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Independent Air originated with Atlanta Skylarks. The airline operated flights for the Atlanta Skylarks Travel Club beginning in July 1966 with a single Douglas DC-7. By the early 1970s they expanded charter operations to the Caribbean using a Sud Aviation Caravelle and two Boeing 720s. The airline license (not the club) was taken over in 1984 by Alvin Pittman and Orien Dickerson. Both previously worked for Capitol Air. The new airline was named Independent Air.
Independent Air was granted a license for worldwide charters in 1984. The company purchased two Boeing 707s (N7232X and N7231T) from Trans World Airlines. The company's permission to operate these aircraft was withdrawn in 1984 following new noise regulations. The company was exempted from the permission withdrawal following a successful lawsuit. In 1985, the aircraft were fitted with hush kits, allowing the aircraft to meet Stage 3 noise levels.
The airline mainly operated holiday charters and also flew charters for the US military.
In 1988 and 1989 the company flew charters between Florida and Jamaica, also dubbed the "Jamaica Shuttle". At the time of the crash of Independent Air 1851, the company was operating flights between Boston and Ponta Delgada (for Azores Express), Fort Lauderdale and Montego Bay, Denver and Montego Bay and Milan/Bergamo and Santo Domingo/Montego Bay.
Independent Air 1851
After the crash
Following the crash, Independent Air received bad press in Italian newspapers, primarily about the age of its aircraft. Also, some passengers who boarded one of its earlier flights into the Dominican Republic and Jamaica complained about the state of its aircraft and the interior citing faulty air-conditioning and broken seat(backs). Two days after the crash, the Italian minister for transport, Giorgio Santuz, banned Independent Air from the Italian skies. Azores Express terminated the contract for the flights between Ponta Delgada and Boston by the end of February.
Independent Air replaced the crashed aircraft with N457PC, leased from International Air Leases and previously operated by Ports of Call Airlines.
By 1990, Independent Air was planning to start scheduled flights between New York and Puerto Rico but those plans were not realized. In the meantime, fallout from the Azores accident led to contracts with tour operators being canceled and flights were suspended in November 1990.
During 1990, Orien Dickerson, then Vice-President of the company, was penalised by the United States Department of Transportation because he withdrew funds from escrow accounts for charter flights that still had to be carried out. In the charter airline business, it is common practice that prepayments from customers (e.g. travel agencies) to airlines are put on an escrow account until the flight is operated. This reduces the risk for the travel agency that the flight cannot be carried out due to insufficient funds. Orion Dickerson was fined in 1992 for $20,000. In addition, he was ordered to refrain from gainful involvement with air carriers, travel agencies or public charter companies for 18 months.
After the name change from Atlanta Skylarks to Independent Air, the company acquired two Boeing 707-331Bs from TWA (N7232X and N7231T). The two Boeing 720s were disposed of. Initially, the company was not granted permission to use the 707s in the US since their engines were not fitted with hush kits. In 1987, Independent Air added a Boeing 727-100 (N154FN) to their fleet but this aircraft was returned to the lessor before the end of that year. Independent Air also leased a Boeing 707 from Skystar International (N728Q) in 1987. The fleet's mainstays (N7231T and N7232X) were sold to International Air Leases Inc. in 1988 and leased back. The Boeing 707 N7231T that was lost in the Azores was replaced in 1989 by a 707 from Denver Ports of Call (N457PC). Both aircraft were returned to International Air Leases in 1990, when Independent Air ceased operations.
- Information about Independent Air at the Aviation Safety Network.
- "Boeing 707 Production List".
- Airlines Remembered by BI Hengi, Publisher Midland Publishing
- "Violations of section 411" (PDF). Airlineinfo.