Sing the praises of Southwest Airlines pilot Tammie Jo Shults

Tammie Jo Shults was one of the Navy’s first women fighter pilots, one of the first to fly F-18s. That’s her then.

Southwest Airlines’ Tammie Jo Shults, who just landed a plane with an exploded engine and passenger injuries, dreamed of flying when she was a girl. She tried to attend aviation career day at her high school, but wasn’t allowed to go because they didn’t accept girls. I am just old enough to remember when it was routine to tell women and girls what they could not do, and it was socially acceptable. When I was 8 or 10, my father and I wrote to NASA on his university stationery, asking what classes a girl should take to become an astronaut. The answer came quickly, on  letterhead from NASA’s administrator, politely informing my professor father that there were no female astronauts, and no plans to train any.

Tammie Jo Shults was more motivated than I was. She joined the Navy, and became one of the first women fighter pilots, one of the first to fly F-18s. Listen to the audio below of Tammie Jo and air traffic control. Determined and calm. Southwest Flight 1380 was en route from New York La Guardia to Dallas Love Airport when its left engine blew. Shults is not the only hero; quick thinking by a man who blocked a busted window with his body, to the rest of the crew, and to air traffic control. It appears Flight 1380’s flight path took it over New Jersey’s airspace.

So – two things:

(1) Next time some yahoo tells you women are too emotional to handle authority – or say, the White House – play them this audio. If opportunities don’t come for merit and for hard work, and if women watch less qualified men advance because nobody’s making a point of witnessing their talent, we lose the benefit of what they can do, of being able to rely on them, of half our potential leadership. Now triple that point for that woman of color.

(2) Imagine if women were never allowed to join up, never allowed to train as pilots, never encouraged to be among the best. So: Are there opportunities at your work, at your university, in your service, where you see a woman being held back? If there are: FIX IT. Thank you.

Calm and competent: Southwest Airlines pilot Tammie Jo Shults and air traffic control:

Comments (4)

  1. Rosi Efthim (Post author)

    I’m also going to sing the praises of one of my childhood heroes, aviator, peace activist, fearless feminist Janey Hart, who died in 2015 at 93. The first woman in the state of Michigan to earn a pilot’s license and very nearly an astronaut herself (look up the Mercury 13).

    She was my superhero, and I was lucky enough to live in her orbit growing up. She gave me my first political compliment when I was 14, and I can’t even tell you what that meant to little me. From her.

    Janey was the wife of Senator Phil Hart (Hart Senate Office Building is named for him) and as beloved in Michigan as he was, she was more so.

    Reply
  2. Marie Corfield

    Just listened to the audio. Wow… just… wow. I don’t know what else to say.

    Reply
  3. Joseph Quimby

    Very impressive – that’s a total pro at work there. And not to shift any of the well deserved credit or focus, but Southwest did hire her after all!

    Reply
  4. Rosi Efthim (Post author)

    We now know the name of Shults’ co-pilot; Darren Ellisor. Also military trained, he was United States Air Force. More here.

    Reply

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