Paul R. Braniff was
born in 1897 during the height of the industrial revolution. Paul was
in his teens when the Edwardian era was in full swing. Daimler-Benz
had invented the motor car, The Wright brothers invented the aeroplane
using bicycle parts, White Star built the superliners, "R.M.S. Olympic"
and built the ill-fated "R.M.S. Titanic," Electricity was becoming commonplace,
and life became a "brave new-world." This atmosphere would set the stage
for the airline industry.
The airline that
would become Braniff started with this aviation pioneer, Paul Revere
Paul signed on to the "Army Air Corps" in 1915 as an aircraft mechanic serving first with the 636 Aero Squadron, and then, in 1917, the 50th Aero Squadron at Camp Kelly in San Antonio, Texas. (Later to be named Kelly AFB).
In 1918, Paul joined the Allies in France during WWI serving the 16th Aero Sqdn, and then the 2nd Aero Sqdn as a "gunnery instructor."
In 1919, he learned to fly when he was assigned to "Flight Observer Training." His instructor was Lt. Richard "Dick" Pears (who Paul later hired in the 1930s to fly Ford "Tri-Motors" for Braniff Airways).
In 1923, Paul obtained his Pilot's License from Orville Wright (One of the inventors of the first airplane). By 1924, he was "barnstorming" and taking on the occasional passenger in a war surplus Curtis "Jenny" two-seat Bi-plane. Paul gained fame in 1927 when he flew in the "National Air Tour" (an annual cavalcade of new aircraft making a tour of the country under the sponsorship of "Edsel Ford.") The Newspapers in Oklahoma covered the event first-hand which gave Paul Braniff excellent publicity.
When he had finished the tour, he convinced his brother, Tom, and four other investors into buying a "Stinson Detroiter" Cabin Plane for the sum of $11,000 (This was about the cost of a three-bedroom house in 1928). Thus, was incorporated the "Paul R. Braniff, Inc.,
Airline...Oklahoma City to Tulsa" (and vice versa).
"He was the chief cook and bottle washer," John P. Braniff, Sr. said of his father, who co-founded Braniff Airways. "He sold tickets, took up the tickets, loaded the baggage, got passengers on planes and flew them where they needed to go."
"As months would go by, Tom (Braniff) would say 'No more money.' So Paul would have to go out and raise money." - Marie Braniff
John Paul Braniff often hopped on those planes for day-trips with his mom, Marie Braniff, to visit family 116 miles away in Tulsa while his father, Paul Revere Braniff, would fly back and forth between the state's largest cities.
picture of Braniff's first Logo
Paul R. Braniff Logo.
The "Eagle" was probably borrowed for American's logo when
Braniff Airlines merged with AVCO in 1930.
Paul R. Braniff, Inc. started services
from OKC with three round-trip flights daily, Monday thru Friday in 1928. History
records that Paul Braniff was the first and only pilot on the payroll.
Maurice Marrs was the backup pilot. However, their is still some debate about this
The first flight
roared out of Oklahoma City on June 20, 1928. However, some witnesses
claim that the "first flight" took place in May of 1928.
It is reported that
on the first flight, "moonshiners" in Arcadia, Oklahoma shot at the
Stinson Detroiter thinking it was the U.S. Government searching for
"prohibition breakers." In 1928, Paul obtained a second aircraft...a
Ryan B-1 Monoplane. This aircraft had a similarity to "The Spirit of
To supplement Passenger
and Mail Revenue, Braniff Airlines also delivered "The Daily Oklahoman" Newspaper
to farmers along the air route. Paul would simply fly low and throw the paper
out of the airplane. Braniff was the only airline to have its own "paper route."
Paul also built
the first commercial airline hangar in OKC in 1928. It was located at Wiley Post Airport.
The "Braniff Building" on 3rd and Robinson in Oklahoma City became
the airline's headquarters. The building had been built by Tom Braniff in 1923 for Braniff Insurance, Inc. When the airline moved in, Tom, however, still used most of the building
for his Insurance Company. The Building also became the HQ's of Braniff Airways, Inc. in 1930 until 1945, when ALL operations were moved to Dallas. The Braniff Building is still in OKC, but the
name has been "sandblasted" off the front. It is currently owned by Kerr-McGee Oil Co. The "324 Bldg." as it is now known, was remodeled in the late 60's adding all windows on the first two floors. During the unfortunate Oklahoma City bombing of The Murrow Federal Building in 1995, all the glass was blown out. (The Bldg. is 3-4 blocks away from the former Federal Bldg.) The glass has been replaced, and it is currently vacant or being used for storage.
liked to "show-off" in the early Braniff years. Often on his return
flight from Tulsa, He would "buzz" his house to let his wife know he
was home for dinner. (Remember, there were no FAA, CAB, NTSB or Air
Traffic Control systems in the late 1920's).
Paul was also known for
taking Braniff on national competitions. He flew in the National Transcontinental
Race from New York to Los Angeles in 1928. He flew a special "Travelair" open-cockpit Bi-plane which was officialy known as Braniff Ship 8, and was used for taxi work to a large extent.
BNF Maintenance men with Braniff's new "Travelair" in OKC
Picture from 1948 "B-Liner"
In the Fall of 1928, a six-seater "Travelair" enclosed cabin plane was added to Braniff's fleet.
In Braniff Airlines'
short but glorious heyday, they were flying 1,000 passengers per month
from Tulsa to OKC and OKC to Tulsa. The Price was: $12.50 - one way,
$20.00 - round trip.
By the end of 1928, Braniff had carried 3,000 passengers.
Braniff inagurated services to Dallas and Fort Worth in April 1929.
female employee was Violet (Bobby) Burton. Rumor has it that she walked
in to Paul's office asking for a job. Paul said, "What makes you think
you can do this job?" Her reply, "What makes YOU think I can't?" Thus,
she was hired on the spot. Bobby told Paul she could do everything but
"sweep out the office." "You can do that," she quipped back to Paul. She kept the financial books, learned aviation
weather, ran the office, and even helped oil and gas the planes. She
even helped run Braniff's Flying School. (see picture) She was re-hired
by Paul in 1930 when he formed Braniff Airways. Bobby later became Tom's
right-hand "man" at Braniff.
picture of Braniff AIRLINES first and RARE bag label
Braniff Airlines, Inc.
Picture taken of one of the only remaining first bag labels.
Universal Aviation of St Louis, Mo.
merged with Braniff Airlines in 1929. Paul stayed on as Executive Vice President of the newly formed Braniff Airlines, Inc.
The Flight schedule in 1929 was: Northbound: Fort Worth - Dallas - Dennison - Wewoka. From Wewoka, there was a flight to Oklahoma City and one to Tulsa. The Southbound route was the same (just reversed).
Aviation Holdings (AVCO) bought Universal towards the end of 1929. Paul stayed on for the transition and then resigned to help a friend in Mexico with his airline. AVCO added Braniff to Texas Air Transport and Southern Air Transport (later to merge and be named American Airways, Inc.) based at Meacham Field in Fort Worth and run
by C.R. Smith. "Mr. C.R." would inherit the Braniff Airlines name.
AVCO's first logo
The American Airways "Beacon" and "Eagle" logos are Trademarks owned by AMR - American Airlines, Inc.
Continue to 1930 - Braniff