When members of First Baptist Church in Boerne, Texas, heard recordings of radio transmissions from a Southwest Airlines pilot who made a harrowing emergency landing this week in Philadelphia, they recognized the voice as one of their own.
VIDEO: [Fox News] Passengers praise pilot Tammie Jo Shults for her amazing sense of calm when their jet engine exploded and a woman was sucked out a window.
Tammie Jo Shults—the pilot who guided Flight 1380 to the ground April 17 after a midflight engine failure shot debris through a window, killing one passenger—is a recognizable figure at the Texas Hill Country church, which averages 900 in worship. She has led the children’s worship program at First Baptist and taught Sunday School for children, middle schoolers, high schoolers and adults, said Staci Thompson, a longtime friend and administrative assistant in the church office.
“When we heard the voice” in media replays of cockpit recordings, “it was just like talking on the phone. That’s what she sounds like,” Thompson told Baptist Press.
The church was “impressed” but not “shocked,” Thompson said, at reports Shults, 56, landed the plane safely after a 20,000-foot drop in six minutes, then walked down the aisle hugging passengers. The plane was bound from New York to Dallas, and seven of the 144 passengers aboard were injured in addition to the one fatality.
Social media reports by surviving passengers hailed Shults as having “nerves of steel” and being “a true American hero.” One passenger told The Dallas Morning News, “I specifically said to her, ‘Do I get a hug too?’ She said, ‘Of course, I wouldn’t let you by without a hug.’”
Shults’ “biggest goal” amid the emergency landing and subsequent media coverage, Thompson said, “is that she can share her faith and it resonate and awaken people’s eyes to how great a God we have.”
Mike Mantooth, executive pastor of ministries and missions at First Baptist, told BP via email, “I’m always amazed at the caliber of people at FBC Boerne. Tammie Jo is an example of one of them. Through her commitment to excellence in aviation, she has gained a national platform to give witness to her faith in Christ. We are proud of her as her church family. She is being hailed as a national hero, and we are celebrating what God has done through her and at the same time praying for her as she grieves the loss of a passenger.”
Shults and Flight 1380 first officer Darren Ellisor are not granting media interviews but released a statement saying they were “simply doing our jobs.”
This article continues at [Christianity Today] Jesus, Take the Control Wheel: Southwest Pilot Saw Flying as Ministry