The Pilot of Southwest Flight 1380 Wasn’t Even Supposed to Be On it

May 10, 2018

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Captain Tammie Jo Shults, who safely landed Southwest’s Flight 1380 that had an engine explode, killing one passenger, wasn’t originally scheduled to pilot the flight.

Her husband was.

But, she decided to switch with him so he could go to their son’s track meet.

“I’m not trading with him anymore,” Shults quipped in a recently released clip of an ABC News interview that will air Friday night. Shults and her first officer on the flight, Darren Ellisor, spoke out for the first time to ABC’s “20/20.”

The former Air Force (Ellisor) and Navy (Shults) pilots recounted the bewildering chain of events after a fan blade broke off one of the engines of Boeing 737-700, causing the engine to explode and sending shrapnel crashing through a passenger’s window. That passenger, Jennifer Riordan, was almost sucked out of the plane when the cabin underwent rapid depressurization, and she later died from her injuries.

When the incident occurred, just as the plane reached 32,000 feet, the pilots said they felt the aircraft shaking and knew something was wrong, but their flight instruments weren’t registering any issues. Their first thought was that maybe it was an engine seizure. But then, both the cabin and cockpit rapidly depressurized — because of the gaping window — and their oxygen masks dropped from the ceiling.

“The seizure of the aircraft would not cause a rapid decompression, so we knew that something extraordinary had happened pretty quickly,” Shults said.

Then the aircraft swerved sharply left, and alarms and warning bells began ringing on the flight instruments. The alert sounds were so loud the two pilots had to scream to each other and eventually used hand signals to communicate amid the cockpit cacophony.

“And that all kind of happened all at once,” Ellisor said. Ellisor jumped to take over the controls first, while Shults maintained communication with Air Traffic Control.

“Darren handled it beautifully,” Shults said, while noting that Ellisor did not “force the aircraft to stay on altitude and return to that heading, which is kind of a normal pilot reaction, or can be, to get back on course.” The pair had to descend the plane thousands of feet so passengers could breathe safely without a mask.

Shults eventually took the controls back and was planning for a longer descent into Philadelphia (PHL). But then, flight attendants alerted the cockpit that Riordan was gravely injured. “That’s when we decided it was time to go land,” Ellisor recounted.

All told, the pilots were able to safely land the aircraft about 20 minutes after the engine exploded.

H/T: The New York Times

Featured image by AP Photo/Corey Perrine.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at US restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
  • Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.