Tammie Jo Shults: Part Three
Originally written for The Hill Country Weekly Newspaper.
In my previous article, I talked about the amazing work of the flight attendants on Flight 1380. However, it was not just the pilot, Tammie Jo Shults, and the three flight attendants. They also had first officer Daren Ellisor on their team. “He was amazing and selfless in his support of me and the flight attendants as well as managing emergency checklists and damaged systems,” Shults said. He was an invaluable member of the crew.
Recently, Shults shared an interesting story with the congregation at First Baptist Church in Dallas. Two days before the flight, she had been talking on the phone with her mom while driving to work.
She had noticed that a lot of groups who claim to be women’s groups were aggravated by the termination of a website used for human trafficking and prostitution. The act itself was pro women so Shults was confused why many were upset by it.
On the phone, she told her mom that she just wished she had a microphone for five minutes. She wanted to be able “to tell the women my age, younger and older that we do have a champion. He is a guy that went completely counterculture and pulled women out of the shadows, hallmarked their faith and highlighted their courage. You can find him in Matthew and Mark and his name is Jesus. That’s the kind of champion that women need,” Shults said.
But boy oh boy did she get that microphone.
Ever since April 17, 2018, Shults has become a nationally recognized individual. She, along with her crew, got to shake hands with President Trump earlier this year. She even has her own Wikipedia page so you know she is truly legit.
There are two things that have unfolded for Shults that she fees like the Lord has just blessed her with. The first is her being able to share her story of faith.
She has gotten speak at a lot of secular venues such as the National Retail Federation and the Navy Ball in DC. “Dean has spearheaded the travel plans for the entire crew as well as contributing in the different events once we get there,” Shults said.
Even though it is a secular venue, “I always share Christ in my story because He is a part of the story. I always share how God affected the flight and the outcome of the it,” Shults said.
The most interesting thing for her at these talks is that she always gets more questions about her faith. “It’s usually a completely secular venue with a secular interviewer. I think it's a blessing to get to show them the Lord is more than just at church,” Shults said.
The second thing this platform has helped her with is the ability to highlight and help children. She has been volunteering at the Roy Maas Charter School in Boerne and has been able to bring some of their needs, as well as the needs of the other Roy Maas schools, into the spotlight.
She also recently got asked to serve as a trustee on the board of the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation. The Museum sponsors a seventh through twelfth grade STEM program to help encourage math and science. Shults wants help highlight the program and see how it can be built up with more awareness.
In general, she wants to help kids be more interested in the sciences. “For whatever reason kids seem less interested in science these days, but our country is built on a lot of things that require science,” Shults said.
Another exciting thing for Shults is a movie deal in the works. “We are learning that there is a business side and a creative side to this. Right now we are working to marry the two,” Shults said.
Her hope for the movie is that it would be a little like Chariots of Fire.“The whole reason that it's poignant and amazing is the faith element. It made a difference. There were a lot of guys that won gold medals. What made Eric Liddell’s story amazing was his faith element and what he was willing to give up,” Shults said. Similarly,she wants her faith to be apparent through actions not told to the audience using words.
“Also, God prepared Eric Liddell to do it. It wasn't like God just zapped him and he became a great runner. He worked hard on it,” Shults said. She has also seen this through multiple aspects of her story.
All three of her flight attendants were Christians. “God didn't just zap them with compassion. They had willfully given over to selflessness,” Shults said.
She went on to add, “He didn't just suddenly make me a pilot that understood how to fly an airplane like that… He prepares us along the way.” Shults had lots of training to become a pilot but she has also had things gone wrong in airplanes before. In her Naval career, she even taught a year of out of control flight.
In fact, she was originally not supposed to be the pilot of Flight 1380. She had traded with her husband in order to attend her son’s track meet later that week. God knew that she was the one who needed to be in the pilot’s seat that day.
“Lots of people will watch a movie and not read the book. My hope is that the movie inspires people to look deeper into this whole Christian faith. It's been painted as a very narrow and very judgmental, but my prayer is that you get to see a window into the gospel and you don't see a judgmental narrow-minded Jesus. He treats sinners with some of the most love,” said Shults. “So my hope is that it makes people leave feeling a little taller themselves and that they know we are made with some pretty amazing stuff. That creator deserves an audience.”
Speaking of books, Shults is almost finished with her own that should be available in October of 2019. The book is a larger scope of what the movie will be. It starts with her childhood, as that sets the stage for her entire life.
“I know I was given a lot when I was born into a family that cherished me and gave me responsibilities with real consequences. Then I became a Christian as teenager. So, I grew up in a family and in a faith that had no second-class citizens,” Shults said. “I dreamed without fences because I was always treated as an equal by my dad, my brothers and the hired hands. I did whatever they did and got the accolades they got.”
The book also discusses her time as a woman pilot in the navy. “There were about one or two women a year that went through the program. There were victories and struggles but they were not equal,” Shults said.
Shults has a handicapped younger sister named Sandra, who she always has helped take care of. Looking back, there were points where she was flying just because she knew that she needed to help her parents financially take care of Sandra. “It wasn't for the joy of flying because that had been sucked out by a culture war that was going on between men and women aviators,” Shults said.
But due to some great advice from her Navy Skipper, CDR Mariner, Shults stuck with flying. “There is a time you do things out of duty and then it blossoms into something you love, but it's not always going to be fun,” Shults said.
Flying has blossomed into one of Shults’ passions and she isn’t letting anything slow her down. About a month after the incident, she began flying for Southwest again. So, next time you fly Southwest, poke your head in the cockpit as you board. Who knows? You may get the privilege of being flown around by one of the most incredible women I have met, Tammie Jo Shults.