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Snakes on a Plane: Rattlesnakes, Scorpions Invade Aircraft Grounded at Mojave Desert

Snakes on a plane | Image for representation

Snakes on a plane | Image for representation

The airline staff found the snakes curled up around the warm rubber tyres and in the wheels and brakes of Qantas’ parked fleet of A380 aircraft while carrying out weekly maintenance.

Qantas planes grounded in a Californian Mojave desert has been invaded by Rattlesnakes and scorpions amid the pandemic.The airline staff found the snakes curled up around the warm rubber tyres and in the wheels and brakes of Qantas’ parked fleet of A380 aircraft while carrying out weekly maintenance. It’s a usual sight for them as encounters with the slithering and rattling reptiles are all part of their job. However, they use a wheel whacker (a repurposed broom handle) to wake up and scare off the reptiles.

Qantas Manager for Engineering in Los Angeles, Tim Heywood said that they’ve encountered a few rattlesnakes and also some scorpions in this aircraft, but the wheel whacker does its job and they scuttle off without any harm. He also said that the first thing they do before starting the ground inspections of the landing gear, in particular, is to walk around the aircraft stomping their feet and tapping the wheels with a wheel whacker. He added, “every aircraft has its own designated ‘wheel whacker’ (a repurposed broom handle) as part of the engineering kit, complete with each aircraft’s registration written on it".

The weekly maintenance of these aircraft includes everything from covering the interior seats with plastic sheeting to applying a protective film to the top of the rudder and on all of the cabin windows. The wheels, tyres and landing gear legs are also wrapped in protective film and all inlets and orifices on the fuselage are plugged.

The Californian Mojave Desert-based airfield is a temporary home to aircraft from all around the world. Nearly, two-thirds of the world’s aeroplanes were grounded during the pandemic. The dry heat and low humidity of the Mojave Desert make it the ideal storage facility for aircraft as well as scorpions, venomous snakes and rattles.

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Mojave rattlesnake is one of the highly venomous species found in the deserts of the southwestern United States and central Mexico. Their venom can affect the nervous system more strongly than that of other rattlesnakes and even lead to vision problems, respiratory issues and even death if left untreated.

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first published:June 15, 2021, 19:36 IST