‘It felt like a flashback to the Navy’: Heroic female pilot breaks her silence as she reveals she was forced to use hand signals to communicate with copilot after Southwest Airlines engine exploded midair
- Engine exploded on Southwest Flight 1380 to Dallas on April 17
- Jennifer Riordan, from Albuquerque, died after being partially sucked out of an airline window which smashed in the engine blast
- Pilot Tammie Jo Shults was praised for keeping cool under pressure and bringing the plane into land
- Speaking for the first time, the former F-18 fighter pilot said the experience reminded her of her days flying in the Navy
- She also praised her copilot Darren Ellisor, who appears alongside Shults in the interview, saying he ‘was very easy to communicate with’
- Passengers aboard the flight have praised Shults as a ‘true American Hero’
The heroic female pilot who safely landed a Southwest Airlines plane after an engine exploded midair says that the crash reminded her of her time as a Navy fighter pilot.
Tammie Jo Shults, a former Navy fighter pilot and one of the first women to fly an F-18, brought the Dallas-bound Southwest Flight 1380 to land at Philadelphia International on April 17 after the explosion at 32,000ft.
One passenger, mother-of-two Jennifer Riordan, from Albuquerque, died after being partially sucked out of an airline window which smashed in the engine blast.
Shults, 56, who was praised for her incredible calm under pressure, is speaking out for the first time since she landed the plane saving the lives of more than 100 passengers and crew.
Tammie Shults, 56, who was praised for her incredible calm under pressure, is speaking out for the first time since she landed the plane saving the lives of more than 100 passengers and crew
Shults (left) also praised her copilot Darren Ellisor (right) who appears alongside Shults in the interview
Southwest pilot Tammie Jo Shults speaks out for the first time in exclusive interview on @ABC2020 with @ABC’s @MarthaRaddatz https://t.co/wXzcKYC86D
WATCH: Friday at 10p ET #ABC2020 pic.twitter.com/5WyJj9fWUs
‘My first thoughts were actually, ‘oh, here we go’. Because it felt like a flashback to some of the Navy flying we had done, she told ABC News in a teaser of the interview, which airs at 10pm on Friday.
‘We had to use hand signals because it was loud and it was just hard to communicate for a lot of different reasons.’
She also praised her copilot Darren Ellisor, who appears alongside Shults in the interview.
‘Darren was very easy to communicate with,’ she added.
Ellisor said they were flying at 32,000 ft ‘when we had a large bang and rapid decompression.’
‘The aircraft yawed and banked to the left a little over 40 degrees and we had a very severe vibration from the number one engine. There was shaking, everything. And that all kinda happened all at once.’
Jennifer Riordan (left), 43, died after her upper body was sucked out of the window. Pilot Tammie-Jo (right) stayed on the plane after the incident and spoke with every single passenger before disembarking
What caused the engine to fail remains under investigation. This was the terrifying view as Tammie-Jo made her descent to Philadelphia airport
This was the seat Riordan was sitting in when shrapnel from the exploding engine smashed her window
Shults was one of the first female fighter pilots in the US Navy and first to fly an F-18. She later became an instructor, as the Navy did not allow women to fly in combat, and she finally resigned in 1993 when she joined Southwest Airlines. A mother-of-two, originally from New Mexico, Shults now lives with her husband Dean, a fellow pilot, in Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas.
‘She has nerves of steel. That lady, I applaud her,’ said passenger Alfred Tumlinson, of Corpus Christi, Texas. ‘I’m going to send her a Christmas card, I’m going to tell you that, with a gift certificate for getting me on the ground. She was awesome.’
Southwest Captain Shults, other members of the crew of Flight 1380 and several passengers who were on the aircraft met were invited to the Oval Office to meet President Trump earlier this month.
‘I’m honored to have the heroic crew and passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 at the White House,’ Trump said.
‘Tammie did an incredible job,’ he said. ‘I especially want to commend you for your life-saving actions.
‘Everyone’s talking about it,’ Trump said. ‘You drew from years of training and safety and you knew how to land that plane.
‘We salute you and every member of this crew.’
Twelve people were injured in the midair explosion, with seven treated at the scene for minor injuries, while the woman who was sucked out the plane, was immediately taken to hospital
The Boeing 737-700, which took off from New York’s La Guardia Airport for Dallas was traveling at 32,500ft when the engine on the left side of the plane exploded.
Passengers said they heard a loud ‘boom’ and the plane immediately dropped, they said, by what felt like 100ft. Riordan was sitting next to the smashed window was drawn towards it and others next to her held her down for 12 minutes until the plane landed.
Despite the crisis on board, Shults was calm as she told Air Traffic Control: ‘So we have a part of the aircraft missing.’
Shults is pictured with her first officer Darren Ellisor. President Trump said they both did an ‘incredible’ job
President Trump shakes hands with Southwest pilot Tammie-Jo Shults in the Oval Office on Tuesday two weeks after she successfully landed flight 1380 after a mid-air engine explosion which caused the death of a passenger
Asked if the plane was on fire, she said: ‘No, it’s not on fire but part of it’s missing. They said there is a hole and someone went out.’ She added that ‘we have injured passengers’ as she requested medical staff to meet them on landing. Passengers say that after landing the plane, the pilot took the time to speak to all those aboard personally.
‘Tammie Jo Shults, the pilot came back to speak to each of us personally,’ Diana McBride Self wrote. ‘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.’
Terrified passengers shared videos and photos from on board before the plane landed as they descended at 3,000ft per minute until they leveled out at 10,000ft.
One passenger filmed himself as he fitted his oxygen mask. ‘Something is wrong with our plane! It appears we are going down!
SOUTHWEST AIRLINES STATEMENT
We are deeply saddened to confirm that there is one fatality resulting from this accident.
The entire Southwest Airlines Family is devastated and extends its deepest, heartfelt sympathy to the Customers, Employees, Family Members, and loved ones affected by this tragic event.
We have activated our emergency response team and are deploying every resource to support those affected by this tragedy.
‘Emergency landing!! Southwest flight from NYC to Dallas!!’ Marty Martinez said as he broadcast live from the plane on Facebook.
He is the passenger who later told CBS the woman’s injuries left ‘blood everywhere.’ Martinez added that the plane ‘smelled like ash’ once the window was open. He said flight attendants rushed over in shock and pleaded with passengers to cover up the hole.
The first sign of trouble was a loud noise which happened when the engine exploded.
Timothy Bourman, 37, was sitting at the back of the plane when he said he heard a loud ‘boom’.
‘All the sudden, it felt like we dropped 100 feet. Everybody knew something’s going on.
‘This is bad, like really bad.’ A lot of people started panicking and yelling, just real scared.
‘We were kind of out of control for a while. It seemed like the pilot was having a hard time controlling the plane. Honestly I think we just all thought we were going down,’ he told Philly.com.
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