Sunday, January 10, 2016

Splash of Colors, The Self-destruction of Braniff International

John J. Nance, former pilot with Braniff and author of this compelling historical documentary, Splash of Colors, expertly tells the story about the failure of a long standing, multi-billion dollar airline. 

He takes the reader on a journey back in time to when founder and President, Tom Braniff's vision and work ethic piloted this from a regional carrier into international territory as a major passenger airline. He details the success and failures of its subsequent Presidents, whose maneuverings and corporate decisions sealed its fate.

The story covers the effects unions have on business, demands that drove the push for higher salaries of pilots, ground crews and in-flight personnel adding to the pressure of funds already stretched to the maximum. He explains the sequence of events falling into place that caused this airline to fail after fifty-four years.

Paint scheme designed by Alexander Calder
The inner workings of corporate America could be extrapolated from this story. It serves as example and warning of what can happen when power and greed take the reins along with the importance of hiring and keeping qualified management with aptitude and training to match the skill level needed.

Despite the best efforts of its dedicated employees and workaholic leaders, the company spiraled out of control into a fatal tailspin on March 2, 1982. Those of us who worked during the seventies and eighties can relate to the issues that prevailed during that era.

The deregulation of the airlines caused fierce competition for the same routes spreading the passenger count between different carriers. Planes operating below capacity lowered profitability. Fuel costs rose exponentially with fares failing to keep up with the costs of operation. The bottom line suffered the red ink of diminishing revenue paired with increased cost.

Nance explains the inner workings of a corporate board of directors and their role in debt restructuring of capital equipment, the expansion of Braniff into new unproven routes, the purchase of multi-million dollar jets, employee demands for competitive salaries and other factors that led to the eventual demise of this well-established business.

At a time when air travel was still glamorous, Braniff excelled at providing extraordinary meals and flight service in the air. Extravagant paint schemes, designer uniforms, two-for one fares, non-profitable routes, overhead and service contracts in foreign countries that extended beyond the terminations of those destinations, interest on collateral loans and lack of communication, all played a role in the demise of the airline.

Three Braniff Flight Attendants in 1977, Photo - © Peg Cole
The extravagant multi-million dollar expansion of its worldwide headquarters added to the burden of debt and steep overhead, along with the successors in the role of President and CEO, whose guaranteed hiring packages and golden parachute deals thwarted any return to profitability.
Nance’s compelling account of conversations in board rooms, at interviews, and in management circles convincingly explains the pitfalls of corporate decisions that lead to diminished job enthusiasm; how managers whose fierce competition for recognition, combined with their lack of training and disregard for employee initiative sent this established company into the ground. He shares insight into the deadly Jericho memorandums that dramatically tainted employee morale and inspired internal uprisings.

The Great Pumpkin, Braniff's  one of 747 Jumbo Jets
Traveling deep beyond the newspaper headlines into the realms of corporate sabotage, fierce competition with other airlines, dirty tricks and politics, of multi-million dollar deals gone sour, the story takes the reader on a voyage into the minds and workings of the people who both loved and hated the airline. This true story, in four-hundred plus pages travels into oxygen-thin altitudes, shares white knuckle take-offs and landings, and conveys the devastation that thousands of workers felt when learning their jobs and income vanished overnight.

This story is a page turner that kept me up late into the night wanting to find out more. My first edition copy of this book came from eBay and is also available on Amazon.


  1. Sounds like an intense read. Thanks for a very thorough review!

    1. I appreciate your visit, Rebecca. Thank you.

  2. Hello Peg - Were you with them at the end? You have such a diverse work history. Corporations are not high on my list of favorite entities these days.

    Great review, well expressed.

    1. Hi Mike, My time with the airline was short lived due to a work related injury, financial stress and homesickness. I wish I had stayed until the end, but it wasn't to be. I enjoyed every moment and treasure the memories.
      Thank you for the kind comment and visit. Best regards.

  3. Your book reviews are compelling ~ this is no exception.
    Love your picture from 1977~ you are as pretty as ever today.

    1. My dear friend, Mcjmusings. You honor me with your kind words and sweet sentiments. Thank you.