Topic Author
Posts: 2590
Joined: Mon Aug 28, 2000 10:58 am

Braniff, The Final Hours.

Wed Aug 30, 2000 2:27 am

I dont know if any people here have seen this, so ill post it. It's from a website deticated to Braniff. The story is very interesting, and quite sad. Its a little long, but makes for an interesting read.

At around 5 in the evening on May 11, 1982, Braniff International Airways CEO Howard Putnam left a courtroom at the Federal Courthouse in Brooklyn, New York after failing to gain an extension from the airline's principal creditors. He quietly strode to a pay phone across the hall, picked up the receiver and made a call to the airline's headquarters on the west side of the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. Reaching his second-in-command, Phil Guthrie, Putnam uttered the words "do it" and with that simple phrase set into motion an elaborate plan that would bring the fifth-largest airline in the nation to a screeching halt.

Within a few hours, the plan would swing into action. At first, May 12, 1982, was like any other. Flights came and went the same boring regularity they did on any other day. However, by 10:00 a.m., Dallas time, something began to change. Throughout the airline's system, flights were being cancelled for, it seemed, no reason. The Latin American Division gave the first indications that something major was unfolding. Pilots based at the LAD's Miami hub found their flights south on a "will advise" status. At the crew base in Lima, Peru, LAD pilots were ordered to go to their aircraft, take on fuel for Miami and "Standby to ferry." Surprisingly, this didn't raise as much suspicion among the Braniff people in the LAD. It had been common knowledge that Howard Putnam was looking to peddle the LAD because he felt it was not profitable enough. (In fact, it was, but the books were doctored to make the division appear less profitable than it really was to avoid stiff taxes in Latin America - something Putnam was never apprised of, or did not understand.) In fact, a deal had been struck only recently to sell the LAD to Eastern Airlines, effective June 1.

Maybe, the Braniff people thought, the changeover was happening earlier than planned. In reality, it was- though not in an orderly manner. Little did those crews and ground staff know that earlier that morning, Howard Putnam had placed a call to Col. Frank Borman, CEO of Eastern. Putnam informed Borman that he was shutting down the LAD, and Eastern was free to move in. "How long do I have to put planes in the air, Howard? Days?" After a moment of silence, Putnam responded "Sorry, no." Borman gulped as the implications of Putnam's words sank in, then spoke: "Hours?" "Yes, Frank, hours."

In Dallas, the day dawned with heavy storms approaching the area, which would prove beneficial to what was going to happen that day. Outside of Braniff's elegant headquarters on the west side of DFW, nobody was apprised of what was happening. Around two in the afternoon, a ticket agent at DFW received a phone call. "Who is this?" The voice on the other end inquired. "This is B-4 ticketing at DFW." The agent responded. "You mean you're still there?" The mysterious voice asked. "Why, yes, of course we're still here - who are you?" A pause, and then: "This is the Minneapolis-St. Paul ticket counter, we're shut down here - the airline is shutting down." The Dallas agent does not recall hanging up the phone, but word was rapidly spreading that something was not right. A DFW ramp agent called the Dallas Morning News and told the reporter to get out to DFW - "Something is up."

Aboard Flight 501, the airline's flagship Dallas-Honolulu service, the flight crew checked out the famous "Great Pumpkin", N601BN. Taxiing out to the runway, the crew noticed N606BN, the last remaining 747SP in the fleet, on final. All three crew members thought that was odd - N606BN was supposed to be in Miami getting ready to fly to Buenos Aries. Earlier in the day, Flight 601, non-stop to London, was cancelled and the aircraft scheduled to operate that service, N602BN, was towed from the terminal to the maintenance hangars on the west side of DFW. Maintenance could find nothing wrong. Putting two and two together, the crew of Flight 501 departed DFW for Honolulu, but quickly made every attempt to find out what was happening. 501's Flight Engineer was a ham radio buff and was able to raise a friend in Denver using the aircraft's ADF equipment. The friend promised he'd check it out and get back. A few minutes later the friend's voice came across the radio. "I don't know how to tell you this, but it's all over the news here - Braniff is shutting down." Looking at each other in disbelief, the Captain asked the First Officer to see if he could get an AM station on the ADF. He finally succeeded in raising a station in Los Angeles, which echoed the Flight Engineer's friend - Braniff was closing up shop. The radio station reported that 501 was diverting to LAX, which surprised the crew, as that was news to them. The Captain ordered the Flight Engineer to contact operations in Dallas. Operations told the crew that it was up to them to proceed to Hawaii or land in Los Angeles. The Captain elected to go to Honolulu as the plane was full of fuel and a lot of people who paid to go to Hawaii.

After confirmation of the shutdown was received by 501's crew, the Captain rang for the lead Flight Attendant. He asked her to have a seat on the jumpseat and then said: "Well, I've got good news and I have bad news. The good news is that you'll be home tonight, the bad news is that we're working the rest of the trip for free - the airline is shutting down." The Flight Attendant paused for a minute and replied: "Is that all? I can get another job - I thought you were going to tell me that you were putting this big son
of a bitch in the water!"

