Southwest Pilot Tammie Jo Shults Reveals She Wasn't Supposed to Be Flying on Day of Engine Explosion

Playing Hero Southwest Pilot Tammie Jo Shults Wasn’t Supposed to Fly That Day

The former Navy pilot who successfully landed a Southwest plane that experienced shocking engine trouble last month says she wasn’t supposed to work that day. 

Tammie Jo Shults and her co-pilot Darren Ellisor spoke to ABC's Martha Raddatz for Friday's "20/20," their first interview together about the flight. 

The pilot wasn't even supposed to be flying on that fateful day, switching shifts with her husband, Dean, who also pilots for the airline. 

She made the switch so she could attend her 18-year-old son’s track meet.

Tammie Jo says she will never switch with her husband again. 

That day, she and Ellisor were cruising at 30,000 feet when the left engine blew apart. Debris flew into a window and passenger Jennifer Riordan was sucked halfway out.

It was so loud in the cockpit; the pilots said they couldn’t hear each other and had to use hand signals to communicate. 

In all of the chaos, they showed the right stuff and kept their cool.

"She was so calm, nerves of steel," said Cory Davids, who was the air traffic controller on duty that day. "It brought calm to us. With her it was another day at the office."

Many of the passengers were sure they were dead and sent farewell messages to their loved ones but those steady hands in the skies made sure they got home.

"In the Navy there is a saying: 'Whatever it takes,'" Shults said. 

RELATED STORIES

Cracked Window Forces Southwest Flight to Make Emergency Landing

Woman Allegedly Suffering From PTSD Sues Southwest Airlines After Engine Failure Flight

Hundreds Mourn Jennifer Riordan, Killed When Southwest Airlines Engine Exploded