Everything about the rebooted Delta Flight Museum screams, “AIRPLANES!”
Even outside its entrance, I’m greeted by aviation decorations. Lined up in a row like Roman columns are three struts of Boeing 757 landing gear embedded into the front of the building.
Welcome to the Delta Flight Museum, home to some of the airline industry’s historic jewels, including a first-of-its-kind aircraft that pioneered the sophisticated planes we fly on today.
This could be the best aviation museum you’ve never heard of. I’m chomping at the bit to see a few highlights, including:
-The cockpit from the first Convair 880-22, once the world’s fastest airliner
-A nose-to-wing section of the first L-1011 TriStar that served as a Hollywood movie set
-The airline’s beloved “Spirit of Delta,” a huge 1980s-era Boeing 767
-Arguably the world’s most meticulously restored DC-3, among history’s most important airliners
Yep, it’s enough to make an aviation geek play hooky and get lost among all the sleek, metallic technology.
But this place also appeals to nonaviation aficionados, thanks to its collection of stylish luggage and Delta uniforms. Then there’s the museum’s JFK airport rescue project. I’ll tell you about that in a minute.
For years access to the museum was limited to Delta employees and their friends. But last summer the airline closed it for a complete overhaul. In June, it opened to the public for the first time.
Appropriately, the museum takes up two hangars on Delta’s corporate headquarters next door to Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Once you step inside, you’re met with an amazing 1940 DC-3 airliner called Ship 41. When sunlight pours through the hangar windows, it bounces off the aluminum surface of this twin-propeller tail-dragger.
Beginning in the mid-1930s, more than 14,000 commercial and military versions of the plane came off the Douglas Aircraft production lines, popularizing airline travel across much of America. Each DC-3 seated from 21-24 passengers. Astonishingly, hundreds are still flying worldwide today thanks to an airframe that pilots describe as one of the toughest ever.