The hero pilot who safely landed a Southwest airlines plane when its engines blew up in mid-air has told how a “flashback” moment to her time in the navy helped her as the plane started to lose control.
Tammie Jo Shults and Darren Ellisor landed the Boeing 737 in Philadelphia after the explosion on 17 April, saving the lives of 144 passengers and five crew on board.
One passenger, Jennifer Riordan, was sucked out of a broken window and died.
Captain Shults, who was in the navy until 1993, told ABC News that her first thought when she realised what was happening was: “Here we go.”
She said: “Just because it seems like a flashback to some of the navy flying that we had done.
“We had to use hand signals because it was loud. And, there was, it was just hard to communicate for a lot of different reasons.”
She also praised her co-pilot, Mr Ellisor, for being easy to work with.
He described the moment of the explosion, telling ABC the plane banked to the left.
“We were passing through about 32,000 feet when we had a, a large bang and a rapid decompression,” he said. “The aircraft yawed and banked to the left, a little over more, a little over 40 degrees and we had a, a very severe vibration from the number one engine that was shaking everything.
“And, that all kind of happened all at once.”
The Southwest flight was on the way to Dallas from New York when it experienced trouble 20 minutes into the journey.
Capt Shults was praised by passengers for her calm demeanour, and was congratulated by Donald Trump at the White House for her work landing the aircraft.
One passenger, Alfred Tumlinson, said: “She has nerves of steel. 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.”
Mrs Riordan, who was 43, was “out of the aircraft to her waist” and several passengers tried to pull her back inside.
Philadelphia’s medical examiner ruled that the cause of Mrs Riordan’s death was blunt trauma to the head, neck and torso.
On Thursday, the National Transportation Safety Board said the engine explosion came from a failure of the fan blade, which resulted in the loss of the engine inlet and cowling. Fragments of these struck the fuselage, causing rapid depressurisation.