Monty Coles was 3,000 feet in the air when he discovered a stowaway peeking out at him from the plane's instrument panel — a 4 1/2-foot black snake.
Coles had left Charleston earlier for a leisurely flight over the West Virginia countryside last Saturday in his Piper Cherokee and was preparing to land in Gallipolis, Ohio, when the snake revealed itself.
"Nothing in any of the manuals ever described anything like this," the 62-year-old Cross Lanes resident said. But the advice given 25 years earlier from his flight instructor immediately came to mind: "No matter what happens, fly the plane."
An attempt to swat the snake only resulted in it falling to Coles' feet under the rudder pedals. It then darted to the other side of the cockpit.
While maintaining control of the single-engine plane with one hand, Coles grabbed the reptile behind its head with his other.
"There was no way I was letting that thing go. It coiled all around my arm, and its tail grabbed hold of a lever on the floor and started pulling," Coles said.
Mother of God.