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La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
   Now in our sixth calendar year
    PCR #301  (Vol. 6, No. 52)  This edition is for the week of December 26--31, 2005.

The History of Miami International Airport -- Part Three....2005 Index
 by William Moriaty
Also see This issue's La Fla supplemental piece
"Brokeback Mountain"
 by Mike Smith
Walking The Fine Line...
 by Mike "Deadguy" Scott
Wow, 2005 Really Did Exist!...Finally Getting Their Due....A Thought For 2006
 by Vinnie Blesi
The Top 20 Albums of 2005
 by Terence Nuzum
One New Life
 by Mark Terry
The Beginning and the End: Ups and Downs From The Year 2005 .... Gaming .... Politics
 by Joshua Montgomery
The Top 10 Things That Pissed Me Off In 2005
 by Nick King
Bush: The Spy....Happy New Year
 by Matt Drinnenberg
The Year That Was....Thank You....Passing On....Coach Dungy....Good Stuff....On Deck....Say What?
 by Mike Smith
Archives of Nolan's Pop Culture Review
Archives 2005
Archives 2004
Archives 2003
Archives 2002
Archives 2001
Archives 2000
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William Moriaty's Florida
More tales from "La Floridiana" await you in "William Moriaty's Florida"! For more information simply click the book cover above!

The History of Miami International Airport -- Part Three  

The 1990s: The Decade of Big Hair Gave Way to the Decade of Bad Hair for Miami International Airport
There were indications as early as 1980 that maybe the deregulation of the airline industry was not the salvation for it that industry analysis initially thought it would be. In record time, regional carriers had a relatively short span at serving Miami's International Airport. Allegheny and Mohawk formed into U.S. Air (which later absorbed Piedmont), while North Central and Southern merged into Republic, which was swallowed up by Northwest, and lastly Ozark was absorbed by Trans World Airlines - - whew!

In July 1980, the first of three of Miami's legacy carriers to disappear from the radar scope was National Airlines. Merged into Pan American, National, truly a "native" Florida air line that boasted such slogans as "The Buccaneer Route", "The Airline of the Stars" and "I'm Linda, Fly Me!", ceased to operate its cheery "Sun King" emblazoned Douglas DC-10 and Boeing 727 fleet. No longer was this airline a fixture at Miami International Airport. A large part of Miami's heart and soul died when National flew off into aviation history.

In 1959, Delta Airlines finished a major maintenance facility at Miami International Airport. By 1982, the airline moved its maintenance operation to Tampa International Airport. It was becoming apparent by the 1980's that domestic carriers were losing interest in Miami and moving their traffic further north in the Sunshine State, but international traffic continued to grow and thrive there during that decade nonetheless.

On July 3, 1984, "dereg darling" Air Florida also ceased to exist. The struggling carrier suffered its most major set back on January 13, 1982 when one of its Boeing 737's crashed into the Potomac River during take off in Washington D.C. due to an icing problem. Air Florida's fleet of DC-9's, Boeing 727's and DC-10's found themselves parked nose to nose along the ramp at their Miami based maintenance facility, inactive and ready to be traded to other carriers or sold for scrap.

The second major legacy carrier to disappear from Miami was the airline founded by flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker some six decades earlier. On January 18, 1991, Eastern Airlines ceased operations due in large part to heavy debt coupled with the dictatorial and visceral management style of corporate raider and President Frank Lorenzo as well as labor's unwillingness to bend to his continued attacks on the airline's assets and demands for labor concessions. "The Great Silver Fleet", "The Golden Falcon" and the "Whisperjet" joined National in what was becoming a natural selection in the American passenger airline industry that has left virtually no profitable operators left.

But the most mortal blow to Miami International Airport occurred on December 4, 1991 when the Boeing 727 "Clipper Heritage", on a flight from Bridgeton Barbados, overflew the main runway in a salute good bye, safely landed, was baptized by firetruck overspray before deplaning its passengers. This would be the last flight to operate from what started as a dream in 1927 by Major Harry "Hap" Arnold, Juan Trippe, William A. Rockefeller, Corneliue Vanderbilt and others.

That dream was, of course, Pan American World Airways.

