Lea Abbott Papers
Scope and Content
This collection contains correspondence, documents, and publications collected by Lea Abbott depicting his work for Braniff Airways and his affiliation with the Air Line Pilots Association. The Lea Abbott Papers are housed in eight manuscript boxes totaling 3.2 linear ft.
The collection arrived in fair to good condition and was previously placed in archival boxes and essentially random subject order. However, materials contained in individual file folders were retained in those folders. While maintaining original order based on folder subject titles, the collection has now been organized in five series, the first being Personal Papers, Series I, which is further organized in four subseries: 1. Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), 2. Braniff Employment, 3. Braniff Correspondence, and 4. Events.
Subseries 1. contains membership correspondence and monthly hours flown surveys.
Subseries 2. contains correspondence, forms, and documents pertaining to Abbott’s employment with Braniff including Daily Aircraft Record and Pilot’s Report to Maintenance Department forms.
Subseries 3. contains Abbott’s Braniff Aircraft Flight Report Forms for his flights in the Douglas DC-6 airliner, aircraft maintenance receipts for various aircraft presumed to have been owned by Braniff or Abbott himself, and Civil Aeronautics Administration letters to Abbott pertaining to his alleged violation of Civil Air Regulations.
Subseries 4. contains materials depicting two special events: Mars Day, commemorating the conversion of a U.S. Navy Martin JRM Mars into “the world’s largest flying classroom” in 1945, and the National Aeronautic Association “NAA Salutes America’s Pioneer Airline Pilots” event commemorating the 50th year of commercial aviation in 1976.
The second series, Air Line Pilots Association, which is further organized in three subseries: 1. Booklets, 2. Correspondence, and 3. Documents.
Subseries 1. is a collection of annual Braniff-ALPA Agreement booklets from 1945-1962 (non-inclusive.)
Subseries 2. contains membership newsletters, related materials, and correspondence pertaining to Braniff-ALPA agreement negotiations.
Subseries 3. contains a copy of the Braniff-ALPA Retirement Plan.
The third series, Braniff Airways, Inc., which is further organized in three subseries: 1. General Correspondence, 2. Operations Correspondence, and 3. Pilot Lists.
Subseries 1. contains correspondence addressed to Braniff administration, operations, and maintenance personnel.
Subseries 2. contains internal memos and correspondence addressed to Braniff aircrews.
Subseries 3. consists of Braniff pilot rosters and seniority lists.
The fourth series, Documents, contains correspondence and related materials pertaining to the Department of Commerce, Paul Jones Model Airplanes assembly instructions for the Boeing Army Pursuit P-12-F, Braniff Pilot scheduling, a Lockheed Electra poster with a three-view drawing and performance statistics on the reverse side, and meteorology and radio training aids, maps, lessons, and related materials.
The fifth series, Publications, which is further organized in four subseries: 1. Booklets, 2. Aircraft Manuals, 3. Braniff Manuals, and 4. Other Publications.
Subseries 1. contains a collection of booklets published by various governmental agencies describing a number of topics including meteorology, defense (wartime) flying regulations, air traffic rules, and air traffic control and communications. This subseries also contains Braniff booklets including “Braniff Silver Eagles By-Laws and Directory” and “Braniff-ALPA Constitution and By-Laws.”
Subseries 2. is a collection of aircraft manuals for the Douglas DC-3 and DC-3A, Douglas DC-4 and C-54, Douglas DC-6, Boeing 707, and Boeing 707/720.
Subseries 3. is a collection of Braniff manuals describing operations, general emergency procedures, and radio range procedures.
Subseries 4. is a collection of other publications including Civil Air Regulations, Notices to Airmen, airport traffic patterns and control tower instructions, and a flyer for the 1958 dedication of the Braniff Operations and Maintenance Base, Love Field, Dallas, Texas.
