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Jack El-Hai's 'Non-Stop: Turbulent History of Northwest Airlines'

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'Non-Stop' cove
The cover of Jack El-Hai's "Non-Stop: A Turbulent History of Northwest Airlines."
Courtesy Photograph Collection, Minnesota Historical Society

On July 5, 1927 the first Northwest Airlines flight to carry ticketed passengers took off from Minneapolis headed for Chicago.  But over Hastings the engine suddenly "went deader than a smelt," recalled one of the passengers, and the plane was forced to land in an open field.  

It was a fitting start for an airline that grew out of a mail carrier service the year before, and that would have its ups and downs over the next 80 years. The story is told in a new book, "Non-Stop: A Turbulent History of Northwest Airlines," by Jack El-Hai.

• Click on the slideshow link to see archive photos from the book

Northwest Airlines was founded by Lewis Brittin, and at different times both Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart worked for the airline. It was the first passenger service to provide oxygen masks on planes. And its expertise in cold weather flying was tapped during World War II to help defend Alaska from possible Japanese attacks. Northwest was also the first airline to provide service to Japan after the war.

Author Jack El-Hai talks about these stories and more in his new book with MPR's Cathy Wurzer. Click on the audio link above to hear the conversation, and click on the slideshow link to see a gallery of some of the archive photos from the book.