This world class carrier was at one time THE airline that demonstrated to the planet that the United States was undeniably the standard bearer of the commercial airways. From its incredible flying boats of the late 20's through the early 40's, to its world-wide route network after the Second World War, to its leadership in the advent of safe and dependable jet powered aviation, Pan American sadly died a slow and horrific death. The ravages of increased fuel prices, airline deregulation, fiscal mismanagement, upgraded international fleets, and the bombing of one of its Boeing 747's over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988 inevitably conspired to spell doom for this once grand lady of the skies.

Gone was the very airline that made Miami International Airport in large part possible.

In addition to the loss of all three of Miami's legacy carriers, the Southeast Bank building, along with the Eastern Airlines corporate building and Pan American's "Taj Mahal" all sat abandoned throughout most of the 1990's, two before being demolished, one before finding new tenants. All that was left of these classic airlines that embodied and defined Miami were that was still operational were the hangers along N.W. 36th Street and the rotunda hanger built by National Airlines that now serves the fleet of Miami's largest carrier, American Airlines.

To say the least, the 1990's were not kind to Miami International Airport.

1992 -- The End of the Piston Era at Miami International Airport
Amidst the volatility involving America's and Miami's airline industry of the 1990's, the last of the piston aircraft to operate out of Miami International Airport were not faring well either. By the mid to late 1990's, concrete noise walls with color plexi-glass portholes were erected along the north perimeter road that runs along N.W. 36th Street. This served to both attenuate noise from bleeding over into the Miami Springs area, and to screen the last remnants of commercial piston aviation history residing in "Corrosion Corner" from the motorist. In its efforts to modernize and reinvent itself, Miami International Airport was rapidly becoming as sterile and soulless as any other airport in the country, save its incredible international flavor and diversity.

To appreciate Miami's history and close association with piston aircraft, a historic overview is warranted.

In 1964, Miami-based National Airlines was the first domestic carrier to have an all jet-powered fleet. By 1968, most all of America's major carriers phased out piston, or reciprocal engine powered aircraft in favor of faster and more economical and reliable jet turbine powered aircraft.

Those classic pistons such as the DC-3, DC-4, Constellation, DC-6, DC-7 and the Convair Twins, that so admirably served the nation's commercial airlines in the post World War Two era of the late 40's, the 1950's and the 1960's, were quickly handed the fate of the cutter's torch or relegated to duty as cargo haulers in third world nations.

There was, however, a haven of sorts in the lower 48 states for the remainder of these operable and venerable old recips - - Miami International Airport.

Operating out of the northwest ("corrosion") corner of the airport from the late 1960's until almost 2000, one could witness many piston operations due in large part to Miami's proximity to the Caribbean, Central America and South America, and due to the reliance of operators from those areas on such equipment. Another factor that made pistons flourish in the late 1980's and early 1990's in Miami was the reluctance of cargo operators to re-engine or retrofit first generation jet equipment, such as the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8, with noise suppressing powerplants in order to meet Federal noise standards that went into effect in 1985.

As a result, a piston renaissance of sorts occurred at Miami International Airport between 1985 and 1992. During that period it was not uncommon to see close to two dozen DC-6's, a handful of DC-3's, C-46's, Convair Twins, DC-7's and even a Constellation and C-97 providing ramp action on any given day. Incredible historical footage of this era can be found in the VCR tapes made by Fred Hartmann of Sky Legends Video, bearing such titles as "Ageless Recips Over Miami", "DC-7 Daze" and "Vanishing Propwash". An excellent book , also covering that era, was "Miami Props" by Austin J. Brown and Mark R. Wagner, available from Amazon.com.

Just as the legacy carriers Eastern and Pan American of Miami had an inglorious end only a year earlier, a bellwether event would spell doom to Miami International Airport's classic heavy pistons.

On November 6, 1992, a Douglas DC-7C belonging to T and G Aviation (other reports credit ownership to Aerochago and Caribe Air Cargo) was forced to ditch in 15' of water in the Atlantic Ocean about 100 yards from Port Everglades after taking from Miami International Airport with 16 tons of cargo headed for the Dominican Republic. Narrowly missing office and apartment buildings as well as houses along Miami Beach, the aircraft never got higher than 300' after its 2:15 A.M. departure due to power loss in its Number 4 engine.