- Creation: 1935 - 1976
- Creation: Majority of material found within 1940 - 1960
- Abbott, Lea, Mr. (Collector, Person)
Language of Materials
Collection is in English.
Materials in this collection are open for research.
Literary Rights Statement
Permission to publish material from this collection in any form, current or future, must be obtained from the Special Collections and Archives Division, Eugene McDermott Library, The University of Texas at Dallas.
Born in 1907 in Nebraska City, Nebraska, Lea Abbott was a pioneer aviator logging over 31,000 hours during his flying career while piloting all manner of aircraft, from fabric-covered biplanes to commercial jet airliners. His desire to fly began when, at 7 years old, he witnessed the brief flight of a Curtiss Pusher at a Nebraska fairground. After completing a year of classes at the University of Nebraska, his interests turned to aviation and he learned to fly in Kansas City in 1930.
While in Kansas City, he became an aircraft repairman and gave flying lessons, but soon joined a group of Texas barnstormers. As a barnstormer, his signature maneuver was to stop his engine at the end of his performance and place his hands outside the airplane, making his hands visible to the crowd. Then, while controlling the airplane with his knees, he would perform a loop and land in front of the crowd. Once during this maneuver a wing came off his airplane while inverted, and Abbott parachuted out of the airplane, injuring one of his legs on a fence post as he landed.
By 1933, Abbott was giving flying lessons from Love Field in Dallas, Texas. There he recorded early morning weather conditions to the weather service by making flights to 18,000 feet to make his readings – with no oxygen apparatus on board…and for no pay. Soon he began flying passengers and mail from Dallas to Houston for Long and Harmon Airlines. Long and Harmon Airlines had secured the subsidy for airmail route AM-15 formerly operated by American Airlines. Using a Ford Trimotor and several single-engine airplanes, the airline flew mail and passengers throughout south Texas.
In January 1935, Long and Harmon was purchased by Braniff Airlines, for whom he became a pilot for the next twenty-eight years until his retirement as a senior pilot in 1962. While with Braniff, Abbott had the opportunity to fly many of the early airliners, including the pioneering Douglas airliners and the early Boeing jet airliners.
In 1979, Abbott purchased a replica of a Curtiss Pusher. He flew it in airshows for the next ten years dressed in open-cockpit attire, which included a leather helmet, goggles, silk scarf, vest, flared knickers, and strapped boots.
Lea Abbott was honored during the “National Aeronautic Association Salutes America’s Pioneer Airline Pilots” ceremony in August 1976, and is an honoree on the National Air and Space Museum’s Wall of Honor.
Abbott died at age 93 in McKinney, Texas, from complications from a stroke. He was survived by two sons, Ned and Paul, and a daughter, Mary Lea.
- “Lea Abbott Papers,” Personal Papers, Folder 13, Box 1, Series I, History of Aviation Archives, Special Collections and Archives Division, Eugene McDermott Library, The University of Texas at Dallas.
- "Lea Abbott Papers," Braniff Airways, Inc., Folders 14 and 15, Box 4, Series III, History of Aviation Archives, Special Collections and Archives Division, Eugene McDermott Library, The University of Texas at Dallas.
- "Carder Newton McNay Papers," Box 1A170, Collection 2014.048, Frontiers of Flight Museum, Love Field, Dallas, Texas.
- Anonymous, “50 Years of Hangar Echoes” Experimental Aircraft Association, Chapter 168, www.eaa168.org/wp/50-years-of-hangar-echoes, (accessed 7-10-2018)
- “Captain Lea Abbott,” Smithsonian Air and Space Museum Wall of Honor www.airandspace.si.edu/support/wall-of-honor/captain-lea-abbott, (accessed 7-10-2018)
3.2 Linear Feet (Eight manuscript boxes.)
Lea Abbott was noted as a pioneer airline pilot for Braniff Airlines, active member of Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), and exhibition flyer. This collection contains archival material collected by him pertaining to his career with Braniff, Braniff operational and administrative documents, Air Line Pilots Association documents, and manuals for the operation of early airliners.
