Pilot of Crippled Southwest Plane Praised for ‘Nerves of Steel’

By Anna Breuer on 18 April 2018
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The Southwest pilot who successfully landed the crippled Boeing 737 on Tuesday after a midair engine explosion had “nerves of steel,” according to one passenger who was on the flight.

What passengers didn’t know is that their captain, Tammie Jo Shults, was one of the first women fighter pilots in the United States Navy.

Twenty minutes into the flight, a time when it’s normally tranquil, all hell broke loose. The left engine exploded, sending shrapnel into the side of the fuselage.  The debris broke a window and the cabin depressurized.  A female passenger, who was partially sucked out of the plane through the window, was rescued by other passengers.

While panicked passengers were screaming in the cabin, oxygen masks dangling from the ceiling, a calm voice was up front on the radio.

“Southwest 1380 has an engine fire,” Captain Shults reported to air traffic controllers.

“We have a part of the aircraft missing,” she said. “They said there’s a hole and that someone went out.”

For the next 40 minutes, those nerves of steel came in handy according to grateful passengers who thought Flight 1380 was their last.

In social media, passengers had more to say about Captain Shults.  “This is a true American hero,” Diana McBride Self, wrote on Facebook.

The passenger who said that Shults had “nerves of steel,” Alfred Tomlinson, told the Associated Press that her performance in landing the crippled aircraft was “awesome.”

Jennifer Riordan, the passenger who was partially sucked out of the plane, died at a Philadelphia hospital. Seven others were treated for minor injuries.

It was the first passenger fatality resulting from an accident on a U.S. airline in nine years and the first in Southwest’s history.

“This was a very serious event and I’m obviously very grateful there were no other injuries other than the one fatality,” said Southwest CEO Gary Kelly in a statement after the incident.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

Accura News

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