From the Hangars

75 years to Detroit!

Jun 01, 2020

Celebrate Delta's 75 years at Detroit and enjoy these colorful promotions and photos from 1945 to the early Jet Age!

Delta Detroit travel poster, 1961

Delta Detroit travel poster, 1961

Delta's 75 years at Detroit took off on June 1, 1945, with flights by Chicago and Southern Air Lines (C&S) and Northwest Airlines. They pioneered routes later inherited by Delta from C&S in 1953, and Northwest in 2008. Delta also introduced the first jet service at Detroit in 1959.

Chicago and Southern Airlines (C&S)

C&S ad for Detroit inaugural service 1945


The new Detroit service was part of a route expansion north from the airline's hometown Memphis to Detroit.

From Memphis, C&S passengers could fly south to Houston and New Orleans.

C&S schedules called for three daily round-trip flights between Memphis and Detroit, with stops at Evansville and Indianapolis, In. and Toledo, Oh.

The trip took five hours and 28 minutes on 21-passenger Douglas DC-3 aircraft.

At the time, commercial airlines operated from Detroit’s City Airport (DET)—today’s Coleman A. Young International Airport.

Detroit's mayor was on hand with the C&S staff of 18 employees to welcome the first incoming C&S flight piloted by Capt. Ernest Millsap.

On arrival at Detroit, magnolias and products of southern industries were delivered as gifts to city officials.

Special guests on the inaugural flight were war hero Sgt. Jake Lindsay, the 100th winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor, and his new wife Beverly. 

C&S Detroit inaugural 1945 honeymooners

Northwest Airlines

Minnesota-based Northwest Airlines opened a coast-to-coast route on June 1, 1945, linking Portland, Seattle and New York. Northwest was now the nation’s fourth transcontinental air carrier, and Detroit now had a direct air route to the Pacific Northwest, the "fastest growing market in the entire United States for Detroit products."  

Northwest Airlines blotter Top Flight Coast-to-Coast 1945

Promotional ink blotter advertising Northwest's new transcontinental service, 1945

Initially, Northwest Airlines operated four daily flights east and west out of Detroit with DC-3 aircraft, and flying time from Seattle to New York took 17 hours. This time would soon be cut to 8 hours when new four-engine DC-4 aircraft were added to the fleet late in 1945.

NWA crew ready for transcontinental flight, 1945

Capt. C.S. “Curt” David (in front of the DC-3 door), Stewardess Louise “Jerry” Rudquist and co-pilot Jerry Kilian pose for press photos before Northwest Airlines’ first coast-to-coast flight, June 1, 1945. 

Northwest Airlines President and General Manager Croil Hunter said the new transcontinental service would make Detroit "one of the most important domestic air centers of the nation. . . The airplanes of the next year or so will be landing here with 100 passengers instead of the 21 now generally carried."

Detroit-Willow Run (YIP)

By 1946, Detroit’s City Airport was overcrowded and the airlines made plans to move. By 1947, C&S and Northwest had moved to Willow Run Airport. Willow Run was built as the world's largest bomber facility in 1941, closed when war ended in Europe and turned into a commercial passenger terminal. 

NWA DC-4 in 1947

Northwest Airlines began operations at Willow Run Airport on December 1, 1946, with four-engine Douglas DC-4 aircraft like this one.

By late 1947, Northwest’s ads in the Detroit newspapers were promoting three nonstop flights daily to New York, nonstop service to Seattle, direct service to Alaska, and three direct flights weekly to Asia.

Northwest Airlines Detroit travel poster 1950s

Northwest Orient Detroit travel poster, early 1950s

In late 1946, Chicago and Southern Air Lines announced “Daily Air Service to Havana. Only 11 hours, 15 minutes from Detroit. For the first time in history, the Midwest and South have a direct air route to Havana.”


Newspaper ad in The Detroit Free Press, November 10, 1946

Detroit vacationers could now board a C&S Douglas DC-4 morning flight from Detroit, fly along the Mississippi Valley Route to New Orleans, and with a quick stop to change planes, be able to lunch in Havana and hit the beach that afternoon. 

Delta Air Lines

Delta aircraft appeared at Detroit on June 1, 1948, when Delta and TWA begin interchange service, where the crew not the passengers change planes. TWA personnel flew Delta planes from Cincinnati to Detroit, and Delta crews flew TWA ships south from Cincinnati to Atlanta, Miami and Dallas.

C&S merged with Delta in 1953, and Delta connects Detroit with destinations throughout the southern and midwestern United States to the Caribbean and Caracas, Venezuela. 

Delta Convair 440 at YIP, 1957

Delta Convair 440, N4824C, at Willow Run Airport, February 1957. This aircraft transferred to North Central Airlines in 1966.

Detroit-Metropolitan (DTW)

In 1958, Northwest Airlines moved its operations from Willow Run Airport (YIP) to nearby Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW). Delta moved to DTW in 1959.


Souvenir of Delta's first flight at DTW, April 26, 1959. Ashtray shaped like a crown, the symbol of Delta DC-7 Royal Service. Gift of Cheryl and Carl Myers in memory of Roger Myers.

Jet Service

The move to DTW was in line with Delta's accelerated program to introduce Detroit's first true-jet service to Miami in the fall.


Newspaper ad in The Detroit Free Press, November 3, 1959

Delta DC-8 jets begin flying nonstop DTW-MIA service on November 15, 1959. The trip takes 2 hours and 49 minutes, carrying up to 119 passengers.

Delta MIA-DTW inaugural flight bag

Souvenir from Delta's first MIA-DTW jet flight, Nov. 15, 1959. Features Delta's new "Jet Widget" logo, the "modern jet-age version of the airline's traditional delta triangle."

Delta check in, Detroit, 1960

Checking in at the Delta counter in Detroit, 1960.

Happy anniversary, Delta DTW! 

Marie Force

Archives Director

1 comment

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  1. Jack Underwood | Feb 25, 2021

    I was a member of the Delta family in 1957.  I was in Paducah, Kentucky early 1957 and transferred to Detroit in late summer.  I was at the Willow Run Airport and Detroit Wayne County airport.  I was at DTW when Delta Air Lines first DC-8, ship 801 landed at DTW in September 1959.  I remember the Delta ticket counter shown in the picture above.

    I have a short video "Delta Transitions Trailer"  on  The video is a trailer video for my longer video "Delta Transitions".

    I have very fond memories of my time with the Delta family.

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