After getting its start as a crop-dusting company, Delta operated its first passenger flight on June 17, 1929, from Dallas, Texas, to Jackson, Miss., via Shreveport and Monroe, La. The route, operated by a Travel Air S-6000-B aircraft, carried five passengers and one pilot.
Since then Delta has grown exponentially. In a much shorter time frame, the Delta Flight Museum has also experienced major growth.
The nonprofit reopened in 2014 after the renovation of historic hangars funded by the Delta Air Lines Foundation and additional sponsors. Since its reopening at the airline’s headquarters in Atlanta, the museum has experienced increased attendance, events and fundraising, as well as an expansion of exhibits.
“The ongoing growth of the museum fosters our mission to celebrate the heritage of Delta, its people and our family of more than 40 airlines, along with the history of aviation and the future of flight,” said Museum President John Boatright. “Based on the generosity of our donors, we’re constantly investing in our efforts to further enhance the experience for visitors.” Before joining the museum, Boatright held roles of increasing responsibility during his 36-year career at Delta, including Vice President of Corporate Real Estate. Boatright and his 19-member team’s efforts are built on Delta’s core values, including honesty, integrity and respect, he said. “We have an outstanding team of people, and our success over the last year is directly related to their dedication, professionalism and commitment to our guests’ experience,” he said. “Each team member appreciates that we serve as the home of Delta employees, retirees, and their family members and that the museum is a key part of the foundation of Delta.”
The museum offers displays and exhibits filled with hundreds of artifacts chronicling more than eight decades of Delta’s history and the development of commercial aviation. Highlights include an indoor collection of five historic aircraft, including a Travel Air S-6000-B, similar to the one that operated Delta's first passenger flight in 1929, and The Spirit of Delta, a Boeing 767 purchased for the company by employees in 1982. Also on display is beautifully restored Ship 41, Delta's first DC-3 - an aircraft type that revolutionized air travel.
Outside the museum, a retired Delta Boeing 757 and McDonnell Douglas DC-9 are on display outside the museum's entrance.
Among the latest new exhibits is a retired Delta 1960 Ford F-250 lavatory truck, used to service airplane lavatories, located outside the museum’s entrance. The truck, refurbished by Delta Technical Operations and Airport Customer Service employees, features several original components, along with new and custom elements, including a 3-D Delta Widget centerpiece in the steering wheel.
Additionally, visitors can have the ultimate aviation experience: piloting a Boeing 737-200 full-motion simulator, the only one open to the public in the U.S. It was formerly used to train Delta pilots.
Despite its large collection, the museum is barely over 20 years old. In 1990, a group of Delta retirees launched an effort to find one of Delta’s first DC-3 - a search that culminated in the restoration of Ship 41. That, combined with a consolidation of Delta’s archival collections, created a groundswell that led to the museum’s founding in 1995.
The museum’s hangar space can serve as a unique rental venue to host events accommodating as many as 2,000 guests. Porsche Cars North America, whose headquarters and Porsche Driving Experience is just minutes from Delta's headquarters, has hosted a number of meetings at the museum.
“It is evident that Delta deeply cares about the experience its guests have at the museum, just as we care about offering fun and happiness at our Porsche Experience Center in Atlanta,” said Joe Folz, Vice President of General Counsel and Secretary for Porsche Cars North America. “Whether in a Porsche vehicle or on a Delta jet or at our track or at the Delta Flight Museum, we both share the desire to provide our customers with a truly enjoyable, unforgettable ride.”