Alberto Braniff

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Left to Right: Pascual Orozco, Alberto Braniff, Pancho Villa and Peppino Garibaldi

Alberto Braniff (1884 – 1966, Mexico City) was a pioneering Mexican airplane pilot. He is considered the first aviator in Latin America.

Life and career[edit]

Braniff was born in a wealthy and powerful family in Mexico during the Porfiriato. His father was the industrialist Thomas Braniff, an American born in Staten Island, New York to Irish immigrants,[1] who arrived in Mexico as a superintendent of construction for the Mexico City-Veracruz railroad, lived through the Second Mexican Empire and eventually became an established member of the Mexican elite. Alberto went to study in Europe, where aviation flourished as he was a young adult. It was while in France that Braniff was able to acquire a French built airplane. Soon after, he shipped back to his home country, with his airplane aboard the ship.

Mexico during that era was a relatively new country in need of new achievements. After their country lost the Mexican-American War, Mexicans needed to look up to someone or to some type of success as a source of national pride. When Braniff returned home with his airplane, many Mexicans began to see him as a symbol of hope. Braniff, who had learned to fly the airplane while still in Europe, took it up upon himself to become that source of pride.

Years before Braniff was born, a prominent Mexico City newspaper had predicted that it would be impossible to fly to that city because of its high altitude and thin air. The article was published during an era when aerostat popularity was rising in Europe, and some Mexicans had successfully flown them in the northern areas of the country.

The exact year remains unclear, but most historical articles report that Braniff flew his airplane over Mexico City between 1908 and 1910. Apart from being the first pilot to fly an airplane over Mexico City, he made history by becoming both the first pilot to fly an airplane in Mexico and in Latin America.

Later on, other luminaries such as Argentina's Jorge Newbery and Peru's Jorge Chavez followed Braniff as famous Latin American aviators.

Alberto Braniff, by most accounts, led a quiet life after his achievement, but he lived long enough to see Benito Juarez International Airport begin to operate, and Mexican aviation's technical developments of the jet era.

Braniff died in Mexico City in 1966. It remains unclear whether he had any family connection with the Braniff brothers of Texas that created Braniff Airways.


  1. ^ Schell, William (2001). Integral Outsiders: The American Colony in Mexico City, 1876-1911. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 6. ISBN 9780842028387. Retrieved 10 May 2015. 

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