The philosophical and literal union (they married) between Mary Wells of the marketing firm Wells Rich Greene and Harding Lawrence, leader of Braniff International, powered the airline's transformation through the 1960s and 70s. The artistic apogee of this union was the special Calder schemes one of which celebrated the 1976 US Bicentennial. A late addition to the scheme gained it its nickname and the aircraft that wore it had some personality too.
Harding Lawrence had taken over the leadership of Braniff in 1965 and changed not only the airline but also the industry as a whole with his marketing heavy image makeover. It had worked and Braniff had increased its profitability whilst making moves, like the takeover of Panagra, which strengthened its position. Fleet rationalisation was a key pillar of this strategy also. Lawrence wanted rid of the Electras and One-Elevens and to that end was building up his fleet of 727s. Come 1971 and it was also time for another makeover.
By the end of the 1960s the dynamic leadership of Harding Lawrence had turned Braniff from a little known Texan trunk airline into a dynamic market leader famous for its 'End of the Plain Plane' marketing campaign pioneered by Lawrence's future wife Mary Wells. Revenue Passenger Miles had more than doubled in 5 years and the takeover of Panagra had further bolstered Braniff's position as a major force in Latin America. But, the airline wasn't standing still and just as Braniff discovered its perfect aircraft it was time for another change.
Con Job: Braniff Mk III
Nowadays if you are an airline operating within the US domestic market and you wish to serve a route pair you simply do just that, after relatively little fuss and bother, but prior to 1978, when the US market was regulated by the Civil Aeronautics Bureau (CAB), starting new routes was a marathon process. Indeed, most of the time getting permission to start a new route, especially if there was any competition involved, was a non-starter. Whence the regulated period threw up a selection of idiosyncratic practices that made sense then but look a bit weird today. One of these was the concept of interchange services.
The rise and fall of Harding Lawrence’s Braniff International is so well known that in aviation it has become something of a byword for mismanagement and a case study for the impact of deregulation. In many ways it was a harbinger of the bloodbath that the 1980s would become for US carriers however in others it was unique. Nonetheless back in 1978 everything seemed rosy at Braniff and the airline would celebrate its Golden anniversary with the introduction of a new look.
Braniff Jellybeans Pt5: Yellows
Braniff Jellybeans Pt4: Oranges
Braniff Jellybean Pt3: Red
Braniff Jellybeans Pt2: The Blues
Braniff Jellybeans Pt1: The Greens
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: