The Spirit of Delta, a Boeing 767-200 (N102DA), parked at the Delta Heritage Museum
Delta has a lot of Spirit and it is in the form of a Boeing 767.
A while back, I got the opportunity to explore the entire Delta Heritage Museum, but with this blog I want to take a look at the most impressive piece they have on display there: The Spirit of Delta.
They have some pretty amazing displays at the museum, including an immaculate DC-3 that has been fully restored (photo). However, this Boeing 767 has a story to trump the beauty and rarity of the DC-3.
I don’t want to leave you without an inside look at the Delta Heritage Museum and archive, so be sure to check out Brett Snyder’s write up. He writes the blog Cranky Flier and was able to visit the museum a few weeks prior and goes into great detail about the entire museum.
In the early 1980’s, Delta wasn’t doing so great. The bad economy and high fuel prices made producing profit very challenging. In the spring of 1982, Delta posted its first quarterly loss in 35 years, causing fear about their future.
Instead of just waiting around, hoping for a solution, Delta employees banded together with retirees and friends to raise $30million to purchase a brand spanking new Boeing 767-200 (N102DA).
The aircraft served the airline well flying passengers for 23 years. After it was time for the Spirit of Delta to retire, she went on farewell tour. This was to give employees and fans a last chance to see the historical aircraft in flight. Painted in her original colors, she flew for two weeks around the country before making her final stop in Atlanta. On May 7, 2006 she found her new home at the Delta Air Transport Heritage Museum, where she can still be found today.
The interior of the aircraft has been updated to celebrate Delta’s culture. The first part of the aircraft still has her original seats, but the back of the aircraft has displays highlighting the aircraft’s story and Delta’s jet history. Unfortunately, during my trip the air stairs weren’t there, so I wasn’t able to check out the interior, but that was ok, the exterior was mighty exciting all on its own. If I had to pick one aircraft and livery to celebrate Delta, it would this exact combination.
Their museum is designed for Delta employees, but the general public is able to make an appointment. If you live in the Atlanta area or will be spending some time there, I highly suggest you try to make a visit. A special thanks to museum director Tiffany Meng and archives manager (and Delta blogger) Marie Force for showing me around your amazing facility!
A Boeing 757 with its nose off in for work at Delta Tech Ops. Click for larger.
You hear a lot of complaints from folks about companies outsourcing. In fact, its known within the airline community that many airlines not do their own maintenance. Delta Air Lines works just the opposite. Not only do they not outsource their maintenance, but they also in-source work from other companies from around the globe.
Delta’s Technical Operations (TechOps) is located on the west east side of the airport and is about 1.5 miles long. My tour guide, Anthony Black, thankfully opted for a golf cart, since we had a lot of ground to cover.
Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) is like its own city, but so is Delta TechOps. The TechOPs is so large, it has its own credit union, mini-hospital and interior roads complete with stop signs.
Delta Tech Ops has many engines worth millions of dollars each. Click for larger.
Delta flies many different aircraft types with a variety of engines. Down a long hallway are signs with different engine-types hanging from the ceilings (photo). Engines are located all all over the facility in different states of being repaired or overhauled.
Engines are very complex pieces of machinery composed of many different odd-shaped parts. Technicians need to be very careful of labeling each part to make sure they can put the engine-puzzle back together when completed (photo). When the composite fan blades are removed, they are stored separately and not allowed to touch (photo). Just be careful… each blade is worth about $20,000.00.
When the engine is done, it is moved into one of five test cells in the facility (photo). The test cell is a large wind tunnel and each engine will be run for about 8-12 hours to simulate a flight and to make sure it is ready to go back on an aircraft. After it gets the thumbs up, it is either placed on an aircraft waiting at the facility or packaged up and possibly shipped anywhere in the world for a customer (flight-line photo).
Delta's paint hangars have lifts come down from the ceiling (shouldn't they be called "lowers" then?). Click for larger.
The facility doesn’t just do engine work. They also work on anything from replacing small nuts and bolts, adding winglets and completing an overhaul of an aircraft. About 150 different companies will in-source maintenance at the TechOps center, meaning they keep busy.
Our next stop was taking a look at the paint hangars. They have been very busy recently with the merger with Northwest Airlines, getting all the planes painted over to Delta’s livery. I wasn’t able to see any Delta aircraft being painted, but I was able to check out a Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 767 that was in for a new coat of paint (photo). The hangars have lifts that come down from the ceiling to allow workers to efficiently paint aircraft. This saves time, since the painters are easily able to work around the aircraft with their mechanical lifts.
The Delta TechOps is one impressive place. Not only with the size of the facility, but the scale of their operations. Next time you are flying to ATL, be sure to take a look out the window and see if you can check out some of the action happening at the TechOps.
I have been a fan of flight simulator since it first came out in DOS. Those were the days when the planes were made up of about 100 pixels and the entire game fit on a few floppy disks.
Even though Microsoft recently announced they will be creating a new version called Microsoft Flight, it still won’t be able to compare to the flight simulators at Delta Air Lines training facility in Atlanta.
Delta has about 30 simulators of many different aircraft types. They even have a few for planes they no longer fly, since other airlines will train their pilots on Delta’s simulators. I was lucky enough to try my skills in a Boeing 737-200. I have flown an F/A-18 simulator, an E/A-6B sim, had time on MS Flight Sim and taken the controls a few times when flying in personal aircraft, but this was the largest I have even “flown.”
What an awesome set up. A full replica cockpit of a Boeing 737 with full motion. On the first flight we started out at the fake Atlanta airport, parked at the gate. Instead of having to be pushed back by a tug and wait in line to take off, we were able to push a button and be whisked to the end of one of the runways to take off.
