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Tammie Jo Shults Shares Insights Into Explosion On Southwest Flight Last Year: 'I Thought This Might Be The Day I Meet My Maker'

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - "Nerves of Steel" may be the title of Tammie Jo Shults book, but it's also the way passengers described her demeanor as she guided Southwest Flight 1380 to safety last April.

It was a moment Shults had been training for most of her life.

"It was really in junior high that I really set my path towards aviation," Shults told CBS 11.

Tammie Jo Shults
Tammie Jo Shults (CBS 11)

Her dreams to become a pilot started when she was just around 13 years old. Despite discouragements she pushed forward, eventually joining the Navy.

She was among the first women to fly F-18s. On April 17, 2018 that training paid off.

Shults was a pilot with Southwest Airlines on a flight heading from New York to Dallas.

Just minutes into the flight, an engine exploded sending debris through a passenger window killing 43-year-old Jennifer Riordan. The cabin lost pressure quickly.

"There was such an incredible shudder to the aircraft," Shults told CBS 11. "I thought this might be the day I meet my maker."

Shults and her co-pilot, Darren Ellisor, managed to guide the twin-engine Boeing 737 into a rapid descent and make an emergency landing in Philadelphia. After the flight landing, Shults walked through the aisle and talked with passengers to make sure they were ok.

"She has nerves of steel. That lady, I applaud her," said Alfred Tumlinson of Corpus Christi, Texas.

Since the accident, the Federal Aviation Administration has stepped up inspections of fan blades in Boeing 737 engines.

Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board is set to discuss the probable cause of a deadly engine explosion on the Southwest Airlines flight.


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