When the women of America or around the world want to look for a role model, they might want to start with Tammie Jo Shults, 56, the pilot who flew Southwest Flight 1380 to safety on Tuesday after part of its left engine ripped off, and a religious Christian who once said that piloting planes gave her the opportunity “to witness for Christ on almost every flight.”
The flight was supposed to fly from La Guardia Airport in New York City to Dallas Love airport, and because of the emergency situation had to land in Philadelphia. Shults was amazingly calm during the crisis, as audio below can testify. Meanwhile many passengers truly felt that they might die after they heard a huge boom and a window of the plane blew out, and they posted their fears on social media.
NBC News reported, “National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt said multiple audible alarms went off in the cockpit around 20 minutes after takeoff as the plane passed through an area at around 32,500 feet of altitude, and the crew reported an engine fire and said they were initiating an emergency descent.”
One woman out of the 143 passengers on board died on the flight: Jennifer Riordan, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, according to KOAT-TV. One woman was partially sucked out of the window, and some people pulled her back in; it is unclear whether it was Riordan.
One passenger described the crisis on Instagram: “Our engine that blew out at 38000 ft. A window blew out, a man saved us all as he jumped to cover the window. … The pilot, Tammy Jo was so amazing! She landed us safely in Philly.”
Kristopher Johnson, a passenger on the flight, told CNN:
We were leaving LaGuardia heading to Dallas. We were west of Philadelphia probably about 30,000 feet, and all of a sudden we just heard this loud bang, rattling and then it felt like one of the engines went out. The oxygen masks dropped and flight attendants did a good job. The pilot came on and said we’re diverting to Philadelphia and, you know, there was a serious medical injury. I don’t know much about that, but I was sitting in the front. With a couple passengers. We just got the mask on and as soon as we landed, we were thankful. The pilots did a great job, the crew did a great job. They got us down to Philly, and that’s when I took the photo of the engine, and it appeared that it just shredded the left side engine completely. So we were coming down — we dropped probably from 30,000 feet to 25,000 feet, and then the pilot kind of regained control and brought it down safely to Philadelphia. So we got off the plane and onto buses and we’re trying to head over to the tarmac in Philly. … It was pretty scary, but the pilots did a great job.”
After the flight, one passenger, Diana McBride Self, noted that Shults greeted each passenger after they landed. Self wrote: “Tammie Jo Schults, the pilot came back to speak to each of us personally. This is a true American Hero. A huge thank you for her knowledge, guidance and bravery in a traumatic situation. God bless her and all the crew.”
So just who is Tammie Jo Shults?
Rejected at aviation career day at her high school because she was a girl, Shults enrolled at Mid America Nazarene University in veterinary medicine, but then . . . “In my junior year I went to an Air Force winging with a friend whose brother was getting his wings. And, lo, there was a girl in his class,” Shults recalls. Applying for the Air Force after she graduated, she was denied a test, but the Navy grabbed her, and she became one of their first female fighter and the first woman to fly F-18s.
Shults wasn’t permitted to fly in combat, but she became an “aggressor pilot” and an instructor. She joined Southwest Airlines in 1993.
As Heavy reports:
A Navy magazine story published in 1993 noted Shults was a member of the Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron (VAQ) 34. The story says that she had flown A-7 and F/A-18 aircraft. She said, “In AOCS (Aviation Officer Candidate School), if you’re a woman (or different in any way), you’re a high profile; you’re under more scrutiny.” She said that chances for women to gain knowledge in the aviation community were limited. “It would be nice if they would take away the ceilings (women) have over our heads,” she said. “In VAQ-34, gender doesn’t matter, there’s no advantage or disadvantage. Which proves my point – if there’s a good mix of gender, it ceases to be an issue.”
Shults’ husband, Dean, is also a licensed pilot, Medical Class 1. They have two children.
To hear the amazing calm of this woman during a genuine crisis, listen below: