The pilot’s voice was calm yet focused as her plane descended with 149 people on board.
“Southwest 1380, we’re single engine,” Tammie Jo Shults, a former fighter pilot with the U.S. Navy, said. “We have part of the aircraft missing so we’re going to need to slow down a bit.” She asked for medical personnel to meet her aircraft on the runway. “We’ve got injured passengers.” Proud of Southwest pilot Tammie Jo Shults, one of the first women in the Navy to fly F-18s & a hero who kept her cool when the engine of her plane exploded, saving hundreds of lives. pic.twitter.com/npOzG7N4HK — Zero Blog Thirty (@ZeroBlog30) April 18, 2018 “Injured passengers, okay and is your airplane physically on fire?” asked a male voice on the other end, according to an air traffic recording.
“No, it’s not on fire, but part of it’s missing,” Shults said, pausing for a moment. “They said there’s a hole, and uh, someone went out.”
The engine on Shults’s plane had, in fact, exploded on Tuesday , spraying shrapnel into the aircraft, causing a window to be blown out and leaving one passenger dead and seven others injured. Frightened passengers on board the Dallas-bound flight braced for impact as oxygen masks muffled their screams.
In the midst of the chaos, Shults successfully completed an emergency landing at the Philadelphia International Airport, sparing the lives of 148 people and averting a far worse catastrophe.
“She has nerves of steel, “ one passenger, Alfred Tumlinson, told the Associated Press. “That lady, I applaud her. I’m going to send her a Christmas card – I’m going to tell you that – with a gift certificate for getting me on the ground. She was awesome.”
Another passenger, Diana McBride Self, thanked Shults on Facebook for her “guidance and bravery in a traumatic situation.” She added that Shults “came back to speak to each of us personally.”
“This is a true American Hero,” she wrote. Others on social media agreed, even comparing Shults with Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, who glided his US Airways plane to safety in New York’s Hudson River in 2009.
Southwest declined to name the pilot, though passengers confirmed Shults’s name on social media, and Shults’s mother-in-law told The Washington Post she was the pilot. Shults’s husband also confirmed her name to the Associated Press. Shults declined to comment when reached by The Post.
Her mother-in-law, Virginia Shults, told The Washington Post that as soon as she heard the pilot’s voice on the radio transmission online, she said “that is Tammy Jo.”
“It was just as if she and I were sitting here talking,” Virginia Shults said. “She’s a very calming person.”
It was also no surprise to her that Tammie Jo Shults was the pilot credited with the skillful landing. Shults’s mother-in-law and friends described her as a pioneer in the aviation field, a woman who broke barriers to pursue her goals.
She was among the first female fighter pilots for the U.S. Navy, according to her alma mater, MidAmerica Nazarene University, from which she graduated […]