This week we continue the series on legacy carriers so that we can keep alive the memory of those that are gone but not forgotten. As always, I would like all aviators to connect with their roots and one of the ways they can do that is by using the “Third Dimension Blog” as a resource.
“What is it that makes a man willing to sit up on top of an enormous Roman candle, such as a Redstone, Atlas, Titan or Saturn rocket, and wait for someone to light the fuse?”—Tom Wolf “The Right Stuff” 1979
Braniff was truly the most colorful airline of all times. The airline began back in the 1920s and as you might imagine, there were air mail contracts that helped them with that start. Braniff had a colorful and successful history, but when it came to deregulation, CEO Harding Lawrence, made a calculated decision to expand operations rapidly on a newly opened set of domestic and international routes, and operations on the new routes began with little advanced marketing or training of personnel.
Lawrence believed that deregulation would be retracted and that Braniff would retain its new routes. When deregulation was codified into law, Braniff found itself with huge cash needs for operations, but insufficient cash flow because the customer base was marginal at best. Again, its market failure stemmed from poor management strategy and execution; however, a friend, who flew for Braniff, once told me that the CEO had conducted a teleconference for employees and his take on the business strategy was that Braniff would be the biggest airline in the U.S. or they would break the bank. “Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead” was his philosophy. The rest is history.
Eastern Airlines, formerly known as Eastern Air Transport before the airline was forced to change its name in 1934 because of the air mail scandal that we discussed earlier in the year, was a Florida airline with a proud tradition and a solid route structure. However, most people will blame Eastern Airline’s failure on poor management practices and bad labor relations which actually began under the direction of Eddie Richenbacher. Still, the primary reason for the failure can be attributed to Frank Lorenzo who gutted the airline, alienated the unions and finally forced a strike which led to the failure. Lorenzo was finally banned from ever being a part of any airline operation, but the damage he did to Eastern and others was reprehensible.
I know this was brief but I have a reason. Former employees of each of these airlines have web sites that contain a wealth of information on who, what, when, and where. Take some time to explore the story that they tell. A good starting point for Eastern is http://www.eara.org/history.html and for Braniff I would start with http://www.braniffpages.com/.
Next week, we will continue our series on the “Legacy Carriers” and look specifically at the TWA and Pan Am failures. So, until then take some time to look back, connect with your past and remember as an aviator you are a “Gatekeeper of the Third Dimension.”
Protect your profession, your future and the future of your fellow aviators.
August 14, 2009