Recently, we toured the newly renovated Delta Flight Museum located at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta.
I have to preface this by saying I’m a “Delta” girl.” In its early years, Delta was headquartered in Monroe, LA, just 80 miles west of my hometown of Shreveport. In fact, Delta’s first passenger route in 1929 went from Dallas, Shreveport, Monroe and Jackson, MS. Later that year, Birmingham, AL was added to the route as shown by the below Delta advertisement.
The museum is housed in Hangar 1 & 2, which served as Delta’s original maintenance hangar in the early days. We had to go through a security checkpoint to get into the parking lot. Once we parked (almost in front of the museum on this Sunday afternoon) we entered the building. Our children were given brochures with a scavenger hunt. If they completed it, they could earn a small prize at the end.
The first hangar traces Delta’s early roots. Huff Daland Dusters began crop-dusting operations in Macon, GA in 1924, but moved their fleet of 18 to Selman Field in Monroe, LA in 1925. In 1928, the name was changed to Delta Air Service when C.E. Woolman and four other investors bought the company and began passenger service. You can really see how archaic passenger service was when you look into the restored 1931 Travel Air 6B Sedan which was the same type plane that carried the first passengers. There are only six seats (one of which was for the pilot) and they’re made from wicker – almost like large rocking chairs. There is no bathroom and certainly no cabin service.
The museum displays a wealth of information about the histories other airlines that Delta has absorbed over its 85 year history, including Chicago & Southern (C&S) Air Lines (acquired 1953), Northeast Airlines (acquired 1972), Western Airlines (acquired 1987), Pan Am (acquired 1991) and Northwest Airlines (acquired 2008). The wall displays include advertisements, quotes from employees and route maps for these airlines. You can see how humble Delta’s beginning were by looking replica of the original headquarters in Monroe – it looks no larger than a 1930’s gas station.
The rest of the hangar moves us through the rest of the propeller age: the 1930’s when Delta began air mail service, the 1940’s when they moved their headquarters to Atlanta and started flying DC-3 airplanes, and the 1950’s when they added international routes and began the hub and spoke system after winning the Atlanta – New York route.
Hangar 2 focuses on “the Jet Age.” The centerpiece is the Spirit of Delta 767 that was purchased by employees and retirees of Delta in 1982. It brought back memories for me as I flew on it on one of our trips. I don’t remember exactly where we went, but it was in the late 1980’s. My father had read about the plane and the flight attendant beamed when he expressed how happy he was to actually fly on it. Inside the Spirit of Delta is an exhibit of miniature models of the entire Delta fleet, the route map and artifacts from the earlier days – like the playing cards and wings I received as a kid on flights.
We learned all about the Corvair, the first jet and the SABRE reservations system in the 1960’s, the international routes in the 1970’s, the flight attendant uniforms, the mergers in the 1980’s and the brand logo throughout the years.
In another section is a flight simulator that you can pay extra money and schedule ahead of time. However, we walked in it and two employees of the museum showed us how it worked. The view out of the windows looked so real. The employee made it daylight and then with a flip of a few buttons, made it in the middle of the night. It was amazing how different it would be to fly in those conditions. He also changed the approach distance from 5 miles to further away. It was so real! For about $395, you can book the simulator for an hour for up to four people.
Overall, the museum was a trip down memory lane. It only took us about an hour to tour the facility. For more information visit their official website at www.deltamuseum.org.