This incident, coupled with a trade embargo on Haiti and the previous crashes and incidents of several other Dominican piston cargo carriers that frequented the airport, brought the piston era to a conclusion, although Miami based Trans Air Link managed to keep its fleet of DC-6's and one DC-7C active there until its relocation to Miami's Opa Locka airport in 1998.

The New Millennium and September 11th
The next major nail in the coffin for airline enthusiasts and airplane spotters at Miami International Airport was the fall out from the September 11, 2001 terrorist act where hijacked American and United Boeing 767's were run into and brought down both World Trade Center Towers in New York City by Middle Eastern terrorists. In short order Miami International Airport cordoned off the entire south perimeter road, once so popular for parking and viewing aircraft operations along Runway 9R/27L with concrete jersey barrier walls. Now on top off the indignantcy of its fall from grace in the 1990's, Miami's International Airport took on the impression of being an armed fortress more than an airport. Fortunately there is still a limited view on runway operations adjacent to the El Dorado Furniture store on N.W. 72nd Avenue.

Although the viewing of international carriers at Miami International Airport is still superb, fleets have become ever sterile in appearance. With the exception of international passenger carrying Boeing 747's and Airbus A-340's, four engine and three engine jet operations here are now pretty much limited to cargo carriers such as Atlas, Polar, Gemini, FedEx and Centurion. First generation jets are limited to a trickle with re-engined DC-8-71's and 73's from ATI, DHL and TAMPA Colombia, as well as the last of the line DC-8-63's from Arrow Air and ABX - - undoubtedly they will disappear in short order too. The airways, particularly on the domestic front, are now ruled by the twin-jet bearing the name of Boeing or Airbus. Domestic carrier diversity from the 1980's to present day has diminished significantly and what few such carriers are operating are in financial straits. Commercial aviation may well be heading in the same direction that the passenger train did some forty years ago or so.

Regardless of all the tribulation and loss over the past two decades, Miami International Airport still remains one of the most vital, vibrant and colorful airports on the planet, and its continued growth is demonstrated through its newest terminal additions (see the official Miami International Airport website) and the exciting new Miami Intermodal Center which is under construction on the east side of LeJeune Street.

An incredible history and accomplishment for an airport that started out as a 116 acre tract of scrubland belonging to the Seminole Fruit and Land Company in 1928!

Historical Annual Passengers

  • 1990: 25,800,000 passengers
  • 2000: 33,621.273 passengers
  • 2004: 29,595,618 passengers

    Historic Annual Cargo

  • 1990: 907,687 tons
  • 2000: 1,811,184 tons
  • 2004: 1,805,158 tons

    Total Flight Operations, 2004

  • 400,864

    Historic Passenger Aircraft Serving Miami from 1990s to 2005

    Douglas DC-8- United
    Boeing 727- Pan American, Eastern, United, Braniff, Northwest, Trans World, American, U.S. Air, Delta, Mexicana, Aerolineas Argentinas, AVIANCA, Carnival, Air Jamaica, Bahamasair, AVENSA, Faucett Peru, SEVIVENSA, AVIACSA, Continental, LAB, ATA
    DC-9- Eastern, Delta, U.S. Air, Aeromexico, AVIANCA, Continental, ValuJet, AirTran, Iberia, Northwest
    Boeing 737- United, U.S. Air, Continental, Carnival, LAN Chile, Cayman Airways, Bahamasair, VASP, Copa, AVENSA, Air South, Aerolineas Argentinas, Air Tran, AVIACSA, Grupo TACA
    Ilyushin IL-62- Aeroflot
    Boeing 747- Pan American, Northwest, British, Air Canada, AVIANCA, Aerolineas Argentinas, Iberia, Air France, Alitalia, Bahamasair, El Al, South African Airways, Lufthansa, Surinam Airways, Virgin Atlantic
    Douglas DC-10- Northwest, United, American, Iberia, AVENSA, Aeromexico, Sun Country
    Lockheed L-1011 Tri-Star- Eastern, Delta, Pan American, Trans World, Air Canada, B.W.I.A., Air Jamaica, ATA
    Airbus A-300- Eastern, American, Continental, VIASA, Pan American, Carnival, Air Jamaica
    Airbus A-330- Pan American, LTU, TAM Brazilian
    Airbus A-319/320- U.S. Air, Northwest, Air Canada, United, America West, B.W.I.A., Mexicana
    Boeing 757- Delta, Eastern, American, United, Continental, Trans World, Aeromexico, AVIANCA, Mexicana, Varig, ATA, America West
    Boeing 767- Delta, American, United, Trans World, Varig, Aeromexico, Air Canada, AVIANCA, LAB, LAN Chile, Mexicana
    Boeing 777- United, British
    Douglas MD-80 series- Delta, American, Aeromexico, AVIANCA, Trans World, Aerolineas Argentinas, Continental, Surinam Airways, Air Aruba
    Douglas MD-11- Delta, Varig

