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Fine Air was an international cargo airline. It began in 1989 under the supervising eye of owner J. Frank Fine. When it was flying, Fine Air had various members of the Fine family work at different capabilities. Fine Air' hubs were in Miami International Airport, Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta and Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in Puerto Rico. It operated DC-8 and Lockheed L-1011 type jets.
In 2000, Fine Air filed for bankruptcy and soon after, it was merged into Arrow Air, another cargo airline. Both airlines would still use their respective names until 2004 when they were called, "Arrow Cargo". Fineair failed as they couldn't find enough pilots to fly overloaded aircraft.
Incidents and accidents
The aircraft lost control shortly after V1 , when upon rotation the cargo shifted aft on the main cargo deck because none of the pallet locks were engaged upright to the cargo pallets on the main deck. The plane was loaded with two empty pallet positions that allowed for a significant shifting of the center of gravity aft toward the empty spaces. Ground crew interviews found that the flight was routinely full of pallets and the locks were rarely engaged in some opinions, and it was further stated this was because they were thought to be irrelevant if the pallets could not move. Pallets are held by rails at the sides from moving in an upward direction, but only the retractable end locks can stop forward and aft movement. The over-pitching on rotation at V1 pitched the aircraft nose up sharply to the point that air flow into the engines was significantly reduced (similar to blowing across the opening of a soda bottle to make it whistle from the drop in pressure) and causing the engines to stall. The plane then pitched back nose-down landing on its belly on the ground. In addition the aircraft was approximately 2700 kg overloaded, although given the pallet weighing process this was believed to be more common than thought beforehand.
The pilots, departing from former Runway 27R (now 26L) attempted to recover but the stalled aircraft lacked any forward thrust rendering the control surfaces useless. The forward pitching aircraft rapidly lost forward momentum and lift with its wings cutting the airflow perpendicular to proper lift orientation. The DC-8 crashed on its belly on a field directly west of the end of the runway (about 300 yards) traveling in a straight line.
The DC-8 missed the auto transport loading facility at the south end of the Miami City Rail Yard just north of the end of the runway, and also busy cargo operations facilities along the very busy NW 25th Street feeder to the airport's cargo area just to the south of the end of the runway. The aircraft nearly missed two factories, a commercial building, and the Budweiser Distribution Center in unincorporated Miami, Florida between the populated residential suburbs of Miami Springs and Doral, FL.
It skidded across the open field and onto NW 72nd Ave, a roadway that is typically full of traffic during the lunch hour but was surprisingly quiet at 12:36p EST when it came down. The plane's wreckage skidded quickly across the roadway and onto the parking lot of a commercial mini-mall across the street from the empty field; it took out 26 cars in the lot. At that time the mini-mall was a hub of computer parts distributors specializing in South American commerce.
The plane's wreckage fell four feet short of the entrances to three shops. It missed two occupied cars and a truck that were waiting for the traffic signal at the intersection of NW 31st Street and NW 72nd Avenue, less than 30 yards (27 m) away.
Inside one of the cars in the parking lot sat a man who had just arrived back at his shop in the mini-mall after picking up lunch for his wife and himself. He was unable to make it out of the car and was caught up in the fireball that engulfed the multi-lane avenue, field, and parking lot.
The only deaths were those of the three aircrew members, a company security guard on the flight, and the man in the parking lot. In the minutes following the crash, police were alerted to a fire at NW 72nd Ave, only to discover it was a plane crash. For nearly 45 minutes, mixed reports claimed the plane was a passenger flight, but within the hour the control tower at MIA confirmed it was Fine Air Cargo Flight 101. FAA Security Special Agents working out of an office on airport property (at that time) responded to the scene and simultaneously to the Fine Air Cargo offices where they took possession of the flight documentation. Some relevant documentation were recovered from garbage receptacles causing a criminal investigation to be opened and ultimately leading to charges including destruction and covering up of evidence. Fine Air and their ground handling agent Aeromar Airlines plead guilty to several of the charges and were fined approximately $5 million.
- "Miami-Based Air Cargo Service Files for Bankruptcy" in Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News, September 2000 by Cordle, Ina Paiva. Retrieved May 9, 2008.
- "Air Cargo Insanity", March 6, 2004. Retrieved May 9, 2008.