In the airline industry, Braniff is sometimes a big fan ( News Oklahoma )

By Ken Bridges

It started with an insurance salesman and one small boat. From there, he became an aviation authority and one of the best known names in Texas aviation.

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Dr. Ken Bridges

From the humble beginnings of Braniff Airlines, Tom Braniff’s story has become one of the many and varied stories of Texas pilots and businessmen who have gone on to conquer the skies.

Thomas Elmer Braniff was born in Salina, Kansas, in December 1883 into a farming family. His father, John Braniff, soon moved into the insurance business and moved the family to Kansas City in the 1890s.

Braniif was added to the Catholics. The younger Braniff worked a series of jobs while finishing school, including working in a mining plant and working for the Kansas City Star. In 1900, the family moved to Oklahoma City where John Braniff began operating a new insurance agency.

The younger Braniff wanted to grow up and soon started his own insurance agency in western Oklahoma City at the age of 17. But his firm was failing when a tornado destroyed a nearby community where Braniff had sold tornado insurance and was unable to pay a claim.

He soon returned to Oklahoma City and started a new firm with a partner. The young man worked hard in his early years, but by 1917 he was able to buy out his partner. Braniff Investments expanded shortly thereafter and soon had one of the most successful insurance companies in the insurance industry.

New Heaven

By the 1920s, Braniff was looking to the future. In 1923, he built the TE Braniff Building in Oklahoma City, a 10-story building that was the first skyscraper in Oklahoma. He too was fascinated by aviation, and his younger brother Paul already had a license and his own airplane.

In 1927, Braniff and a group of investors bought a used airplane and started the Oklahoma Aero Club, selling a flight school, air taxi, and aircraft parts. In 1928, he bought out his partners and started an airline, with his brother Paul as president and chief pilot and himself as president, called Paul R. Braniff Inc. It served as a single route between Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

The next year, the first Braniff Airlines was sold, but in 1930 the two started again, with Braniff Airlines serving flights from Oklahoma City to either Tulsa or Wichita Falls. In 1935, he went deeper into Texas by launching Long and Harmon Airlines, a small airline based in Dallas that also had routes to Amarillo, Brownsville and Galveston.

More importantly, this smaller airline also had a lucrative air mail contract, providing excellent service to these different cities. In 1936, Braniff bought Bowen Airlines, a small company operating out of Fort Worth.


In such prosperity, tragedy occurred. In 1938 his son died in a plane crash. He, however, continued to advance. From the late 1930s, the airline was already based in Dallas, offering eight flights per day from Dallas Love Field, contributing to the airport’s growing success. Most maintenance operations at this location are also conducted in Dallas.

When World War II began, the Braniff brothers were there. Paul Braniff, now in his 40s, wanted to manage a pilot in World War II, while his brother, focused on military age here, controlled the airline and other businesses at home.

Tom Braniff donated all of the aircraft to the DC-2 military aircraft, which were larger but also reliable aircraft, as the airline switched to the DC-3. Braniff also arranged to share his Love Field facilities with pilots and military mechanics for maintenance and training.

After World War II, Braniff began traveling through Central America and the Caribbean. They have also expanded steadily across the Midwest. In 1952, he bought Mid-Continent Airlines. At this point, the dream of an airline that started with a single plane now has a fleet of 75 aircraft, 400 pilots and 4,000 employees.

In front of the sea, said a 10 Mauris, porttitor in the borders. However, Thomas Braniff died tragically in a private plane near Shreveport in 1954, at the age of 70. His brother Paul died of cancer a few months later.


He continued the airline for several years and established an aviation staple in Dallas. By 1955, the company’s payroll reached $22 million (more than $240 million in modern dollars), and the airline built a new terminal at Love Field in 1958.

The number of passengers and kilometers traveled by passengers increased steadily in the mid-1960s. The company went through a series of acquisitions in the 1960s but remained profitable well into the 1970s.

In 1978, when the federal government deregulated airline travel, Braniff executives tried to take advantage of it, starting a series of purchases of new aircraft and new routes. But the new routes were not so profitable, and the company began to lose money rapidly.

Braniff Airlines eventually went bankrupt by 1982, a victim of increased competition, fuel prices and an expansionary effort that left it in debt.

New buyers in 1984, mainly with staff from the old Braniff, tried to resurrect the airline, but this attempt failed by 1989. Another attempt to revive the airline began in 1991 but failed the following year.

The Braniff Airlines Foundation, a charity started by the airline, still works to promote the history of aviation.


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