Parents of Southwest copilot say son thankful for safe landing but sad for loss of life
The past few days have been a whirlwind for Earl and Kathleen Ellisor. It all started Tuesday while driving to Houston from their home in Bastrop. The got a call from their daughter in law.
"And said, can you talk. And I said yes. Went up to Earl, and she started telling me, there's been an accident,” said Kathleen Ellisor.
Their son, Darren is a copilot for southwest airlines. He was behind the controls of Flight 1380 when an engine exploded while in route to Dallas. Darren grew up south of Houston, graduated from Clearlake High School, attended the Air Force Academy and flew AWACS. He wasn't the only one on board the Southwest flight with a military background; Captain Tammy Joe Shults is a former naval aviator.
"They had to make the right decision and they had to work with each other,” said Earl Ellisor.
Pictures in the media brought relief and some comfort.
"If I'm a passenger, like the guy that took this picture, I am really happy to see those 2 people they have been up front doing everything that is needed to bring the airplane down, yeah that’s what I'd feel if I had been in the back of that airplane,” said Earl Ellisor.
While they waited for their son to get back home the couple put a lot of focus on the family especially one of their granddaughters.
“We were trying to get her to talk about it and she said I know daddy is ok but I just want to hug him, and that’s the first thing he did when he came home at 1:30 and I went straight upstairs and hugged every one of my children,” said Kathleen Ellisor.
There is certainly a lot of pride- but also a sadness because one passenger was killed by metal debris from the engine explosion.
"I have said, all along, one person died, and it hit me this morning, that her little children, they don’t have a mommy anymore,” said Kathleen Ellisor.
The Ellisor’s praised the passengers who recovered the body of the woman who was killed, and those who secured the interior cabin while the jet was making the emergency landing.
"Darren made that clear to us, that they couldn’t feel exhilaration, like you would if survive a major event and everybody was OK, they couldn't feel the exhilaration and celebrate because there was a death, there was someone that didn’t come off their plane whole and he feels that,” said Earl Ellisor.
Having Nerves of steel apparently is part of this family's DNA. Darren's father, several years ago, had his own encounter with a high profile, high-pressure, crisis. Earl Ellisor is a retired NASA Contractor and was part of the team that brought the crew of Apollo 13 safely back home.
"We were all holding our breath for 3 days,” said Earl Ellisor.
The same kind of teamwork the brought the astronauts home, Earl expects, will now be used Southwest Airlines.
"This is like other problems, whether it be this engine, or whether it be the spacecraft of Apollo 13 that we talked about earlier. The engineers will solve this problem and they will fix it." said Earl Ellisor.
The Ellisor's say the airline has given Darren some time off. They believe the incident will not keep him out of the cockpit or out of the sky.