The Delta Flight Museum is located just outside of Hartsfield Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, inside Delta’s actual. I’d read about it online and popped in before my flight back to the UK to have a look around.
It’s a sizeable museum that tells the story of Delta Air Lines as a company rather than just the story of the aircraft they use. Inside their Boeing 767 ‘The Spirit of Delta’ for instance, they have a really interesting display documenting the history of the uniforms that Delta employees wear.
Outside of the physical displays, they also have a lot of touchscreens which offer additional information to the displays and further history of Delta. One that really stands out in my mind is a display showing all of the different companies that have merged with Delta Air Lines over the years to form the colossal company we know and love today.
Of course, I know my viewers, we’re interested in the planes on display!
We’ll start with the oldest first. Delta’s history can be traced back to the 1920s, when Delta founder Collett E. Woolman assisted Dr B.R Coad of the United States Department of Agriculture, in developing a pesticide to battle Boll Weevil beetles which were eating cotton plants.
The pesticide was called Calcium Arsenate and it comes in a powder, which by land was very time consuming to apply to the crops. So, the team began using bi-planes to spray the pesticide over the crops from the air.
The Huff-Deland Aero company saw the potential business to be made in crop dusting and hired Woolman to head the new division which was called Huff-Deland Dusters.
This is a replica of one of these early aircraft.
Throughout the 1930s, interstate air travel was pretty much exclusively for the wealthy (who were few and far between in 1930’s America) and for mail services. The museum have a couple of aircraft of that era on display:
This is a 1931 Travel Air SB Sedan built by Curtiss-Wright.
This aircraft hanging up is a Stinson SR-8E Reliant (not the best of angles, sorry about that.)
These are obviously quite small aircraft. Larger aircraft that are more akin to today’s airliners were being produced from the mid 1930s such as the Douglas DC series.
The DC-3 was the most famous of the series. Douglas made the DC-3 after Howard Hughes (one of my favourite humans; a playboy and aviator who happened to suffer with OCD) of TWA wanted an aircraft to compete with the United Airlines Boeing 247.
The DC-3 would become critical in WW2. Flying allied paratroops from Great Britain into occupied Europe in large scale raids such as Operation Overlord (D-Day) into Normandy and Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands.
Following the war, the civilian market was flooded with DC-3s and airlines brought them up! On major routes, they were quickly replaced with aircraft like the Lockheed Constellation (another aircraft that served with TWA) but they can still be seen flying short routes in conditions unsuitable for jets.
In the 1950s and 60s it became clear that jets were “the way of the future” (Ok Richard, that’s enough Howard Hughes references, this is about Delta not TWA). Jets made air travel faster, smoother and quieter and advances in technology meant that air travel was becoming more financially available to more people.
By 1970 Boeing were producing their famous 747 Jumbo Jet, which is still in service today.
The 767 came quite a bit later, in 1982. ‘The Spirit of Delta’ was the first purchased by Delta Airlines after passionate employees helped raised the funds to buy it. Today, the 767 is at the heart of Delta’s fleet and they are the most commonly used aircraft in Transatlantic flights.
The 767 has a fairly spacious cockpit. Note the fur-lined seats.
This is the nose section of a Convair 880. The Convair 880’s first flight was in 1959 and it could reach speeds of over 600mph. Which is impressive considering Chuck Yaeger and Bell X1 only broke the speed of sound (767mph) just 12 years prior in 1947.
Demands for a larger capacity aircraft meant the 880 was replaced by the 990 after just a few years.
Here we have the tail section of a Douglas DC-9, which is still in limited service. It’s massive in comparison to the back half of the DC-3.
The Delta flight museum is a good way to kill a couple of hours before a flight. I’ve only really scratched the surface of what’s on display there, so be sure to check it out next time you are passing through Hartsfield Jackson.
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By Richard Francis