Click on the highlighted "blue" words for pop-up pictures

In 1930, Paul returned from Mexico after helping establish C.A.T. Airlines, and thought of new Braniff startup plans. Again he turned to his uncle, Tom Braniff and other backers to invest in two Lockheed Vegas. Considered the fastest airliner of the day. The new planes were painted in different colors, orange being the first. (sound familiar?).

Pop-Up picture of Braniff's first "Vega" Label and Timetable

First Baggage Label.

"The World's Fastest Airline"

1932 Timetable.

One of the first real Braniff timetables.

The Lockheed Vega was considered the fastest airplane of the early 30s. Lockheed was formed in 1921 by the "Loughead" family from Ireland. Pronounced "Log-head" in Irish, Loughead was changed to Lockheed. Lockheed would produce some of the best commercial airliners from the 1930's to the 1970's (with the fantastic L-1011). However, Lockheed moved its focus from commercial to miltary in the 1960's.

The first Vega carried the name "Braniff" with a "B Line" and arrow insignia. On the tail were painted the first cities served by Braniff: Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Wichita Falls, TX. Later, Chicago, Kansas City, Dallas and Fort Worth were added to one of the last Lockheed "Vegas," NC-8495 which, unlike previous "Vegas," was all metal. NC-8495 was aquired in 1934, and sported a red solid color scheme with a yellow stripe, white wings and tail. (See "1965" "Then end of the plain plane")

Tom Braniff was elected President of the new venture (since he knew the business side of things), and Paul would become Executive Vice-President of Operations. (although technically, Paul owned the airline). Paul increased Braniff's fleet in the 30's by purchasing practically new aircraft from disgruntled aviation enthusiasts. Paying a third to a half of the original costs, he picked up Stinsons, Ryans and Travelairs. All 5/6 passenger cabin planes.

1930 also was one of the lowest points in American History. The stock market had crashed in 1929, leaving many people who once had money penniless. Over 33% of Americans were out of work. While most airlines still catered to those who had money, Braniff Airways offered air travel on a barter basis. Paul would even take hamburgers as payment for an air ticket. The Charity of Braniff was unlike any other airline of the depression.

Braniff almost succumbed to The Depression. "We were on our last legs, carrying on only by the grace and generosity of Frank Phillips," Paul R. Braniff. (Braniff actually shut-down operations for a few days) In fact, some Braniff pilots (including Capt. S.T. Stanton pictured on the right with Will Rogers) actually paid for aircraft fuel at a stop, and was never reimbursed.

The "Frank Phillips" Mr. Braniff was referring to was the Phillips in "Phillips 66" Oil and gas. On one flight in the early 30's, there wasn't enough revenue from the fares and mail for the flight back. Frank Phillips started an open line account, drawing up a guaranty agreement with Braniff Airways. The telegram sent from Bartlesville, Oklahoma from Phillips to Braniff is on display in an Oklahoma museum.

"The investors were only interested in money (including Tom)", said Marie Braniff, "Paul loved aviation, and kept the airline going."

Pop-Up picture of letter from Paul Braniff to The Chicago and Alton Railroad.

1930 Sales Letter.

Asking for Railroad support.

In 1931, Braniff lost two Vegas. They both crashed near Chicago. Braniff would also lose a few other Vegas in its early years.

"Paul Braniff, Lockheed factory," a telegram from Tom Braniff reads, "The plane accident in which five peole were killed including Knute Rockne (a famous sports fiqure) will doubtless have adverse effect on air travel for some time. Perhaps you had better purchase only one plane noe and await developments before making further commmitment. We can buy any time, but selling is hard."

Paul ignored his brother's telegram.


Captain Ray Schrader was considered the very first Braniff "Chief" Pilot. He had known Paul and Tom Braniff in the 1920s. He retired from Braniff in the 1960s as an Operations Vice President.

Because of Tom's reluctance to spend any money on the airline, Shrader invested $4,000 of his own money in the airline. (He did get it back later).

According to Paul's widow, Marie, the pilots cut their own salaries from $300 a month to $100. Other First Pilots included: R.V. Carelton (who would also retire as a Braniff Vice President in the late 60s) Maurice Marrs (who flew on the very first "Paul R. Braniff, Inc." flight in 1928), Chester Raines, Frank Hoover, Wyle V. Moore and Stanley Stanton.

Click Here For More of Stanley Stanton

By 1931, Braniff Airways was flying to Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Kansas City, Chicago, Wichita Falls and St. Louis.

Pop-Up picture of Braniff's 1931 Timetable and 1932 Texaco ad

1931 Timetable and Fares.

1932 Braniff - Texaco Vega Ad


The most famous American broadcaster of the Twentieth Century had a brief stint with Braniff in the 1930's. Walter Cronkite was a station manager at Kansas City. To help sell seats on a 3:30 am flight from Kansas City to Chicago, Cronkite hired Burlesque Star Sally Rand to pose with the Braniff pilots making the Chicago flight. More proof that Braniff was "colorful" way before "The end of the plain plane."

