ATLANTA, Ga. — Delta Air Lines state-of-the-art flight museum is flying high this week with the addition of a new jet aircraft as it expands the spotlight on the company’s rich history as an air transportation service and the people behind their wings.
The history of the iconic airline with it’s roots planted deep in the American south, through to the modern flight services of today are showcased with rare artifacts and actual aircraft poised inside and outside of the Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta.
As Delta celebrates eighty-eight years of passenger service in June, its newly renovated museum is located inside two former Delta flight hangers. Today, they house a modern glimpse into the company’s history featuring several static displays of the airline’s historic planes and the only full motion Boeing 747 flight simulator in the United States.
“Today with operations to 65 countries on six continents, it’s hard to image those early days in Atlanta when Delta flew to just 16 cities,” said Fred Cannon, Executive Director of the Delta Flight Museum. “Hangers one and two were next to the airfield and housed Delta’s aircraft maintenance operations — at the time the largest in the southeast.”
As guests arrive at the museum’s parking lot a majestic Boeing 757, supporting it’s original Delta colors, greets visitors to the historic aviation grounds located on the shoulder of the world’s busiest airport, Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson.
Adjacent to the 757 is the newly opened 747 Experience featuring the first 747-400 aircraft. The retired Delta 747 stands poised awaiting visitors for a unique inside tour. Known within Delta as ship 6301, this 747 flew over 61 million miles during its 26 year history with Northwest Airlines, and later Delta, following the 2009 merger by the two companies.
Delta Air Lines early beginnings is a historic timeline of aviation firsts with fascinating antidotes mixed in for flavor. A popular farm dusting business was purchased by a group led by C.E. Woolman in 1928, and was renamed for the Mississippi Delta, the region where Delta Air Operations was originally based near Monroe, Louisiana.
Catherine Fitzgerald, Mr. Woolman’s assistant, first suggested the company’s name in 1928, and by the following year, Delta leaped skyward with it’s first commercial passenger flight out of Dallas. It was on June 29, 1929, when stunt flyer turned commercial airman Johnny Howe became the first Delta Airlines pilot departing Dallas at 8:00 a.m. en route to Shreveport and then Monroe.
The single prop Travel Air S-6000-B aircraft carried one passenger on that first flight into Shreveport, and picked up an additional passenger that same day. The next year, Delta began passenger service to Atlanta for only a few months, and then full time service resumed in 1934.
When was Delta’s first in-flight meal served? In 1936, as the co-pilot of the company’s new Lockheed 10 Electra got up to offer box lunches with coffee to the nearly fourteen passengers. The airline’s first “stewardesses” were later added to flight crews beginning in 1940, according to the museum. And, in 1941, the airline moved it’s headquarters from Monroe to the twin Atlanta hangers located on the edge of the then expanding airfield.
Inside Hanger 2 rests the airline’s first Boeing 767 known as the “Spirit of Delta”. The 159-foot long aircraft was dedicated at company wide event in December 1982, and was later retired in 2006. The B767 could ferry 204 passengers and a crew of eight cross country with a range of 2,100 miles.
A silvery Douglas Aircraft DC-3 looks incredible as she sits in Hanger 1 just as she did sixty years earlier. The 65-foot long twin prop could stay aloft for 1,400 miles as she carried up to 21 passengers and a crew of three at speeds of up to 170 m.p.h.
An actual Delta Airlines full motion Boeing 737 flight simulator located in one corner of Hanger 2 of the open air museum. “This is not a toy, it’s the real deal,” states museum director Tiffany Ming as she described the sim which was used by the company to train it’s pilots. The simulator’s one hour time limit is a bit pricey, however it is the perfect gift for aviation buffs interested in the experience.
The Delta Flight Museum is located at 1060 Delta Blvd, Atlanta, just east of Interstate 85, and north of the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. The museum is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday thru Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tickets very by age and can be purchased online or inside at the gift shop. Visit their site at www.deltamuseum.org for updated information and times.
(Charles Atkeison reports on aerospace and technology. Follow his updates via Twitter @Military_Flight.)