A Southwest Airlines pilot is being hailed as a hero after she made an emergency landing in Philadelphia on Tuesday when one of the jet's engines apparently exploded.
Former Navy pilot Tammie Jo Shults remained calm as she safely brought down Flight 1380, which was heading from New York's LaGuardia Airport to Dallas, after the Boeing 737-700 began experiencing severe engine issues.
"Southwest 1380, we're single engine," Shults can be heard telling air traffic control in a recording of her call for help. "We have part of the aircraft missing, so we're going to need to slow down a bit. We’ve got injured passengers."
"Is your airplane physically on fire?" asked an air traffic controller.
"No, it’s not on fire, but part of it’s missing," Shults replied, still remaining collected. "They said there’s a hole, and uh, someone went out."
Photos of the damage:
Although one woman, identified as Jennifer Riordan, died during the incident, after one of the aircraft's windows was blown out by a piece of the failed engine, Shults' quick thinking and calm demeanor are being credited with preventing additional fatalities.
Alfred Tumlinson, a passenger on the flight, praised Shults and her crew for their professionalism during the incident in an interview with the Associated Press.
"She has nerves of steel. That lady, I applaud her," Tumlinson said. "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."
Another passenger, Diana McBride Self, took to Facebook to thank Shults for her brave actions during and after the emergency.
"Tammie Jo Shults, the pilot came back to speak to each of us personally," she wrote. "This is a true American Hero. A huge thank you for her knowledge, guidance and bravery in a traumatic situation. God bless her and all the crew."
Shults was among the first-ever female pilots to serve in the U.S. Navy, according to MidAmerica Nazarene, her alma mater.
Cindy Foster, a former classmate of Shults' at MidAmerica who graduated alongside her in 1983, said the Air Force first denied Shults a chance to become a pilot because of her gender.
She then successfully enlisted in the Navy but was still met with "a lot of resistance," according to the Kansas City Star.
"She knew she had to work harder than everyone else," Foster said. "She did it for herself and all women fighting for a chance. I'm extremely proud of her. She saved a lot of lives today."
Shults served in the Navy for 10 years, reaching the rank of Navy lieutenant commander, before meeting her husband, who was also a Navy pilot at the time. She eventually transitioned to training military pilots before leaving the Navy and becoming a commercial pilot.
Those close to Shults say that her calm demeanor during Tuesday's incident came as no surprise to them.
"It was just as if she and I were sitting here talking," her mother-in-law, Virginia Shults, told the Washington Post after hearing the air traffic control tape. "She's a very calming person."