A live snake was discovered on a MiG-21 fighter after it returned from a training sortie. The reptile, which was subsequently established to be a harmless rat snake, could be removed only after partially dismantling sections of the fighter. Neither the pilot nor the aircraft was harmed.
But the discovery, which occurred at an undisclosed airbase in the Northeast, has prompted the Air Force to urge its personnel to be more watchful while inspecting aircraft, specially in the Northeastern states, Punjab and Haryana, where snakes and rats have been known to reside in aircraft that have been on the ground for long.
The IAF’s air safety report was released last month.
In the incident in the Northeast, Air Force personnel saw a snake “slithering up the landing gear” of the MiG-21 as it approached the parking bay after landing. Following the “emergency”, the aircraft was parked at an isolated place.
It was not clear if the snake was on board in the air or had got in as the fighter was taxiing to the hangar. It was suspected that it had entered through the undercarriage, an occurrence with alarming safety implications. MiG-21s are notorious for their poor flight safety record.
An expert called in to extricate the reptile found it after a thorough search, but could reach it only after dismantling several panels of a wing.
“If it (the snake) had bitten or punctured any of the linings such as oxygen or fuel systems or pulled out any electrical connections, it could have resulted in a serious emergency,” the report says.
The IAF has now asked technicians to be careful while opening panels in aircraft that have not flown for long, and air stations have been told to have a “hot-line connection” with a snake catcher in the area.