Heroic Southwest Pilot Among First Female Fighter Pilots in Navy
By Debbie Gregory.
The Southwest pilot who is being called a hero for landing a crippled Southwest plane was
among the first female fighter pilots to serve in the U.S. Navy.
“We can confirm that Lt. Commander Shults was among the first cohort of women pilots to
transition to tactical aircraft,” the Navy said in a statement.
On April 17th, Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the twin-engine Boeing 737 toward cruising
altitude, generally considered the safest part of a flight, when one of the aircraft's engines blew.
Flying at an altitude of 32,000 feet, shrapnel from the crippled engine smashed a window.
Passenger Jennifer Riordan was partially sucked out of the plane as fellow passengers scrambled
to pull her back in. Unfortunately Riordan died from blunt impact trauma of the head, neck and
torso. Seven other passengers were sent to the hospital with minor injuries.
Her voice remained calm as she communicated with air traffic control in Philadelphia.
"We have a part of the aircraft missing, so we're going to need to slow down a bit," Shults said
from the cockpit. Later, she adds, "They said there's a hole and … and, uh, someone went out."
Shults made an emergency landing in Philadelphia. Passengers praised how Shults skillfully
landed the plane, and said that she greeted each passenger after they were safely on the ground.
“This is a true American hero,” Diana McBride Self, a passenger, wrote in a Facebook post. “A
huge thank you for her knowledge, guidance and bravery in a traumatic situation. God bless her
and all the crew.”gh the plane personally to check on us after she landed our crippled airplane. …
We were truly all in amazing hands."
Passenger Alfred Tumlinson said Shults displayed "nerves of steel."
Shults lives outside San Antonio and is married pilot Dean M. Shults.