Flight 501 arrived on schedule in Honolulu and took on passengers for the return to DFW as Flight 502. Just before sunset, Flight 502 turned over Diamondhead and was handed off by Honolulu Tower to Departure Control: "Braniff 502, Contact Honolulu Departure - have a nice trip." And with that, Braniff was gone forever from the Hawaiian skies. At about the same time, Howard Putnam and Phil Guthrie arrived at the home of Judge John Flowers in Fort Worth and officially sought protection for Braniff under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. The reason for waiting was to ensure that Braniff's planes were all stateside so that they could not be seized by foreign governments. The crew that had brought N601BN to Hawaii were dead-heading back to Dallas now, and they began to partake of the bar that had been opened for all those aboard. They talked about their history with the airline, the times when Braniff was the darling of the industry and how it had all come apart.

Over eastern New Mexico, Flight 502 began to throttle back and begin its descent into DFW. Just after dawn, the crew contacted DFW Approach for clearance into the airport. Lining up on final for Runway 17R, the ghostly images of Braniff aircraft became visible on the abandoned tarmac around Braniff's Terminal 2W. The wheels touched the DFW runway for the last time, and N601BN headed for an open gate at a once-bustling terminal. It took several minutes for a hastily-gathered ground crew to arrive and park the aircraft. Flight 502's passengers emerged from the jet way into a terminal silent but for the TV crews.

A Flight Attendant aboard Flight 502 walked out of the deserted terminal and to her car in the parking lot. Driving to a convenience store nearby as the rain began to fall, she rolled down the window and placed a few coins into a newspaper machine. The newspaper headline brought it all home for her - "Braniff Suspends Operations." She cradled her head in her hands and began to cry. It was over. The most dynamic airline in American history - once darling of the industry, and the envy of its competition - was no more.

My views as expressed above are my views alone and do not constitute the views of my employer.
CPAir 4 life
Posts: 203
Joined: Thu Nov 04, 1999 4:18 pm

RE: Braniff, The Final Hours.

Wed Aug 30, 2000 2:34 am

I have read that before, it made me feel extremely sad for the employees of Braniff.

Posts: 4727
Joined: Sat Dec 04, 1999 1:58 am

RE: Braniff, The Final Hours.

Wed Aug 30, 2000 2:35 am

That's from "Splash of Colors" by John Nance. It's a very good book. Check it out at your local library. The entire book is written like that, and it is a very interesting read.

I lived by DFW airport when Braniff folded. You saw it on the 6:00 news, so we headed over to the airport to see what was going on. It was unbelievable. And it was sad to see the planes parked on the tarmac at DFW in the aftermath. I may not have been a big fan of Braniff, but you couldn't look at those planes and wonder about the people who didn't have jobs working around them any more.
Posts: 2802
Joined: Sat Jul 01, 2000 1:02 pm

RE: Braniff, The Final Hours.

Wed Aug 30, 2000 2:45 am

I remember that day well. I was about to graduate from college in Sherman, TX and a friend of mine had flown in a few days earlier on Braniff to visit. She was supposed to have flown back to TPA on 05/13/82 but Braniff went bankrupt the day before.

Luckily, her ticket had been purchased through a travel agent and not directly from Braniff and she was re-booked on an AA flight leaving at 8:00 am the next morning. I remember leaving for DFW at 5:00 am and the frontage roads on Highway 75 were still flooded from the horrendous rainstorms the day before.

We got to DFW and there were Braniff planes parked everywhere - at every gate and all accross the tarmac. AA was picking up most of the slack and their terminal was mobbed with travellers, cameras and TV reporters. It was big news in the DFW area and a sad day in aviation history.

Posts: 986
Joined: Tue Jan 11, 2000 7:20 am

RE: Braniff, The Final Hours.

Wed Aug 30, 2000 4:06 am

Was there no sign that the company was having financial troubles? What caused Braniff to go down. Bad management...no one wanting to fly them or bad cost strucuture?
Posts: 4727
Joined: Sat Dec 04, 1999 1:58 am

RE: Braniff, The Final Hours.

Wed Aug 30, 2000 5:47 am

REad the book, he does a pretty good job of explaining it. In short, it was a lot of things..."bad" management, overexpansion, poor attitude of some employees, bad timing. A lot of things.

IMHO, the thing that killed them was the International expansion. You can't fly 747's from Portland to Seoul with 15 passengers on board and make a go of it. DFW - Dusseldorf daily nonstops were flying awfully empty. The did an agressive expansion domestically when deregulation arrived. I think they could have survived that, but the international part was way too much, way too soon. They built a monument to themselves at DFW and spend money like it grew on trees. Then, the airline industry hit some turbulence, and they were the first casualty.

Popular Searches On Airliners.net

Top Photos of Last:   24 Hours  •  48 Hours  •  7 Days  •  30 Days  •  180 Days  •  365 Days  •  All Time

Military Aircraft Every type from fighters to helicopters from air forces around the globe

Classic Airliners Props and jets from the good old days

Flight Decks Views from inside the cockpit

Aircraft Cabins Passenger cabin shots showing seat arrangements as well as cargo aircraft interior

Cargo Aircraft Pictures of great freighter aircraft

Government Aircraft Aircraft flying government officials

Helicopters Our large helicopter section. Both military and civil versions

Blimps / Airships Everything from the Goodyear blimp to the Zeppelin

Night Photos Beautiful shots taken while the sun is below the horizon

Accidents Accident, incident and crash related photos

Air to Air Photos taken by airborne photographers of airborne aircraft

Special Paint Schemes Aircraft painted in beautiful and original liveries

Airport Overviews Airport overviews from the air or ground

Tails and Winglets Tail and Winglet closeups with beautiful airline logos