By late 1981 Braniff International was in severe trouble. Braniff’s President and Chairman Harding Lawrence had believed that airline deregulation would not be a success and decided that Braniff’s response would be to grow aggressively and build marketshare before re-regulation. The result was Braniff spent money like water on unprofitable expansion whilst at the same time being taken to the cleaners by its Dallas neighbour American Airlines. Add in a major economic downturn and things were not looking good. Even so Braniff still had time for its hometown football team.
The aircraft chosen for the special scheme was N457BN, which had been delivered new on June 13, 1978. As one of the newer 727s she wore the last scheme version Braniff introduced - the elegant, if rather spartan, Ultra livery, which had only been introduced in 1977. The Ultra livery introduced 8 different colour options as the livery base and N457BN gained Mercury Blue along with four other 727-227 Advanceds and a single 727-214.
At this point Braniff was still a successful airline with high yields, good loads and regular profits. By December 1981 Braniff was in a sorry state and Lawrence had been replaced by Howard Putnam, formerly of Southwest. Putnam had introduced what was called "Texas Class" to the fleet as a differentiator for the airline by removing First Class and replacing the whole plane's seats with a new single class cabin with greater legroom, better catering and other frills.
This new luxury look and feel did little to make the airline profitable but did match with the Dallas Cowboys sporting aesthetic. Accordingly N457BN acquired a ten foot tall Dallas Cowboys silver and blue helmet on the tail (which always looked rather empty to me on a standard Ultra). Just below the cockpit a silver outlined rectangle with one foot high Dallas Cowboys titles within it.
"Braniff was very proud of its 22-year association with the Cowboys and looked forward to the next 22 years as the carrier of choice for America's Team"
To say this was optimistic is an understatement! When the aircraft was not needed it flew on Braniff's usual network and Cowboys Mugs were used for inflight service, with various souvenirs handed out onboard. The aircraft had a folder aboard discussing the dedication and a seating chart showing which seat each of the player's used when aboard.
In actuality the aircraft was only ever used twice in the new season by the Cowboys, and they lost both games! The team already considered its Dark Blue Jerseys as 'bad luck' and the plane was considered jinxed by the players. Before the games the team were undefeated 4-0. There was talk of the 727 being repainted into another colour but by mid-May Braniff had run out of time. The airline closed its doors and N457BN was stored with the rest of the fleet.
Coomer, S. 2016, December. The Rise, Fall & Post Mortem of Braniff International Part II: Ultra Colors, Ultra Problems
2015, December. Braniff History Today. Braniff Flying Colors. Facebook
2010, July. Blast from the past: Braniff's Cowboys 727. Cowboy's Zone.com