From the Hangars

Delta Jet Stories: 767 The Spirit of Delta

Dec 15, 2013

Former Delta Director of Corporate Communications Bill Berry, recalls what happened after employees successfully raised $30 million to purchase Boeing 767 The Spirit of Delta as a gift to the company in 1982:

Wrapped in Red Ribbon

I guess, if anyone looks at The Spirit of Delta on the day that it was presented to the company, probably the most memorable thing will be that monstrous red ribbon around the airplane. 

It was in December, so we were coming up on the holidays and a big red ribbon was the way to do it. But none of us had experience with how big that airplane was, and all of a sudden we go out there and there’s just no ribbon big enough to put on that airplane, nothing looked big enough.

We had a gentleman though, with a company here in Atlanta that was a specialist in doing trade shows. Ramone Garcia called and he says, “I’m reading about what you people are doing for your company, and we use Delta a lot and we would like to do something for you, what can we do?” And, you know, this was just a message from above, because here was a man that might be able to give me a ribbon and also had experts who did all of these trade shows that might be able to tie a bow around this airplane. 

He called his ribbon supplier in Newark, New Jersey, and asked him, can you produce, I think it was a 12 foot wide ribbon? The man was so excited that he shut down his machinery, adjusted his machinery and produced that red velvet ribbon that we put around the airplane. The Garcias then came out the night before the event, in fact they spent all day, and their experts tied the ribbon around the airplane.

We brought in Delta employees from every city to be involved in the unveiling of the airplane. We developed a big curtain that we hung down in front of the airplane so you would not see the ribbon. And, of course, we had Spirit of Delta painted on the nose.

Quiet Time before the Big Event

But then — about midnight, I went over to look at the airplane to see if it was ready and as I walk into that big hanger, which has been cleaned out of all other airplanes, expecting the thousands of Delta people the next day who would be there, and we had the media platform set up. But, you know, I didn’t expect to see anyone there and as I walked into this big hanger and the airplane is there and that ribbon is there, the big banner is down in front of it.

But if you angled yourself right you could see the ribbon and the airplane. There was a man standing there with one of our mechanics and as I walked up to it, it was our senior vice president of technical operations, Don Hetterman, and Don was just standing there looking at it. And as he turned around, he had tears coming down, and he said, “Isn’t that beautiful, I just can’t get over how beautiful it is.” And Don and I stood there and we actually teared up together because it was such an emotional event.

Dedication Ceremony

And then the next day we have the thousands of Delta people who have showed up. We had the news media there; CNN was just starting up. The BBC was broadcasting by satellite back to Europe. And as we raised the curtain on that airplane, there was just a sudden hush and then just a spontaneous outpouring of applause and yelling and shouting and whistling, it was probably the most wonderful time of my career.

Immediately after that ceremony, we taxied the airplane over to the gate getting ready for an actual flight to start making money with that airplane. And we left the ribbon on it as we taxied it over to the gate and then we took it off.

And then pieces of that ribbon were cut up and a piece of that ribbon with a picture of that ceremony was presented to every Delta employee at that time. Something that I greatly cherish.

Visit Spirit

Today, The Spirit of Delta is housed at the Delta Flight Museum and will reopen for visitors again in Summer 2014, with all new exhibits inside and around her. We look forward sharing Spirit with you again soon!

Do you remember The Spirit of Delta? We'd love to hear your Spirit story! Share your memories with us.

Marie Force

Archives Manager


Leave a comment
  1. Leslie Booth | Mar 28, 2023

    I’ve done extensive research and can’t find any info on where this livery actually came from. My husband, Al, worked in London for Delta as Reservations Manager and posting this picture of him in Farnsborough, England when this was the very first  Delta 767 that was shown (1982). My husband said this is the aircraft that was actually deemed/crowned to be
    The Spirit of Delta”. Anyone have any other information about this?    Well I can’t attach the picture here. So sorry.

