Pilots open up for the first time since Southwest Flight 1380's emergency landing

Posted at 10:35 PM, May 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-12 22:35:40-04

(KYW/ABC/CNN) - When an engine failed on a Southwest Airlines flight last month, pilot Tammie Jo Shults didn't panic.

Instead, she relied on her extensive Navy experience.

"My first thoughts were actually, 'Oh, here we go," just because it seemed like a flashback to some of the Navy flying that we had done," she explained.

Shults, who navigated Southwest Flight 1380 to safety, discussed the incident for the first time since the April 17 emergency that left one passenger dead.

Shults said on ABC's "20/20" that she wasn't even supposed to be in the cockpit that day.

She had traded with her pilot husband so she could attend her son's track meet.

"Dean, being the amazing husband he is, said, 'You go to the track meet. I'll switch and take your trip.' And so, that's why I was on the trip," Shults said.

Shortly after the Boeing 737 took off from New York's Laguardia Airport, the fan blade on the left engine broke.

Debris from the engine struck the body of the plane, cracking one window, which eventually broke open.

The passenger in the seat next to the window was pulled partially out of the aircraft but was brought back in by other passengers.

However, the passenger, Jennifer Riordan, did not survive.

"As you can imagine, everybody was going crazy and yelling and screaming," passenger Marty Marinez said.

First Officer Darren Ellisor also spoke with ABC News about the incident.

"We were passing through about 32,000 feet when we had a large bang and a rapid decompression,” Ellisor recalled. “There was big shaking, everything. And that all kind of happened all at once."

Shults said she and Ellisor used hand signals to communicate because of the noise level.

“it was loud and it was just hard to communicate for a lot of different reasons," Shults said.

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