Delta Celebrates 80 Years that Began in Monroe

Delta, Guest Posts

Cranky is on vacation, but I’ve lined up some excellent guest bloggers for you while I’m gone. Today I have Delta’s Marie Force with a look at the past. Frequent readers know that I love the archive pieces she writes on Delta’s blog.

Here’s a little jog down Delta’s memory lane:

Monroe, Louisiana was our home from 1925—when predecessor crop-dusting company Huff Daland Dusters Delta Original Terminalmoved there from Macon, Georgia—until 1941 when headquarters moved to Atlanta. It continued to be the hub for our crop-dusting operations until 1966.

When Delta Air Service started in 1928—thanks to a $40,000 investment of the Monroe business community—operations continued in the same small building and hangar at Selman Field in Monroe. Inside the white stucco building were offices for general manager C. E. Woolman, his secretary Catherine Fitzgerald and the entomologists for the crop-dusting work. Soon, they sectioned off a small Travel Air 1929 Ad.psdwaiting room for passengers. Our first airline service was taking off!

We flew our first passengers on June 17, 1929, in a Travel Air S-6000-B monoplane from Dallas to Jackson, Miss., with stops in Monroe and Shreveport, La. Johnny Howe piloted the five-passenger plane, which had wood paneling inside the cabin, woven wicker seats, handholds instead of seat belts and windows that could open. Talk about onboard amenities!

Although our first headquarters building no longer stands, several museums in Monroe tell the story of Delta and its birthplace.

Thank you for the opportunity to post, Cranky Flier. I’m a big fan of yours too!

Marie Force is archives manger for the Delta Air Transport Heritage Museum and regular contributor on Delta’s blog, Under the Wing. In celebration of 80 great years of service, Delta is offering $80 fares for travel between Monroe and select domestic cities.

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8 comments on “Delta Celebrates 80 Years that Began in Monroe

  1. Which airline is the oldest from a common measuring point, then? And what is that measuring point? The opening of the first business that eventually folded in to the passenger airline or the day the first paying passengers under that brand were carried?

    Should the “name” carrier be the beginning or one of its blended, merged, earlier predecessors? In other words, do we measure American as American or do we also include TWAs earliest beginnings as Transcontinental and Western Air?

    I’ll simply leave it at that and allow others to comment on how far Delta has come as an airline and how far removed it is today from the service standards it once set so high.

  2. Traveling Optimist – by your alternative criteria the earliest “Delta” passenger flights would be when Northwest started passenger service in 1927. Obviously since Delta was the dominant player in the merger they are going to default to Delta history.

    You do make a good point though. Today most airlines are forgettable. Service, ammenities, etc. is about the same across all airlines (at least in the US). Most people don’t care if their carrier is Delta or American or whatever so long as they get to their destination on time for a cheap price. What I hope we don’t forget is that when these legacy airlines were founded they were truly pioneers. Great history there for all airlines, not just the few that remain standing today.

  3. A – Agreed. The pioneers were visionaries of what could be. Today’s Sr. Accountants who run most of these airlines don’t allow or are not allowed to wonder what the future will hold and how best to serve the public accordingly.

    If I had the kind of vision that CR Smith, Woolman, Hughes and the like had I might ask myself:

    a) How can we fly 250-350 across the country and deposit them right in the heart of the city instead of 30 miles out at the airport in the ‘burbs?

    In can we eliminate the airport as a necessary component of mass transportation?

    b) How can we return to supersonic or near-supersonic travel without harming the environment, atmosphere and burn as much or less fuel as today’s average widebody?

    The pioneers started out taking a week and longer to fly across the country. They all lived to see the same trip in six hours or less. 50 years ago! Where is the technology that, airports included for now, will carry 300 people from NY to LA or London in only 2-3 hours or LA to Sydney in only seven?

    Marathon flights are marathons precisely because available technology has greatly improved fuel efficiency but done little for speed. In fact, where the 747 debuted with a 625 cruising speed, Airbus and Boeing alike toss out “new” technology aircraft that rarely get above 550mph.

    Like anybody wants to spend even more time in the air, customers or labor alike.

    Until some new, true pioneers take the reigns of this industry that both infatuates and infuriates us all, I guess we’re stuck with the bean counters tethered at the neck to the stock exchange.


  4. Optimist, for what you are asking, we should remember fares were significantly different in the past from what they are today. Only the rich could afford to fly. Now, it is like taking a bus. The Concorde couldn´t continue making the trips because the cost of jet fuel vs fares paid did not have a good ROI as it was in the beginning.

    Don’t expect pioneers in an industry that its own customers have degraded its comfort and style for pennies saved. We are all to blame.

  5. “Today I have Delta’s Marie Force” When I first read that I thought that Delta had hired some sort of elite military unit!

    Interesting post.

  6. B – Agreed. We get what we pay for.

    In the early stages only the wealthy and the adrenaline junkies ever boarded an airplane (open windows? I can see the scarves flapping behind the pilot now). The jet age made things faster and more affordable with the permanent establishment of coach class. Widebodies finished the transition, reducing the entire thing to mass transportation for most and what remained of glamorous travel for the 6 – 16 people up front.

    Despite the fact that few airlines have ever consistently made money I argue that they have all but perfected the current model of transportation. “Innovation” comes more often in the guise of onboard showers, herringbone seating and composite materials.

    In the early days the innovation was higher, faster, farther. The first two no longer seem to be part of the quest. Which is the basis for the questions I asked – as a pioneer, CAN it be done economically for the airlines and affordably for the public? IS anyone looking at these or other questions?

  7. Great post. I wonder – and I am not being sarcastic at all here – how the Monroe community took the news that Delta was moving to Atlanta after their $40k investment. I know it was some years later, and for all I know it was amiable. But I do wonder if there was controversy in that.

    I do love flying on Delta though. Them and United are my two favorites to fly.

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