Southwest Captain Shults: nerves of steel + heart of gold= HERO

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Southwest Pilot Who Landed Crippled Plane Is Navy Veteran With ‘Nerves of Steel’

Southwest Captain responds to catastrophic failure of CFM 56

One of early Navy Fighter Pilot


 audio of the radio transmissions below (audio courtesy of

“Southwest 1380 has an engine fire,” Captain Shults radioed to air traffic controllers, not a hint of alarm in her voice. “Descending.”

HERO: person who, in the face of danger, combats adversity through feats of ingenuity, bravery or strength; etymology- Greek ἥρως (hērōs), “hero” (literally “protector” or “defender.”)

These are a few heroes (technically heroines) – Jean d’Arc, Amelia Earhart, Rosa Parks and Bessie Coleman.

Captain Tammie Jo Shults demonstrated the strength in the face of danger to qualify for the pantheon of ἥρως.

Her voice alone, as heard on the transcript of Southwest Flight 1380, meets the qualification for this appellation.

But there’s more to qualify Ms. Shults as a hero. The Captain earned her wings, the hard way as she learned to fly as one of the first female fighter pilots in the Navy three decades ago, piloting the F/A-18 Hornet in an era when women were barred from combat missions. The training program tested her nerves of steel in numerous encounters having little or nothing to do with flying.

Her career path to the civilian cockpit began in her junior year at MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe, Kan. At an Air Force recruitment event. She was attracted by the fact that a woman was part of the pilot cadre. When she graduated from MidAmerica Nazarene University in 1983 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and agribusiness and then set off to join the military. She entered Navy flight school in Pensacola, Fla., in 1985 as a pioneer.

She qualified in the F/A-18 Hornet, the twin-engine supersonic fighter jet and bomber. In 1989, she was assigned to the Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 34 in Point Mugu, Calif. Her squadron was led by the first female air commander in the Navy.

She retired from active service on March 31, 1993 and took a billet in reserves before leaving the military in 1994, reaching the rank of lieutenant commander. Finally, Captain Shults later became a pilot with Southwest Airlines, as did her husband, Dean M. Shults. They have two daughters.

Not only did she exhibit nerves of steel, but after bringing her B-737 to a safe landing at Philadelphia International, she showed a heart of gold- consoling her passengers when her nerves must have been frayed.

The ability to give after duress is another attribute of a hero.















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2 Comments on "Southwest Captain Shults: nerves of steel + heart of gold= HERO"

  1. Fabulous story! Thank you for highlighting values. Bless you for the montage of women heroes.

  2. Sandy Murdock | April 19, 2018 at 5:25 pm | Reply

    Thank you, NM.

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