Emergency Radio Commumications of SW Captain with ATC

Yesterday’s following radio communication between the Southwest Airlines Captain, a former Navy fighter aircraft pilot, Tammie Jo Shults, and ATC, reveals her calm demeanor – – – and also clearly shows her skilled handling of the serious emergency.  The 7:26 long audio clip also exhibits the professionalism of the Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) who handled things equally well from the ground.

The audio has been condensed but includes all currently available ATC transmissions to and from Southwest (SWA 1380)  from the time the Mrs. Shults declared the emergency to the time she safely brought the ship to a stop at Philadelphia.

Not only was the 56 year old Captain Shults calm during the entire crisis, but notice how her voice sounds as though she were conducting a normal flight, one without any kind of emergency, let alone one so severe.

The quality of these sequential audio feeds varies significantly due to distance between transmitters, A/D converters, interference, receivers, bandwidth, bitrate, compression, digital artifacts, dither, and other typical variables.

Tammie Jo Shults by F-18 Fighter – Click photo for story

Shults calmly flew Southwest Flight 1380 to safety after part of its left (Number 1) engine exploded and then part of its nacelle (container pod) ripped off, damaging a window and nearly sucking a woman, who was the sole fatality, out of the plane. The flight was en route to Dallas Love airport from New York City.   Captain Shults quickly chose to make the emergency landing in PhiladelphiaWith the help of her co-pilot and the rest of the crew, she turned what could have been a complete loss of life for all aboard, into a relatively safe conclusion.

           Current photo of  Capt. Shults

The NTSB reported the one fatality out of 143 passengers on board. The woman who died has been identified as Jennifer Riordan, 43, of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

After safely landing at Philadelphia, Captain Shults stopped to personally console each passenger as they left the aircraft.

Shults was piloting the Boeing 737 when, at 32,000 feet, shrapnel from the exploding engine smashed out a window. She immediately put the airliner into a rapid descent, making the safe emergency landing. Aside from the one fatality, seven passengers had minor injuries. Thankful passengers immediately began posting on social media after their plane landed, declaring that Shults, her co-pilot/1st Officer, a USAF veteran, Daren Ellison, and the rest of the crew were heroes. On Instagram, @abourman wrote, “Our engine blew out at 38000 (it was actually 32,000) ft. A window blew out, a man saved us all as he jumped to cover the window. … The pilot, Tammy Jo was so amazing! She landed us safely in Philly.”

Photo of destroyed left engine on SWA Flight 1380

Captain Shults grew up on a ranch near Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, where watching air shows and living under one of the air base’s flight paths, helped inspire her to join the Navy as one of its first female fighter aircraft pilots. She first tried to fly for the USAF, but at that time the Air Force wasn’t interested in recruiting women pilots.  She wrote about her Navy career in the book, “Military Fly Momsby Linda Maloney, in 2012.  Her husband, Dean, is also a pilot for Southwest and was a former Fighter Pilot.  The flying couple have two children, a teenage boy and a girl in her 20’s.


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