Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Snake in the Cockpit

Snake, Snake in the Cockpit

Vic Mackenzie made the above memory available to ORAFs.

Vic's motivation for the cartoon:-
I used to play touch rugby with the McGeorge brothers at lunchtime.

I remember them telling me the story about their weekend adventures with this huge snake wriggling around in the cockpit when Mike was up in the sky. I didn't have an idea of what I was going to draw that day (not unusual) so I went back to the office and nailed it. The McGeorge brothers were inspirational. They were always physically active never allowing their age to dictate their lifestyle. Great guys.

Tim Musto (RhAF) made this information, from the publication as indicated, to ORAFs

Cover 1, Snake in the Cockpit

MONTY PYTHON'S FLYING CIRCUS? (Extracted from the above publication)

The pilot of a light aircraft towing a glider over Warren Hills, Salisbury, Rhodesia, had to think quickly when a snake crawled up his leg.

Mike McGeorge, a Salisbury photographer, was wearing shorts. He watched the snake crawl up his leg and waited until it reached his thigh, which was level with the cabin door. Then he quickly opened the cabin door and threw the snake out at a height of 360m
The pilot of the glider he was towing, Ted Pearson, thought it was a rope falling from the aircraft.

The snake first showed its head at an altitude of about 150m. It poked its head through a wing root into the cabin. Mike did not have a radio and so was unable to let anyone know about the snake. He blocked the opening with a handkerchief, but the snake poked its head through another hole. He blocked this hole with a hat.
The snake was determined to find its way into the cabin, however, and the next time he saw it was when it started crawling up his leg.
Mike said he thought it was a Boomslang — a poisonous snake. It was bright green, had big eyes and was about 75cm

"I had plenty of time to study it while it was crawling up my leg," he said.

Reprinted from the Salisbury Herald

Cover 2, Snake in the Cockpit

The above photograph is of Ted Pearson (the chap in the glider that Mike was towing when the snake stowaway appeared) in a Nimbus on his final run in the 1976 Rhodesian Gliding Nationals

Picture taken by John McGeorge and used by Sailplane & Gliding (UK) on their front cover in Feb/March 76 The picture is more of Ted Pearsons glider. Although Ted is in it flying, all you see is the glider dumping water on its approach.

From Bill Teague (SAAF and RCAF)
My late close friend from gliding days was Ted Pearson who ended his days in Rhodesia/Zim. As I mentioned he has two sons, also both pilots and gliding enthusiasts. Brad lives in England, and Nigel in the Cape in the small town of Bathurst. I remain in touch with both & have visited both in recent years.
Well, less than a week ago I was discussing this snake story with a view of sending it to you as a “Rhodesians are tough” story and am awaiting to get a copy of the cartoon to include with it, when lo and behold you pre-empted me.....how utterly amazing and what an incredible coincidence; I cannot believe it. Nigel has the original cartoon but is having difficulty finding it amongst all of his many possessions, and now I can tell him not to bother.

Nigel’s account of the story is below; enjoy it as it’s so typical.

There are several other snake/flying stories, but I’ll leave them for another time
This narrative by Nigel Pearson, Ted Pearsons son. I remember the incident well. Ted was actually the pilot of the Glider (STD Cirrus ZS -GHA # 66) and was on tow behind a Piper Super Cub at the Salisbury gliding club in the 1970's. I do not remember who the tug pilot was but think it may have been one of the McGeorge brothers. Ted told us that at about 800ft the tug started weaving all over the sky but he stoically held station and then the door/window of the cub flew open and what he at the time thought was a length of rope about a meter long was thrown out of the cub and flashed past his canopy, thereafter the tow settled down to normal. Later after landing he found out that just after take-off the tug pilot glanced up at the fuel gauge and saw the head of a snake appearing out of the wing root. He calmly took of his hat and stuffed it in the hole. Minutes later the snake reappeared this time slithering up his leg from the rudder pedal area. He then unlatched the door/window and when the snake reached his thigh he flicked it out into space. The Rhodesian Herald newspaper ran the story and also featured it in their daily illustrated, cartoon a copy of which we still have in the family.The late John McGeorge was the tug pilot. Commended for his cool 'matter of fact' handling of the situation. Cartoon was drawn by Vic McKenzie. ( Now residing in Canada)

End

Thanks to Vic, Tim and Bill for sharing their information with ORAFs.

The highlight of this article was to receive a phone call from Bill Teague (Vancouver) - remember I am in Pretoria. Special thanks Bill, nice to speak to you again after all these years.

Comments are always welcome, please mail them to Eddy Norris at orafs11@gmail.com and they will be loaded to this article. To view the Blog Home Page - Please Click Here
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Ref. Rhodesian Aviation

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