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"A must for aviation buffs everywhere."

By June Sawyers
Chicago Tribune

El-Hai Non-Stop coverFounded in 1926, Northwest Airlines completed its merger with Delta Air Lines in 2010. Over its more than 80 years in operation, it navigated drastic changes in the aviation industry, many of them documented in this book. The airline began as a mail carrier — it even transported the occasional solo passenger — until it grew into one of the biggest airlines in the world.

The company was well known for its business innovations and for its numerous technological achievements — it was the first airline, for example, to offer oxygen masks to passengers, in 1938. On the other hand, labor issues, debt accumulation, federal airline deregulation and just plain bad luck eventually took their toll.

In this wide-ranging "company" history — and it is much more than that — author Jack El-Hai recalls the airline's humble beginnings in the Midwest, carrying mail for the U.S. Postal Service. Before long its operations expanded into many cities, making it a major regional carrier, then a powerful national and eventually international carrier. Because of its service to Asian cities, it even began advertising itself as Northwest Orient Airlines and later still the Fan-Jet Airline.

In 1949, it debuted Boeing's double-decker Stratocruiser, which enabled faster, more comfortable flights to Asia, and because of technological advancements, nonstop pan-Asian flights also became possible. But deregulation, employee layoffs and competition from low-cost airlines, among other reasons, led to Northwest's perilous decline. In 2005 the airline declared bankruptcy.

Like all airlines, Northwest has had its share of problems. Undoubtedly the most notorious was when the enigmatic D.B. Cooper hijacked a Northwest Orient plane on Thanksgiving eve 1971, demanded a ransom of $200,000 and parachuted from the aircraft, never to be seen again. Nearly 40 years later, six days before the merger with Delta, the so-called "underwear bomber," Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, unsuccessfully tried to detonate a bomb.

"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.

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