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Braniff as soon as an enormous participant within the airline business

By Ken Bridges

It began with an insurance coverage salesman and one small airplane. From there, it turned an aviation empire and probably the most famous names in Texas aviation.

Dr Ken Bridges

From Braniff Airways’ humble beginnings, Tom Braniff’s story turned certainly one of many colourful tales of Texas pilots and businessmen and the hunt to overcome the skies.

Thomas Elmer Braniff was born in Salina, Kansas, in December 1883 right into a farming household. His father, John Braniff, quickly moved into the insurance coverage enterprise and moved the household to Kansas Metropolis within the Nineties.

The Braniffs have been devoted Catholics. The youthful Braniff labored a collection of jobs whereas he accomplished college, together with working in a meat-packing plant and dealing for the Kansas Metropolis Star. In 1900, the household moved to Oklahoma Metropolis the place John Braniff started working for a brand new insurance coverage company.

The youthful Braniff quickly needed to department out and shortly began his personal insurance coverage company west of Oklahoma Metropolis on the age of 17. Nonetheless, his agency went bankrupt when a twister worn out a close-by neighborhood the place Braniff had bought twister insurance coverage and was unable to pay the claims.

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He quickly returned to Oklahoma Metropolis and began a brand new agency with a associate. The brand new agency struggled in its early years, however by 1917, he was in a position to purchase out his associate from him. He expanded into Braniff Investments shortly afterward and shortly had probably the most profitable insurance coverage businesses within the area.

New Skies

By the Nineteen Twenties, Braniff was trying to the longer term. In 1923, he constructed the TE Braniff Constructing in Oklahoma Metropolis, a 10-story constructing that was the primary skyscraper in Oklahoma. He additionally turned fascinated with aviation, and his youthful brother Paul already had a license and his personal airplane.

In 1927, Braniff and a bunch of traders purchased a used airplane and started the Oklahoma Aero Membership, starting a flight college, air taxi service, and promoting plane elements. In 1928, he purchased out his companions from him and began an airline, together with his brother Paul as president and the primary pilot and himself as vp, calling it Paul R. Braniff Inc. It served a single route between Tulsa and Oklahoma Metropolis.

The following 12 months, the primary Braniff Airways was bought, however in 1930, the 2 began once more, with Braniff Airways serving routes from Oklahoma Metropolis to both Tulsa or Wichita Falls. In 1935, he expanded deeper into Texas by shopping for Lengthy and Harmon Airways, a small airline based mostly in Dallas that additionally had routes to Amarillo, Brownsville and Galveston.

Extra importantly, this smaller airline additionally had a profitable air mail contract, guaranteeing paid service to those totally different cities. In 1936, Braniff purchased Bowen Airways, a small firm working out of Fort Value.


Regardless of his rising success, he met with tragedy. In 1938, his son died in an airplane crash. He continued to maneuver ahead nonetheless. By the late Thirties, the airline was now based mostly in Dallas, providing as much as eight flights per time out of Dallas Love Subject, contributing to the airport’s rising success. Most upkeep operations have been additionally carried out in Dallas by this level.

When World Warfare II began, the Braniff brothers stepped up. Paul Braniff, now in his 40s, would function a pilot throughout World Warfare II, whereas his brother, too previous for the army at this level, managed the airline and his different enterprise pursuits at house.

Tom Braniff donated all the airline’s DC-2 plane to the army, which have been older however nonetheless dependable plane, because the airline switched to the DC-3. Braniff additionally organized to share their Love Subject services with the army for upkeep and coaching of pilots and mechanics.

After World Warfare II, Braniff started routes all through Central America and the Caribbean. Additionally they expanded steadily throughout the Midwest. In 1952, he purchased Mid-Continent Airways. By this level, the airline dream that he had began with one used aircraft now had a fleet of 75 plane, 400 pilots and 4,000 workers.

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


The airline he based continued for a number of extra years and was a staple in Dallas aviation. By 1955, the corporate’s payroll reached $22 million (greater than $240 million in trendy {dollars}), and the airline constructed a brand new terminal at Love Subject in 1958.

The variety of passengers and the hundreds flown by passengers elevated steadily into the mid-Sixties. The corporate went by a collection of buyouts within the Sixties however remained worthwhile effectively into the Nineteen Seventies.

In 1978, when the federal authorities deregulated airline routes, Braniff executives tried to make the most of it by shopping for a collection of latest plane and beginning new routes. Nonetheless, the brand new routes weren’t as worthwhile, and the corporate began shedding cash quickly.

Braniff Airways in the end went bankrupt by 1982, a sufferer of elevated competitors, gas costs and a botched growth try that left it deep in debt.

New patrons tried to revive the airline in 1984, largely with workers from the previous Braniff, however this effort failed by 1989. A second try to revive the airline began in 1991 however failed the subsequent 12 months.

Braniff Airways Basis, a charity began by the airline, nonetheless works to advertise the historical past of aviation. 


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