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Hero pilot Tammie Jo Shults lauded for 'nerves of steel'

Tammie Jo Shults was one of the first female fighter pilots to serve in the U.S. military, and the now-Southwest Airlines pilot showed trained resolve Wednesday afternoon, landing her commercial airliner safely in the face of total engine failure and complete chaos inside the aircraft.

Shults joined the Navy after finishing college. She went on to become the first woman to fly an F/A-18 Hornet for the Navy, according to the Kansas City Star. She then served as a military flight instructor before becoming a commercial pilot.

On Wednesday, she faced perhaps her greatest test when one of the engines on her plane exploded en route from New York to Dallas at 32,000 feet.

A viral audio recording of the emergency communications between Shults and Air Traffic Control displayed how she remained remarkably cool under pressure.

There was chaos among passengers in the cabin. A number of people were injured by the engine blast, and one person died, but the recording made clear that Shults remained squarely focused on landing her Boeing 737 safely in Philadelphia.

One passenger described Shults 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,” said passenger Diana McBride Self.

"She has nerves of steel," passenger Alfred Tumlinson told USA Today. "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."

The NTSB is now investigating what caused one of the engines to fail. An preliminary review showed that one of the metal blades had separated from the engine.


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