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A timeline of Northwest Airlines history
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Northwest Airlines was founded in 1926. (MPR Photo/Mark Zdechlik)
Significant events in the history of Northwest Airlines.

1926: Col. Lewis Brittin founds Northwest Airways to carry air mail from the Twin Cities to Chicago with two rented, open-cockpit biplanes. A month later, the Detroit-based airline introduces the nation's first closed-cabin commercial airplane.

-1927: Northwest flies its first ticketed passengers.

-1929: A group led by St. Paul businessman Richard Lilly purchases the airline from its Michigan investors. Five years later, it is incorporated in Minnesota under the name Northwest Airlines.

-1947: Northwest becomes the first commercial airline to fly from the U.S. to Japan, with the flights continuing to Seoul, Shanghai and Manila. It rebrands itself as "Northwest Orient Airlines," though the company's legal name remains Northwest Airlines.

-1948: The airline begins painting the tails of its planes red, which has remained the company's trademark ever since.

-1960: Northwest moves into its new, centralized base of operations at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Wold-Chamberlain Field, now the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

-1979: During the first year of the federal Airline Deregulation Act, Northwest initiates routes in more than 20 new U.S. markets.

-1986: Northwest acquires Twin Cities-based Republic Airlines for $884 million, nearly doubling its workforce from 17,000 to 33,000 employees. The company drops the word Orient from its name, and adopts its Twin Cities-Detroit-Memphis hub system.

-1989: Northwest is acquired in a leveraged buyout by an investor group headed by Al Checchi and Gary Wilson and including KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. Checchi becomes chairman.

-1991: The Minnesota Legislature approves a nearly $800 million aid package for Northwest, including a $270 million direct loan that the company is still repaying. In exchange, the company agrees to build two maintenance bases in northern Minnesota.

-1993: Remaining costs of the buyout and an industry downturn lead Northwest to threaten bankruptcy unless employee groups make concessions. After concessionary agreements are signed, the company turns its first profit since 1989.

-1998: Northwest pilots hold a 15-day strike that shuts down Northwest operations for 18 days. Later in the year, Northwest mechanics, cleaners and custodians choose the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association as their new union representative, splitting off from the International Association of Machinists and Ground Workers.

-2001: Northwest and its mechanics avert a strike with a deal that includes an average wage increase for mechanics of 24.4 percent, giving Northwest mechanics the highest pay in the industry.

-2003: Northwest executives announce the company needs $950 million in concessions from its workers in order to avert bankruptcy. Pilots later agree to a 15 percent pay cut.

-2005: Northwest raises its concessions demand to $1.1 billion. In August, Northwest mechanics go on strike.

-Aug. 20, 2005: Mechanics go on strike rather than accept wage cuts and layoffs.

-Sept. 14, 2005: Airline files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, citing high fuel and labor costs.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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