    1990s commuters, charter and cargo
    Douglas DC-3- Atlantic Air Cargo
    Douglas C-118/DC-6- Trans Air Link, Bellamy-Lawson, Aerial Transit
    Douglas DC-7- Trans Air Link, Aerochago, AMSA, AESA, T and G Aviation, Trans Air Cargo
    Lockheed L-1049 Constellation- Aerochago, AMSA
    Lockheed L-188 Electra- TAN
    Lockheed C-130 Hercules- Southern Air Transport
    Boeing 707- Challenge Air Cargo, Florida West, Pan Aviation, Millon Air, Burlington Air Express, TAMPA Colombia, Fast Air
    Douglas DC-8- United Parcel Service, LAC, Kalitta/American International, LAB, Andes, Aero Peru, Emery Air Freight, MAS Air, LAN Chile, Mexicana Air Cargo, Fine Air, Arrow Air, Burlington Air Express, Haiti Air Lines, Southern Air Transport, TAMPA Colombia, DHL, Airborne, Zuliana, Florida West, ATC
    Douglas DC-9- Airborne
    Boeing 727- FedEx, United Parcel Service, DHL, Miami Air, Arrow Air, Amerijet, Kitty Hawk
    Boeing 737- Miami Air
    Boeing 747- Cargolux, Polar, Atlas, China Air Lines
    Boeing 757- Challenge Air Cargo
    Douglas DC-10- Gemini, FedEx, Centurion
    Fairchild-Hiller FH-227- Airlift International
    Canadair CL-44- Blue Bell/Wrangler/Tradewinds
    Lockheed L-1011- Tradewinds, Fine Air, Arrow Air
    Airbus A-300- FedEx, Tradewinds

    2000 to 2005
    Boeing 727- United, Northwest/NWA, American, Delta, Mexicana, Aerolineas Argentinas, AVIANCA, Air Jamaica, Bahamasair, AVENSA, LAB, ATA
    DC-9- U.S. Air, Aeromexico, AVIANCA, Continental, Air Tran, AVIACSA, Northwest/NWA
    Boeing 737- United, U.S. Air, Continental, LAN Chile, Cayman Airways, Bahamasair, VASP, Copa, AVENSA, Air Tran, Alaska, American, AVIACSA, B.W.I.A., LACSA/Grupo TACA
    Boeing 747- British, AVIANCA, Aerolineas Argentinas, Iberia, Air France, Alitalia, El Al, Lufthansa, Surinam Airways, Virgin Atlantic
    Douglas DC-10- Northwest/NWA, United, Iberia, AVENSA, Sun Country
    Lockheed L-100 Tri-Star- Delta
    Airbus A-300- American, VIASA
    Airbus A-319/320- U.S. Air/US Airways, Northwest/NWA, Air Canada, United, Ted, Air Jamaica, America West, Iberia, LACSA/Grupo TACA, Mexicana
    Airbus A-330- Eurofly, LTU, My Travel Airways, TAM Brazilian
    Airbus A-340- Air France, LAN Chile, Aerolineas Argentinas, Air Jamaica, B.W.I.A., Iberia, Lufthansa, Virgin Atlantic
    Boeing 757- Delta, Eastern, American, United, Continental, Trans World, Aeromexico, Aerolineas Argentinas, AVIANCA, Finnair, Mexicana, US Air/US Airways, Varig, ATA, Northwest/NWA
    Boeing 767- Delta, American, United, Trans World, Varig, Air Canada, Alitalia, AVIANCA, LAB, LAN Chile, Mexicana
    Boeing 777- United, Delta, British, Air France, Alitalia, Varig
    Douglas MD-80 series- Delta, American, Aeromexico, AVIANCA, Trans World, Aerolineas Argentinas, Alaska, Air Aruba
    Douglas MD-11- Varig
    Fokker F-100- AVIACSA
    Boeing 717- AirTran

