The former United States Navy pilot and first female to fly the F/A 18 Hornet fighter jet Captain Tammie Jo Shults addressed the National Retail Federation at their annual NRF Protect conference in North Texas Tuesday. The appearance marks the largest audience Shults spoke in front of since her emergency landing of her Southwest aircraft after the left engine exploded mid-flight killing one passenger.
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Despite the loss of a passenger, Captain Tammie Jo Shults has been hailed as a hero for successfully landing the 737-700 aircraft on its way from LaGuardia Airport to Love Field. The flight experienced an engine failure after it exploded during the flight two months ago. Debris from the explosion broke a window of the aircraft which nearly sucked a female passenger out of the hole. Fellow passengers pulled 43-year-old Jennifer Riordan back into the aircraft but it was too late.
Captain Shults was praised for her cool and calm demeanor during the emergency and her skill at landing the aircraft with only one functioning engine. Shults praised her training from the Navy and the trust between crew members for her smooth handling of the terrifying airborne mishap. One audience member named Mark Hand noted, "I made note of that. She said you play the way you practice. There's a lot of truth to that." Shults also praised the passengers who risked their own lives to save Riordan.
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"The value of human life was felt that day," Shults said. She also praised the bravery of the passengers who pulled Riordan back into the aircraft saying they "got out of their safe seats with seat belts and during a very rough ride rendered aid to a stranger." She described how she expected to see frightened passengers when she opened the cockpit door after landing, but instead, she found passengers to be calm and quiet. Another witness named Dell Miller said, "The calm demeanor with which she approached the situation and was still able to communicate under extreme pressures was especially remarkable."
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