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Tammie Jo Shults

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Tammie Jo Shults
Tammie Jo Shults.jpg
Shults with an F/A-18 Hornet of VAQ-34[1]
Womanpower in Naval Aviation
Naval Aviation News (1992)
Birth nameTammie Jo Bonnell
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service1985–1993
RankU.S. Navy O-4 insignia.svg lieutenant commander
AwardsNavy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal
Spouse(s)Dean Shults
Other workPilot for Southwest Airlines

Tammie Jo Shults (née Bonnell) was one of the first female fighter pilots in the United States Navy.[2] She is known for being the first female F/A-18 aviator for the Navy, and subsequently became a pilot for Southwest Airlines. On April 17, 2018 she was the captain of flight 1380 who landed the aircraft safely when the engine of its 737-700 suffered an uncontained engine failure.

Early life and education[edit | edit source]

She was born Tammie Jo Bonnell around 1962 and grew up on a ranch in New Mexico. Pilots from Holloman Air Force Base would practice dogfights over the ranch.[3] Watching these and reading about a missionary pilot, Nate Saint, inspired her to become a pilot too.[3] In her final year of high school, she investigated the possibility of a career in flying but was told that there were no professional women pilots.[3] She attended college at MidAmerica Nazarene University where she earned degrees in biology and agribusiness.[4][5] There she met a woman who had qualified as a pilot for the United States Air Force and so she applied to the air force too.[3] They turned her down but the navy was more encouraging.[3] She did post-graduate studies at Western New Mexico University while pursuing the application to fly with the navy and they accepted her.[3]

Military career[edit | edit source]

She attended the Officer Candidate School at the Naval Air Station Pensacola.[3] After passing the initial assessment, she was trained to fly the T-34 Mentor and qualified to get her "wings" – the navy's gold aviator badge.[3] She was commissioned on June 21, 1985[6] and her first assignment was to the Naval Air Station Chase Field where she taught others to fly the T-2 Buckeye.[3] She then qualified to fly the A-7 Corsair II at the Naval Air Station Lemoore and then served as an instructor in the VAQ-34 squadron at the Pacific Missile Test Center under the command of Rosemary Mariner.[3] She then qualified to fly the F/A-18 Hornet, the first woman to do so for the Navy.[7][8] She flew training missions as an aggressor pilot during Operation Desert Storm training her male colleagues, while military policies at that time prevented females from flying in combat missions.[5] She finished her tour of duty in 1993 flying the F/A-18 Hornet and EA-6B Prowler with VAQ-34.[3] She continued to serve in the U.S. Navy Reserve until 2001.[1] Her final rank was lieutenant commander and her decorations included the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal and a Marksmanship Medal.[9][10][11]

Civilian career[edit | edit source]

After leaving the navy, she joined Southwest Airlines as a pilot, flying a part-time schedule of 8–10 days per month so that she could raise a family too.[3]

On April 17, 2018, while flying flight 1380 from New York to Dallas, an engine fan blade on the Boeing 737 failed and flying debris damaged the left side of the fuselage and one side window; the window failed, causing the plane to decompress. One passenger was partially sucked through the damaged window and died later in the hospital. Shults made an emergency descent and landed in Philadelphia and was praised for her calm and competent handling of the accident.[9][10]

United States Representative Martha McSally introduced a resolution in Congress to honor Shults:

Captain Tammie Jo Shults is nothing short of an American hero. The Air Force and the Navy made a big mistake when they decided not to let her fly in combat, but her courage and her calmness under pressure from all of her years of fighter pilot experience is a reminder that the airplane doesn’t care if you are a man or a woman as long as you have the qualifications and the training to complete the mission – and she did that yesterday. Not only did she pave the way for women like me in aviation, but husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters are alive today because of her. I’m introducing this resolution to commend her for her service to our nation—in both military and commercial cockpits.[12]

Personal life[edit | edit source]

She married Dean Shults – a fellow Navy pilot at Naval Air Station Chase Field – and he is now a pilot for Southwest Airlines as well.[3][5] They have two children – a daughter, Sydney, and a son, Marshall.[6] They live in Texas – formerly Bandera and now Boerne.[6] She is a devout Christian, teaching Sunday school and helping the needy such as refugees from Hurricane Rita.[6]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Seck, Hope Hodge (April 18, 2018). "Navy Releases Service Record of Hero Captain Who Landed Southwest 1380". Military.com. Retrieved April 19, 2018.
  2. Ziezulewicz, Geoff (2018-04-19). "Southwest pilot who landed crippled plane was a Navy aviation pioneer". Navy Times. Retrieved 2018-04-20.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 Maloney, Linda, ed. (2011). Military Fly Moms: Sharing Memories, Building Legacies, Inspiring Hope. Tannenbaum. pp. 78–80. ISBN 978-0-9787-3697-2.
  4. Haag, Matthew (April 18, 2018). "Southwest Pilot of Flight 1380 Is Navy Veteran Hailed for Her 'Nerves of Steel'". The New York Times. Retrieved April 19, 2018.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 "Southwest Airlines pilot pushed Navy boundaries for flying". kansascity. Retrieved 2018-04-20.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Repko, Melissa (April 18, 2018). "After landing troubled Southwest plane, pilot Tammie Jo Shults hugged passengers, texted 'God is good'". The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
  7. Donnelly, Grace (April 18, 2018). "What to Know About the Pilot on Southwest Airlines Flight 1380". Fortune. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
  8. Londberg, Max (April 17, 2018). "Heroic Southwest pilot studied in Olathe, among 1st female fighter pilots in military". The Kansas City Star. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Tammie Jo Shults: Southwest pilot praised for safe landing". BBC. April 19, 2018. Retrieved April 19, 2018.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Siddiqui, Faiz; Schmidt, Samantha; Halsey, Ashley (April 18, 2018). "'She has nerves of steel': The story of the pilot who calmly landed the Southwest Airlines flight". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 19, 2018.
  11. Ziezulewicz, Geoff (April 18, 2018). "Southwest pilot who landed crippled plane was a Navy aviation pioneer". Navy Times. Retrieved April 19, 2018.
  12. "McSally to Introduce Congressional Resolution to Honor Southwest Pilot Tammie Jo Shults for Her Life-Saving Heroism". U.S. Representative Martha McSally. April 19, 2018. Retrieved April 19, 2018.

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