Former Navy Pilot Praised For Handling Of Southwest Emergency

  • E-Mail this Article
  • View Printable Article
  • Text size:

    • A
    • A
    • A

Tammie Jo Shults with husband and fellow Southwest pilot Dean Shults. Image: Kevin Garber/MidAmerica Nazarene University

Tammie Jo Shults with husband and fellow Southwest pilot Dean Shults. Image: Kevin Garber/MidAmerica Nazarene University

Southwest Airlines captain Tammie Jo Shults, 56, is being hailed as a hero for her deft and calm handling of an uncontained engine failure that damaged her Boeing 737 and claimed the life of passenger Jennifer Riordan on Tuesday. Throughout the emergency, Shults’ communications remained clear and direct as she diverted the plane to Philadelphia, worked out an approach plan with ATC and made sure emergency vehicles and medical transport were standing by.

A former U.S. Navy pilot, Shults flew F/A-18 Hornets with VAQ-34, a tactical electronic warfare squadron based in Point Mugu, California. She also served as an instructor on both the Hornet and the EA-6B Prowler. Shults joined the Navy after graduating from MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe, Kansas, in 1983 with a degree in biology and agribusiness. According to a statement issued by the U.S. Navy, “Lt. Commander Shults was among the first cohort of women pilots to transition to tactical aircraft.”

Southwest has not yet released a statement naming the pilot in command of Flight 1380. Shults was identified by passengers onboard the flight and by photos taken on the plane.

Though each airline has their own proprietary checklists and quick reference handbook (QRH) for abnormal procedures, generally speaking, in the event of a rapid, uncontrollable cabin depressurization at altitude, the captain takes the controls, both pilots put on their oxygen masks, turn the passenger oxygen switch on and begin an emergency descent to a safe altitude (10,000 feet or the lowest safe altitude above that). Typically, the pilot monitoring talks to ATC during that phase. When that’s done, the pilot flying takes over the coms while the other checks in with the cabin crew.

For engine failures, common procedure is to disengage the autopilot, determine the source of the shutdown (fire, physical damage, etc.), either restart the engine (if safe and possible) or shut it down properly, and land the aircraft as soon as practical. As can be heard in recordings of ATC audio from the Southwest emergency, speed is adjusted as needed to mitigate any vibration or other issues caused by structural damage.

Comments (4)

Excellent job Capt.Tammie Jo Shults..........Navy pilots rule

Posted by: Christopher Lawrence | April 18, 2018 4:08 PM    Report this comment

This is a perfect example of what has always made America a great country filled with great people from all over the world. Great job by flight crew and passengers during a stress filled incident.

Posted by: Allen Churchwell | April 19, 2018 6:30 AM    Report this comment

This is a perfect example of what has always made America a great country filled with great people from all over the world. Great job by flight crew and passengers during a stress filled incident.

Posted by: Allen Churchwell | April 19, 2018 6:31 AM    Report this comment

Hello Kate,
well written comments regarding SW1380,additionally I wrote to Paul on this particular multiple failure.
Sure every airline has the oppertunity to deviate from the suggested Boeing FCOM and QRH as long it is not in contradiction to the AFM.
However I have no idea where you find suggestions to disengage the autopilot during Rapid Descent since the B737 NG FCTM recommends the use of autopilot, although manual flight is described as alternative - as in most other BC manuals.
Who ever experienced a real explosive decompression describes vividly his/her problems like - ear, burp, bowel etc - conversation is difficult due to the mask interphone + breathing noise - what would be the benefit of hand flying?

Cheers
A.J."Toni" Beidl rtd PiC B737, A300/310, B744, EASA TRI, TRE

PS: for your info -no need to publish it

Posted by: Anton Beidl | April 20, 2018 3:51 PM    Report this comment

Add your comments

Log In

You must be logged in to comment

Forgot password?

Register

Enter your information below to begin your FREE registration