Spotting from the hotel at ATL.
Being an AvGeek since I could walk, and currently a private pilot, I have always wondered if I could fly a real airliner. I always felt confident that I could, but that little part of me wondered if there truly was anything special I lacked; could I safely land one if I had to? I’m sure many of you have thought about needing to take the controls of an airliner to save the day and I wanted to put my skills to the test. Of course, not in a way that would actually put people in harm’s way.
I recently decided to make the journey from Boston (BOS) to Atlanta (ATL), where I thought I could test out my skills. The quick flight of two-and-a-half hours (depending on winds and approach) from BOS into ATL passed very quickly. My son and I arrived in Atlanta just as dusk approached. Our first stop was checking into the Renaissance Hotel. We booked the “Aviator’s Package” — yes, an AvGeek’s dream hotel. They handed us a cool bag with a bunch of airplane goodies as well as passes to the Delta Flight Museum. They then directed us to our room on the 10th floor corner, which overlooked the approach end of 26R and the Delta maintenance parking area.
A Delta Air Lines Boeing 737-200 – Photo: Aero Icarus | FlickrCC
Eating dinner, courtesy of room service, out on the balcony listening to the hum of jet engines, jumping up to snap pictures of the next beautiful airplane either landing or departing, and just overall enjoying the ATL evening activity, dusk turned into night and the bustle continued. The tower was lit in a really cool blue/green color and the sea of airplane navigation lights was like staring into the night sky looking at stars.
“Ah, I’m sorry, you’re gonna have to get out of the car,” the Delta Air Lines security guard said as he peered farther into the window of the Uber I had taken to the northern edge of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Distracted, as I had been staring at a 757–200 beautifully adorned in Delta’s classic widget livery until about five seconds prior, I could only muster a perplexed, “uh, okay.” There really was no sense in arguing with the guy. I acquiesced, slightly annoyed, thanked my driver, and hopped out of the car.
Classic Widget Delta 757 – Photo: Jake Grant
I stayed mad for, oh, five seconds at the most. You see, at the Delta Flight Museum, the exhibits begin in the parking lot, a stone’s throw from both arrivals on the northern runway 8L/26R into Delta’s biggest fortress hub and Delta’s brick castle of a headquarters down the street. Due to the preservation efforts of Delta’s 80,000-strong workforce, the museum’s outdoor exhibit highlights a trio of classic airliners; the 757, a Douglas DC-9, the short-haul workhorse for the better part of four decades, and the first Boeing 747–400 built, with a display plaza being pieced together around the Queen of the Skies.
DC-9! Woo – Photo: Jake Grant
A note on the plaza: I ended up taking my tour before it opened at the end of March. It’ll definitely be worth a visit by any Atlantians or folks with long layovers. The 747 and the plaza taking shape around it were primarily funded by Delta employees. This is a recurring theme of the Delta Flight Museum. The inside of the 747 is an extension of the two hangars full of Delta relics across the parking lot. This writer certainly intends to check out the finished project when he gets the opportunity.
Current and retired Delta employees line up in their native uniform
A crowd gathered before a beautifully restored 767 inside a climate-controlled hangar on the outskirts of Delta’s corporate headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. Attendees included executives, local and regional politicians, select employees, media and various VIPs. There was a marked excitement in the air. The facility had been closed to the public and shrouded in secrecy for six months, so all were excited to explore the newly renovated Delta Flight Museum.
The unveiling of the museum, which had been personally overseen by Delta CEO Richard Anderson, was timed to coincide with Delta’s 85th anniversary of passenger operations. After opening remarks by Anderson, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, attendees were treated to a short video illustrating Delta’s history. Following the movie and a short awards ceremony attendees were invited to enjoy the festivities and have a look around the multi-room, multi-level facility.
The museum occupies the same footprint as Delta’s original maintenance hangars which were established in the 1940s.
Delta Flight Museum Exterior
Visitors are assured they have indeed arrived at the right place when driving by a 757-200 restored in the “Classic Widget” livery. For extra assurance a DC-9-50 in the modern “2007 Widget” livery that sits just across the way.
BONUS: Learn more about the Delta 757-200 and DC-9 at the museum
The exterior of the facility is undeniably Delta: Bright euro-white with large block letter titling: Delta Air Lines… (Air Lines; two words — they’re sensitive about that). Delta widgets adorn the pavement, the building and are strategically incorporated within the museum’s design inside and out, allowing for a sort of AvGeek easter egg hunt for those looking for a challenge.
Delta Boeing 757 in retro livery and DC-9-50 in its retirement livery – Photo: Delta Air Lines
An excerpt from the Delta Flight Museum Blog by Tiffany Meng…
It’s not very often we add new aircraft to the Museum’s fleet, so yesterday was a special day. With the help of a great Delta and DOT group, Ship 608, a Boeing 757-200 painted in its original livery, and Ship 9880, a DC-9-50 wearing its retirement livery, were brought over to the Museum from the Technical Operations Center across the airport.
Ship 608 being towed – Photo: Delta Air Lines
In the 1940s, the Museum’s Historic Hangars 1 & 2 were Delta’s regular maintenance hangars and were on Atlanta Airport property. Over the years, the airport has moved a few times, staying within the general area. In the 1980s, Woolman Place road was built and that severed the hangars from airport property. Therefore, moving Museum aircraft to and from the airport is never easy. It takes a lot of coordination between Delta, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Homeland Security, Landmark Aviation, DHL, and FedEx.
See additional photos and continue reading this story at the Delta Fight Museum Blog…