Skip to Content

“Hometown hero”: Southwest pilot went to school in southern N.M.

Praised for “nerves of steel,” the Southwest pilot who skillfully and calmly landed a Boeing 737 amid engine failure went to school in southern New Mexico.

“I”m just really proud of her,” said her Tularosa High School classmate, Alynn Hooper, who now works there.

Tammie Jo Shults was also one of the first female fighter pilots in naval history.

An Albuquerque woman died after the plane’s engine exploded. However, Shults remained extremely calm under pressure, saving dozens of other lives.

“When I found out it was her, I’m like, ‘Tammie Bonnell?!’ Hooper recalled, using Tammie’s maiden name.

The two graduated high school in 1979. Shults was a cheerleader, track athlete and honor society member. She was also voted “Class Favorite” and “Snow Princess” for the junior class in 1978.

“She was quiet, very smart and very athletic,” Hooper said.

Shults joined the Navy in 1985, according to CNN. She earned her bachelor’s degrees in biology and agribusiness at MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe, Kansas. The pilot retired as a lieutenant commander with two Navy Marine Corps Achievement Medals and a National Defense Service Medal.

“From Tula, you don’t really expect that,” said Rose Lopez, a student at the high school.

Lopez told ABC-7 Shults is a role model for young women at her school.

“It shows that you can grow up and be more than just like an office assistant, or you can strive to be something better,” the senior in high school said.

Lopez already has big career aspirations; she plans to be a radiologist.

“It makes me pretty proud,” Lopez said. “I’m graduating, so it shows me that I can achieve more.”

The last time Hooper saw her classmate was at a high school reunion several years back. She told ABC-7 she looks forward to the day she can see her friend again.

“She’s just a very sweet, loving, caring, kind person,” Hooper said. “She had your back.”

Article Topic Follows: News

Jump to comments ↓

Author Profile Photo



KVIA ABC 7 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content