In January 2013, a python hitched a ride on plane, unfortunately exposed on the wing after getting sucked out of its hiding place.

Qantas 191 is a Cairns → Port Moresby flight on a DHC-8-400, probably the first of the day.

Having done walk-arounds for a Cherokee, I would like to think that I wouldn't allow such an event to happen on a small plane. On the other hand, I realize that it would be impossible to do a thorough inspection on, say, an Airbus A380.

What is a typical preflight inspection checklist for a Dash 8 or similar plane? Would it have included, for example, a visual inspection of the flaps that would have allowed the snake to have been spotted?

  • $\begingroup$ What makes you think the snake had spots? Yuk Yuk Yuk... Seriously, where was the snake hiding before takeoff? The preflight inspection does not require you to disassemble the airplane. Should it have been caught? Ideally, yes. In the real world, it depends.... $\endgroup$ Mar 27, 2014 at 20:11
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not familiar with the Dash-8 checklist, but I doubt that "Check that thing for snakes!" is an item! $\endgroup$
    – Bassinator
    Oct 9, 2014 at 21:29
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    $\begingroup$ I always check for snakes during preflight. $\endgroup$
    – Keegan
    Oct 10, 2014 at 15:36
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    $\begingroup$ @SpongeBob, a quick look around for Samuel L Jackson in a bad wig or Bruce Willis in a white T-shirt is also a good idea $\endgroup$ Feb 27, 2015 at 2:55
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    $\begingroup$ And cats, am I right? :) $\endgroup$
    – Roman
    Jun 24, 2015 at 20:44

1 Answer 1


Given the location of the snake from the photos/video in the article and the height of the wing/engine assembly (as shown below) I think it's entirely possible to miss this critter in preflight. A visual inspection of the control surfaces is certainly a part of the preflight, but unlike on a small aircraft (say a Piper Cherokee or Cessna 172) you will probably not be getting "up close and personal" with the control surfaces - you would need a ladder to to so, and the sort of in-depth examinations that would require getting up on that ladder would probably normally be performed by maintenance personnel.

A pilot doing a preflight might get up on a ladder if they noticed something amiss (say a snake obviously hanging from the wing), but on a simple pre-filght visual inspection from the ground this unfortunate critter could easily be missed - particularly if it was curled up tightly in a small space as snakes are wont to do, and didn't have its body hanging out where it could be seen.

Snake on a Plane - from the linked videoPhoto for scale - from Wikipedia


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