A Personal Perspective
By MARCIA MOXAM COMRIE
We have long known that anything a man can do a woman can do just as well—and earlier this week, the pilot of a crippled Southwest aircraft proved that assertion once again.
Southwest Airlines’ Flight 1380 endured a shocking emergency situation when one of its engines blew out. As if that weren’t bad enough, shrapnel from the shattered engine then hit a window breaking it. A passenger sitting next to that window was pulled half way out, sustaining fatal injuries.
The now open window space caused the cabin to start losing cabin pressure, endangering the safety of all onboard. Captain Tammie-Jo Shults knew that her life and those of everyone else on board was in grave danger and she had to land quickly.
She and her co-pilot landed the damaged craft safely at a Philadelphia airport, without losing any additional lives. She has now been dubbed “the female Sully,” a reference to Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, who landed safely on the Hudson River in January 2009 during an engine emergency.
It goes to show that gender has nothing to do with ability. Given the opportunity, women are just as capable as their male counterparts. Passengers on Flight 1380 have described the pilot as having been “calm” throughout the emergency and an air traffic controller said that her tone was “cool and measured.”
She remained professional throughout the incident and did not panic, enabling her to land safely and save 143 other passengers and five crew members. It is no surprise. Shults, as it turns out, was one of our nation’s first woman Navy fighter pilots.
Reportedly, as a high school senior in 1979, Shults applied to the U.S. Air Force, but recruiting officers were more interested in her brother. Disappointed, she turned to the Navy and that is where she literally soared.
A feminist once said that when God gave her a uterus, he didn’t also give her a pot, so she should be free to pursue any job that she chooses and not be restricted to stereotypical gender norm careers. Tammie-Jo Shults proved that truth once again. We can use a pot, but we can also fly an aircraft and succeed in any career we choose.
The scare in the air this week could have been far worse had there not been a skilled pilot and co-pilot in the cockpit. Gender had nothing to do with it. Reportedly, seven percent of airline pilots in the United States are women. It’s a comparatively small number—but after this week’s heroics, look for it to grow.
It is a tragedy that one of the passengers died. However, that was not caused by an error from the pilot, but rather a mechanical failure that led to a freak accident. The NTSB will investigate the cause of the engine falling apart in mid-air.
But whatever the cause, there is one thing that will remain indisputable—a skilled pilot saved the day for her crew and passengers. She will inspire many young girls to consider a career in aviation, the same way that the Tuskegee Airmen did for young black men during and after World War II.