Norman Stephen Topshe was born May 28, 1914 in Camden, South Carolina. He flew his first solo flight on July 5, 1936 in Albany, Georgia, ultimately receiving his private license on June 14, 1938. He went on to barnstorming and stunt flying throughout Georgia and Florida until late 1939. That same year, 1939, he served as flight instructor for Hawthorne Flying Service in conjunction with the University of South Carolina. In 1941, Captain Topshe accepted a position as a pilot with Delta Air Lines, where he quickly became a captain.
In mid-1945, he was elected as chairman of the Master Executive Council (MEC). That same year, Captain Topshe co-founded and promoted the Pilots Mutual Aid Association, which remains the organization that protects pilots during illness or disability. During the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, Captain Topshe was appointed chairman of the Retirement and Insurance Committee of Delta pilots. In the mid 1950's, he was appointed chairman of the Pilots Grievance Committee and Contract Administrations. Topshe was also a chief negotiator of multiple Delta pilot contracts.
During his career, he also served as a line check airman on the DC-8 and Boeing 747, performing periodic flight checks for qualified line pilots and initial line checks for new pilots. In 1973, Topshe served as an integral member of Delta's Retirement and Insurance committee. At that time, he was instrumental as a negotiator for Delta's retirement program. This type of retirement plan helped pave the way for the airline industry.
Captain Topshe retired in 1974 after 33 years of service. He was immediately re-hired under a separate contract as a consultant in flight operations. Captain Topshe pioneered this position and acted as liaison for 17 years between upper management and pilots, which included riding the jumpseat on multiple types of aircraft.
In the summer of 1993, at the age of 79 years old, Captain Topshe helped research and locate Delta's first DC-3. He flew the DC-3 from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Fort Lauderdale, Florida and then to Atlanta, Georgia. The airplane was subsequently restored to its original condition, licensed and flown on exhibitions throughout the United States. This aircraft is currently on display at Delta's Flight Museum near its worldwide headquarters adjacent to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Captain Topshe's career with Delta Air Lines spanned 52 years, and during this period he accumulated 33,000 hours flight time.