The iconic Boeing 747 jumbo jet is the focus of a new exhibit opening later this month at the Delta Flight Museum.
When the $5 million “747 Experience” exhibit opens March 28 at the museum near Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, visitors will have a chance to walk out onto the wing of a 747, see the cockpit and learn about the inner workings of the plane.
The chance to fly on a 747 is dwindling. Delta and United both plan to retire the 747 from their fleets this year, marking the end of an era for the jumbo jet in passenger service on U.S. carriers. However, the 747 remains in heavy use as a cargo jet and in foreign carrier fleets.
The exhibit is inside a retired 747-400 that Delta parked at the museum on its headquarters campus just north of Hartsfield-Jackson’s runways. It includes views of the cargo hold, and cutaways showing pipes and wires including flight controls running through the plane from the cockpit to rudder.
Visitors can also see the crew rest areas, including upper deck flight attendant bunks. The 747 typically has two flight crews for long overseas flights, including four pilots and as many as 11 flight attendants who work in shifts.
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Visitors also will be able to walk out onto a platform on the wing for an expansive view of the surrounding area, including the control tower, planes taking off and the original site of the airport named Candler Field in 1925 — where Delta’s headquarters now sits.
The 747 is expected to be a big draw — so much so that the museum is raising the price of regular adult admission including the 747 exhibit to $15, up $2.50. The museum will open for a special “747 day” on March 29, when the entry fee will be $7.47.
Delta also plans to rent out the plane for events like corporate cocktail parties or dinners, bar mitzvahs and proms.
“We think there will be people who think this is a nice place for a wedding,” said John Boatright, president of the Delta museum and a former vice president of corporate real estate for Delta.
The airline also consulted with film location scouts to design a portion of the plane with economy class seats and business class seats that can be used as a movie set. A section of seats farther back is specifically designed to allow for long shot views of an airplane cabin.
The plane, known as Ship 6301, was the first 747-400 built by Boeing. After it was manufactured in 1988, it was used as a test plane, then flew for Northwest Airlines. Delta acquired Northwest in 2008.
Delta towed it across a city street to the museum parking lot last year.
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A group of employees organized an effort called the “Airloom project” to contribute money through payroll deductions and donations to raise funds for the 747 Experience. Airloom is contributing about $600,000 toward the $5 million cost, according to Boatright.
The cost includes the months of work to get the 747 in place and prepared for the exhibit, including 30 feet of pilings down to bedrock and steel plates embedded in concrete to support the weight of the plane, a pavilion, elevator, plumbing, heating and air conditioning.
Delta TechOps mechanics and engineers helped on everything from installing the jet stand to building the wing walk platform.
While the museum plans to get some return on the investment through event rentals and the movie business, Boatright said “the other thing that’s more important here, the museum is the history of Delta, the family of Delta,” particularly for new hires who visit the museum and can learn about the company.
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