Chapter 13

By 1968, we were in the DC-10 mode, a wide-bodied Tri-Jet necessary to compete with the Lockeed L-1011. Jack Mc Gowan, President of Douglas, asked the airlines if they had future requirements for additional DC-8s. They responded with a resounding "NO" - still smitten with the 747 and potential size of the DC-10 and L-1011 wide-bodied aircraft. So the DC-10 program moved ahead and the DC-8 tooling was scraped - a decision Douglas would soon regret.

At first, with the present attitude among Management, I felt that I would miss the DC-10 show, but because of my time at Braniff, they sent me to Dallas. It was assumed that Braniff would purchase the Lockheed L-1011, as they had purchased the Lockheed Electra and had a working relationship with Lockheed. This began a campaign that would last for at least two intense years only to drive off into history as a non-event.

Braniff was not a large carrier, a fact people seemed to forget. They operated aircraft on their domestic system no larger than the 707 with 150 seats, but mostly 727s with an average of 120 seats. They seemed to have three of every type aircraft, with little continuity. This was a standing joke in the industry; build it and Braniff will buy three. To dump a DC-10 on their domestic system would have removed them from the airline roster.

Harding Lawrence, President, was a transplant from Continental Airlines and inherited the airline in its present state. His first attempt at rationalization was the purchase of the Electras, trying to eliminate the smaller aircraft at the cheapest cost possible. He attempted to increase efficiency of his fleet by utilizing the Rapid Change 727 fleet in Cargo mode at night and Passenger during the day.

Harding next purchased Pan American Grace Airlines which dominated the East Coast of Latin America. This now gave Harding East and West Coast operations in Latin America. This is where the DC-10's made sense. When the long-range version of the DC-10, the -30, became available, we showed how this aircraft fit Latin America. Braniff ordered two of the last DC-8-62 aircraft built. But Harding responded with a "NO" when asked if he would possibly need more. He had rationalized his Latin American Division with DC-8's he had in service plus the additional two aircraft on order.

When this competition started, Harding had a supporting cast - one of which was R.V.Carlton, Executive V.P. He was a delightful gentleman from the part of the airline which was associated with the founder, Tom Braniff. He was an easy man to talk with and was more interested in his retirement plans on his yacht rather than the purchase of DC-10s.

He leaned heavily on Dick Flume for the analysis and comparative work. Dick was also from the Tom Braniff days, but younger than R.V. Dick, as well as R.V., were well known at Douglas from the DC-6 & 7 days. Dicks technical experience and background, which I had to defend at Long Beach, showed in the estimated analysis of the DC-10.

When we first presented the Performance Analysis of the 10, we used an estimated weight for the aircraft and provided the numbers of passengers and pounds of cargo that could be carried. When Dick gave us his ground rules of weight and fuel burned, it had effectively decreased the capability of the aircraft by 25,000 pounds. Manufacturers paranoia again put me on the defensive as Long Beach Management thought Dick was hurting us in the study. The only defense at the time was that Lockheed used the same ground rules. When we finally flew and weighed the aircraft some two years later, Dick had missed the calculations by 300 pounds in our favor.

Ed Acker was Chief Financial Officer, a whiz kid of the 1960's. Ed later became President of Braniff when Harding moved up to Chairman. Sitting in Eds office was intimidating when a large picture of his mother graced the wall behind his desk. Ed would later be known for his roles in the ill-fated Air Florida and Pan Am failures.

John Casey, V.P. Operations, joined Braniff from Seaboard Airline as R.V. Carltons retirement grew near. John would become my main point of contact once R.V. retired, and I spent many hours in his office.

John was a good friend of Douglas Aircraft, having come from Seaboard Airlines which operated DC-8s. It was John who several years later explained why Braniff never purchased DC-10s. He stated that Harding would not let me get close to his decision making and kept Douglas at arms length. Most everyone at Braniff wanted to purchase the DC-10. As we were now concentrating on the DC-10-30 for the longer range routes of South America which were more profitable, we felt that there was an opportunity to sell Braniff the aircraft. Harding had other fish to fry.

Braniff International

About this time, Russ Thayer, V.P. Planning, joined Braniff from Seaboard Airlines. He changed the complexion of not only Braniff, but the industry. Here was a man I would have wanted at Pan Am when the decision to buy the DC-8-63 was overlooked for the 747. Russ believed in frequency and this ruled out DC-10s for the Domestic System.

He wanted 145 seat 727s, and Harding bought a fleet of aircraft to replace the mish mash of aircraft operated on the domestic system. This changed the complexion of the industry, as DC-10s were now looked upon as too big, and it regenerated the 727 line at Boeing. This production line was on the brink of being closed.

The first question Russ asked me, once he had his 727 fleet in position, was whether he could purchase new DC-8-62s. The answer was "NO," because the tooling had been cut up for scrap. They had a requirement for twenty aircraft. Timing can either make or break you.

Harding became an industry hero with the 727 decision, though he did not make the decision. Hardings ego was not below the opportunity to take the good that came with that decision. He put a 747 on the newly acquired Dallas-Honolulu run. It took years before the aircraft began to make a profit, but image was worth it to Harding. This was Braniffs high water mark. Braniff was put on hold for now with less visits.