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Delta’s ‘747 Experience’ to take off March 28

The cockpit and controls will be open to visitors at Delta’s new 747 Experience exhibit, which opens March 28 as part of the flight museum at the airline’s Atlanta headquarters. Kent D. Johnson/AJC
The cockpit and controls will be open to visitors at Delta’s new 747 Experience exhibit, which opens March 28 as part of the flight museum at the airline’s Atlanta headquarters. Kent D. Johnson/AJC

Credit: Kent Johnson

Credit: Kent Johnson

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.

Video: 747 Experience opens soon at Delta Flight museum

The 747 is "one of the few planes people can name and recognize — even people who don't know a lot of planes," said Timothy Frilingos, manager of exhibits for the museum.

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.

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE BOEING 747

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.

AJC FLASHBACK PHOTOS: TAKE A TRIP BACK IN TIME

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.

DELTA FLIGHT MUSEUM

1060 Delta Boulevard, Atlanta

(404) 715-7886

Starting March 28, the 747 Experience will be open noon-4 p.m. daily except Wednesdays, when the museum is closed.

Museum admission: $15 for adults starting March 28. $12.50 until then. Discounted rates for seniors and youths; children 4 and under are free.

747 FACTS

  • Those seated at the front of the plane on the main level are actually in the nose, ahead of and below the pilots on the upper deck.
  • Pan Am asked Boeing to design the 747. "[Pan Am founder] Juan Trippe envisioned the plane that could fly 500 people from continent to continent. He also had this really strong vision that he wanted a double-decker plane. He wanted a plane that looked like an ocean liner when you saw it from the side," said Timothy Frilingos, manager of exhibits at the Delta Flight Museum. Boeing engineer Joe Sutter, known as the 'Father of the 747,' "knew the double-decker wasn't going to work. It didn't test well in wind tunnels, and also it was really felt impossible that it could be safely evacuated" within FAA time limits, Frilingos said.
  • When the 747 was designed in the 1960s, "the idea was in 10 years, 15 years, nobody would be flying these kind of jets anymore. Passengers would be on supersonic jets," Frilingos said. As a result, the 747's iconic hump was designed to allow it to be easily converted into a cargo jet that could be loaded through the nose." To enable that, the cockpit was raised — creating the hump, with the upper deck and more passenger seats.
  • The 747 is one of three planes parked outside the Delta museum, but the only one that serves as such an exhibit. Also on display outside the museum are a DC-9 and a Boeing 757.
  • At the Evergreen Wings & Waves Waterpark in Oregon, you can ride a waterslide out of a 747 that sits on top of a building. That jumbo jet is a former Delta plane that was eventually sold to Evergreen International Airlines and converted into a cargo jet before it was retired.

Culture without the cost.