Southwest Pilot and Navy Pioneer Hailed as Hero for 'Nerves of Steel'

The Southwest pilot who landed a plane that had an engine explode is a Navy pioneer who is being hailed as a hero with "nerves of steel."

As has been widely reported, during a flight from LaGuardia Airport in New York, that was on its way to Dallas, Texas, an explosion on the aircraft caused it to lose an engine and knock out a window.

Tammie Jo Shults, the pilot on-board, had to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Shults, as it turns out, is an ex-fighter pilot who was among one of the very first female fighter pilots in the U.S. Navy.

One of the passengers on the plane, Corpus Christi, Texas-native Alfred Tumlinson, spoke about how impressed he was with Captain Shults' ability to handle the high-pressure situation.

"She has nerves of steel. That lady, I applaud her. 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," he said, as reported by PEOPLE. "The lady, the crew, everything, everybody was immaculate. They were so professional in what they did to get us on the ground."

Sadly, the window that was knocked out during the explosion caused a passenger to be partially sucked out, which ended up resulting in fatal injuries.

Marty Martinez, who was also on the flight, spoke with reporters and described what happened.

"All of a sudden, we heard an explosion and I come to find out that the engine exploded on the left side of the plane," he detailed. "That explosion caused one of the windows to explode in row 17 of the plane, which was just two aisles over from me."

"I thought I was cataloging the last moments of my existence," Martinez continued. "It was absolutely terrifying."

"The plane felt like it was freefalling going down and we were probably going down for 10 or 15 minutes and of course, everyone is freaking out," Martinez added, saying that even the flight attendants were noticeably shaken. "Everyone is crying. It was the scariest experience."


Martinez finally said that at no point during the landing did the passengers receive guidance or instruction from the pilot or flight crew. Rather, it was not until the arrived safely on the ground that a flight attendant advised them about the engine blowout.

Shortly after the landing, the Philadelphia airport tweeted out, "FAA has issued ground stop for planes on the ground at other airports waiting to depart for PHL. Check flight status with your airline. Flights are departing PHL. Passengers should expect delays."