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Southwest pilot Tammie Jo Shults, left, pictured at her alma mater MidAmerica Nazarene where she graduated in 1983. Shults was praised for landing the Dallas-bound Flight 1380 Tuesday after one of its engines blew mid-air at 32,000 feet. (MidAmerica Nazarene)

Pilot that landed plane is Christian with KC connection

A former Kansas City area woman is being hailed as a hero as the pilot who successfully landed a passenger jet with one engine.

Southwest flight 1380, bound for Dallas, began normally in New York yesterday but twenty minutes into the journey an engine disintegrated over Philadelphia’s western suburbs.

Tammie Jo Shults, a graduate of Mid-America Nazarene University in Olathe, navigated the damaged Dallas-bound jet to an emergency landing in Philadelphia.

Debris from the engine shattered a passenger window with shrapnel entering the cabin. The plane was flying at 32,000 feet at the time and the passenger cabin quickly depressurized. That proved fatal for one passenger.

southwest riordan crash pilot

Jennifer Riordan

Jennifer Riordan of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was seated next to the window and was sucked out of the plane up to her waist according to other passengers. Riordan was a Wells Fargo bank executive and the mother of two.

As oxygen masks dropped down throughout the cabin, several men left their seats in an attempt to pull Riordan back into the plane.

Witnesses say that the woman appeared dead at that point though. As the plane plunged 22,000 feet within minutes CPR was attempted with no success.

Under such horrific circumstances, the plane landed safely at Philadelphia International at 11:30 a.m. and passengers were evacuated on the tarmac.

Shults was one of first female pilots to fly with the U.S. Navy and was a graduate of MNU.

One passenger lauded Shults’ “nerves of steel.” Shults, a Christian, once said in an interview that sitting in the captain’s chair gave her “the opportunity to witness for Christ on almost every flight.”

Her faith encouraged her concern for her passengers.

“Tammie Jo Schults, the pilot came back to speak to each of us personally,” wrote another passenger on Facebook. “This is a true American Hero. A huge thank you for her knowledge, guidance and bravery in a traumatic situation. God bless her and all the crew.”

Shults was one of the first female fighter pilots in U.S. military history, according to friends from her alma mater, MidAmerican Nazarene. She was a pilot and instructor with the Navy before joining Southwest Airlines in 1993, KUSI reported.

In a written statement, Southwest Airlines said it was ‘devastated’ over Tuesday’s event. The company did not explicitly mention Shults.

The Associated Press contributed to this report