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Tammie Jo Shults, 56, originally from New Mexico, may have reverted back to her Navy pilot skills when one of the two engines on her Boeing 737-700 aircraft broke apart after it exploded. One of the first female pilots of F-18 fighter jets, she eventually became an instructor, and then left the department of the Naval Air Force in 1993. Originally rejected by the Air Force, her ongoing persistent urge to fly had her right then at 32,000 feet with a blown engine in a Southwest Airline jet full of very frightened passengers.
Known for being cool-headed under pressure, Tammie Jo is a Christian who has two children with her husband, who is a pilot as well. She would need every bit of nerve that she was known for right then, as the explosion killed one passenger after nearly sucking them out of a shattered window.
Forcing her to implement a quick descent towards Philadelphia International Airport, Tammie calmly told air traffic control that a section of her airplane was missing, and she would need ambulances on the runway. She conveyed to the controller, "So we have a part of the aircraft missing so we're going to need to slow down a bit."
Amanda Bourman, a passenger, later stated, "The pilot, Tammy Jo, was so amazing! She landed us safely in Philadelphia. God sent his angels to watch over us. I actually heard someone say, there is a God!!" Bourman was among some passengers who said that they had been saved by divine intervention. Bourman elaborated, "God sent his angels to watch over us."
Passengers identified Shults as the pilot. Southwest Airlines declined to give the names of the rest of the crew of flight 1380. National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt told reporters, "The crew did what they were trained to do. They did the job that professional airline pilots are trained to do."
Tammie Jo might have not become a pilot if she had not been so determined to fly from an early age and on. In high school, she said that she tried to attend aviation career day but they said that they did not accept girls. The pilot progressed a long way since that day in high school, getting her first flying experience by landing F-18 fighter jets at 150 miles per hour on aircraft carriers and right then successfully landing a broken down commercial airliner saving 143 of the 144 lives on board.
Shults later said, "sitting in the captain's chair gave me the opportunity to witness for Christ on almost every flight."