Southwest Airlines Pilot Makes Exceptional Emergency Landing

Catastrophic engine failure leads to a diversion to Philadelphia.

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A catastrophic engine failure caused Southwest Flight 1380 to make an emergency diversion to the Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) yesterday. The Boeing 737 was on its way from New York to Dallas when the engine exploded. Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, already announced that a fan blade sheered off of the CFM engine and that metal fatigue was suspected. A similar event happened to a Southwest flight two years ago. As a result, the engines of many Boeing 737s from multiple airlines are now undergoing additional metal fatigue inspections.

A window in the main cabin of Flight 1380 shattered when debris from the engine hit it, and a female passenger was nearly sucked out. According to witness reports, passengers and flight attendants were able to pull the woman back into the cabin. However, unfortunately, she died from the wounds she suffered in the process, becoming the first fatality from any incident with a U.S.-based airline since 2009, an impressive record considering the millions of people who travel domestically and internationally each year.

Despite the harrowing event, Captain Tammy Jo Shults, a former Navy F/A-18 pilot, and her copilot remained completely cool. In a recording between them and ATC, the pilots calmly explained their situation and what they needed to safely make the emergency descent. The cooperation between ATC and the other pilots approaching PHL also demonstrates the professionalism that exists in our national airspace system.

Shults’ demeanor and quick action saved all but one of the 149 people onboard despite their apparent lack of attention to the safety briefing. Pictures released on Facebook and Twitter revealed that many passengers were wearing their oxygen masks incorrectly by not covering their noses.