Noted American humorist and icon, Will Rogers, often chartered Braniff aircraft for his personal use. His preferred destinations included: Tulsa, Claremore and Wichita, KS. Will paid his own way and insisted on paying full fare. (Even though he could have flown free because of the publicity he brought along with him)

1932 Additional Lockheed Vegas were added, and the following cities: Bartletsville, Coffeyville, Chanute and Springfield.

Famous aviator Wiley Post made the Braniff hangars his home in the early 30's. In 1933, Wiley decided to fly around the world in a Lockheed Vega called "Winnie Mae." On the initial flight, the aircraft cracked up in flight over eastern Oklahoma. Neither the Braniff pilot flying the plane or Mr. Post were hurt. The "Winnie Mae" was trucked back to OKC by Braniff. With Paul's and R.V. Carelton's help, the aircraft was repaired, and Wiley Post made his 'round the world flight. He re-payed every cent he owed Braniff for fixing the "Winnie Mae."

1933 Things had gotten so bad, because of no mail supplement income, that the 33 member staff worked for a percentage of ticket sales , and met at Tom Braniff's home in Oklahoma City. (This would change after Paul won an airmail contract in 1934)

Post made an appearance at the 1934 Oklahoma State Fair (shown on the right) with his famous Lockheed Vega. Police had to keep the crowds back.

In 1934, Tom went on vacation to Italy, and told his brother "no more money from me." The airline was $40,000 in debt. Paul knew he had to save his airline. Paul flew to Washington D.C. to testify before the Senate about air-mail contracts. Paul didn't even have enough money for a hotel, so he stayed in a boarding house while in Washington. Airlines at this time needed mail contracts to help suppliment passenger service. The Senate decided that any airline associated with an aircraft manufacturer could not apply. (American Airways changed its name to American Airlines, and eliminated its manufacturer connections because of this legality). Braniff won the right to carry mail on the North-South route. Braniff had no manufacturer connections in 1934, and so it had no problem securing the needed contracts. Paul not only represented Braniff in Washington, but all the smaller independant airlines flying the nation's airways. In short, through Paul R. Braniff's efforts, small independant airlines were able to compete for air mail contracts. On May 8, 1934, the first mail flight, Chicago-Kansas City was flown and on May 31st, the first passenger service began. Airmail service between the two cities was inagurated June 15th.

Pop-Up pictures of 1930s Air Mail Documents

1934 Schedule for OAG

1934 Braniff Timetable and Fares

1934 Braniff Air Mail Contract

1935 Air Mail Schedule

Over the next two years, Braniff grew thanks to Paul mostly, and Paul made a trip to Brazil to survey the possibilities of establishing routes in South America.

On January 1, 1935, Braniff aquired Long & Harmons Texas operations and extended its service to Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and Brownsville in anticpation of an expansion to South America.

Along with the merger, Braniff aquired two 110 mph Ford Tri-Motors. These planes carried a two-man crew and twelve passengers. They were retired in the Spring of 1935 when Braniff took delivery of the Lockheed "Electra 10."

Braniff aquired the Lockheed Electra 10 in March 1935. This was Braniff's first twin-engine aircraft capable of going greater distances and at greater speeds. Chief Pilot Ray Shrader ( see Braniff's "First Pilots" above) flew a fleet of seven new Electra 10s early in 1935 from Lockheed's Burbank Plant. By June, all seven Electra 10s were in service on Braniff's growing route system. This plane basically doubled Braniff's capacity.

The "Electra 10" was capable of speeds in excess of 160 mph and could seat 10 passengers very comfortably. It was publicized by Braniff as the plane with "Two Motors," two-way radio, two pilots and two rudders for smoother flying.

The inagural "electra" flight was 17 April 1935 from Dallas to Corpus Christi.

Braniff's first in-flight meal service was inaugurated that September on the Brownsville to Corpus Christi and Tulsa to Kansas City routes. It consisted of a "box lunch of cold sandwiches" given out in-flight by the co-pilot! (Sort of like today...boy have we regressed.)

Pop-Up picture of Braniff "Electra 10" label

Braniff's 1935 design

Tom Braniff with "Electra 10" at Fort Worth's Meacham Field

Meanwhile Braniff supplemented its Electra and Vega fleet with Douglas Transports with Wright-Powered Cyclone Engines during 1935. In November, 1935 a Braniff Lockheed Vega 5C crashed into downtown Fort Worth killing its pilot, Cliff Maus. (An airport in Corpus Christi, TX is named after this heroic pilot).

Also in 1935, Charles Beard (who would later become President 1954-1965) joined Braniff as General Traffic Manager.

By 1936, Braniff had a fleet of Seven Lockheed Electras, four Lockheed Vegas, two Tri-motored Fords and one Stinson Reliant.

Bowen Air Lines

Fort Worth, Texas based Bowen Air Lines started in 1930 flying "Vultees" and Lockheed Vegas from Texas to New York.

