The Working Mom Pilot Who Safely Landed the Southwest Plane Has a Groundbreaking Backstory
Makenzey Shank via Working Mother
When a 144-passenger plane breaks apart at 32,000 feet, it takes an impressive level of determination and fearlessness to remain calm and get almost everyone safely on the ground. But that's just what Southwest Pilot and mother of two Tammie Jo Shults did yesterday, when the engine exploded and broke off of the Boeing 737-700 she was piloting, according to ABC News.
Sadly one passenger, Jennifer Riordan, a mom of two and Wells Fargo executive, died when she was nearly sucked out of a shattered window, CNN reports. Seven others suffered minor injuries in the incident.
Yet remarkably, even with a missing engine, Shults was able to save the rest of the passengers and crew by making an emergency landing in Philadelphia. Once she recognized the danger they were in, she calmly worked with air traffic control, requested ambulances upon arrival and made it her mission to get the plane safely on the ground. Check out her remarkable poise in this audio recording of her communications with ground control:
Tammie's heroics can likely be credited in part to her remarkable background—a lifetime spent overcoming gender discrimination to pursue her dreams of being a pilot.
From the time she was in high school, she knew she wanted to fly. But when she attempted to attend an aviation career day in high school, she was told they didn't accept girls. She was even rejected by the Air Force after studying medicine in Kansas.
However, exclusion did not deter her persistence. Instead, she applied to the U.S. Navy 's aviation officer candidate school. It took a full year after taking the Navy aviation exam before she found a recruiter who would process her application. And although she became an instructor and learned to fly the A-7 Corsair, she was prohibited from flying in a combat squadron because of the combat exclusion law that prevented women from serving in combat positions.
She still didn't give up, and eventually, she became one of the first women to fly F-18 jets and spent time as an instructor until 1993. She then joined Southwest Airlines, and applied her bravery and skill to commercial flying.
While Tammie could not have known the plane would lose an engine on its way to Dallas, she was able to calmly rely on her experience flying fighter jets and landing them on aircraft carriers, for the safety of her passengers. Many of those passengers extended a ‘thank you’ on social media for her bravery.
“The pilot Tammy [sic] Jo was so amazing! She landed us safely in Philly,” says passenger Amanda Bourman on Instagram, according to ABC News.
“She has nerves of steel,” one passenger, Alfred Tumlinson, told the Associated Press. “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.”
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