For roughly 30 minutes, passengers aboard Southwest Airlines flight 1380 felt at ease and did not think they had anything to worry about. That feeling quickly turned into fear and panic when they realized their plane’s engine blew and they were going down.
The plane was at 32,500 feet when passengers heard a loud boom and realized a window was busted, and one passenger was being sucked out the window.
A Southwest Airlines pilot who made the emergency landing Tuesday after the jet apparently blew an engine, is being praised for her “nerves of steel” in helping to prevent a far worse tragedy after the catastrophe killed one passenger and left seven others hurt.
Tammie Jo Shults was at the controls of the Dallas-bound Flight 1380 when it made an emergency landing in Philadelphia, said her husband, Dean Shults. The twin-engine Boeing 737 that left New York with 149 people board was hit by shrapnel that smashed a window and damaged the fuselage.
The pilot took the plane into a rapid descent as passengers using oxygen masks that dropped from the ceiling braced for impact.
One passenger aboard the flight, Marty Martinez, recorded a dramatic video as the plane descended and passengers feared for their lives —
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“We could feel the air from the outside coming in, and then we had smoke kind of coming in the window,” Martinez said.
During the chaos of the rapid descent from 31, 684 feet to 10,000 feet, video shows the rushing winds made it hard for passengers to hear the crew.
“It was very loud, so announcements from the pilot or any other crew would not have been heard,” passenger Amy Serafini said.
Passengers and NTSB officials have given pilot Shults praise for her calm, and safe landing.
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“I didn’t know if we were going to be running into a building. I didn’t know what state the plane or even the pilot was in, if we were in condition to land,” he said. “Finally when we … came to a halt, of course, the entire crowd was (in) tears and people crying and we were just thankful to be alive.”
“She has nerves of steel. That lady, I applaud her. I’m going to send her a Christmas card — I’m going to tell you that — with a gift certificate for getting me on the ground. She was awesome,” Tumlinson said “The lady, the crew, everything, everybody was immaculate. They were so professional in what they did to get us on the ground.”
Shults’ brother-in-law, Gary Shults, said her husband also is a Southwest pilot and told him she had made the emergency landing.
“She’s a formidable woman, as sharp as a tack,” said Gary Shults, a dentist in San Antonio. “My brother says she’s the best pilot he knows. She’s a very caring, giving person who takes care of lots of people.”
Passengers said she walked through the aisle and talked with them to make sure they were OK after the plane touched down.
U.S. transportation Secretary Elaine Chao extended her sympathies to the loved ones of the passenger who died, Jennifer Riordan, of New Mexico, and praised the pilot, crew and others who were on board.
“I commend the pilots who safely landed the aircraft, and the crew and fellow passengers who provided support and care for the injured, preventing what could have been far worse,” Chao said in a statement.
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Travelers said fellow passengers dragged Riordan back in as the sudden decompression of the cabin pulled her part way through the smashed window.
National Transportation Safety Board chairman Robert Sumwalt said it was the first passenger fatality in an accident involving a U.S. airline since 2009.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.