From its earliest flights in 1926, carrying mail and occasionally a solo passenger to Chicago, to its acquisition by Delta in 2010, Northwest Airlines soared to the heights of technological achievement and business innovation—and sunk to the depths of employee discord, passenger dissatisfaction, and financial bankruptcy. Its story, rich in singular successes and failures, also has the sweep of the history of American business in the twentieth century. Non-Stop: A Turbulent History of Northwest Airlines captures both the broad context and the intriguing details as it weaves together the accounts of individuals who gave the airline its unique character: from founder Lewis Brittin and pioneering female executive “Rosie” Stein to the CEOs who saw the company through its glory days and its final tumultuous decade.
What was it like to pilot a crippled airliner, to be in the vanguard of the new profession of stewardess, to ride in the cabin of a luxurious Stratocruiser for the first time? These are the experiences that come alive as Jack El-Hai follows Northwest from its humble beginnings to its triumph as the envy of the airline industry and then ultimately to its decline into what aggrieved passengers and employees called “Northworst.”
Non-Stop hits the airline’s high points (such as its contributions during World War II and the Korean War) and the low—D. B. Cooper’s parachute getaway from a Northwest airliner in 1971 and a terrorist’s disruption of the airline’s last year. Touching on everything from airline food and advertising to smoking regulations and labor relations, the story of Northwest Airlines encapsulates the profound changes to business, travel, and culture that marked the twentieth century.
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Jack El-Hai’s books include Lost Minnesota: Stories of Vanished Places (Minnesota, 2000) and The Lobotomist: A Maverick Medical Genius and His Tragic Quest to Rid the World of Mental Illness. He has written about business and history for the Atlantic, Scientific American Mind, History Channel Magazine, American Heritage, and Utne Reader.
"Jack El-Hai faithfully propels us through the history of a company we all took for granted. From rickety planes delivering mail to one of the largest and most respected airlines in the world, El-Hai lays it out through the highs and lows. At the beginning, heroic pilots and primitive gear, all the way to D.B. Cooper and the Underwear Bomber, the intriguing leadership and crafty politicians, to the final day when the lights went out at Northwest Airlines—all here presented in masterful style." —Don Shelby
"[El-Hai’s] book is a concise record of aviation’s race to zoom further, faster, and ever more fashionably through the 20th century." —Wall Street Journal
"El-Hai’s narrative captures the pivotal business and political moves that allowed Northwest to grow, while also spotlighting the characters and trends of the airline’s history." —Star Tribune
"Non-Stop is not just a history of a particular airline, it is an examination of the whole airline industry. It’s a must for aviation buffs everywhere." —Chicago Tribune
"Jack El-Hai’s new book, Non-Stop: A Turbulent History of Northwest Airlines, is a bright chronicle of one of the nation’s legacy airlines. Full of mid-century cool, this book soars along on a powerful slipstream of nostalgia." —Newsweek
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