This is a quote from a Bowen Brochure: "World's Fastest Transport, flies the level Texas routes of Bowen Air Lines, cruising comfortably and smoothly at 190 miles an hour. Carrying eight passengers and crew, this highest speed plane is doing more than anything else to further popularize air travel between the Great Lakes, the Gulf and the Mexican border."

In Early 1936, they were aquired by Braniff and the Vultees were sold. By 1936, they were no longer the "fastest airplane." Braniff's planes were faster and could seat more passengers. Bowen also did not have an air-mail route.

Pop-Up picture of a Bowen Timetable

1935 TT, the last year Bowen would fly.


Braniff lost two of its greatest supporters on August 15, 1935. Both Will Rogers and Wiley Post were on an aviation expedition in Alaska. Wiley Post had secured a Lockheed "Orion" mounted on a Sirius wing and pontoons. Rogers and Post set off for the Orient via Siberia. Post encountered mechanical problems, and had to land near Point Barrow, Alaska. (see picture on right) Post made some repairs, but in vain. The plane took off and rose 50 feet in the air before plunging in the icy Alaska waters. Both perished. All of Braniff and the world mourned the loss of a great aviator and the 55 year old Mid-Western Humorist "who made laughing at ourselves important." -Plane Crashes by Beryl Frank

In 1935, Paul was forced out of Braniff Airways, Inc. by his brother Tom Braniff and Tom's wife's father Judge Thurman. Tom, allegedly, wanted the airline to himself now that it was making money. Bess Thurman, Tom's wife, also didn't like Paul's popularity. Paul R. Braniff picked himself up and established Braniff Engineering. The result would be a family rift that would cause Braniff Airways to be relocated in Dallas. (Source "The Daily Oklahoman's" interview with Marie Braniff)

Paul was a pioneer once again by bringing the first Lennox air conditioning and heating units to Oklahoma in the late 30's. Paul went on and did GREAT things for our country during World War II as a senior advisor to the war department. As early as 1937, Washington called Paul to come to the Defense Department. In 1940, Paul trained at Kelly AAB (next to Lackland) in San Antonio. His son, John Paul Braniff, Sr. was with him in San Antonio.

Tom Braniff started to eye Dallas as a new home base as well as aquiring new DC-2's and DC-3's. He also needed a new Executive Vice-President of Operations, so he promoted Charles "Chuck" Beard in 1935.

Continue to 1936 - Braniff Airways, Inc.

Braniff Airways logo from the 1930s
Paul, owner Braniff Airways, Inc.,
with his father T.A. Braniff, 1930
The Lockheed Vega Luggage Tag (circa 1933)
The Lockheed Vega
Lockheed Vega NC-434
Captain Stanley T. Stanton
arranges his tie
before flying Will Rogers
in a Braniff Lockheed Vega.
The Vega was the fastest
commercial plane in the early 30s
Noted Humorist Will Rogers
and Braniff Pilot Stanley T. Stanton.
Picture taken at a stopover...Capt. Stanton
could not land the Vega at Rogers intended
destination due to ground fog...Rogers
passed a note to the Captain saying, "that's ok,
but circle the field and let the folks
know." A note was needed because
Vega engines were known
to be loud as well as fast.
Famous aviator Wiley Post and his Winnie Mae Vega
The "Winnie Mae spent its early years
at the Braniff hangars in OKC.
(Wiley Post was a native Oklahoman)
The "Winne Mae" made the first successful
round-the-world flight in 1933.
Wiley Post's "Winne Mae" Vega
at The 1934 Oklahoma State Fair.
Post and Rogers would tragically lose
their lives the next year in Alaska
Photo via Alan Reff
Braniff Airways Letterhead 1935
Shows Tom Braniff as President and Paul R. Braniff as Secretary/Treasurer
Braniff was still based at "The Braniff Building"
in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in 1935
Brooke Watts Private Collection
The Electra 10 and some of its fantastic new features
The Electra 10 cabin (better copy)
Photo via Bob Hudspeth
Electra 10 print
Painted by J. Amendola in 1981
The original is in the Air Transport Hall of Fame.
1936 Electra Timetable
The "Electra 10" was the first Braniff aircraft with two engines.
and two of everything
Early 30s Bowen Timetable
Note the similarity to Braniff's 1932 Timetable.
The "Vultee."
This was Bowen's fastest aircraft in 1935.
It had 8 seats.
Will Rogers and Wiley Post
In Alaska with the fatal Lockheed "Orion" Sea Plane.
This is the last photo taken of both legends (photo taken shortly before crash) Photo via Alan Reff
Amelia Earhart
and her "Electra 10" mysteriously disappeared
while on a "round the world flight.
Picture Courtesy of Alan Reff
The photos on this page are provided by: Pat Zahrt, John Paul Braniff, Sr., George W. Cearley, Jr., Charles Stanley Stanton, The Dallas Historical Society, UTD, The "Clipped B's", R.T. Simpson, Alan Reff, Mo McMahanon, John McFarlane, Wanda Brown, Diane Muse, C.R. Smith, Chuck Beard, Marv and Carol Degroote, The Braniff Family and Watts Communications' Private Braniff Collection.