It wasn't all roses however as Braniff was 80% owned by the LTV Corporation - a congolomerate which acquired and spun off corporations. LTV had got itself into trouble with the purchase of Jones & Laughlin Steel and this overshadowed Braniff and made it difficult to think about large financial outlays. As the 1960s closed the topic of widebody jets reared its head. Everyone was buying them but their purchase would stretch Braniff and upset Lawrence's ideas of debt to equity ratios and the amount of long term debt Braniff should carry. The danger was that without the widebodies Braniff could be at a serious disadvantage.
Two 747s were ordered for the new Hawaii route in 1970 (though only one was delivered - see Big Orange: Braniff 747s for more info) but aside from these Braniff decided to avoid the widebodies altogether and it would be the only one of the US Trunks not to operate either L-1011 Tristars or DC-10s. Lawrence wagered correctly that he could, for example, put two 727s on a route like Dallas to New York against a single American DC-10; offering about the same capacity for the same cost but improving frequency of service, which would be attractive to business customers.
Braniff was criticised for its failure to buy the big jets but as the 1970s continued it would be Lawrence who would have the last laugh. The fuel crisis and economic depression seriously damaged the airline industry and Braniff's competitors found themselves burdened with hordes of widebody jets they couldn't fill. Braniff's nimble and adaptable 727s however were fuel-efficient (for the 1970s) and allowed the airline to right size to demand.
In terms of ownership a coup at LTV ended with a settlement which included terms for LTV to divest itself of Braniff. For Lawrence this was fabulous as the controls he had been forced to work within were largely removed and it gave him the chance to begin building Braniff into the global airline he dreamed of.
In 1971 Braniff unveiled an update to its livery. Always image conscious Braniff moved to a two tone scheme still wildly colourful but using a more limited palette than the previous Girard 'End of the Plain Plane' Jellybeans. The new 'Flying Colors of Braniff' were available in four combinations:
Aside from a few second-hand DC-8-51s and the long range DC-8-62s these colours would be seen exclusively on 727s. Only a few 727-200s ever saw the Jellybean applied. Braniff's first 3 stretched 727-227s arrived in mid-1970 (N401-403BN). These were followed by 6 second-hand 727s acquired from Allegheny and Frontier (N404-409BN) before the plane that fit the airline like a glove arrived. This was the Boeing 727-227 Advanced. It was perfect for the system Braniff was creating and Lawrence's airline spent large on the type.
The first 727-227A arrived in July 1972 and from that point onwards they kept on coming non-stop, with deliveries accelerating even as the airline sped towards oblivion. If all had been delivered then their registrations would have stretched from N410BN to N499BN, but the last 15 were not built and the five earlier were delivered elsewhere. The last new 727 to arrive at Braniff was N479BN in June 1980. Still that was an impressive 69 727-200 Advs.
Unfortunately for Lawrence's Braniff despite being effectively rebuilt as an airline since the mid-60s still had the same old staff and same old staffing problems. Management at the lower and middle end of the company was of poor quality and the arrival of the Teamsters union, who gave a chance for many of these staff to rejoin the union resulting in an exodus, showed how little the lower management positions meant. On top of older staff poorly suited to the new Braniff many new hires were not properly vetted either and all of this fed down to staff resulting in poor customer service especially at the Dallas Love Field (and later DFW) hubs. When it came to needing the public's sympathy in the early 80s Braniff's poor image with flyers would come back to bite it.
Employee ineffectiveness was merely one of several major problems that overtook Braniff from about 1976 onwards. Mismanagement on a massive scale saw one of the USA's best run airlines become its worst, but throughout it all the 727-200 kept on doing its best and proved itself the best airliner in the market at the time.
Nance, John J. 1984. Splash of Colors: The Self-destruction of Braniff. William Morrow & Company
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: