By; Ringo Bones
Maybe it was the tragic death of passenger Jennifer Riordan of Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 – where a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 carrying 149 passengers developed a fault with one of its CFM56-78 jet engines and was forced to make an emergency landing at Philadelphia Airport back in April 17, 2018 – but the social networking world was set alight by posts hailing the pilot Capt. Tammie Jo Shults as a hero who safely landed the stricken plane. It was no mean feat because without the quick action of Captain Shults, Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 would have ended in tragedy because for a few harrowing seconds, the stricken aircraft rolled to an angle of 41 degrees after one of the plane engines exploded and yet Captain Shults managed to land the plane safely. Tragically, 43 year old mother of two Jennifer Riordan was nearly sucked out of the plane after a few pieces of shrapnel of the exploding engine smashed the window next to her causing rapid decompression in the cabin that nearly blasted her out of the jet. Nearby passengers managed to pull her back in and tried to revive her but she died from her injuries.
Capt. Tammie Jo Shults is a New Mexico native who graduated with university degrees in biology and agribusiness before joining the military. Her first choice was to join the US Air Force as a military aviator but at the time, USAF doesn’t yet allow women aviators so she applied for the US Navy as a naval aviator but only served as an instructor for 10 years because the US Navy still bans women from doing frontline duty. She ended her active service in 1993 after achieving the rank of lieutenant commander. Her husband Dean Shults also works as a pilot for Southwest Airlines.
Is the 21st Century aviation world still largely a man’s world? Well, most folks today probably only knew one woman aviator – i.e. Amelia Earhart, but I bet most of them probably don’t know the record setting test flights made by test pilot Jacqueline Cochran with an F-104 Starfighter back in 1964 even though there’s a major airport named in her honor. Sadly, this could be the main reason why Capt. Tammie Jo Shults is currently not as big as Capt. Sully Sullenberger.