The Lea Abbott Papers are arranged in five series:
Series I. Personal Papers 0.4 linear ft. (one manuscript box), 1935-1976.
Arranged in four subseries: 1. Air Line Pilots Association, 2. Braniff Employment, 3. Braniff Correspondence, and 4. Events.
Subseries 1. Air Line Pilots Association 0.03 linear ft. (one folder), 1935-1957.
Subseries 2. Braniff Employment 0.09 linear ft. (three folders), 1935-1953.
Subseries 3. Braniff Correspondence 0.22 linear ft. (seven folders), 1939-1958.
Subseries 4. Events 0.06 linear ft. (two folders), 1945-1976.
Arranged alphabetically by event name.
Series II. Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) 0.2 linear ft. (five folders), 1937-1962.
Arranged in three subseries: 1. Booklets, 2. Correspondence, and 3. Documents.
Subseries 1. Booklets 0.04 linear ft. (one folder), 1945-1962.
Subseries 2. Correspondence 0.12 linear ft. (three folders), 1937-1958.
Subseries 3. Documents 0.04 linear ft. (one folder), 1958.
Series III. Braniff Airways, Inc. 0.8 linear ft. (two manuscript boxes), 1930-1961.
Arranged in three subseries: 1. General Correspondence, 2. Operations Correspondence, and 3. Pilot Lists.
Subseries 1. General Correspondence 0.25 linear ft. (ten folders), 1930-1955.
Subseries 2. Operations Correspondence 0.48 linear ft. (nineteen folders), 1936-1954.
Subseries 3. Pilot Lists 0.07 linear ft. (three folders), 1942-1961.
Arranged by title of list.
Series IV. Documents 0.13 linear ft. (six folders), 1935-1953.
Arranged in one subseries: 1. Various Subjects.
Subseries 1. Various Subjects 0.13 linear ft. (six folders), 1935-1953.
Arranged alphabetically by subject title.
Series V. Publications 1.6 linear ft. (three manuscript boxes and fourteen folders), 1938-1975.
Arranged in four subseries: 1. Booklets, 2. Aircraft Manuals, 3. Braniff Manuals, and 4. Other Publications.
Subseries 1. Booklets 0.38 linear ft. (dourteen folders), 1938-1975.
Arranged alphabetically by title or author if untitled.
Subseries 2. Aircraft Manuals 0.7 linear ft. (one manuscript box and three folders), 1939-1962.
Arranged by in-service date of the aircraft depicted.
Subseries 3. Braniff Manuals 0.3 linear ft. (three folders), 1938-1947.
Arranged alphabetically by title.
Subseries 4. Other Publications 0.2 linear ft. (four folders), 1938-1958.
Arranged alphabetically by subject.
The Lea Abbott Papers were donated to the History of Aviation Archives, Special Collections and Archives Division, Eugene McDermott Library, The University of Texas at Dallas, by Paul Abbott on 1998-10-09.
Note to the Researcher
The materials in this collection are generally in fair to good condition. Most have been heavily used and many show signs of damage from water, fire, insects and rodents. Fragile documents have been interleaved using acid-free paper. Staples and paper clips have been removed and replaced with coated paperclips where possible. Photocopies of damaged binder covers were made before the covers themselves were discarded.
Material Removed List
0.1 linear ft. (three folders) of duplicate and damaged documents (due to water, fire, and/or rodent damage) were discarded. The front covers of four damaged binders were discarded after securing a photocopy of the covers.
- Guide to the Lea Abbott Papers, 1907-2000
- Randall P. Hinshaw
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- English (eng)
- Edition statement
- First revision by Randall P. Hinshaw. 2018-06-12
Part of the Special Collections and Archives Division, History of Aviation Archives. Repository
3020 Waterview Pkwy
Richardson Texas 75080 US