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Cool Hand Tammie: “My Airplane Is Not On Fire but Part of It Is Missing”

Tammie Jo Shults, who landed crippled Southwest plane, was one of first female fighter pilots in U.S. Navy The pilot who coolly landed a crippled Southwest Airlines plane after a blown engine sent shrapnel through one of the jet’s windows midflight has gone against the odds before.  Tammie Jo Shults wasted no time rapidly lowering the plane toward safety when chaos broke out shortly after takeoff Tuesday from New York — maintaining her composure even as passengers reported from the cabin that a woman had been partly sucked out of a shattered window. “We have part of the aircraft missing, so we’re going to need to slow down a bit,” Shults is heard calmly telling air traffic controllers in audio transmissions after reporting the aircraft’s engine failure.

“Sitting in the captain’s chair gives me the opportunity to witness for Christ on every flight.”

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  • Patvann April 19, 2018, 3:25 PM

    Some should be thanking their Gods, for her having hers….
    As well as honoring her for being one Bad-Assed Woman.
    Thank you, Ma’am. Thank you very much.

  • Fletcher Christian April 19, 2018, 3:57 PM

    Right person, right place, right time! A demonstration, if one was ever needed, that the Right Stuff doesn’t discriminate.

    Incidentally, also a demonstration that women in the military isn’t the issue. Where they work best; well, that is. Fighter pilots, yes. (IIRC, better manual dexterity and G-tolerance than men on average.) Front-line infantry (except for very rare exceptions) no because of issues with upper-body strength.

    Unfortunately, bigots on both sides have clouded judgement.

  • Dan Patterson April 19, 2018, 5:48 PM

    I’ve posted elsewhere that her handling of the incident was superb.
    Her description of the event to ATC was the opposite: “Part of it is missing” and “someone fell out”? That is more like a high school girl telling her dad about a problem with her car. No information about cabin decompression, engine out, fire bottles deployed, status of the aircraft and crew, or nature of the emergency.
    And before you all start hating, no I could not have done better and no this is not a tirade against females in traditionally male roles. I just found her detachment and communication very odd, not that it was practiced, cool and collected. More like a student “on the spectrum” or someone robotically detached from the reality and gravity of the event.
    “Part of it is missing”. No, the number 1 engine shredded and uncontained FOD both destroyed the nacelle and punctured the pressure vessel, deploying O2 masks and killing a passenger.
    Very odd.

  • edaddy April 19, 2018, 6:46 PM

    You guys are useful idiots.

    Lucky for SWA that this woman was behind the controls, as it presents an incredible opportunity for their PR minders to control the narrative. This plane wasn’t saved because she was a female fighter pilot with a dream. This plane was saved because of training … training that every SWA pilot, nay every pilot, receives.

    But, go ahead … feel good about it. It doesn’t matter. It could have been the greatest dereliction and corporate negligence in airline history, but it doesn’t matter now because WOMAN. Workers of the world UNITE, especially working fighter pilot wamen who have overcome their oppressors.

    Southwest Airline thanks you Karl Marx.

  • Casey Klahn April 19, 2018, 7:31 PM

    Reacting to the above: SWA may’ve been negligent in continuing to fly an engine with metal fatigue; I’m no expert. Would metal fatigue obviously show? How many hours were on the engine? External precipitating causes?

    This pilot is indeed a brave and skilled one; her leadership skills are even better than the technical skill-set displayed, and my hat’s off to her. Female pilots have done fine in the military, as far as I know and this is evidence of that. Glad that she was there. Future female military pilots? Not if you want combat killers whose cushy pilot seat might become a rice-paddy filler in a matter of minutes. Hanoi Hilton, anyone? Bridges at Toko-Ri much?

    But, shame on me for casting shade just now. She’s a helluva good pilot and deserves all the accolades. Gender politics don’t enter into it.

  • Deana April 19, 2018, 7:38 PM

    I have a low threshold for the whole “woman saves the day” angle but most of the stories I’ve read or heard about this event focused almost exclusively on the pilot’s lengthy EXPERIENCE being the deciding factor.

    And edaddy – people aren’t feeling celebratory about this story because of the horrific nature of Mrs. Riordan’s death. It seems people just are relieved something more awful did not happen. It certainly is less celebratory than the famed landing by “Sully” several years back. And that is ok. I think you are reading way too much into this.

