Southwest pilot lauded for safe landing; officials search for answers

Tammie Jo Shults

Tammie Jo Shults

She is one of the Navy's first female fighter pilots and the first woman to fly a F/A-18. Captain Sullenberger attributed the plane's safe arrival at Philadelphia International Airport not just to the skill of Captain Shults but also to every crew member, including the flight attendants who desperately tried to save Ms. Riordan's life.

The former Navy fighter pilot safely brought the plane down in Philadelphia after one of its engines exploded shortly after taking off from New York City. They are horrified and saddened by the death of Jennifer Riordan, the passenger sucked half-way out a window obliterated by shrapnel from a blown-out engine.

National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt briefs reporters at National Airport in Arlington, Va., Tuesday, April 17, 2018, about the Southwest Airlines plane incident in Philadelphia.

A committed Christian, who reportedly teaches Sunday school, her husband Dean is a fellow Southwest pilot and the couple live in the San Antonio area of Texas.

Tammie Jo Shults, a Navy veteran whose résumé includes recognition as one of the USA military's first female fighter pilots, was charged with getting the plane on the ground.

Investigators last night said metal fatigue and a missing fan blade may have caused the engine to explode. An engine broke up in flight, the debris shattered a window and the rapid decompression almost sucked out a passenger, who later died. The woman later died of blunt force trauma to her head, neck and torso. The captain would have been flying the airplane and talking on the radio with air traffic control, declaring an emergency.

"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 in the statement, adding that their "hearts are heavy".

Passengers said Shults walked through the aisle and talked with them to make sure they were OK after the plane touched down. "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". "That's how she's wired". When she retired in 1993, she was a Navy lieutenant commander.

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Amanda Bourman, of NY, said she was asleep near the back of the plane when she heard a loud noise and oxygen masks dropped.

She said the paths are similar for other industries and working conditions are no more a roadblock in aviation.

"Obviously it was frustrating", said Maloney, who became among the first women to join a combat military flying squadron and was deployed to the Arabian Gulf.

"Thank you. We're going to stop right here by the fire trucks", Shults says.

But the narrative has extra richness this time because of Shults' gender and the fact that she was one of the first women to enter the cloistered world of the military fighter community. "God bless her and all the crew", wrote Diana McBride Self, who posted a photo taken aboard the plane. Passengers shared pictures of her speaking with and even hugging them across social media, calling her a hero.

"She learned a lot about overcoming things as a woman in a male-dominated field", Russo said. At her season in MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe, Kan., she attended the Air drive occasion and seen that a female in a piloting class, she told a alumni book.

Passenger Alfred Tumlinson of Corpus Christi, Texas, praised the pilot for her "nerves of steel".

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