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Northwest Orient Airlines

Northwest Orient Airlines began serving Hawaii on December 22, 1948.

Northwest Airlines began operating on October 1, 1926, flying airmail between Minneapolis/St. Paul and Chicago. Used were two rented planes, an OX-5 Curtiss Oriole and an OX-5 Thomas Morse, both open cockpit planes.  The first “fleet” consisted of three 85-mph Stinson “Detroiters,” which carried three passengers (the first closed-cabin planes used by a commercial airline).  Passenger service was inaugurated in July, 1927.  That year the company carried 106 passengers.

In 1928, Northwest Airways began the route expansion that saw it develop in 20 years into Northwest Orient Airlines, carrying about 2 ½ million passengers yearly.  Service to Hawaii was inaugurated on December 22, 1948.

Northwest became a prime contractor in the Korean Airlift in 1950.  Flying DC-4 aircraft, Northwest completed 1,380 Korean Airlift round-trip trans-Pacific crossings, more than 13 million miles.  During this period they flew 40,000 soldiers and 12 million pounds of cargo across the Pacific at no interruption to their regular commercial trans-Pacific schedule of flights. 

Service was in DC-4 aircraft, on the Seattle/Tacoma-Portland-Honolulu routing.  Stratocruisers were placed on the run subsequently, and in December, 1953, Northwest began service with DC-6Bs. DC-8 jets went into operation in September, 1960; service was interrupted by a strike and the present 720B service was begun in June, 1961.  In 1966 Northwest operated a daily round trip through-plane service linking New York, Chicago, Seattle-Tacoma, Portland and Honolulu.

Excerpted from the book Above the Pacific by William J. Horvat, 1966.


Hawaii Aviation is brought to you courtesy of the State of Hawaii Department of Transportation, Airports Division.