Braniff Wings, 1936
In 1936, Tom's brother
Paul had left the company. Tom was now fully in charge of the airline. He
quickly promoted Charles "Chuck" Beard as Executive Vice President.
Tom wanted to aquire some of the newer larger aircraft that American
Airlines, TWA and United had already been purchasing. He made arrangements
to buy seven DC-2s from Transcontinental and Western Airlines (TWA).
The aircraft were delivered in 1937 and 1938. The first DC-2 flight
took place on June 1, 1937 with ship NC13727. Other DC-2's to follow:
NC13715, NC13716, NC13718, NC13719, NC13728 and one other. (Braniff Archives)
TWA also trained
Braniff's first "Hostesses" who were to serve coffee and attend to the
passengers. Most were registered nurses and knew CPR.
The first uniform was a modified Mexican Style outfit, and consisted of a bolero jacket and a silver grey wool skirt and white blouse. This was comlimented by a red sash and a "softly draped" red wool crepe turban. The skirt was designed by Neiman Marcus.
FORT WORTH, Braniff's Hub
Fort Worth, home of this website, was Braniff's "hub" of operations in 1936. Passengers flying North from Brownsville, San Antonio, Austin and Waco would change planes for Westbound (Wichita Falls, Amarillo, Los Angeles...) flights or Eastbound (Dallas, Atlanta...) This also was true for Southbound flights from Chicago, Oklahoma City and others. Braniff flew from Fort Worth to Dallas, Houston, Oklahoma City, Waco or Wichita Falls (with connections to Amarillo). Passengers to the West or East coast would board American Airlines flights at Fort Worth.
In 1937, 10 out of 800 applicants were chosen. The criteria: Female, at least two years of college, fluent in Spanish, people skills, a pleasing personality, neat and clean appearance, aged 21-26, 5'0 to 5'4" tall, 110-118 pounds and unmarried.
pictures of Braniff's first Hostesses and Braniff 1939 Timetable
first hostess class.
Martinez with a DC-2 "B-Liner"
The Second Hostess class consisted of three more girls: Dorothy Dreyer, Louise Jenkins and her twin sister Sissy.
Lockheed Electra 10 on a 1939 Timetable.
Hostess Requirements 1941
A letter from co-chief-hostess, Willie Peck to The Dean of a School.
In the 1930's the
Braniff Airways logo consisted of a circle logo with the new DC-2 aircraft
over pictures of possible destinations. Braniff would also use this
logo scheme pictured to the right with the DC-3 and Lockeed 10 in the
In 1939, Braniff
added the most famous aircraft ever built to its fleet, The DC-3. The
DC-3 was a complete redesign of the DC-2 by Donald Douglas and American's
C.R. Smith, who needed an aircraft to replace the crowded Curtis Condor
sleepers and an aircraft that could carry enough passengers, so that
mail was no longer a crutch for the airlines.
picture of a DC-3 Luggage Tag
A DC-3 "B-Liner" Luggage label
At this time,
Braniff used this design with the DC-2 and the Lockheed Electra 10 in
addition to the DC-3 Super "B-Liner".
(Watts Communications' Private Collection)
In 1939, A Douglas DC-2 (the First one delivered to Braniff) crashed in Oklahoma City (Tail number N13727). Captain Claude Seaton and First Officer Malcolm Wallace
were at the controls. They survived, but Hostess Louise Zarr did not. (source "The Clipped B's, Herb Oberman and Jeff Wilkinson - Oklahoma Wreckchasing)
Captain Seaton retained injuries that kept him grounded, but he went on to be one
of Braniff's best flight instructors.
picture of a Braniff Safety card
It's SAFE to fly Braniff
Despite the many perils of the early years in aviation, many airlines (including Braniff) printed brochures to convince passengers not to worry.
("The Braniff Pages" Private Collection)
In 1940, Braniff
celebrated its 12th Birthday. Budding stars like Rochelle Hudson, Ann
Miller, Gloria Dean and John Wayne were on hand for the gala affair
held in California.
