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.
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).
On December 15, 1982 a ceremony at the Delta Technical Operations Center in Atlanta, employees presented the Boeing 767, called the Spirit of Delta, to the airline.
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!
Also check this stuff out:
* More photos and information on the Delta Heritage Museum’s website
* See all the different liveries seen on the Spirit of Delta
* 168 photos on Airliners.net of the Spirit of Delta’s life
* The story on Delta’s blog