The Southwest Airline pilot who was forced to make an emergency landing on Tuesday after the plane’s engine exploded has been identified as Tammie Jo Shults, a former Navy fighter, and is being praised for her “nerves of steel.”
One woman was killed and several others were injured during the terrifying incident on the flight from New York City to Dallas.
Here are 5 things you need to know about hero pilot Tammie Jo Shults.
1. She had “nerves of steel” in the face of death
Shults was flying at 32,000 feet when her plane suddenly blew an engine, lost a window and was hit by shrapnel. It was an emergency of the highest degree.
However, when lives were on the line, Shultz remained stunningly calm as she initiated an emergency landing in Philadelphia.
Passenger Alfred Tumlinson, of Corpus Christi, Texas, lauded Shults and her crew for their professionalism.
“She has nerves of steel. 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,” passenger Alfred Tumlinson, of Corpus Christi, Texas, said. “She was awesome.”
If you want to know just how accurate Tumlinson’s “nerves of steel” assessment is, listen to the emergency audio from the flight. Shults is extremely calm as she handles the crisis.
2. She was one of the first female pilots to fly with U.S. Navy
Shults made U.S. military history by becoming one of the first female fighter pilots in the Navy, according to reports.
She served as an “aggressor pilot” and instructor in the U.S. Navy before and then joined Southwest Airlines as a pilot in 1993.
In other words, she’s a trailblazer.
3. She personally greeted each passenger after she landed the plane
— Kristopher Johnson (@EMMS_MrJohnson) April 17, 2018
When the damaged plane was finally on the ground, passengers erupted in applause out of gratitude for the pilot and flight crew — and it’s easy to see why.
Even when everyone was safe, Shults reportedly exited the cockpit and greeted all the passengers personally.
Passenger Diana McBride Self said the pilot is an “American hero” in a Facebook post:
“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.”
We definitely agree.
4. She has a pilot husband and beautiful family
While Shults main priority was obviously getting all of her passengers on the ground safely, she had to be thinking about her own loved ones as well.
Shults, of Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas, lives with her pilot husband, Dean, and their two children.
“She’s a formidable woman, as sharp as a tack. My brother says she’s the best pilot he knows. She’s a very caring, giving person who takes care of lots of people,” her brother-in-law told the Associated Press.
5. She’s a devout Christian
Shults is a follower of Christ and has spoken openly about her faith in the past.
In a 2006 interview, she said sitting in her captain’s chair gives her the “opportunity to witness for Christ on almost every flight.”
While logic would suggest that Shults may have said her most sincere prayer during the terrifying flight, she wouldn’t be the only person who thinks God may have intervened on that fateful day.
“God sent his angels to watch over us,” one passenger said.