The Southwest Airlines pilot who made an emergency landing Tuesday after the jet blew an engine and lost a window at 32,000 feet was one of the first female pilots to fly with the U.S. Navy, The New York Post reported.
Tammie Jo Shults, 56, was calm as she navigated the damaged Dallas-bound jet, Flight 1380, to an emergency landing in Philadelphia, the report said.
The twin-engine Boeing 737 that left New York’s LaGuardia Airport had 143 customers and five crew on board. One passenger died after she was reportedly hit with shrapnel from the explosion.
Jennifer Riordan, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was identified as the woman who died. Riordan was the mother of two and a Wells Fargo bank executive.
Witnesses told WCAU that a woman was "partially sucked out" of an airplane window and shrapnel from the exploded engine smashed it, but it remains unclear whether Riordan was that passenger.
Seven others were injured.
“We have a part of the aircraft missing, so we’re going to need to slow down a bit,” Shults told air traffic controllers from the cockpit, Reuters reported.
Shults took the plane into a rapid descent as passengers employed oxygen masks and braced for impact. The veteran pilot managed to safely land the plane at Philadelphia International at 11:30 a.m.
One passenger cited by The Kansas City Star, lauded Shults’ “nerves of steel.”
Shults, a Christian, once said in an interview that sitting in the captain's chair gave her "the opportunity to witness for Christ on almost every flight."
“Tammie Jo Schults, the pilot came back to speak to each of us personally,” wrote another passenger, cited by the paper. “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.”
Shults was one of the first female fighter pilots in U.S. military history, according to friends from her alma mater, MidAmerican Nazarene. She was a pilot and instructor with the Navy before joining Southwest Airlines in 1993, KUSI reported.
In a written statement, Southwest Airlines said it was ‘devastated’ over Tuesday’s event. The company did not explicitly mention Shults.
The Associated Press contributed to this report