In the wake of Flight 1380’s tragic events on Tuesday, a lot of questions have been swirling about the safety of Southwest plane engines. However, there haven’t been any questions about the conduct of pilot Tammy Jo Shults, who deftly maneuvered her crippled aircraft to Philadelphia International Airport after one of her engines exploded. In the wake of the explosion, metal parts jettisoned back towards the plane, breaking a window and partially sucking out Wells Fargo bank executive Jennifer Riordan. Although the fatality was tragic—and the nation’s first on a commercial aircraft for nine years—the calamity could have been a lot worse had it not been for Shults’ quick thinking.
It was just a routine trip from New York to Dallas, and everything was progressing normally when disaster struck. Suddenly, Shults was forced with the responsibility of making several fast decisions in a series of seconds. With the aircraft leaning to the left due to the loss of thrust, passengers had to have been keenly aware of just how desperate their situation was. Also, with the plane now depressurized, Shults need to quickly get the altitude down to under 10,000 feet so that people could breathe without the aid of oxygen masks. However, luckily for everyone onboard, this wasn’t the first time that this brave woman had been tasked with high performance in pressure-filled situations.
As one of the first females hired as a fighter jet pilot for the Navy, Shults has always shined. In her former life as a military pilot, she would have been forced into some very uncomfortable situations as well. Those who fly F-18s must be able to perfectly execute aircraft carrier landings, which are notoriously difficult. Chances are that this wasn’t Shults’ first mechanical failure. And, in this case, her experience helped to save her passengers.