Tammie Jo Shults is a true role model and trailblazer for women in aviation, both military and civilian aviation. A Navy fighter pilot for 16 years, she continued her distinguished aviation career as a pilot for Southwest Airlines after leaving the Navy. Despite unending discrimination, persistent obstacles and active resistance from her male peers, Shults eventually became one of the Navy’s first F/A-18 female fighter pilots. First turned down by the Air Force, she had been accepted for flight training by the Navy in 1985. Shults’ Southwest Airlines career is particularly noteworthy. On April 17, 2018, piloting Flight 1380, with a crew of five and 147 passengers, she and her copilot were able to maneuver and safely land her Boeing 737-700 after experiencing a catastrophic engine explosion, which led to an out-of- control aircraft, rapid cabin depressurization, as well as other system and structural damage and failure. Thinking there had been a mid-air collision, with the cockpit full of smoke and debris, she regained control as the airplane rolled to the left, then descended and landed safely. She prevented a major air disaster through her ability as a pilot, her quick thinking and calm leadership, as well as her Navy experience as an out-of-control flight instructor,
A graduate of MidAmerica Nazarene University in Kansas, Shults was raised on farms in Colorado and New Mexico. The family farm in New Mexico was located near Holloman Air Force Base, where, after watching Air Force aircraft “dog-fighting” in the sky near her home, she decided as a teenager to become a military pilot. Despite many naysayers, and told “girls don’t fly for a living,” she took on the challenge with determination. She persevered, entering Navy flight school, progressing through primary training to advanced jet training, learning formation flying, carrier landing, out-of-control flight and aerial combat maneuvering, while consistently ranking in the top of her class.
Tammie Jo Shults left the Navy in 2001, joining Serve Air in California, fighting forest fires. She then joined Southwest Airlines, where once again she experienced the continuing discrimination she had faced during her Navy career. But these obstacles were not new to her, and she held her own, eventually progressing to flight captain. She retired from Southwest Airlines in 2020. Shults now inspires young aviators across the country as an author, through her charity work and as a member of the Women in Aviation Advisory Board.
Inducted in 2020.
Portrait Location: Not Currently on Floor