Flight simulator shows how Southwest pilot's training and 'nerves of steel' saved lives

CLEARWATER, Fla. — It is impossible to mimic the adrenaline, fear, and terror anyone on Southwest Flight 1380 was feeling, but a flight simulator for a Boeing 737 gives the average passenger a clear perspective of how training can save lives.

Related:

Southwest Airlines jet engine failure kills passenger on board airplane

Southwest Airlines pilot lauded for bravery, was among the U.S. Navy's first female fighter pilots

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, Capt. Tammie Jo Shults righted the plane quickly following a catastrophic engine failure. 

Following the explosion, the plane was pitched at an angle of more than 40 degrees for a few unnerving seconds before it leveled out and began an emergency descent, NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt told reporters Wednesday in Philadelphia.

“We have part of the aircraft missing, so we’re going to need to slow down a bit,” Shults, a former fighter pilot with the U.S. Navy, said at one point.

She then asked for medical personnel to meet her aircraft on the runway, “We’ve got injured passengers.”

Private pilot and owner of Sim Center Tampa Bay, Peter Repak, gave ABC Action News a demonstration of how the crippled plane would’ve been able to land with just one engine.

“All pilots train for this, constantly,” Repak said.  

Repak's business is geared towards virtual reality gaming, driving, and flying. It is an entertainment center for the public. But, says his flight simulator’s cockpit is nearly identical to the Boeing 737 aircraft currently in operation across the country.

At 30,000 feet Repak put the plane into engine failure and walked us through all of the alarms and emergency alerts the pilot went through.

“She had to take emotion out of the way,” Repak said. “That’s what you can’t have, any emotion while you are doing this, you have to stick to your training.”

Repak said the plane has no problem flying with just one engine. Landing in the simulation, he made it look easy. But, Repak knows the computer can’t take into account the force of the explosion or loss of cabin pressure. The terrified and screaming passengers on board. Or the fact that, Jennifer Riordan, a wife and mother of two sitting in row 14 died.  

What Repak does know is that pilots sitting in simulators like this for hours and hours on end give them the tools they need to save lives. Now, he wants to know why.

"Why it happened and how can avoid it, so it never happens again,” Repak said. 

Print this article Back to Top