    2000-2005's commuters, charter and cargo
    Douglas DC-8- United Parcel Service, Arrow Air, TAMPA Colombia, DHL, BAX, ATI, MK, Airborne/ABX
    Douglas DC-9- Airborne/ABX
    Boeing 727- FedEx, United Parcel Service, DHL, Kitty Hawk
    Boeing 747- Cargolux, Polar, Atlas, China Air Lines
    Douglas DC-10- Gemini, FedEx, Centurion
    Lockheed L-1011- Arrow Air
    Airbus A-300- FedEx, Tradewinds, United Parcel Sevice
    Boeing 767- United Parcel Service, Airborne/ABX, TAMPA Colombia, Florida West, ABSA
    Douglas MD-11- FedEx
    Swearingen Metro- IBC Airways

    Correction: Air Jamaica and Surinam Airways were accidentally added to the Aerospatiale-British Concorde fleet roster in the 1980s listing of historic passenger aircraft at Miami International Airport in last week's Part Two column. Air Jamaica and Surinam Airways listings were meant to be added to the Douglas DC-8 listings of that decade. Only British Airways flew the Concorde on a regularly scheduled basis into Miami during the 1980s, and Concordes were only in the fleets of British Airways, Singapore Airways, Air France and Braniff International Airways.

    Recommended Link:
    Abandoned and Little Known Airfields, Florida, Southern Miami Area: http://www.airfields-freeman.com/FL/Airfields_FL_Miami_S.htm

    Index of 2005 La Floridiana Columns

    1. PCR #250: January 3-9: "Will and Karen's Cabbage Key and Key West Kraziness Part 3"
    2. PCR #251: January 10-16: "Will and Karen's Cabbage Key and Key West Kraziness Part 4"
    3. PCR #257: February 21-27: "A Case of Microwave Mayhem or Misinformation in Northwest Florida? Part One of Two"
    4. PCR #258: February 28-March 6: "A Case of Microwave Mayhem or Misinformation in Northwest Florida? Part two of Two"
    5. PCR #263: April 4-10: "William Moriaty's Florida Near Completion"
    6. PCR #264: April 11-17: "Charlie Carlson's "Weird Florida" Unleashed !!!! Book Release Party Part One"
    7. PCR #267: May 2-8: "Charlie Carlson's "Weird Florida" Unleashed !!!! Book Release Party Part Two"
    8. PCR #268: May 9-15: "Florida Independent Movie Review - - Light of Blood"
    9. PCR #270: May 23-29: "A Truly Magic Moment"
    10. PCR #271: May 30-June 5: "Bill Beuret - The Man Who Brought a Touch of Elegance and a Taste of Paradise to Altamonte Springs"
    11. PCR #275: June 27-July 3:"The Sanford Summit, Part One"
    12. PCR #277: July 11-17: "The Sanford Summit, Part Two"
    13. PCR #282: August 15-21: "Doors Closing and Doors Opening, Part One"
    14. PCR #284: August 29-September 4: "Doors Closing and Doors Opening, Part Two"
    15. PCR #285: September 5-11: "Doors Closing and Doors Opening, Part Three"l
    16. PCR #286: September 12-18: "Current Events from the World of La Floridiana"
    17. PCR #287: September 19-25: "Labor Day Weekend Magic"
    18. PCR #288: September 26-October 2: "The Latest from the Weird World of Florida's Man In Black, Charlie Carlson..."
    19. PCR #289: October 3-9: "Haunted Pinellas, Part 1"
    20. PCR #290: October 10-16: "Haunted Pinellas, Part 1" by guest columnist Lisa Clardy.l
    21. PCR #292: October 24-30: "Florida's Witch Town?"l
    22. PCR #296: November 21-27: "Summary of My Fall TV Show Picks"
    23. PCR #298: December 5-11: "Reflections on a Florida Vacation"
    24. PCR #299: December 12-18: "The History of Miami International Airport, Part One"
    24. PCR #300: December 19-25: "The History of Miami International Airport, Part Two"
    25. PCR #301: December 26-31: "The History of Miami International Airport, Part Three"

    "La Floridiana" is ©2005 by William Moriaty.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2005 by Nolan B. Canova.