Tammie Jo Shults – Navy Pilot and Southwest Airlines Hero
The Air Force turned down her application to become a pilot, but the Navy happily accepted her.
Tammie Jo Shults worked hard to establish herself as one of the Navy’s foremost pilots.
Her tenacity and skill earned her the respect of her fellow pilots. When she was not permitted to fly in combat, she dug in harder to instead become an “aggressor pilot,” and then an instructor. Then, Southwest Airlines became the lucky ones, when she joined their ranks.
When Southwest Flight 1380 experienced a terrifying engine explosion, Tammie Jo Shults was ready. Armed with years of experience and “nerves of steel,” according to one passenger, Tammie never faltered. Calmly communicating with ground control, Tammie somehow managed to land the aircraft safely in Philadelphia.
Even after she landed the jet, Tammie’s first priority was her passengers. Rather than take a few moments to recover from the ordeal, she immediately went into the cabin to speak to every one of the panicked passengers.
The ending is not an entirely happy one. Rather, it is packed with tragedy and pain, as the loving and heartbroken family of Jennifer Riordan must now find their way through the shock and trauma of losing the woman they love so deeply. It is also likely that the surviving passengers will struggle with their own trauma for indefinite periods of time, following their experience.
It is possible for this tragedy to find its purpose. Lessons can be learned. Airlines can enhance preventive measures and banish any negligence contributing to these horrors. The survivors can turn this into a new lease on life and move forward with increased gratefulness, determination, and insight into their own purpose and passions. Families can hold each other closer, and the Riordan’s community can wrap its arms around them.
Out of tragedy, there can be triumph, however hard-earned.
Tammie Jo Shults was in an impossible situation, and she never wavered.
Her actions serve to remind us all to never admit defeat, and to battle through any situation, no matter the odds.