US aviation suffered its first fatal accident in nine years after a female passenger was partially sucked out of a window on a Southwest airlines flying from New York last week.
However, the plane was expertly and safely landed by a former Top Gun turned passenger plane pilot, Tammy Jo Shults.
The Southwest plane’s engine had exploded, sending metal fragments through one of the windows and into the cabin.
Travelling at 32,200 feet and 800kph, the passenger nearest the window was partially sucked out of the plane due to incredible atmospheric pressure. Passengers scrambled frantically to pull her back into the plane, which was instantly depressurised, and they succeeded, only the woman, Jennifer Riordan, mother of two, later died.
Other passengers also suffered minor injuries, but it could have been so much worse had it not been for the heroism of the pilot.
The plane was depressurised, and oxygen masks descended, the pilot shut down the engine and began an emergency descent, diverting the plane from Texas to Philadelphia.
She told air traffic controllers: “We have a part of the aircraft missing, so we’re going to need to slow down a bit.”
Asked whether her plane was on fire, she responded: “No, it’s not on fire but part of it is missing. They said there is a hole and someone went out.”
According to audio obtained by NBC, she remained calm and contained until she safely landed the damaged Boeing 737 containing 143 passengers and five crew.
“She has nerves of steel, that lady,” said one of the passengers.
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