Why you need to listen to the audio of "hero pilot" Tammie Jo Shults

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Susan Devaney
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Audio has been released of the conversations on board Southwest Airlines flight 1380 – where one woman died after an engine exploded mid-air – leading to the pilot being called a “hero” for her calm composure. 

Every single time we set foot on an airplane, we are asked to listen to the on-board safety demonstration, in the unlikely event that we find ourselves caught up in a mid-air emergency. Thankfully, though, the number of times we’ve needed to use this information has remained miniscule: not only are you more likely to be struck by lightning than be in a plane crash, you are even more likely to be struck this year. 

Unfortunately, for the passengers on board Southwest Airlines flight 1380, the nightmare of dealing with an emergency on board quickly became a reality. After an engine exploded mid-air, and one woman was partially sucked out of a window, people on board had to deal with a dreadful situation.

It is believed that the woman, Jennifer Riordan, died in the initial engine explosion, which sent shrapnel smashing into the Boeing 737-700. However, passengers have voiced that the fatalities could have been numerous had it not been for one woman: pilot Tammie Jo Shults.

Now, audio has been released to showcase Shults’ calm demeanour on board, and it’s nothing short of courageous.

Speaking to air traffic control she says: “We have got part of the aircraft missing,” adding shortly, “So we are going to need to slow down a bit.”

After diverting the New York to Dallas flight to Philadelphia International Airport, Shults can be heard calmly informing them: “Can you have the medical meet us there on the runway as well. We have got … injured passengers.”

An air traffic controller replies: “Injured passengers, OK, and is your airplane physically on fire?”

“No,” Shults replies, “It’s not on fire, but part of it is missing. They said there is a hole and, someone went out.”

Understandably, the controller thinks he’s misheard her, and asks: “I’m sorry? You said there is a hole and someone went out?”

After collecting himself, he responds: “Southwest 1380 it doesn’t matter, we’ll work it out there. So the airport’s off to your right.”

Minutes later, Shults makes an emergency landing, and thanks all of the air traffic controllers for their assistance.

“Thank you, we are going to stop right here by the fire trucks. Thank you, guys, for the help,” she says. 

And, as it turns, the passengers couldn’t have been in better hands as Shults was the first female fighter pilot in the US Navy. She tried to attend an aviation career day at high school but was told they didn’t accept girls, according to blog,

After studying medicine, Shults applied to the US Air Force. She wasn’t allowed to take the test to become a pilot, but the US Navy allowed her to. 

Many people have taken to social media to praise her.

“She personally spoke with each passenger on the plane,” one person posted. 

Another person wrote: “Wow wow wow. Some (unconfirmed) information circulating on #tammiejoshults is circulating is saying that, as a woman, she wasn’t allowed to fly combat missions for the U.S. Navy. All I’m saying is that the Navy was missing out.” 

“I know #USNavy veteran Tammie Jo Shults doesn’t need accolades & probably feels like she was just doing job as any skilled pilot would, but I am in awe of this woman, one of the first female fighter pilots, all around badass,” another person posted. 

We’re sure glad Shults didn’t let sexism hold her back in her chosen profession.

Images: Twitter / Getty 


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Susan Devaney

Susan Devaney is a digital journalist for, writing about fashion, beauty, travel, feminism, and everything else in-between.