    Personally she strikes me as a humble human being who has worked hard in her life to be good at what she does. I wish our country had more people like her who are equally dedicated to their craft. I’m thankful no other passengers died.

    Dan – where were you able to hear the entire transcript of the communications between the pilot and ATC because I would like to hear it? Do we know that “Part of it is missing” is all that was said?

  • ghostsniper April 19, 2018, 8:35 PM

    A friends 25 yo son signed on as a pilot with Delta a year ago, he says those things almost fly themselves no matter what and his biggest issue is extreme boredom. There’s a website out there that shows inflight info. Look at the schedule for any given plane. Indianapolis – Atlanta – Fort Myers, then, Fort Myers – Atlanta – Indianapolis, over and over and over. I’m just not the repetitious type.

    Regarding whether metal fatigue can be detected. Yes. I believe called magnaflux.
    Thanks to a brief stint at Martin-Marrietta in Torrance, CA I learned that aluminum becomes harder and more brittle over time. This is all precisely calculated. I worked on a 75,000 ton stretcher that literally stretched 90′ long aluminum wing struts about 8″ longer for Lockheed. I was told stretching the aluminum forces the molecules tighter together strengthening the metal. Then the struts were loaded up onto special train cars and pushed into enormous ovens where they were heated to about 1400 degrees for a couple weeks. The heating of the aluminum does the same thing as ageing, makes it harder and more brittle. The length of time in the oven is already determined and then tested afterward. All of this was in the largest building I ever seen in my life. On Western St. It took me 20 minutes to walk briskly from my ride in the parking lot to my work station. HUGE!

    So, in time, and exposure to heat, aluminum “wears out”, so it seems.
    My dad was an aircraft mechanic in the air force for many years and told me he was surprised at the lack of maintenance in commercial aircraft. My brother in law was a flight mechanic in the navy on carriers for 22 years and told me the same thing. My personal belief is that extreme over engineering in the design phase can be attributed for the lack of more major failures.

  • Dan Patterson April 20, 2018, 5:23 AM

    Deanna: Just now listened to the entire communications recording: very calm, cool, and collected on the part of both pilots. And on ATC, by the way. My comment was inaccurate and my understanding was based on incomplete information; though the comment is still odd when heard in context it is less so.

  • BillH April 20, 2018, 7:56 AM

    Dan, don’t know your background, but mine is been-there-done-that. After simulating these sorts of things over and over again in local training (now mostly in the simulator I understand), you just revert to your local training experience when confronted with the real thing. Neither local training nor the real thing is in any sense hum-drum, but you’re trained to be calm and methodical in emergencies – that’s what will pull you through; just like trusting your instruments. (Been-there-done-that credentials: 3000+ hours in Super Connies, 2500+ hours in DC-6 and Convairs.)

  • Dan Patterson April 20, 2018, 8:27 AM

    BillH has stories to tell – anyone with ANY time in an L-1049 AND a DC-6 has them by default.
    “If they ain’t none ON it, they ain’t none IN it” was a reply from Piedmont pilots to the complaints of oil beneath and on the piston-pounding aircraft of that era. I came along much later in the age of jets and learned early on to keep my ears and eyes open.
    Apologies for my knee-jerk response earlier (see my reply to my post), and you are very right about reverting to training.

  • Eskyman April 20, 2018, 11:05 AM

    She did very well under pressure, and she got her passengers on the ground safely. Can’t ask for more than that!

  • Uncle Jefe April 20, 2018, 12:18 PM

    Besides all of her training and her ability to remain calm under pressure, I think that she was acutely aware that all of the communication would become public very quickly, and kept the descriptions of passenger injuries and airplane damage to the bare minimum purposefully.
    In that regard, it kept those hearing in real-time calm (emergency is already declared and response is underway- what more do you need in description??), as well as minimizing the trauma of family who’d hear it all later in the media, and even lessening the blow to SWA in regard to negative publicity. Imaging the constant replaying of her saying “A passenger was sucked out of the window because an engine exploded”.

  • u.k.(us) April 20, 2018, 3:42 PM

    “only the good die young”

  • ghostsniper April 20, 2018, 4:34 PM

    fawning r us