Southwest’s Tammie Jo Shults: Hero, Pilot and Christian

Tammie Jo Shults
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Tammie Jo Shults is likely to become a household name after she managed to keep her cool and successfully land a Southwest Airlines plane that had lost an engine. Shults is a Navy veteran and a really good pilot.

What you may not know about her is that she’s also a Christian. She says being a pilot gives her the opportunity “to witness for Christ on almost every flight.”

Shults certainly witnessed to the 149 passengers who were aboard the flight she was piloting from New York City to Dallas on April 17, 2018. An explosion in the left engine of the plane sent a piece of shrapnel through one of the windows of the plane. A woman was partially sucked out the window but other passengers managed to pull her body back into the plane and a registered nurse administered CPR until the plane landed.

While all the details have not yet been released, we know that the passenger, Jennifer Riordan of Albuquerque, New Mexico, died. Seven other passengers suffered minor injuries.

Keeping calm and thinking clearly, Shults was able to land the damaged plane in Philadelphia. Shults would have had plenty of practice keeping cool under pressure during her career in the Navy. She was the first female pilot to fly an F-18, a fighter jet. While she wasn’t allowed to fly in combat situations, Shults was an instructor pilot.

Before her time in the Navy, Shults attended MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe, Kansas. She graduated with degrees in biology and agribusiness. After graduating, Shults originally applied to the Air Force for pilot training but was denied.

MidAmerica Nazarene’s director of alumni relations, Kevin Garber, describes Shults as a “solid woman of faith,” NBC News reports. Shults’ brother-in-law, Gary Shults, describes her as “a very caring, giving person who takes care of lots of people.”

Indeed, Shults’ concern for others was apparent after she landed the damaged plane. Passengers on board report Shults walked through the aisle to check on everyone. According to passengers, the plane erupted in applause as she came through the cabin.

You can listen to an audio recording of Shults talking to air traffic control as she makes the emergency landing. Shults is a picture of keeping calm under pressure. She is also an exemplary leader.

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Megan Briggs
Megan Briggs is a writer and editor for ChurchLeaders.com. Her experience in ministry, an extensive amount of which was garnered overseas, gives her a unique perspective on the global church. She has the longsuffering and altruistic nature of foreign friends and missionaries to humbly thank for this experience. Megan is passionate about seeking and proclaiming the truth. When she’s not writing, Megan likes to explore God’s magnificent creation.

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