The Liberty Gazette
March 26, 2019Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: Networking was in the conceptual spotlight at the annual Women in Aviation International conference in Long Beach, California this month. I was honored to be invited as a panelist on the Careers in Business Aviation panel, which I shared with five other female aviation professionals.
It really does boil down to who you know. However, success in that assumes one will work hard, be dependable, honest, and passionate.
That passion and dedication could be seen in the keynote speakers. One was Gwynne Shotwell, President and Chief Operating Officer at SpaceX. According to Forbes, she is one of the most powerful women in the world. Yes, she wants to go to Mars (and come back), but more important, she wants her vision and that of her boss Elon Musk to be fulfilled—to Mars and beyond.
The other keynote speaker was Captain Tammie Jo Schults, the pilot who landed her Southwest Airlines 737, flight 1380, safely in Philadelphia after violently losing an engine.
Captain Schults grew up on a ranch in New Mexico and dreamed of flying. Her family’s hay barn was a ground reference point for pilots from nearby Holloman Air Force base practicing aerial dogfights.
If you heard the tape of the radio transmission, you may recall how calm she was during the crisis. She had been a naval aviator, flying F-18s. She’d been under pressure at altitude before.
As she walked us through the tense moments that occurred April 17, 2018, the audience of 4,500 held its collective breath, even though we knew the outcome.
From 32,500 feet, they felt like they’d been hit by a truck. The airplane began skidding, rolling to the left, and pitching down. Their eyes couldn’t focus due to the severe shuddering of the airframe. Smoke came into the cockpit through the air conditioning system, making it hard to breathe or see. A window broke and this caused rapid decompression of air pressure which caused piercing pain in their ears. They began an emergency descent. The noise of wind while traveling 500 miles an hour was deafening. Through it all, Captain Schults and First Officer Darren Ellisor flew the plane. The captain relayed to flight attendants that they were not going down, they were going to Philly.
|Captain Schults, Southwest Airlines|
Captain Schults is quick to state that aircraft are flown by crews, and crews have names. She named each one, as well as passengers who helped each other during the frightening time. But for the crew, the survival of most will never eclipse the loss of one.
Here were our take-aways: habits are formed from practice. When an emergency happens, our habits kick in. Hope does not change circumstances, but it does change us. And heroes. Every day, we have a chance to be a hero to someone.
When the crew later listened to the cockpit voice recorder, First Officer Ellisor’s ears perked up when they heard, “Heavenly Father.” He turned to his captain and said, “I knew you were praying!”