The Southwest Airlines pilot being hailed as a hero for landing her crippled plane on Tuesday had a simple message for a friend who had texted her after hearing of her harrowing ordeal.
Fellow Navy veteran aviator Linda Maloney told the Dallas Morning News that she reached out to Southwest’s Tammie Jo Shults after learning of the incident by texting, “News travels fast. Praying for you.”
Shults replied simply, “Thanks. God is good.”
The two became friends in the Navy, where they were among the service’s first female fighter pilots.
Shults, 56, is featured in Maloney’s book, “Military Fly Moms.”
In the book, Shults recounted that her love for aviation was sparked by watching Air Force jets fly over her family’s New Mexico ranch growing up.
The young woman was also inspired reading the book “Jungle Pilot” about Christian missionary Nate Saint, who along with Jim Elliott and other teammates ministered to a remote Ecuadoran tribe in the 1950s. They ultimately gave their lives sharing the Gospel, with many in the tribe coming to faith after the missionaries’ tragic deaths.
Additionally, Shults recalled seeking out an aviation lecture by a retired colonel during her high school’s vocation day.
“He started the class by asking me, the only girl in attendance, if I was lost,” Shults said. “I mustered up the courage to assure him I was not and that I was interested in flying. He allowed me to stay but assured me there were no professional women pilots.
“I did not say another word. In my heart, I hoped that God had given me an interest in flying for a reason,” Shults added. “I had never touched an airplane, but I knew flying was my future. My junior year in college, I met a girl who had just received her Air Force wings. My heart jumped. Girls did fly! I set to work trying to break into the club.”
Following graduation from MidAmerica Nazarene University in Kansas in the mid-1980s, Shults was commissioned in the Navy and completed her flight training.
The Navy confirmed to Fox News that she was among the first female Navy fighter pilots, flying the F-18 Hornet among other aircraft.
Tammie Jo Shults was the pilot of the @SouthwestAir plane that made an emergency landing Tuesday after an engine explosion. This 1992 photo shows Lt. Shults, who was one of the first women to fly @USNavy tactical aircraft. https://t.co/m0tnXgbSfi pic.twitter.com/So6S2kAF13
— Fox News (@FoxNews) April 19, 2018
Fox News’ Lea Gabrielle — a Naval Academy graduate and former fighter pilot — said, “We’re very proud of her and what she did.”
Shults, along with her husband, Navy veteran pilot Dean Shults, began flying for Southwest in the 1990s, and live near San Antonio, Texas.
Longtime friend and fellow Boerne First Baptist Church member Staci Thompson said the couple share a deep Christian faith.
Thompson told the Dallas Morning News that Shults has taught nearly every grade level of Sunday school and volunteered to help at-risk children at a local school.
“She would tell you everything she has she’s been given from God, so she wants to share it,” Thompson said.
Shults sees her aviation career as an “opportunity to witness for Christ,” and she certainly displayed a Christlike heart for people on Tuesday.
After a successful emergency landing of her Boeing 737 in Philadelphia with only a single engine working, she reportedly went into the cabin and walked down the aisle hugging and reassuring passengers.
“I specifically said to her, ‘Do I get a hug too?’” New York resident Benjamin Goldstein related on Wednesday. “She said, ‘Of course. I wouldn’t let you by without a hug.’”
“It was very touching,” Goldstein said. “Here at the most crucial moment, she had the presence of mind and the courage to act with excellence as it was required. It’s a beautiful quality, and we have our lives to thank for it.”
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