Pilot who landed crippled Southwest plane was one of the first female fighter pilots in the U.S. Navy

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For the first time since 2009, there has been a fatality on an American airliner. After one of the engines exploded mid-air, a female passenger was partially sucked from the plane, hitting her head, and dying upon impact. If it wasn’t for their quick-thinking and calm ex-Navy pilot, there could have been more deaths.

Tammie Joe Shults was able to emergency land the Southwest Airlines flight in Philadelphia and is being touted as a true American hero. Shults, the first female to fly an F-18, had to rely on her training and quick thinking after the plane’s engine exploded at 32,000 feet.

Immediately following the explosion, Shults alerted air traffic control: “So we have a part of the aircraft missing.”

In return, air traffic control asked if there was any fire. “No, it’s not on fire but part of it’s missing. They said there is a hole and someone went out,” she said calmly.

Even after she safely landed the aircraft, Shults was said to have gone to every single passenger to make sure they were alright.

Diana McBride, one of the passengers on the airliner, expressed her gratitude towards Shults by saying she was “a true American Hero. A huge thank you for her knowledge, guidance and bravery in a traumatic situation. God bless her and all the crew.”

According to the Daily Mail, twelve people were injured during the explosion and Jennifer Riordan, the woman who was partially sucked out of the plane’s window before being dragged back in by bystanders, died before the plane landed.

Timothy Bourman, another passenger on the flight, said he felt a massive “boom” shortly after takeoff. “This is bad, like really bad.’ A lot of people started panicking and yelling, just real scared,” he recalled.

Bourman, along with the other passengers, echoed sentiments of appreciation. “We’re just all really thankful to be alive right now. Thankful to God, thankful to that pilot,” he added.

According to Fox News, the 56-year-old ex-Navy pilot was the first female pilot to be a fighter pilot. Before she retired from the Navy, Shults was an instructor for fighter pilots.

In 1993, she joined Southwest Airlines.