Photo via Bob Hudspeth
All Braniff planes
used in WWII were decorated with a taped "V" for Victory over the company
logo. When America entered World War II, Braniff, like most other airlines,
turned its efforts to the War. However, unlike most carriers, Braniff ran "cargo"
and other things to Panama and Guatemala (with points in-between) starting 13 April 1942. They ran this DC-2 and DC-3 service out of San Antonio. It was dubbed affectionately, "The Banana Run." It was officially called "The Contract Air Cargo Division of the Air Service Command."
This was, for a time, the only source of re-supply for the Panama Canal because of the threat of Nazi (German) U-Boats prowling the Gulf of Mexico which made shipping by sea dangerous.
In the summer of 1942, dozens of U-Boats made their way into The Gulf of Mexico. One has been found, U-166...but researchers have found another recently (2004). The Pilots on Braniff's "Banana Run" faced real dangers, as ships were sunk at an alarming rate off the Texas Coast.
Braniff turned over most of its fleet to the Defense Department. Leaving, at the peak of the war, only 147 saleable seats
in the entire airline! (about half the capacity of a modern Boeing 777).
The "Banana Run" was very successful for over two years until the end of the war.
Paul Braniff, meanwhile, was called by the Defense Department for advice
on air strategy and air combat. Paul had worked as a aircraft mechanic
during WWI and learned to fly in 1919 in Europe. He was a flight instructor
in the 1920's for the Army Air Corps, so he was a natural for advice
on Aerial War Combat. During the war, in 1942, Tom moved all of Braniff's
Administrative, Finance and Legal departments from Oklahoma City to
Dallas. Plans were also drawn up to move all of Braniff to Dallas at
the end of the war. (due to the family feud)
Hostess in DC-3 cabin. The murals were designed by Jeanne Braniff
AEROVIAS BRANIFF, S.A.
On April 4, 1945, Aerovias Braniff Incorporated
in Mexico City. It was a division of Braniff Airways, Inc. (just like Panagra was a division
of Pan Am). The Airline flew DC-3's throughout Mexico and Central America linking the U.S.
Braniff to South America. It inaugurated service from Nueva Larado to Mexico City, and on
July 1, 1945 Mexico City to Merida via Puebla and Veracruz. Pan American World Airways, of course,
didn't like this and used its U.S. government connections to influence the Mexican Government
to shut the airline down in 1946. "Temp. permits were cancelled by the Mexican Government
on October 27, 1946" - 1946 Braniff Annual Report.
page on Aerovias Braniff
1945 "B-Liner" Article
Tom Braniff was at the inauguration of this short-lived Mexican subsidary.
(Brooke D.Watts Private Collection)
aquired the new Douglas DC-4 Aircraft after the war. Douglas even made
one for FDR called "The Sacred Cow" (One of the first of the Presidential
airplanes to be actually used by a President.)
1946, and the war
was over. Braniff, with Tom and Chuck Beard firmly in control of its
fleet again, made plans to open routes to South America. From their
Dallas offices, Tom and Chuck drew out the routes they wanted. That
same year, the CAB granted Braniff the rights to fly to our Southern
Continent, thanks to President Truman who didn't like Pan Am's monopoly in South America...and Braniff Airways became Braniff International Airways.
Future Senior Vice President of Contract Services and Corporate Director during the 60's, Reginald "Rex" Brack is promoted to General Sales Manager in August of 1947. He had joined Braniff in May of 1944 as a district traffic manager in Kansas City. Like Tom Braniff, Mr. Brack owned his own insurance company prior to signing on with Braniff Airways in Kansas City. Brack would leave the company in 1969 after being fed-up with the "Lawrence Posse." Rex Brack, R.V. Carelton and Dan Hughes were some of the original Braniff people who kept Lawrence in check as long as they could stand Lawrence's n'pals excessive spending and alleged coruption.
In 1947, the "breakthrough"
airliner, The DC-6, was delivered to Braniff. The DC-6 was the first
pressurized airplane able to obtain altitudes greater than 18,000 feet,
and at a speed of over 300 MPH. Braniff used these on their new South
American routes in sleeper configurations. These planes also had lounges
for passengers to meet. Braniff flew the DC-6 via Havana, Cuba to Brazil,
and then in 1949, Braniff initiated "El Conquistador" service to La
Paz, Bolivia, and the next year, Buenos Aires, Argentina was added. This gave Braniff 20,000 miles of International Routes from Houston to Buenos Aires.
