Snake on a plane: Should it have been spotted during the pre-flight inspection?

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  • Snake on a plane: Should it have been spotted during the pre-flight inspection? 200_success

    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?

  • 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 sake 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 were 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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