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Braniff once a big player in airline industry

By KenBridges

It all began with an insurance coverage agent and a small aircraft. From there, it grew into an aviation empire and one of the vital recognizable names in Texas aviation.

Ken Bridges.jpg

dr Ken Bridges

From the common-or-garden beginnings of Braniff Airlines, the story of Tom Braniff grew into considered one of many colourful tales about Texas pilots and businessmen and their quest to overcome the skies.

Thomas Elmer Braniff was born in December 1883 in Salina, Kansas to a household of farmers. His father, John Braniff, quickly switched to the insurance coverage enterprise and moved the household to Kansas City in the Nineties.

The Braniffs have been devoted Catholics. The youthful Braniff held a number of jobs whereas graduating highschool, together with working at a meatpacking plant and dealing for the Kansas City Star. In 1900 the household moved to Oklahoma City, the place John Braniff started working for a new insurance coverage company.

The youthful Braniff quickly wished to department out and shortly began his personal insurance coverage company west of Oklahoma City on the age of 17. However, his firm went bankrupt when a twister worn out a close by group the place Braniff had bought twister insurance coverage and was unable to pay the claims.

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He quickly returned to Oklahoma City and began a new firm with a accomplice. The new firm struggled in the early years, however in 1917 he was capable of purchase out his accomplice. Shortly thereafter he expanded into Braniff Investments and shortly had one of the vital profitable insurance coverage companies in the area.

New Heavens

In the Twenties, Braniff seemed to the longer term. In 1923 he constructed the TE Braniff Building in Oklahoma City, a 10-story constructing that was Oklahoma’s first skyscraper. He was additionally fascinated by aviation, and his youthful brother Paul already had a license and his personal aircraft.

In 1927, Braniff and a group of buyers purchased a used airplane and shaped the Oklahoma Aero Club, began a flight college, began an air taxi service, and bought airplane elements. In 1928 he purchased out his companions and began an airline, together with his brother Paul as President and Chief Pilot and himself as Vice President, which he named Paul R. Braniff Inc. It operated a single route between Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

The subsequent yr the primary Braniff Airlines was bought, however in 1930 the 2 began once more, with Braniff Airways working routes from Oklahoma City to both Tulsa or Wichita Falls. In 1935, he expanded deeper into Texas by shopping for Long and Harmon Airlines, a small Dallas-based airline that additionally had routes to Amarillo, Brownsville, and Galveston.

More importantly, this smaller airline additionally had a profitable airmail deal that assured a paid service to those totally different cities. In 1936, Braniff purchased Bowen Airlines, a small firm working out of Fort Worth.


Despite his rising success, he met tragedy. In 1938 his son died in a aircraft crash. He saved transferring ahead anyway. By the late Thirties, the airline was now Dallas-based and operated as much as eight flights a day from Dallas Love Field, contributing to the airport’s rising success. Most upkeep was additionally executed in Dallas at the moment.

When World War II started, the Braniff brothers stepped ahead. Paul Braniff, now in his 40s, served as a pilot throughout World War II whereas his brother, by then too previous for the navy, managed the airline and his different enterprise pursuits at dwelling.

Tom Braniff donated the entire airline’s DC-2 plane to the navy, which have been older however nonetheless dependable plane when the airline transitioned to the DC-3. Braniff additionally organized to share her Love Field amenities with the navy for upkeep and coaching of pilots and mechanics.

After World War II, Braniff started routes by Central America and the Caribbean. They additionally steadily expanded throughout the Midwest. In 1952 he purchased Mid-Continent Airlines. At this level, the airline dream that began with a used plane now had a fleet of 75 plane, 400 pilots and 4,000 workers.

In the mid-Nineteen Fifties it was the tenth largest airline in the nation. However, Thomas Braniff tragically died in 1954 on the age of 70 in a non-public aircraft crash close to Shreveport. His brother Paul died of most cancers a few months later.


The airline he based existed for a few extra years and was an integral a part of Dallas aviation. By 1955, the corporate’s payroll reached $22 million (greater than $240 million in fashionable {dollars}), and the airline constructed a new terminal at Love Field in 1958.

Until the mid-Sixties, the variety of passengers and the kilometers flown by passengers elevated steadily. The firm went by a sequence of acquisitions in the Sixties however remained worthwhile nicely into the Seventies.

When the federal authorities deregulated airline routes in 1978, Braniff executives tried to take benefit by buying a variety of new plane and launching new routes. However, the brand new routes weren’t as worthwhile, and the corporate shortly misplaced cash.

Braniff Airlines lastly went bankrupt in 1982, a sufferer of elevated competitors, gas costs and a botched try at growth that resulted in excessive ranges of debt.

New consumers tried to revitalize the airline in 1984, principally utilizing workers from the previous Braniff, however these efforts failed in 1989. A second try to revitalize the airline started in 1991 however failed the following yr.

The Braniff Airways Foundation, a charity established by the airline, nonetheless works to additional the historical past of aviation. 

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