A former U.S. Navy fighter pilot is being
hailed as an American hero after she safely
landed a passenger jet that sustained
catastrophic engine failure high in the
skies over the eastern United States.
Tammie Jo Shults, the pilot on Tuesday's
Southwest Airlines flight from New York to
Dallas, was flying uneventfully at more than
9,600 meters when the left engine on a
Boeing 737 aircraft suddenly blew apart,
with shrapnel shattering a window, partially
sucking one woman out of the plane. Other
passengers were able to pull the woman back
into the jet, but she later died, the first
casualty in a U.S. commercial aviation
accident in nine years.
One passenger, Diana McBride Self, posted
a picture of Shults on Facebook, saying,
"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."
On Instagram, passenger Amanda Bourman
posted a picture of the ruptured engine,
saying, "The pilot, Tammy Jo was so
National Transportation Safety Board
investigators examine damage to the engine
of the Southwest Airlines plane that made an
emergency landing at Philadelphia
International Airport in Philadelphia, April
As the incident unfolded, Shults, who
once helped train ship crews to respond to
Soviet missile threats, told an air traffic
controller, "We have a part of the aircraft
While descending more than 6,600 meters
in five minutes in advance of an emergency
landing in Philadelphia, Shults asked the
controller, "Could you have the medical meet
us there on the runway, as well? We've got
Air traffic control responded: "Injured
passengers, OK. And is your airplane
physically on fire?"
"No, it's not on fire," she responded,
"But part of it is missing. They said
there's a hole and that someone went out."
One passenger told CNN, "All of a sudden,
we heard this loud bang, rattling. It felt
like one of the engines went out. The oxygen
masks dropped. It just shredded the
left-side engine completely. It was scary."
Hours later, National Transportation
Safety Board chairman Robert Sumwalt said
investigators found that one of the left
engine's 24 fan blades was missing.
"This fan blade was broken right at the
hub, and our preliminary examination of this
was there is evidence of metal fatigue where
the blade separated," he said. "We believe
there were parts coming out of this engine."
The woman killed in the accident was
identified as Jennifer Riordan, a
43-year-old bank executive and mother of two
children from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Seven
others, among the 149 aboard the flight,
were slightly injured.
Investigators have the airliner's flight
data recorders and will likely have to take
the damaged engine apart to examine it.
The plane was equipped with a CFM 56-7B
engine. CFM International and the Federal
Aviation Administration recommended airlines
inspect fan blades on such engines after a
report of a fan blade breaking off on a
flight last year.
It is unclear if the failed engine on
Flight 1380 was covered by the FAA's