'Hero' pilot praised for landing plane after engine blew at 32,000ft

The pilot that landed a US passenger plane after an engine blew at 32,000ft has been hailed as a "hero".

Flight 1380 was safely landed by Tammie Jo Shults at an airport in Philadelphia after shrapnel from the engine smashed a window.

One woman was killed after being partially sucked out of the plane through the shattered window shortly after the flight took off from New York. Seven other people suffered injuries.

A transcript of the conversation between the pilot, a former US Navy fighter pilot, and officials on the ground shows the pilot asking for emergency services to be ready for the landing.

Mrs Shults says: "OK, could you have the medical meet us there on the runway as well. We've got injured passengers." “We have part of the aircraft missing, so we’re going to need to slow down a bit”.

Asked if the plane was on fire, she said: "Not on fire but part of it is missing. They said there's a hole and someone went out."

The pilots of the Southwest Airlines plane, a twin-engined Boeing 737 flying from New York to Dallas with 149 people aboard, made an emergency landing in Philadelphia as passengers using oxygen masks said their prayers and braced for impact.

The dead woman was identified as Jennifer Riordan, a bank executive and mother of two from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

She was the first passenger killed in an accident involving a US airline since 2009.

Passengers commended Ms Shults for her cool-headed handling of the emergency. She walked down the aisle and talked to passengers to make sure they were OK after the plane touched down.

"She has nerves of steel. That lady, I applaud her," said Alfred Tumlinson, of Texas. "I'm going to send her a Christmas card, I'm going to tell you that, with a gift certificate for getting me on the ground. She was awesome."

Passenger Peggy Phillips, from Brandon, Texas said: "Most of us, when that engine blew, I think we were pretty much going, 'Well, this just might be it.

"To get us down with no hydraulics and a blown engine and land us safely is nothing short of miraculous to me. She's a hero, for sure."

New Mexico governor Susana Martinez said the hearts of all New Mexicans were with Ms Riordan's family.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said a preliminary examination of the blown engine from Flight 1380 showed evidence of "metal fatigue".

In a news conference, NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt said one of the engine's fan blades was separated and missing.

As a precaution, Southwest said it will inspect similar engines in its fleet over the next 30 days.

Photos of the plane on the tarmac showed a missing window and a chunk gone from the left engine, including part of its cover, while in video footage from on board passengers could be seen wearing oxygen masks.

Mr Sumwalt said part of the engine covering was found in Bernville, Pennsylvania, about 70 miles west of Philadelphia.

Photos of the plane on the tarmac showed a missing window. Credit: Marty Martinez/ Facebook

Amanda Bourman, of New York, said she was asleep near the back of the plane when she heard a loud noise and oxygen masks dropped.

"Everybody was crying and upset," she said. "You had a few passengers that were very strong, and they kept yelling to people, you know, 'It's OK! We're going to do this!'"

Mr Tumlinson said a man in a cowboy hat rushed forward a few rows "to grab that lady to pull her back in. She was out of the plane. He couldn't do it by himself, so another gentleman came over and helped to get her back in the plane, and they got her".

Eric Zilbert, from California, said: "From her waist above, she was outside of the plane."

Passengers struggled to plug the hole while giving the badly injured woman CPR.

The plane was forced to make an emergency landing. Credit: AP

The US Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said: "I commend the pilots who safely landed the aircraft, and the crew and fellow passengers who provided support and care for the injured, preventing what could have been far worse."

Passenger Sheri Sears praised the flight crew and described the descent as chaotic.

She said: "There was insulation flying everywhere.

"The passengers were amazing, they stayed remarkably calm. The flight attendants were so courageous. And that pilot — I give it out to her. I mean, wow."