Southwest Flight 1380 left New York for Dallas Tuesday, and 20 minutes later, passengers said they heard what sounded like explosions. At 32,000 feet, an engine failure explosion sprayed shrapnel inside the plane and smashed a window midair. A female passenger was being sucked out of the cabin. Oxygen masks dropped, and panic crept throughout the air craft. But pilot Tammie Jo Shults remained calm and professional while guiding the plane of more than 140 passengers to an emergency landing in Philadelphia.
Authorities said the female passenger died at a Philadelphia hospital, while seven other passengers suffered minor injuries. But many on the plane acknowledged the work and composure of Shults in preventing what could have been further catastrophe.
Shults is one of the Navy's first female fighter pilots and among the first women to fly the combat jet, F/A-18. Audio from her communications with air control shows an unwavering voice in the face of grave danger.
"We have a part of the aircraft missing," Shults said and requested that medics meet the plane on the runway to attend to injured passengers.
"She has nerves of steel," passenger Alfred Tumlinson told the Associated Press. "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."
Passenger Diana McBride Self said Shults "came back to speak to each of us personally" after the successful landing and McBride thanked her for her "guidance and bravery in a traumatic situation," on Facebook. "This is a true American Hero," she wrote.
So we have a new Sully: Tammie Jo Shults
— Edmund DeMarche (@EDeMarche) April 18, 2018
"Everyone clapped and praised the pilot after he set the aircraft down." The pilot is Tammie Jo Shults, one of the Navy's first female fighter pilots and the first woman to fly the F/A-18. Come on.https://t.co/GFiQ5pKvrV
— Juliette Kayyem (@juliettekayyem) April 18, 2018
One of the passengers described the landing as smooth. Amazing. https://t.co/y98V8rl9LH
— Glenn Fleishman (@GlennF) April 18, 2018
Mind blowing. What a level-headed and we’ll-trained pilot. Good job on her!
— Ilhan Cagri (@icagri) April 17, 2018
Brilliant! And she’s super cool and calm on the com with air traffic. https://t.co/u6rVNluCBd
— Ali Nadir (@AliNadir_) April 18, 2018
Hero is the word to describe the pilot https://t.co/o9G6WvQRVq
— John B Creel JR (@wb3gxwham) April 18, 2018
— Terry Moore (@TerryMooreArt) April 17, 2018
It was not all that long ago when most people thought women could not do this. Many believed women could not handle the pressure. Those people were wrong and this woman is a hero. https://t.co/dPj5tdu1SP
— Bullets Fan Pablo G (@SkinsFanPG) April 18, 2018