Hearing Set For June 22
Michael Hughes is in trouble.
The Northwest Airlines pilot was flying a DC-9 from
Minneapolis-St. Paul (MN) to Sioux Falls (SD) June 24th when he ran
into some weather. He's now accused of trying to land in the midst
of severe thunderstorms, hail and funnel clouds.
In fact, NWA Flight 1462 was flying into the worst outbreak of
tornadic weather South Dakota had ever seen in one day. There were
67 reported funnel clouds -- tying the record for the most any
state had seen in a single 24-hour period.
The FAA said Hughes, who was the pilot in command, was told that
severe weather was lurking about the airport while on approach, but
did not turn back. The FAA said Hughes was warned minutes later
that a wall cloud was headed toward his aircraft and he didn't turn
away. The FAA said Hughes was then told that funnel clouds were
approaching the airport and that a wind shear alert had been issued
for the runway and still he didn't turn back.
"Rather than discontinue the
approach and turn away from the severe weather system that was
approaching, you continued the approach, encountering severe wind
shear that resulted in a substantial loss of altitude, loss of
control around the longitudinal axis, and required immediate
application of full power and aggressive flight control inputs to
regain control of the aircraft," the FAA wrote in its letter to
Dr. Gary Timmerman was a passenger on Flight 1462 when the
aircraft ran smack into the wind shear. "Our right wing got lifted
up about 25 feet and it slammed us down, as though someone picked
up the end of a table and dropped it. People screamed and then that
happened again, and we were still heading down," he said in August.
"You could hear people doing the Lord's Prayer, Hail Marys. People
were sobbing in the background."
That's apparently when Hughes turned back. He landed the
aircraft in Omaha (NE) without further incident.
Northwest stands by its man. The airline says company policy
dictates an aircraft avoid an area if storms are within five miles.
Northwest's director of flight safety says the storms in question
were eight miles out.
Now, the FAA wants to suspend Hughes for 45-days, a blot that
would certainly stain his flying record and affect his livelihood.
Hughes appealed the original notice of suspension, leading up to
the hearing, which is scheduled for June 22nd. The hearing is set
to take place in Minneapolis.