Southwest Airlines pilot Tammie Jo Shults lauded as hero for handling crisis

Southwest Captain, Former Navy Pilot, Praised for Calm Amid Catastrophe

Southwest crash: Passengers praise pilot for safe landing

Listen to the full audio, and marvel at Shults' incredible composure during what was undoubtedly one of the most terrifying experiences of her life-along with the lives of the passengers on her plane.

After the engine explosion pitched the aircraft 41 degrees to the left, the plane's pilot Tammie Jo Shults and her co-pilot Darren Ellisor steadied the 737 and began a rapid emergency descent. Riordan was reportedly given CPR while on the plane and rushed to a hospital, but her injuries were too severe. After a brief period of on-air silence, she adds, "They said there's a hole and. and, uh, someone went out". The woman, identified as bank executive Jennifer Riordan, later died of blunt force trauma to her head, neck and torso. A recording of her steady, matter-of-fact conversation with air traffic controllers went viral, making her an instant national hero.

Shults was among the "first cohort of women pilots to transition to tactical aircraft", said Lt. Christina Helenaleka Sears, a Navy spokeswoman.

"In the Navy", Perham said, "we spend a lot of time in the trainers going over emergencies, what they can expect, to the point where - I'm not going to say that when someone gets into an emergency they're always calm and collected - but we definitely try to focus on the problem and how to resolve it".

Whether or not the passengers cared about their pilot's faith doesn't take away from the fact that Shults' faith played an important role in her calm and successful handling of the near tragedy.

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For white-knuckle flyers like me, this week's tragic accident aboard a Southwest Airlines flight from NY to Texas reinforces our worst fears but also reassures us that flying remains the safest means of travel within the United States.

The pilots issued a joint statement saying the crew of five "feel we were simply doing our jobs". Our hearts are heavy.

Finke said Shults was a trailblazer long before she flew for Southwest Airlines. "That's how she's wired".

Shults was commissioned into the navy in 1985 and reached the rank of lieutenant commander, said Cmdr.

"It was just all incredibly traumatic, and finally when we ... came to a halt, of course, the entire crowd was (in) tears and people crying and we were just thankful to be alive", Martinez said. "We've got injured passengers".

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But previous year the FAA and the engine maker instructed airlines to inspect fan blades on engines like this one, and it was because of a fan blade that had failed and hurled debris, like what happened yesterday.

After safely landing the aircraft, Shults reportedly went up to passengers to make sure they were OK.

Shults was featured in Maloney's book Military Fly Moms along with the stories and photos of 69 other women US military veterans.

Finke said she knew Shults was a standout the moment she met her. "That's how she is at everything things don't really ruffle her", said Staci Thompson, her friend of twenty years.

In Boerne, a town northwest of San Antonio, Shults and her husband Dean, 53, also a Southwest Airlines pilot, have earned a reputation as a strongly religious, community-minded couple.

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Shults has now joined a club no pilot wants to be a part of, along side Sully Sullenberger, who landed safely in the Hudson after losing both engines in 2009.

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