|Tammie Jo Shults|
The pilot’s voice was calm yet focused as her plane descended, telling air traffic control she had “149 souls” on board and was carrying 21,000 pounds — or about five hours’ worth — of fuel.
“Southwest 1380, we’re single engine,” said Capt. Tammie Jo Shults, a former fighter pilot with the U.S. Navy. “We have part of the aircraft missing, so we’re going to need to slow down a bit.” She asked for medical personnel to meet her aircraft on the runway. “We’ve got injured passengers.”
“Injured passengers, okay, and is your airplane physically on fire?” asked the air traffic controller, according to audio of the interaction.
“No, it’s not on fire, but part of it’s missing,” Shults said, pausing for a moment. “They said there’s a hole, and, uh, someone went out.”
The engine on Shults’s plane had, in fact, exploded Tuesday, spraying shrapnel into the aircraft, causing a window to be blown out and leaving one woman dead and seven other people injured.
The National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday that investigators will examine whether metal fatigue caused an engine fan of the Boeing 737-700 to snap midflight. The protective engine housing broke off, and pieces were later recovered in fields in Berks County, Pa., 70 miles northwest of Philadelphia International Airport.
. . .
In the midst of the chaos, Shults deftly guided the plane onto the runway, touching down at 190 mph, saving the lives of 148 people aboard and averting a far worse catastrophe.
“She has nerves of steel,” passenger Alfred Tumlinson said Wednesday.
|She was a cutie back in the day|
She was among the first female fighter pilots for the U.S. Navy, according to her alma mater, MidAmerica Nazarene University, from which she graduated in 1983.I'm thinking maybe Dana Delaney.
A Navy spokeswoman said Shults was “among the first cohort of women pilots to transition to tactical aircraft.” After commissioning in the Navy in 1985 and finishing flight training in Pensacola, Fla., her duties took her to Point Mugu, Calif., where she was an instructor pilot on planes including the F/A-18 Hornet.
She was a decorated pilot who rose to the rank of lieutenant commander and twice received the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, along with a National Defense Service Medal and an expert pistol Marksmanship Medal, according to a biography provided by the Navy Office of Information.