The Southwest Airlines pilot who landed a plane with a blown engine on Tuesday has been credited for her bravery during the mile-high crisis. Passengers who endured the harrowing ordeal have named the pilot, who is reportedly one of the first female fighter pilots in the U.S. military, and described her as cool, calm and collected during the emergency landing in Philadelphia.
Sadly, a woman identified as Jennifer Riordan of Alburquerque, New Mexico died after being partially sucked out of a broken airplane window. But the other 144 passengers survived the ordeal. Now, Tammie Jo Shults is being credited as the Southwest pilot who landed the Boeing 737 after the jet blew its engine on a flight from New York’s LaGuardia airport to Dallas, Texas.
“The pilot Tammy Jo was so amazing! She landed us safely in Philly,” said Amanda Bourman, a passenger, on Instagram. Passenger, Diana McBride Self said on Facebook that Shults is a “true American Hero.”
She hasn’t yet commented on the horrifying experience, but here’s what you need to know about Southwest pilot Tammie Jo Shults.
She personally checked on passengers
After the Southwest plane made an emergency landing, Shults walked through the aisle to check on passengers and ensure their safety. “She’s a very caring, giving person who takes care of lots of people,” said Gary Shults, her brother in law.
She has a military past
Shults was one of the first female fighter pilots in the U.S. military, friends and MidAmerica Nazarene alumni told CBS News. She earned degrees in biology and agribusiness from the university in Olathe, Kansas, and graduated in 1983, a university spokeswoman told The Kansas City Star.
She never panicked
In air traffic control recordings, a female pilot is heard “slowly and calmly” saying that “part of the aircraft is missing.” The calm conversation happened as the plane was plummeting toward its emergency landing in Philly.
Shults: “Could you have the medical meet us there on the runway as well? We’ve got injured passengers.”
Air traffic control: “Injured passengers, OK. And is your airplane physically on fire?”
Shults: “No, it’s not on fire. But part of it is missing. They said there’s a hole and that someone went out.”
Air traffic control: “Um, I’m sorry. You said there was a hole and somebody went out? Southwest 1380 it doesn’t matter we will work it out there.”
“She has nerves of steel,” said passenger Alfred Tumlinson, of Corpus Christi, Texas. “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.”