Super-SHE-ro, Captain Tammie Jo Shults, We Salute You
There’s no doubt that you have all already heard about the crazy events that transpired surrounding flight 1380 yesterday. I will skip the terrifying details because you can read them on a million different other sites already.
What I want to focus on instead is the identity of the pilot who safely brought home a plane that was under extreme duress with an uncontained engine failure, critically injured passengers, and a gaping hole that had been torn in the side of the fuselage depressurizing the aircraft. Many in the media are dubbing this captain a hero. I completely disagree.
The captain of Flight 1380 was no hero…the captain was a bonafide SHE-ro – a woman! Step aside, Wonder Woman, meet a real live superSHEro!
Her name is Tammie Jo Shults, and she is the courageous and cool-headed captain of Southwest Flight 1380. Tammie Jo, 56, is an ex-Navy F-18 fighter jet pilot (you GO, girl), one of the first ever females to do so. She resigned her commission in 1993 and crossed over into civilian aviation to Southwest Airlines.
Tammie Jo is married to her husband, Dean, who just so happens to also be a Southwest pilot. This family is full of LUV. They have two children and reside in Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas (she’s kind of my neighbor then!!). She is a Christian who once stated that piloting planes gives her the opportunity to ‘witness for Christ on almost every flight.’ Yesterday she did that…and more.
I had the opportunity to listen to the tower transmissions this evening after my children finally went to bed. As the spouse of a pilot, I admit that my heart was in my throat the entire time, but not once did Tammie Jo sound anything but calm, cool, and completely collected despite the gravity of the situation on hand. Even when the tower sounded slightly flustered (is that 2-7 left or 2-7 right?), she keeps it together, calmly verifying runways before bringing in the injured bird. Once on the ground, she even has the presence of mind to thank ATC for their help.
After landing, she didn’t abandon ship, kiss the ground, and run for an underwear change (like I would have had to!). Like any good and solid captain, she headed to the back to speak to each passenger individually, imparting on them words of encouragement and kindness. This is one impressive lady.
Tammie Jo is one of the only *7% of female pilots working in commercial aviation. She has spent her life overcoming the stereotypes, stigmas, and odds of women in aviation to get where she is, and today we are glad she did!
She was rejected…let me repeat that…REJECTED at the aviation career day at her high school because she was a girl (I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit), and ended up going to college with a declaration of veterinary medicine instead. However, when it’s in your blood, it’s in your blood. In her junior year she “went to an Air Force winging with a friend whose brother was getting his wings. And, lo, there was a girl in his class,” she related.
After being denied a test by the Air Force because, yup, she was a girl, Shults was finally snapped up by the Navy. However, the sexism did not end there. She was never allowed to fly in combat because…oh, never mind. However, she did become an ‘aggressor pilot’ as well as an instructor until she resigned her commission.
Tammie would go on to endure many other issues and obstacles related to her gender in a male-dominated field, but she never gave up. Yesterday, she proved without one iota of a doubt that girls fly too! Perhaps, she just helped pave the runway for the next generation of female pilots! An interesting read on the struggles of female pilots in aviation is “A Chick in the Cockpit” by Erika Armstrong. I’m warning you, just prepare to be angry…really, really angry if you read it.
On behalf of the entire aviation community, we want to say how proud we are of Captain Tammie Jo and the entire crew of Flight 1380. It’s due to your clear-headed decision making capabilities that 148 people were able to walk away from a heavily damaged aircraft today.
All too often the media ignores the amazing things the men and women of our community are doing day in and day out. We spend too much time in the stereotypical spotlight being scrutinized by outsiders who have no idea what a career in aviation really entails. I absolutely love that, for once, the pilots and flight attendants are getting the accolades that they 100 percent deserve.
THIS is why there should be a human in the cockpit. THIS is why our pilots spend countless hours away from their families training, training, and training some more. THIS is why our pilots should be fairly and properly compensated for the unique and priceless skills they bring to the tray table.
They are all highly trained heroes in waiting.
I know that there has been much concern triggered about the safety of flying by today’s events. I want you to know that pilots are professionals, skilled and highly trained for just such eventualities and are dedicated to getting you safely and comfortably to your destinations. I want to assure you that today’s rare incident was an extremely unusual event and that flying is still a safe and wonderful way to travel. I have the utmost faith in the men and women of the sky. I would get on an airplane tomorrow without a moment’s hesitation.
I also want to extend the pride of the aviation community to the flight attendants who undoubtedly earned their money today doing their real job, helping terrified PAX stay safe in a grave emergency. They’re not just your pretzel vending machines; they are highly trained to assist you in cases of emergency when you are too frightened or too injured to assist yourself. I urge you to listen to their instructions, pay attention to the safety demonstrations, and keep those seatbelts buckled at all times. This stuff exists for a reason, and that reason is your safety…not to annoy you or disturb your Tetris game.
I want to give a shout out to the First Office, though try as I might, I cannot locate his/her name as of yet. There are two people flying the plane, not just one. Let’s not forget it. We know you weren’t just sitting there eating bon-bons and reading the paper. We commend you and are very proud of you!
I want to extend the gratitude of this community to the passengers who stayed relatively calm in a scary situation and the two brave men who risked their own lives to help an injured woman. I want to extend the gratitude of this community to the ATC tower for their cool-headedness, willingness to assist in whatever way necessary, and for keeping themselves calm as not to cause the crew more stress. From start to finish, ground to sky, today the aviation community showed what unity is all about. Simply amazing.
This community would especially like to express our deepest condolences to the husband, children, and extended family and friends of Jennifer Riordan. Our hearts are breaking for your loss today. Our thoughts and prayers go with you as you search for the courage to put one foot in front of the other in the next days, weeks, and months. We are sorry for your precious loss.
And to Captain Tammie Jo Shultz, our real aviation super-SHE-ro, we at #thepilotwifelife salute you. Blue skies, sister. You make us proud. Today you showed all the people that stood in your way over the years that…
Girls. Fly. Too.
I LUV you, aviation family. LUV one another fiercely.
~Angelia (a proud member of the aviation community)
*source: FAA Aeronautical Center