If you’re a commercial aviation fan, the Delta Heritage Museum in Atlanta should be on the must-visit list. The only problem? It’s usually only open to Delta employees and not to the public (without an appointment). That rule, however, is broken once a year when the Atlanta Airline Collectibles Show comes to the museum and everyone is welcome. This year, it’s tomorrow, October 2. If you’ll be in Atlanta, it’s worth going. But just in case you can’t make it, let’s take a virtual tour.
The museum is actually located on the north side of the Atlanta Airport in Delta’s two original hangars there. While the hangars could use a good paint job, they’re still in decent shape. One of the hangars is dominated by the sight of N102DA, better known as the Spirit of Delta.
Back in the early 1980s, Delta employees loved their airline. In fact, they loved it so much that they set aside money and actually bought Delta a brand-spanking new 767-200. The plane flew well into this century, but when it was retired, it was repainted in its delivery colors and parked in the museum.
Inside the Spirit you’ll find a few rows of what the airplane looked like in service.
Then there’s a cutaway cross section so you can see the guts.
Finally, there are several museum exhibits in the back. They don’t always open up the Spirit for tours, but it will be open on the 2nd.
The other hangar is filled with a variety of exhibits. First is the replica of the original terminal building in Delta’s hometown of Monroe, Louisiana.
There is also an old Travelair, one of Delta’s first passenger-carrying airplanes.
The pride of that hangar, however, is Ship 41, the first DC-3 to carry passengers for Delta.
This bird was fixed up by a dedicated group of volunteers and put back into flying condition. It doesn’t fly any longer today, but it still sits in the hangar in pristine condition.
You’ll also find the fuselage of the first L1011, which became a movie set for much of its life. If you saw an L1011 interior on the big screen, it was probably this one. Now, it’s the Delta Museum store, an awesome collection of things you want to buy. They actually sell off excess donations here to support the museum (it’s a non-profit that’s separate from Delta Air Lines), so you can get some really cool stuff from days gone by.
But the museum is only one piece of what’s going on here. Behind the walls, there is an extensive collection of history that Archives Manager Marie Force keeps organized. I walked in to that back room and didn’t want to leave. How about some old silverware (or, uh, woodware in the case of this old-school spork).
There are some great old models in the back, including some large travel agency cutaways.
Here’s Marie showing off the hat collection.
And oh the documentation. There were so many old docs from the CAB days that I could have stayed for months.
As I mentioned, the museum is an independent non-profit so it relies on donations. I made one myself after my visit. If you’d like to do the same, you can donate here. And if you’re in Atlanta tomorrow, make sure you stop by. It’s absolutely worthwhile.