Tammie Jo Shults, a Southwest Airlines pilot and MidAmerica Nazarene University alumnus, is being called a "true American hero" by one passenger after she completed an emergency landing Tuesday when the plane's left engine blew.
Flight 1380 took off from LaGuardia Airport in New York City, New York, bound for Dallas, Texas, but at 32,000 feet an engine blade broke off, causing the engine to blow and shatter one of the aircraft's windows, killing passenger Jennifer Riordan of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and injuring seven others. Shults successfully landed the plane at Philadelphia International Airport with one engine. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, this event marks the first passenger fatality on a U.S. airline since 2009.
Several passengers praised Shults' calm demeanor during the dangerous descent after the accident.
"She had nerves of steel," Alfred Tumlinson told the Associated Press.
"The plane was steady as a rock after (the engine blew)," he said. "I didn't have any fear that it was out of control."
After the plane had landed safely, Shults took the time to meet with passengers.
"[She] came back to speak to each of us personally," passenger Diana McBride Self wrote on Facebook. "This is a true American Hero. A huge thank you for her knowledge, guidance, and bravery in a traumatic situation. God bless her and all the crew."
Shults graduated from MNU in 1983 with degrees in biology and agribusiness.
"I'm extremely proud of her," said Cindy Foster, one of Shults' classmates. "She saved a lot of lives today."
"She had the tenacity to do something that excelled beyond the norm of what women were allowed or expected to do," said Kevin Garber, director of alumni relations. "She pushed the limits and became what she strived for."
Last spring, Shults spoke at a campus event about her time in the U.S. Navy, where she served as one of the first female fighter pilots.
Shults was a Navy lieutenant commander and instructor before joining Southwest in 1993.
According to the F-16 blog, Shults said sitting in the captain’s seat gives her “the opportunity to witness for Christ on almost every flight.”
Prayer is requested for the Riordan family.