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Friday, July 29, 2016

(Not so) White Knight

Braniff.  Not the real Braniff, Braniff II.  We had all been thinking about who was going to come along and pull our fat from the fire.  There were lots of possibilities.  Some seemed pretty good, but Braniff II was not one of those.

Braniff International Boeing 747

Braniff International Concorde

The Pritzker Family, owners of the Hyatt Hotel chain came along and reorganized the original Braniff Internatonal and bought it out of bankruptcy.  Then they changed the name to Dalfort, made it an umbrella company and created Braniff Inc., a fully owned subsidiary.  The idea was to capitalize on the Braniff name, use Braniff employees and fly some of the Braniff planes.

Braniff Inc. Boeing 727

Braniff Inc. began service on March 1, 1984, a little more than 4 weeks after Florida Express began operating.  In effect, it was another new entry airline, but it was much better financed than Flex had been.  They started with 30 727s.  Flex started with 3 BAC 1-11s.  That's about the best way I can compare them.

At the time this looked like a good deal to us.  Braniff was a national airline, Florida Express was a regional airline.  At the very least, we would be flying to exciting new cities.

The merging process took some time.  We began changing the paint on our planes to call ourselves Braniff Express.  All the BAC pilots were frozen in their positions.

We had a lawyer come to a meeting to discuss our options in merging the seniority lists.  Braniff pilots were represented by the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA), we did not have a union.  Their pilots believed their seniority dated back to their original dates of hire at Braniff International.  They had maintained the same seniority with the new company.  When we talked to our lawyer, he asked how much money we could come up with.  We decided he would spend whatever we could come up with and we would still just be stapled to the bottom of the Braniff list, so we opted not to move forward with him.

The vice president of the Braniff ALPA, Master Executive Council (MEC) was a guy named Dick Goduti.  He was a dick and a snaggle toothed dick at that.  Someone needed to introduce him to an orthodontist.  I had lunch with him once and the bread from his sandwich was getting lost up in his snaggle teeth that were going every which way.  When we talked to him about getting stapled to the bottom of the list, he said the company just wanted to let us all go and the union saved our asses.  What a guy.

The Braniff management pilots wanted to have a meeting with the Florida Express pilots.  Bob Dixon invited me to attend, even though I was not technically a management pilot at that time.  I guess it was just a habit with him.

All the big shots came down, from some vice president of operations named John something or other and some chief pilot everyone called Billy Blue Eyes.

Blah, blah, blah, something about Cockpit Resource Management, blah, blah.  Then John asks what kind of operational problems were we having.  Nothing.  I looked around the table and all of our management pilots, who had been trying to help us keep that POS BAC 1-11 flying for 4 1/2 years, were silent.  I figured, WTF?  I looked at John the VP of Ops and told him what a POS this airplane was.  I told him I had flown it at Pacific Express for a year, then the 4.5 at Flex.  I told him how we had documented how the plane had so many repeat discrepancies.  For example, there was one that had to have a generator control panel replaced about once every 2 to 3 weeks, at $10 Grand a pop.  I went on for a long time.

You have to understand that Braniff International was one of the early operators of the BAC in the US and that almost all of the planes we had acquired from USAir were originally Braniff planes. I think I hurt his feelings.  When I finally finished, he said something to the effect that, we'll teach you kids how to fly the BAC 1-11.  I thought, "Looking forward to that."

1 comment:

  1. I didn't know Braniff had a Concorde. Big time.