Hero Southwest Airlines pilot credits crew, training for safe landing

Southwest Airlines pilot Captain Tammie Jo Shults addressed the National Retail Federation at their annual NRF Protect event Tuesday in North Texas. It’s the largest crowd Shults has spoken in front of since the engine on her Southwest aircraft exploded two months ago.  

The 737-700 aircraft was on its way from LaGuardia Airport to Love Field when it experienced an engine failure over Pennsylvania. Debris from the blown engine pierced a window onboard the aircraft, partially sucking passenger Jennifer Riordan out of the cabin. Some of her fellow passengers pulled Riordan, 43, back into the aircraft, but she later succumbed to her injuries.

The flight made a successful emergency landing in Philadelphia.  

Shults was hailed as a hero following the incident. But the former F-18 Navy Pilot gives credit to the crew of Southwest Airlines Flight 1380. She said that she and her crew trusted each other and the training that they had received.

“I made note of that,” attendee Mark Hand said. “She said you play the way you practice. There’s a lot of truth to that.”

She also praised the passengers who attempted to save Riordan’s life, saying that they “got out of their safe seats with seat belts and during a very rough ride rendered aid to a stranger.”

“The value of human life was felt that day,” she said.

Shults was expecting to see frightened passengers when she opened the cockpit door after the plane had landed. Instead she found the passengers to be calm and quiet, mirroring her demeanor during the ordeal.

Attendees walked away impressed by the way Shults handled herself in such a volatile situation.

 “The calm demeanor with which she approached the situation and was still able to communicate under extreme pressures [was especially remarkable],” Dell Miller said.

Shults resumed flying for Southwest in May, nearly a month after the accident.