I’m not sure if I ever flew on Braniff Airlines although I certainly recognized the name. That’s why I mentioned it when I spotted Braniff Street outside of Hobby Airport in Houston, Texas in the previous article.
A Very Brief History of Braniff
Braniff (Calder colors) DC8 N1805. Photo by Bruno Geiger Airplane Pictures and Collection on Flickr (cc)
Braniff International Airways began flying in 1928, the creation of brothers Thomas Elmer and Paul Revere Braniff. They flew first out of Oklahoma City. Braniff grew and expanded into Texas in the 1930’s, and then throughout the American Midwest. Over time it expanded the network even farther, within the United States and later into Latin America and Europe. Braniff also moved its headquarters to Dallas, Texas, initially to Love Field and later to the new Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. The airline came to be known for its customer service and its brightly colored jets, including a couple that sported designs by Alexander Calder.
The United States deregulated its airline industry in 1978 and that spelt trouble for Braniff. It had been one of the strongest, fastest growing airlines in a regulated environment. However it simply couldn’t compete with cheaper, more flexible airlines that soon flooded the marketplace. Braniff folded in 1982, surviving only five years into deregulation. The name lived on for awhile, used by other companies that purchased it after bankruptcy, reduced to a zombie-like state.
Many people remembering Braniff fondly and have tried to preserve its legacy.
Braniff retained a particular stronghold in Texas during its heyday. The Braniff Street in Houston wasn’t unusual. Other ghostly fingerprints remained throughout the state. I found Tom Braniff Drive running along the edge of the University of Dallas (map). It intersected with Airport Freeway, leading directly to Dallas-Ft. Worth Airport. I found it odd that someone placed a road honoring one of Braniff’s founders so far away from the airport however, a good 10 miles (16 kilometres) distant. I didn’t feel the choice was completely coincidental although I wondered what connection it might have with the university.
A little light searching uncovered a Braniff Graduate School of Liberal Arts at the University of Dallas. That implied something larger than a casual correlation. However Tom Braniff died in 1954 and the university didn’t exist until 1956. That chronological mystery revealed itself easily too. Braniff teamed up with his friend, businessman (later Senator) William Blakely to form the Blakely-Braniff Foundation in the 1940’s. The foundation provided a substantial donation to the university in 1966, creating a graduate school in Braniff’s memory.
San Antonio, Texas became and remained a Braniff destination from the airline’s earliest days.
Braniff Drive, San Antonio, TX
I didn’t have any more to say about that other than noting how nicely Braniff Drive aligned with one of the runways at San Antonio International Airport.
Braniff International Airways. Image provided by Boston Public Library on Flickr (cc)
A much more interesting situation presented itself in Corpus Christi, Texas. This city included a street named for Braniff too. Nearby stood other streets named for airlines, airplanes and aviation pioneers like Eastern, Stinson, Wright, Curtiss, Lockheed, Cub, Fairchild and Ryan. Airport Road ran perpendicular a few blocks away. Yet, Corpus Christi International Airport stood several miles away (map). I had unwittingly uncovered the remains of the old Cliff Maus Field.
Cliff Maus left as airport manager in 1934 to take a job with Braniff Airways. He was killed soon afterwards when his plane crashed in a thick fog on the outskirts of Fort Worth… the City Council voted to change the name of the airport to Cliff Maus Municipal Airport.
Ultimately Cliff Maus Field didn’t have runways long enough to accommodate emerging jet aircraft. Corpus Christi International opened in 1960 and Cliff Maus fell by the wayside. Redevelopment took place over next half-century and largely obliterated the field. Del Mar Community College took a portion of it for its west campus on Airport Road. The Cliff Maus Apartments occupied another corner. A public golf course claimed another section. Housing developments also moved in.
Few remembered Cliff Maus, and soon, few will likely remember Braniff.
A few airports outside of Texas also hid remnants.
- Dulles Airport near Washington, DC featured Braniff Circle just south of its property.
- The airport at Pueblo, Colorado included a Braniff Avenue.
- Boise Airport in Idaho even recognized two defunct airlines at the same time at the corner of Braniff Street and Pan Am Avenue.
However, I figured the weird conglomeration of Braniff Road, Place, Crescent, and Green in Calgary, Canada was probably a coincidence.