ATLANTA (AP) — With a newly renovated museum at its Atlanta headquarters, Delta Air Lines hopes to lure tourists to the company's original aircraft maintenance hangars on the north edge of the world's busiest airport.
The 68,000-square-foot museum, housed in hangers that date to the 1940s, traces Delta's history from crop-dusting and air mail service to its first passenger flight from Dallas to Jackson, Mississippi, on June 17, 1929.
Many airlines began flying mail for the U.S. Postal Service, but Delta started by doing aerial crop dusting of cotton fields to protect them from the boll weevil beetle.
"That's what kept Delta in business during the Depression," said Marie Force, archivist for the Delta Flight Museum.
Huff Daland Dusters, which operated flights over the Mississippi River Delta region, later changed its name to Delta.
On Tuesday, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Delta CEO Richard Anderson attended the museum's grand reopening.
Retired Delta mechanic Art Arace of Newnan played a key role in building and preparing many of the exhibits. Arace, the museum's maintenance manager, built most of a full-size model of a Huff Daland Dusters plane by hand.
"You have to remember how you started so you can move into the future," Arace said.
The museum includes Delta's first Douglas DC-3 and its first Boeing 767 jet. Known as the "Spirit of Delta," the 767 on display was purchased with donations from workers, retirees and others who contributed to a campaign to help the struggling airline in the early 1980s.