Hero Southwest Pilot Was Among U.S. Navy's First-Ever Female Fighter Pilots

Playing Southwest Passengers Praise Pilot With 'Nerves of Steel' After In-Flight Ordeal

The woman credited with safely landing Southwest flight 1380 after one of its engines exploded Tuesday, leaving one passenger dead, was also one of the U.S. Navy's first female fighter pilots.

Tammie Jo Shults radioed air traffic control to calmly inform them of the terrifying situation. "We’re single engine," Shults said. "We have part of the aircraft missing, so we’re going to need to slow down a bit."

As she requested that medical personnel meet the plane and its injured passengers on the runway, Shults saved 148 lives by taking the damaged Boeing 737-700 from 32,500 to 10,000 feet in a matter of minutes before an emergency landing in Philadelphia. 

One passenger said the descent was "steady as a rock," while another praised Shults' "nerves of steel," The Associated Press reported.

Passenger Diana McBride Self would later post about Schults on Facebook.

"The pilot came back to speak to each of us personally. This is a true American Hero," Shults wrote. "A huge thank you for her knowledge, guidance and bravery in a traumatic situation. God bless her and all the crew."

Shults lives outside San Antonio with her husband, who is also a pilot.

When reached by The Washington Post, Shults' mother-in-law didn't seem the least bit surprised at Tuesday's development.

"That is Tammie Jo," Virginia Shults told the paper.

Sadly, there was just one person Shults was unable to save. Jennifer Riordan, a mother of two and a bank executive, was blown out up to her waist through a window smashed open by engine shrapnel before someone was able to pull her back in. 

"Jennifer Riordan has passed away as a result of previously reported events on Southwest Airlines flight No. 1380," her family said in a statement. "Jennifer’s vibrancy, passion and love infused our community and reached across our country. Her impact on everything and everyone she touched can never be fully measured."

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