Southwest Airlines pilot pushed boundaries

27/04/2020 Posted by admin

Tammie Jo Shults has been praised for calmly landing a plane after a window was smashed midair.Tammie Jo Shults was determined to “break into the club” of male military aviators.

One of the first female fighter pilots in the US Navy, Shults flew training missions as an enemy pilot during Operation Desert Storm, while working with other women to see a rule excluding them from combat flights repealed.

Twenty-five years later, Shults was at the controls of the Dallas-bound Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 on Tuesday when it made an emergency landing in Philadelphia after one of the engines on the Boeing 737 exploded while the plane was travelling 800km/h at 30,000 feet with 149 people on board.

Shrapnel hit the plane and passengers said they had to rescue a woman who was being blown out of a damaged window. The woman later died of blunt force trauma to her head, neck and torso.

Shults calmly relayed details about the crisis to air traffic controllers, and passengers commended her handling of the situation.

“Everybody is talking about Tammie Jo and how cool and calm she was in a crisis, and that’s just Tammie Jo,” said Rachel Russo, a friend from Shults’ church in Boerne, Texas.

“That’s how she’s wired.”

Shults and the other pilot on board, First Officer Darren Ellisor, said in a statement on Wednesday that they were simply doing their jobs.

“On behalf of the entire Crew, we appreciate the outpouring of support from the public and our coworkers as we all reflect on one family’s profound loss,” the two pilots said, adding that their “hearts are heavy.”

Shults was commissioned into the Navy in 1985 and reached the rank of lieutenant commander, said Commander Ron Flanders, spokesman for Naval Air Forces in San Diego.

She was among the few to learn to fly the F/A-18 Hornet, a single-seat jet and the Navy’s premier strike fighter aircraft, a privilege reserved for elite pilots, according to retired Navy helicopter pilot Andi Sue Phillips.

“When you pull those g’s, you can actually feel your organs slamming on the inside of your ribs,” Phillips said.

“It’s exhausting to put your body through those manoeuvres.”

Phillips said that that there was a lot of resistance for women to fly jets and for Shults “to fly a fighter aircraft when nobody even wanted her there is pretty amazing.”

Australian Associated Press

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