My guide Mike asked if I fly. I told him I do not, gave him the run-down of my experience and we were off. He set my flaps for me and get me set. I was able to put the throttle up half way for a warm up, then full throttle. We were off. Hit V1, then V2 and rotate. Delta Manager of Media Relations, Trebor Banstetter was brave enough to take the flight with us and video the experience.
Now, I have never really flown a Boeing 737-200 before, but it sure seemed real. The sounds, the motion, the response of the aircraft. The aircraft felt heavy and responded just how I assumed it would. The motion was quite cool. When we sped up, it would tilt back, giving the impression of speed. Again when we slowed, it would tilt forward. When we banked, it banked and so forth.
Flew around the airport and set up for a landing. From the days of flying with my father, I knew of the red and white lights were there to help me on my slope path. At the time, I forgot they were called Visual Approach Slope Indicator (VASI), but I remembered his saying, “Red and white, you’re alright. Red over red, you’re dead.” These (and Mike) helped to guide me down at the correct rate.
I was able to land pretty well dead-on where I should have. Touched town and put the reverse thrusters on. I was supposed to let up at 80kts, but forgot to put my feet on the peddles to brake the aircraft, so I came to a complete stop with the thrust reversers. Oh well.
This is where the video ends, but we weren’t done. I turned around on the runway and did it over again. The second time it was a pretty rough landing, but I got the brakes correct and we still were on the runway. Probably would have had some negative feedback from the passengers, but what can you expect from David Airlines that is flying a Boeing 737-200?
Mike asked if we wanted to do something fun? Well, heck I thought we were doing fun stuff, but sure. With another push of a button we were all of a sudden at Reagan National Airport (DCA) in Washington, DC. He took the controls (with my permission, since I was in the Captain’s seat) and we had a quick take off and buzzed the Washington Monument, Capital Building and White House. After the scenic tour, I was able to land the plane safely back at DCA.
For me, this was all fun (a lot of fun), but these simulators are very important for training pilots. I had easy scenarios and help from Mike. However, pilots are given challenging cases like severe weather, loss of power and much worse. These simulators help prepare pilots to react to situations they hope they will never encounter.
This wonderful meal is what people in economy would get in the "good 'ol days," now you can still find it in first class. Yes, that is a real glass I was able to use in a recent flight in Delta first class.
Ah flying is not what it used to be right? Remember when you were treated like royalty, didn’t have to pay extra fees, seats were bigger and you got a real meal? Where did those days go? Well those days are not entirely gone. You can still find all that still up in the front of the plane…in first class.
Most people like to blame the airline for all these changes. They will accuse the airlines for cramming in as many seats as possible, taking away the free food and adding a bunch of fees all in the name of profit. But while airlines were doing all these things, the price of tickets have greatly dropped and safety has increased.
Recently I had the opportunity to fly first class on Delta Air Lines from Seattle to Atlanta and I forgot how nice it can be. I love flying, even in economy with my peanuts, but you can’t beat the experience flying in the front of the plane.
Although domestic first class seats are better than domestic economy seats, neither of them compare international first class seats. But again, you are going to pay (a lot) to get a first class seat on an international flight (we are talking up to $25,000.00). No matter where you are flying first class, it provides you with two things you won’t find in the back of the bus: space and service.
The benefits of flying first class starts at the airport. If you didn’t check-in online, most airlines will have a special first class line, which is quicker. Then, many airports have a quick security line allowing you to fly through all the fun TSA security. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport has this option, but I forgot about this perk and was stuck waiting 25 minutes to get through security (even though there was only a line of 10 people — figure that one out). Once you make it through security, depending on the airline and airport, you will have access to the airlines lounge. Again, I missed this benefit at Seattle.
One benefit I did not miss out on was boarding first. While everyone else stands around the gate waiting to board, Delta has the Sky Priority lane, guaranteeing you won’t have any problems finding room for your carry-on bags. Right after I boarded, I was asked if I want something to drink. Feel like an adult beverage? Enjoy… it is on the house. Since my flight left at 7am, I opted to not enjoy an alcoholic beverage and stuck to just juice (my flight home was a different story). The drinks, by the way, are served in real glasses.
After take off, the flight attendants came around to me and my first class buddies and handed out a hot towel. You won’t see that in economy…you can’t even pay for that back there.
Then comes the meal. A real meal. We are talking omlet, ham, potatoes, fruit and a bagel (see photo on the blog). I got mighty full after all that, I don’t think I have ever gotten full from even the meals you can buy in the back of the plane. After the meal was completed, it was not that long before a basket of snacks was offered. I wasn’t hungry yet, but I stored up, since it was a five hour flight.
During the flight, I had a lot of options to keep distracted on Delta’s in-flight entertainment. The system is not any different from the system in the back of the plane, but everything is free. I got through two movies, even though I wasn’t fully paying attention since I was on my laptop and on the GoGo In-Flight Wi-Fi. Unfortunatly the internet is not free in first class (I wonder if that will ever change), but it only cost $12.95 for the five hour flight. Since I had an extra 10″ of seat pitch than the folks in the back, it was easy to have my laptop open, watching my movies and still have room to breath.
The part of flying I do not like is the waiting to get off. I am sort of impatient and sitting there waiting for people to get their stuff and off the plane is just annoying. Well, sitting up front you don’t have to deal with that. Once the door is open, you are off and on your way.
With most airlines, sitting up front gets you VIP service, just like the way it used to be. However, it also costs the way it used to be as well. With all the additional fees and in-flight add-ons, flying first class has never been a better value. If you check bags, eat on the plane or watch movies, getting them all for free in first class can be a good value. Next time you want to experience flying like it used to be, make sure to get that first class ticket! If you haven’t been able to fly first class before, you might want to try it out sometime. Many airlines offer a cheap upgrade at the airport option, since it really does give a whole new experience to flying.