Southwest pilot who landed damaged plane wasn’t scheduled to fly

The pilot who calmly landed her Southwest Airlines flight after its engine exploded in midair wasn’t even supposed to be flying that day.

Tammy Jo Shults actually traded flights with her husband and fellow Southwest pilot, Dean Shults, so she could attend their son’s track meet in Texas.

“Dean, being the amazing husband he is, said, ‘You go to the track meet, I'll switch and take your trip,’” Shults told ABC News’ “20/20.” “And so that's why I was on the trip.”

“I’m not trading with him anymore,” Shults said.

The left engine blew out roughly 20 minutes after Flight 1380 took off from LaGuardia Airport in New York on April 17.

Debris ripped into the fuselage of the Boeing 747, pulling Jennifer Riordan partially out the window.

Other passengers were able to pull her back in, but the 43-year-old mother of two died after the plane made an emergency landing in Philadelphia.

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Southwest plane makes emergency landing in Philly after engine incident
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Southwest plane makes emergency landing in Philly after engine incident

A Southwest Airlines flight heading from New York's LaGuardia Airport to Dallas was forced to make an emergency landing at Philadelphia International Airport on Tuesday after experiencing engine issues.

Photo: Facebook/Marty Martinez

Marty Martinez, a passenger on Flight 1380, took to social media after the incident to share photos of the severe damage sustained by the aircraft, which included a damaged left engine and one blown-out window. 

Photo: Facebook/Marty Martinez

A photo of the plane's damaged engine.

Photo: Facebook/Marty Martinez

Photo: Facebook/Marty Martinez
Photo: Facebook/Marty Martinez
Photo: Facebook/Marty Martinez
Photo: Facebook/Marty Martinez
Photo: Facebook/Marty Martinez
Photo: Facebook/Marty Martinez
Photo: Facebook/Marty Martinez
Photo: Facebook/Marty Martinez
Emergency personnel monitor the damaged engine of Southwest Airlines Flight 1380, which diverted to the Philadelphia International Airport this morning after the airline crew reported damage to one of the aircraft's engines, on a runway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Mark Makela
Emergency personnel monitor the damaged engine of Southwest Airlines Flight 1380, which diverted to the Philadelphia International Airport this morning after the airline crew reported damage to one of the aircraft's engines, on a runway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Mark Makela
Emergency personnel monitor the damaged engine of Southwest Airlines Flight 1380, which diverted to the Philadelphia International Airport this morning after the airline crew reported damage to one of the aircraft's engines, on a runway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Mark Makela
Emergency personnel monitor the damaged engine of Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 which diverted to the Philadelphia International Airport this morning after the airline crew reported damage to one of the aircraft's engines, on a runway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Mark Makela
Emergency personnel monitor the damaged engine of Southwest Airlines Flight 1380, which diverted to the Philadelphia International Airport this morning after the airline crew reported damage to one of the aircraft's engines, on a runway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Mark Makela TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A U.S. NTSB investigator is on scene examining damage to the engine of the Southwest Airlines plane in this image released from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 17, 2018. NTSB/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.
U.S. NTSB investigators are on scene examining damage to the engine of the Southwest Airlines plane in this image released from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 17, 2018. NTSB/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.
U.S. NTSB investigators are on scene examining damage to the engine of the Southwest Airlines plane in this image released from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 17, 2018. NTSB/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.
U.S. NTSB investigators are on scene examining damage to the engine of the Southwest Airlines plane in this image released from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 17, 2018. NTSB/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. NTSB photo shows parts of the engine cowling from the Southwest Airlines plane which blew its engine in mid air yesterday over the skies of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., in this image released on April 18, 2018. NTSB/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.
U.S. NTSB photo shows a part of the engine cowling from the Southwest Airlines plane which blew its engine in mid air yesterday over the skies of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., in this image released on April 18, 2018. NTSB/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.
@SouthwestAir These are the hero’s of SWA 1380 NYC to Dallas We lost an engine mid-flight and they guided back to P… https://t.co/0fsymQo9lU
@SouthwestAir I want to thank the crew of SWA 1380 for a great job getting us to the ground safely after losing in… https://t.co/C03wL1SYtJ
U.S. Navy Lieutenant Tammie Jo Shults, who is currently a Southwest Airlines pilot, poses in front of a Navy F/A-18A in this 1992 photo released in Washington, DC, U.S., April 18, 2018. Thomas P. Milne/U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
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Shults, a former Navy fighter pilot, was praised for her cool demeanor as she landed the plane with a single engine. She, the rest of the crew and passengers who stepped in were lauded at the White House earlier this month.

“My first thoughts were actually, ‘Oh, here we go.’ Just because it seems like a flashback to some of the Navy flying that we had done,” Shults, 56, told ABC News in an interview set to air Friday. “And we had to use hand signals (and some yelling), because it was loud, and it was just hard to communicate for a lot of different reasons.”

Her co-pilot, Darren Ellisor, was in control at the time, and had to steady it out as cabin pressure dropped from the gapping window.

Shults took controls of the plane over to make the emergency landing, per the airlines protocol.

The plane softly touched down in Philadelphia, which Ellisor said was “a fantastic job, considering the condition of the aircraft and the situation it was. (Shults) made a great landing.”

Shults and Ellisor, who had only flown together for the first time the day before, didn’t discuss what happened once on solid ground because they had to make sure everyone was OK.

They went into the cabin to survey what happened and to meet with passengers.

“My mother had told me, ‘If I'm flying, I want to know what's going on,’” Shults said. “So I thought I would treat them like I would treat my own family.”

Ellisor, 44, said several passengers hugged him and other members of the crew at the front of the plane, and he called his wife to deliver the news.

“And she was pretty upset,” he said.

“It really was life-changing,” continued Ellisor, an Air Force veteran. “ I mean, because it's not something that we've ever had happen before, and you know, almost certainly won't happen again because the chances are just too astronomical.”

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