In the aftermath of the Southwest Airlines engine failure and emergency landing on Tuesday, which left one woman dead and seven others injured, passengers from the flight and many others are praising the pilot who managed to land the aircraft safely at Philadelphia International Airport.
Tammie Jo Shults was one of the pilots on Flight 1380, which departed New York's LaGuardia Airport for Dallas Love on Tuesday morning carrying 149 people. About 20 minutes into the flight, the plane's left engine failed, sending shrapnel into one of the aircraft's windows and shattering it while the plane sailed at 32,500 feet. A woman sitting next to the window was partially "sucked out," with the top half of her torso hanging in the open air, The New York Times reported.
Passengers rushed to her aid, spending several minutes pulling her away from the hole, until she was brought back into the cabin. Max Kraidelman, a passenger onboard the flight, said: "The top half of her torso was out the window. There was a lot of blood because she was hit by some of the shrapnel coming off the engine after it exploded."
The woman, who later died on Tuesday, was identified as Jennifer Riordan, a 43-year-old community relations leader and mother of two from Albequerque, New Mexico, according to CNN. Her death is the first in the history of Southwest Airlines and the first in American commercial airline travel since 2009, according to National Transportation Safety Board chairman Robert Sumwalt.
Amid the chaos, Shults landed the plane safely in Philadelphia at 11:20 am. Her feat of landing a severely damaged aircraft without further incident is being hailed as a triumph. Shults is one of the first female U.S. Navy fighter pilots in history, and of the first pilots to fly the F/A 18 jet. She's 56-years-old, hails from Albuquerque, and reportedly walked up and down the aisle of the aircraft after the landing to make sure passengers were OK.
In an interview with CNN affiliate WPVI, Alfred Tumlinson, a passenger on the Southwest flight, commended the pilot for maintaining calm.
“She has nerves of steel,” he said. “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.”
Twitter has been singing her praises since the incident: