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The History Of Northwest Airlines


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In 1926 Northwest Airlines was established by Colonel Lewis Brittin. The company was then known as Northwest Airways. The earliest services provided by Northwest Airways, like most of the early incarnations of the major airlines, included primarily air mail carrier service.

Northwest airline founded a mail route that stretched between Minneapolis, Minnesota and Chicago, Illinois. The air mail was carried in biplanes like the Curtiss Oriole. These were open cockpit biplanes manufactured by the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company.

It wasn’t until 1927 that Northwest Airlines began to fly passengers. The next year, Northwest began its first international service route to Winnipeg, Canada. By the end of the same decade, Northwest Airlines was serving many smaller cities in that region of Canada and the United States.

In 1931 a landmark flight made by Anne and Charles Lindbergh was sponsored by Northwest Airlines. This pioneering flight to Japan proved that flying a route through Alaska saved up to 2,000 miles for a trip from Tokyo to or from New York City. This route became known as the Northwest Airlines Great Circle Route.

During World War II Northwest adopted its telltale red tail that remains the trademark of its fleet to this day. Originally the red on the tail section of Northwest’s planes was used as a visual aid to help spot the planes in bad weather conditions. During this era Northwest flew frequent flights to and from Alaska, carrying military personnel and equipment.

In 1947 Northwest Airlines became the first commercial passenger carrier



with flight services from the United States to Japan, through Anchorage, Alaska. When such new Asian routes were added, this branch of the company named itself Northwest Orient Airlines.

During the 1990s Northwest Airlines began non-stop flights to many Asian cities and also began flying to China again, though it had flown there until 1950. Also, Northwest worked at strengthening its presence in the Southern United States and began other international routes to such destinations as Ireland, Britain, Scandinavia and Germany.

Following the United States tragedy of September 11, Northwest Airlines, like many national air carriers declared bankruptcy and has yet to announce when they are likely to pull out and show substantial profits.


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