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Character and Characters

By Robert J Serling

This is the history of Alaska’s last legacy airline, Alaska Airlines.

Aviation-history writer Robert Serling has documented Alaska Airlines’ unconventional past and titled it Character & Characters in recognition of those who flew the planes and marked the airline’s transformation from a single-aircraft bush operator in 1932 to a major U.S. carrier.

From Alaska Airlines’ fabled beginnings serving the far reaches of America’s “Last Frontier” to its present-day network stretching from Barrow to Zihuatanejo and Boston to Honolulu … from creative promotions to its historic flights that linked the United States and the Russian Far East … from distinctive in-flight services to the first online ticket sales, Character & Characters chronicles the unusual stories and colorful people behind this uncommonly independent airline.

Serling’s seasoned perspective is based on his authorship of a long list of airline histories, an industry fascination that began not long after the Wright brothers’ first flight, and his love of a good story. His experience has resulted in a spirited telling of Alaska Airlines’ history of survival and success over unforgiving geographies in a remarkably competitive business.

Character & Characters has a rhythm to it, based not so much on chronology as on Serling’s innate sense of how a good story should be told. And like the airline that is the subject of his work, his book is a great aviation saga.

Born in 1918, Robert Serling grew up in New York and has always been fascinated with flight. In 1946 he became a reporter for United Press International in Washington, D.C., and in 1960 he became UPI’s aviation editor. In 1966, Serling abandoned the security of a paycheck for the liberty of a freelancer’s life, and wrote The President’s Plane Is Missing, a fictional account of Air Force One that became a bestseller and later a movie. Since then he has written extensively about the airline industry, including histories of North Central Airlines. Serling has won numerous awards and is recognized by the industry as the dean of aviation history. He lives in Tucson, Arizona, with his wife Patty.

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