Recently, a question arose as to what exactly happened with the tail cone of this airplane. On 09-27-02 the Captain responded:
"I can add a little something to this picture. I was the Captain on this flight and I think Charley Seefluth was the F/O. We were unaware that the tail cone had fallen off just as we turned onto 09 at MIA on the way to DEN. At the time there was no warning light to alert us and the tower didn't notice it so away we went. We noticed a "bussing" in the rudder pedals during climbout and not too long after, we got a call from one of the F/A's in the aft jumpseat telling us that it was nosier than usual back there and when she looked out the window in the aft entry door all she could see was a pretty sky with lots of clouds instead of nothing.
Due to a full load of passengers and fuel, we well over certificated landing weight but didn't have enough fuel to go to DEN nonstop at low altitude and 250 knots so we flew a holding pattern over the Everglades with gear and full flaps hanging out to burn off fuel as quickly as possible but it still took 45-50 minutes. Landing was uneventful and the flight was cancelled.
Later, reading back through the aircraft logbook, I noticed that the cone had been accidently dropped several times during the past two weeks; once by a cleaner and once by maintenance. Laer, a warning light was installed in the cockpit to alert the crew.
Captain H.A. Frost