SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - A Northwest Airlines pilot has been ordered suspended for 45 days for trying to land his jetliner amid an apparent tornado, but has appealed and can fly in the meantime, federal officials said.
Michael Hughes of Collierville, "was careless and endangered the lives and property of others" when he tried to land the DC9 at Sioux Falls airport last June, Federal Aviation Administration lawyer Chris Zurales wrote in a suspension order issued Tuesday. Hughes ultimately landed the plane in Omaha, Neb.
Hughes has appealed the suspension and can continue to fly until the appeal is heard. Messages left with his union attorney were not immediately returned.
Northwest spokesman Kurt Ebenhoch said the airline had no comment.
Hughes was the pilot in command of a flight from Minneapolis to Sioux Falls on June 24 when he tried to land the plane, even as an apparent tornado dropped from the sky and created wind shear that tossed the craft about.
The apparent tornado was one of 67 twisters in South Dakota that day, tying a national record for the most in a state in a 24-hour period.
An investigation found that air traffic controllers told Hughes about thunderstorms near the airport, but he continued his approach to the runway without asking for more information.
Minutes later, the control tower told him a wall cloud was headed to the airport and other pilots had "likened it to a tornado."
Passengers on the flight likened the experience to someone pushing the plane sideways.