Chapter 23

During one of our vacation trips on Maui Island in Hawaii, I received a phone call from Russ Thayer, who was now president of Braniff; Harding had moved himself up to Chairman.

Braniff had received an award to fly from Dallas to London and needed aircraft to fly the route to qualify. They needed long-range aircraft and preferably wide-bodied. Of course, if Harding had purchased DC-10s for South America, he would have had the aircraft in his inventory. He had the one 747 he was flying to Hawaii, and would have taken an additional 747 for London if it were available. So it became a race to find used aircraft to get a DC-10 into Braniffs system. Both Boeing and Douglas could not fit Hardings requirements from the production line due to the long lead times. There was a possibility that we could get three aircraft from Aero Mexico.

Leaving Maui behind, reluctantly, I left for beautiful Dallas. The negotiations with Aero Mexico were a "yes, we will," to a "no, we won't," let the airplanes go. It dragged out long enough for Harding to close a deal with American Airlines, who was attempting to get rid of 747 aircraft. Russ wanted the DC-10, but the politics swung to Harding. This would be our last attempt to put the DC-10 into Braniff.

Harding would concentrate on 747s for the markets that he would attempt to initiate when deregulation came along and awarded recent International routes. Russ would later want to discuss the MD-80, but by that time Braniff was committed to growth in the International marketplace, a road they would follow to bankruptcy.

What was interesting was the change in Hardings thinking to a familiar pattern. Harding wanted to stay with Boeing which fit Russes 727 decision. When it came to additional expansion, Harding wanted to stay with the 747 because it was a Boeing aircraft and Pratt and Whitney engines. This was as wrong as the 727 was right. Russ was right all the way through - 727s to get the domestic fleet in order, and DC-10s for South America. They only operated DC-8s in South America. They never took advantage of the DC-10 and left alot of money on the table. When Harding was expanding the airline with 747s, Russ was looking at improving the efficiency of the airline with a small twin, like the MD-80, too late.