Southwest Airlines Pilot Releases Inspiring Book for Both New and Old Aviators

Text speaks to human habits, hope and heroes.

Tammie Jo Schults
Shults and her first officer Darren Ellisor wrestled their crippled Boeing to a safe landing at Philadelphia.Rob Mark

Many people may not remember Tammie Jo Schults’ name, at least not at first. But they’ll make the connection quickly enough when they learn she was the captain on board a Southwest Airlines flight in April 2018 when the left engine exploded in flight at 32,500 feet.

As that CFM International CFM56-7 disintegrated, it sent shrapnel in all directions, destroying a portion of the wing’s leading edge and severing the left engine’s hydraulic and fuel lines. Metal fragments also punctured a single-window causing an explosive cabin decompression that claimed the life of one Southwest passenger. One-hundred and forty-eight other people survived that accident thanks to Shults, a veteran naval aviator who was ably assisted by first officer Darren Ellisor, as well as the cabin crew and a couple of passengers.

Shults announced a new book, “Nerves of Steel,” at AirVenture in Oshkosh this week that describes not only the dozens of unexpected challenges she and Ellisor faced during their emergency landing at Philadelphia, but also short stories that explain her struggle to become a pilot through the U.S. military in the late 1980s and to this day. Shults said she was turned down by a U.S. Air Force recruiter three different times, despite ads claiming the service was looking for new pilots. The U.S. Army also said no to Shults before she was finally accepted into training as a naval aviator.

Nerves of Steel takes readers back to Tammie Jo’s early days watching Air Force pilots hone their aerobatic skills in the skies above the New Mexico ranch where she grew up, dreaming that she might one day fly too. Readers will learn about her early aviation education, one that challenged and prepared her for that April 2018 flight that demanded skills and courage way beyond the minimum standards to which she or Ellisor and other airline pilots are trained.

Schults’ book has also been adapted into a young reader edition that she believes will foster bravery and dedication in both girls and boys, showing them what it means to work hard, find purpose and prepare for the adventure ahead.

The young readers Edition of “Nerves of Steel: The Incredible True Story of How One Woman Followed Her Dreams, Stayed True to herself and Saved 148 Lives,” will be released on November 12 of this year.