Passengers aboard the Southwest Airlines flight forced to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia on Tuesday are calling pilot Tammie Jo Shults a hero and an “angel.”
Shults, who reportedly became one of the Navy’s first female fighter pilots in the 1980s, sprung into action when her Boeing 737-700 jet blew an engine during a Tuesday flight from New York to Dallas. One passenger died in the explosion — and another was nearly sucked out of a window that had been broken by shrapnel — but Shults’ emergency landing at Philadelphia International Airport guided the remaining 148 people aboard to safety.
“God sent his angels to watch over us,” passenger Amanda Bourman posted on Instagram.
Prior to Tuesday’s incident, a U.S. airline had not seen a passenger fatality caused by an accident in nine years. The incident also marked Southwest’s first-ever in-flight death caused by an accident.
While Southwest has not released the identities of the crew, passengers identified Shults, 56, as the pilot, according to Reuters. Some, including Bourman, praised her by name on social media.
Shults, who dreamed of flying from a young age, became a Navy instructor after her career as a fighter pilot, Reuters reports. After that, she joined Southwest as a commercial pilot.