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Pilot of Emergency Southwest Flight to Speak at AirVenture

Tammie Jo Shults will share her story during WomenVenture

By Megan Esau, EAA Assistant Editor

July 24, 2018 - Tammie Jo Shults, EAA 1168555 and captain of Southwest Flight 1380 that made an emergency landing in April after one of the Boeing 737’s engines exploded, will share her story as part of the Celebrating Powerful Pilots program on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Theater in the Woods.

After the engine on Flight 1380 blew apart, sending debris through a window and causing rapid depressurization, Shults and first officer Darren Ellisor worked together to make a safe landing in Philadelphia.

“I flew and talked, and he took care of systems and checklists and was always available to the flight attendants so we could find out what had happened back there,” Shults said. “We could see a little bit of what happened from the cockpit and our engine indications, but we certainly didn’t know the extent of what had gone on, so it was good to hear that, and also to let the flight attendants know that they could [let] the passengers know we were not going down, we were going into Philly.”

Shults and Ellisor had only flown together once before, and that day was the first time she had met any of the flight attendants — a testament to Shults’ leadership abilities, which she said were developed from witnessing a few excellent examples of team leadership in her aviation career.

“Getting together and having a cup of coffee and getting our day started with some conversation I think helped a lot in being able to not only communicate, but trust each other when times were really very precarious, and it was hard to hear,” Shults said. “It was definitely a rough ride.”

Shults first became enamored with aviation as a young girl, through reading aviation books and watching military planes fly over her family’s New Mexico ranch, which was used as a reference point for the planes’ dogfighting exercises.

“I wanted to fly no matter what avenue,” she said. “I didn’t have the means to buy the books, let alone the lessons, so after I finally figured out that there was a way to get into the military to fly, I went the only route, the only military that would let me apply, which was the Navy.”

Being among the first female fighter pilots in the U.S. military after completing her training at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Shults said she has faced her share of adversity. However, she said she uses the challenges she faced to better her abilities.

She said the message to young women who want to get into aviation should be that they are well equipped with the skills needed to fly, such as multitasking and compartmentalization. But, she said, they also need to be willing to work hard.

“I think, first and foremost, not everybody can do everything,” Shults said. “I think it still needs to be, and always should be, merit based. That’s what I fought and wished for when I was going through — that the person that did the best at something get to progress in that. I think women getting into aviation opens up whatever percentage of the population we are, so that we get the best pilots. Not just the best guy pilots, but the best pilots.”

This will be Shults’ second time attending AirVenture. Her husband and son typically come without her while she stays home for her scheduled Southwest checkride.

The Celebrating Powerful Pilots program is part of the 2018 WomenVenture activities at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.

Shults will be joined by Heather Penney, one of the F-16 pilots who was scrambled to intercept United Airlines Flight 93 on 9/11; Lt. Gen. Stayce Harris, inspector general of the U.S. Air Force; and Capt. Jessica Hodson, a KC-10 instructor pilot in the Air Force Reserve who will fly into AirVenture with her all-female crew.

The evening will be emceed by Lt. Col. Olga Custodio, the first female Hispanic military pilot in the U.S.

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