Decades of experience prepared the pilot of Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 for what happened yesterday at 30,000 feet. Just after takeoff, an engine exploded. Shrapnel broke a window and caused fatal injuries to a passenger who was nearly sucked out. The broken window caused the plane to immediately lose pressure, and oxygen masks were deployed. As the plane began to lose altitude, passengers began to lose hope—some recording videos and sending goodbye texts. But Pilot Tammy Jo Shults, calmly called down to air traffic control
“We have a part of the aircraft missing,” she said.
“Could you have the medical meet us there on the runway as well? We’ve got injured passengers.”
“Injured passengers, OK. And is your airplane physically on fire?”
“No, it’s not on fire,” she replied. “But part of it is missing. They said there’s a hole and that someone went out.”
The air traffic controller responded: “Um, I’m sorry. You said there was a hole and somebody went out? Southwest 1380 it doesn’t matter we will work it out there.”
According to reports, Captain Shults was simultaneously gauging how much damage the plane sustained—the most alarming was a flashing light that indicated that the engine was also on fire.
Using her 34 years as a pilot, she managed to rapidly descend. Getting down to 10,000 feet in less than five minutes, reducing any further ruptures to the cabin. This, in itself, was a life-saving hard-to-complete maneuver with one engine.
According to the Daily Beast: “And this is where Captain Shults’ background came into play. She was an ex-Navy pilot and one of the first women to fly the “Top Gun” F-18 Hornet, eventually becoming an instructor. Landing supersonic jets on the decks of aircraft carriers is one of the most demanding skills in military aviation. Now, flying on the one engine called for her to use all of her “seat of the pants” instincts to nurse the jet to the runway.”
Upon landing, Schults continued to use her training to make the landing “near perfect,” according to reports.
It was also, though, the way Shults then switched from pilot to caregiver that the flights’ passengers are talking to the media about. She reportedly talked to each and everyone of those on board to comfort them.
"She has nerves of steel. 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,” one said.
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