New Mexico classmates commend pilot for landing plane after explosion

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A Southwest Airlines pilot is being praised for landing a plane after one of its engines exploded, but before becoming one of the Navy’s first female fighter pilots, she grew up in New Mexico. 

Tuesday, as panic erupted on Southwest Flight 1380 after the engine exploded mid-air, pilot Captain Tammie Jo Shults was forced to make an emergency landing. While passengers screamed, Shults stayed calm in the cockpit.

You could hear her call over the radio, “They said there’s a hole and someone went out.”

That passenger was Jennifer Riordan of Albuquerque. Investigators said she was killed when the window she was sitting next to broke open after it was hit by debris.

Passengers said if it wasn’t for Shults staying as composed as she was, the end result could have been worse. 

“To take control of that situation and really save everyone on board, is really just unbelievable,” Joe Marcus said.

Passengers, including a couple from Albuquerque, said they are thankful for Shults.
    
“I mean she just touched it down so gently, I didn’t even know that we went from flying to being on the ground, it was smooth,” Jason Johnson said.

Shults a fellow New Mexican, graduated from Tularosa High School in 1979. Her maiden name was Bonnell.

“My sister told me the name and I was like, ‘Oh my goodness that’s Tammie Bonnell,'” Alynn Hooper said.

In high school, Shults was a cheerleader and a science nerd who was also voted class favorite.

Classmates said they weren’t surprised to find out she became one of the first fighter pilots in the U.S. Navy.

“Yesterday, I kind of heard a little bit about the airplane and was thinking, ‘What a pilot,'” Hooper said.

What. A. Pilot.

Seems something a lot people are saying after Tuesday’s tragedy.

“That’s exactly what I was thinking, that God was with Tammie, helping steer her where she needed to go,” Hooper said. 

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