once everyone was safely off the plane, that isn’t true for Erasmus. The company he works for still needed their aircraft back in the city of Mbombela in northern South Africa. Snake handlers searched the plane for two days and never located the Cape Cobra. It is unknown if the danger noodle slipped off in Welkom or slithered into a tiny crevasse of the aircraft. “I would say I was on high alert,” Erasmus admitted of his 90-minute flight to return the plane. He confessed that this time, he wore a thick winter jacket and had a fire extinguisher and a golf club in the cockpit for protection.