Hero pilot who landed exploded plane with 'nerves of steel' was US Navy pioneer

Nick Reilly
Contributor
Tammy Jo Schults has been praised for her bravery

A pilot lauded for landing a commercial flight after an engine exploded was previously a pioneering pilot in the US Navy, it has been confirmed.

Tammy Jo Shults was in the cockpit of a Southwest Airlines plane yesterday when an engine exploded during a flight from New York to Dallas, resulting in the death of a woman who was sucked out of a window.

But Ms Shults’ heroics stopped the situation from potentially worsening, as she saved the lives of passengers who were frantically scrambling for oxygen masks as the plane made a emergency descent.

‘So we have part of the aircraft missing, so we’re going to need to slow down a bit’, Shults told air traffic control.

Shults was a US Navy pilot

When asked if a fire had taken place, she calmly replied: ‘Not on fire but part of it is missing. They said there’s a hole and someone went out. Could you have the medical meet us there on the runway as well. We’ve got injured passengers.’

It later emerged that the 56-year-old had served as a female fighter pilot in the US navy, where she flew 5-18 jets which were used in the Gulf War.

‘Shults became one of the first female fighter pilots in the history of the US navy and one of the first women to fly F-18s’, a 2006 post from fighter jet forum F-16 reads.

‘She landed her fighter plane on boats at 150mph and eventually became an instructor. Although she wasn’t allowed to fly in combat, she did fly as an aggressor pilot.’

She reportedly dreamed of becoming a pilot from a young age, but was deterred from a career after receiving negative advice at an aviation careers fair.

Although Shults landed the plane safely, Mother-of-two Jennifer Riordan died yesterday after an engine on the left side of Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 apparently blew, causing cabin depressurisation and sending her nearly crashing out of a smashed window.

An investigation into the incident has been launched.