"Sleeper Service" on a Braniff DC-6
did Braniff get into Argentina? (unofficially)
The story goes, Tom went down to Argentina to
ask Juan Peron for access to Buenos Aires. Peron said, "NO!"
Panagra ( and possibly Aerolinas Argentinas) was already flying there from the U.S., why should another carrier
come in? (Panagra was a division of Pan American World airways...Braniff
would later buy Panagra in the late 1960s.)
sent Chuck down to Argentina. This time to meet with Jaun's self-made
"star" wife Eva (Evita) Peron to try again. She said,
"Braniff can fly to my city, if I can fly on Braniff free to Houston
and Dallas to shop at Sakowitz and Neiman-Marcus, and return home duty
rest is history...the ceremonies took place at "Casa Rosada" (The Pink
Palace in Buenos Aires), and Braniff was flying to Argentina with an
occasional non-rev on board.
Sing to "Don't Cry for Me Argentina"
cry for me Mr. Braniff...For I will fly your line to Texas...and shop at Neiman's
and fly home free...Don't cry for me...Tom E. Braniff......(Sing softly) So share my Runways..So share my Airport
..So share my Runways..So share my Airport)
In 1948, Braniff was 20 years old. They had advanced from a one-route, one airplane part-time mail route airline to an International powerhouse flying from the border of Canada to the Southern Tip of South America.
in 1930 as Hanford's Tri-State Airlines. They rapidly expanded in 1934
with new air mail contracts to incude Winnepeg. In 1938, Hanford changed
its name to Mid-Continent, and it flew DC-3's during the War and for
the War. The five Convairs 240s were added in 1950. On August 16, 1952,
Braniff aquired Mid-Continent Airlines and its fleet of Convair 240's.
Also Braniff acquired some L-188 "Lodestars." Braniff
aquired Minneapolis/St. Paul, Sioux Falls, Sioux City, Omaha, Des Moines,
St. Louis, Shreveport, and New Orleans in the merger.
picture of Mid-Continent's Route System
In 1953, Braniff
introduced the "Super Convair 340." It was to replace the aging fleet
of DC-3's and could carry twice the number at 44 passengers, and at
a speed of 300 MPH. The photo at right is of a Braniff Convair at Fort
Worth's Amon Carter Field (just south of the present D/FW Airport) The
Airport was closed in 1972 to make way for D/FW. All that remains of
Amon Carter Field is the end of the main runway on Amon Carter Boulevard
- now home to American Airlines.
End of the Braniff Era
In January of 1954,
Tom and a few of his buddies were traveling for a duck-hunting and fishing
trip near Shreveport, LA. in a Grumman Mallard amphibian private plane...the plane crashed and
all on board, including Tom, were killed. The era of Braniff leadership
was over. Six months later, in June, Paul died of Bone Cancer, and in August, Bess (Tom's wife) also died of Cancer.
Tom and Bess' only son, Thurman Braniff died on July 11, 1938 in a private plane crash as well. He was learning how to fly. Jeanne Braniff, their daughter, died of phlebitis with phlebothrombosis (complications during child birth) on Jan 9, 1948.
Her baby Jeanne Terrell was born on November 17, 1947 and died on November 18th.
Only Paul's son, John Paul survived to carry on the Braniff name.
Tom E. Braniff, financier of Braniff Airways 1930-1954
Braniff was officially started in 1928 and ended in 1982 (28-82 flipflopped numbers)
Paul, Tom and Bess died in 1954, the airline was 54 years old when it shut down
Marie Braniff, Paul's wife, was the daughter of railroad contractor R.W. Mainey; her uncle, Father Gregory Gerrer established the "Gerrer Collection" at St. Greggory's Museum in Shawnee, Oklahoma. The webmaster of this site, Mr. Brooke Watts' grandmother, Annabelle Watts-O'Neal is honoured in that museum for teaching four generations of Shawnee youth.
Continue to 1954
- The Charles Beard Years