Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The pilot who landed the stricken Southwest flight had "nerves of steel."

Bad Ass, Squared.

Capt. Tammie Jo Shults

You’ve probably read about the near-disaster of Southwest Airlines flight 1380, which had to make an emergency landing after an engine exploded at 32,000 feet. It will be months before the NTSB releases a final report, but investigators are already saying one of the blades on a fan inside the engine had broken off. Some piece of shrapnel set loose by the broken blade struck a window leading it to shatter. That led to decompression of the cabin which sucked one woman, Jennifer Riordan, partly out of the plane. Passengers rushed to pull her back inside and then provided CPR but she was later pronounced dead.

Meanwhile, the plane’s captain, a former Navy fighter pilot, remained extremely calm, quickly dropping the plane to an altitude where passengers could breath without masks and asking for a new heading to the nearest airport.

This recording of her talking with the air traffic controllers during the crisis is simply fascinating, and speaks volumes about the superior quality of the people flying these big airliners and those controlling the airspace.

Shults joined the Navy in the mid-1980s and became one of the first women pilots of the F/A-18 Hornet. Shults resigned in 1993 just a few days before the Navy requested that women be allowed to fly in combat.
After landing the plane, Shults greeted every person getting off the plane. Some of them hugged her. 


  1. People say that career Pilots are all the same. While this is not true in detail, there is a single unifying characteristic. We don't panic in an emergency. We work the problem.

    I've had people tell me I'm cold hearted or cold blooded when stressful things were happening around me and I reply what good would panicking or freaking out or getting angry or being sad have done in the emergency? I know that some of this is born and some of this is trained, but it's a defining characteristic of most senior aviators. It's not that we don't have feelings and emotions, it's just that we've learned that they are useless and dangerous in an emergency.


  2. This courageous woman deserves our highest possible honor bestowed upon civilians'. She singlehandedly saved 149 "soles" as she so calmly described it to the ATC, and she definitely deserves our nation's acknowledgement and appreciation for doing so.

  3. Stones of Steel ! And, as the saying goes : "Takeoffs are optional, but landings are mandatory."

  4. I guess I'll be referred to as a sexist pig if I say besides being professional and steady-as-a-rock in high stress situations she's as beautiful as any woman I know. I saw a current photo of her and WOW!

  5. "Shults resigned in 1993 just a few days before the Navy requested that women be allowed to fly in combat."

    I wouldn't make too much of that; I knew her back in '91 when we were both in VAQ-34 and she might have simply reached the end of her obligated service in '93.

    But yeah to the other nice words about her.

  6. She's a true professional, and did excellently well!

    Congratulations are definitely in order, and the passengers on that flight were lucky to have someone of her skill and experience. No one could have done better, but lots might have done worse.

    Perhaps it's just my being old-fashioned, but personally I don't approve of women in combat, regardless of their skill or capabilities. They are simply too precious to risk in that way, it seems to me; but then, most of the world seems upside-down these days. I'm certainly glad that this wonderful woman didn't die in combat, anyway!