'Angels' and training help former fighter pilot save Southwest flight


Flight 1380 passengers have praised how Shults skillfully landed their plane after it depressurized and how she greeted each passenger after they were safely on the ground.

After the mid-air blast tore a gaping hole in the aircraft's side she told shocked air traffic controllers "there's a hole and uh... someone went out".

As one of the Navy's first female fighter pilots, she served in VAQ-34, a tactical electronic warfare squadron out of Point Mugu, California, that helped train ship crews to respond to Soviet missile threats, according to Navy records.

"The plane was steady as a rock after (the engine blew)", said Eric Zilbert. Riordan was the first ever passenger death in Southwest Airlines' history. She added, "It was just as if she and I were sitting here talking". That led to decompression of the cabin which sucked one woman, Jennifer Riordan, partly out of the plane.

For engine failures, common procedure is to disengage the autopilot, determine the source of the shutdown (fire, physical damage, etc.), either restart the engine (if safe and possible) or shut it down properly, and land the aircraft as soon as practical.

"This is a true American Hero".

"One passenger, a woman, was partially drawn out towards the out of the plane, she was pulled back in by other passengers", Todd Bauer, the father of another passenger on board, told NBC 10. But Captain Shults' skills and experience forewarned her that an airplane flying that slowly with its flaps fully extended and with asymmetrical power could become fatally unstable in the final stage of the landing, so she used a minimal flap setting to maintain a higher speed and stability-taking the risk that the landing gear and particularly the tires could survive a higher speed impact.

For the next 40 minutes, she displayed what one passenger later called "nerves of steel," maneuvering the plane, which had been on its way from La Guardia Airport in NY to Dallas Love Field, toward Philadelphia for an emergency landing.

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Another passenger, Marty Martinez, heard, "Brace for landing".

Speaking at a press conference held at the Changi Naval Base, Swift said they would follow the order of U.S. Navy Admiral John Richardson, the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO).

He is the passenger who later told CBS the woman's injuries left "blood everywhere".

Mrs Shults was featured in Maloney's book Military Fly Moms along with the stories and photos of 69 other women USA military veterans.

Another passenger on the same flight agreed.

The first sign of trouble was a loud noise which happened when the engine exploded. I feel very lucky to be alive. Everybody knew something's going on. It seemed like the pilot was having a hard time controlling the plane.

Passenger Kathy Farnan said crew members knew what they were doing and kept everyone calm.

"It was just all incredibly traumatic, and finally when we ... came to a halt, of course, the entire crowd was (in) tears and people crying and we were just thankful to be alive", Martinez said.