  2. Ted Noble BECK | Jan 18, 2023
    I was on the Spirit Sept 14th1985, on a flight from Boston to DFW when one of the engines blew. We returned to Boston where we boarded another flight to New York. When we originally took off on the Spirit from Boston the Projector screen fell off and lander right beside my seat. The flight attendant came over and said to me " it's just the "Spirit". It is like things happened with this aircraft. This was a special day in my life as I was returning to DFW because my son had been born that morning.
  3. Jerry Smith | Jan 05, 2023
    Many articles published about "The Spirit of Delta," but none list the names of the three flight attendants who spearheaded the project.
  4. Graeme Payne | Jul 27, 2022

    My wife was an emolyee at the time, in the city ticket an marketing iffice in Charleston, SC. (She retired in 1995.) We definitely remember that event, and she has a piece of the ribbon. 

    Many years later, when the "Spirit of Delta" retired, I was working for Delta in Atlanta, and was able to be in the hangar for that ceremony. 

    We both treasure our years working with Delta Air Lines.

  5. Michael Steiger | Jul 04, 2017

    My father was the Captain on the first flight of the 767 spirit..  ATL-TPA.  David Garrett and my father and a few others cut the ribbon together.   Very proud moment for a guy who never went to college.  My father is known for a few other notables at Delta. The other most memorable moment is the photo of the Convair 880 a few feet off the ground with the gear up coming towards you at IAH in 1973.

  6. David DiSera | Jun 30, 2014
    I was there in the hanger that day when the presentation was made. I had only been in Tech Ops since March of that year (1982) but really felt proud to be a part of this! I still have my framed picture with the ribbon hanging in my living room.
  7. K. Charity | Jun 20, 2014
    I very well remember this 767 and have flown on this jet on many trips.
  8. JEFF ROBERTSON | Apr 15, 2014
  9. James Miles | Mar 22, 2014
    I had the pleasure of flying on this Majestic bird in 2004, with my wife Mercedes and son James. (Altanta to Miami) I will be there in the future to visit you, glad to see you are getting the royal treatment you deserve! //"Miles"//
  10. Aubrey Hair | Feb 17, 2014
    I had the privilege of flying ship 102, the "Spirit", many times and considered it an honor.
  11. Dave Smith | Jan 28, 2014

    I was a pilot and flew the Spirit of Delta many times!  I felt it was an honor every flight.  Passengers seemed to be extra respectful toward that airplane and the employees who contributed to its purchase.

  12. Jeannie Pepper | Dec 30, 2013
    My husband, Alton C. Pepper was a 32 yr employee.  He was foreman of the maintenance dept shortly before he retired.  I remember the first time he told me about "Spirit".  He was so proud of Delta and his part in it.  I couldn't believe that so many people could pull together and come up with that much money.  That says a lot for the loyalty inspired by the leaders of Delta.  May Delta fly forever!  A. C. died Aug. 20, 2013.
  13. George Jetton | Dec 23, 2013
    I remember this very well. I was so proud to be a Pilot for Delta that I gave 4 times the amount asked for to help cover those that could not. I wish Delta was still the airline that it was then.
  14. George Yarian 120783 | Dec 20, 2013
    I was there that day working in the engine shop when they told everyone to go out to the hanger for a meeting and that's when we saw what we had been paying for. The Plane was very nice. My Picture and the Red Ribbon has a nice place on my wall. I started with Delta in 1960 and retired 1991. I was very glad to have worked for Delta and was in the picture when it was taken.        George Yarian
  15. paul bryer | Dec 18, 2013
    Why don't they extend the deadline for purchase around profit shraing time? There could be more buyers then!!!
  16. Bette Myers | Dec 16, 2013

    On our "Wall of Family Pictures" is a framed newspaper clipping with a picture of our son, Ken Myers, adding the finishing paint touches to the 767 before the Spirit of Delta ceremony. We were such proud parents to see our son involved in such a wonderful tribute to Delta. He has been with Delta since his college days and has many other memories of his time there, but this is the one we (and he) are most proud of.  To have the privilege of painting the plane was indeed an honor for him and filled us all with a sense of pride.  It is the only newspaper clipping on the "Wall", all the rest are precious family pictures---we gave it a place of honor.



  17. Hernan Anibarro | Dec 16, 2013

    I am so proud to be part of the "Project 767". I was there for the unveiling. I was hired that year, May 17, 1982 and I cherish my small ribbon with honor. I must confess, I was tearing too on that unforgetable morning whe I saw that beautiful shiny 767. I wish you could find a video from that day I post it for the rest of us to enjoy. Thank you for bringing this wonderful memory again.

    Hernan Anibarro, LAX 659 retiree

  18. Mark Siravo | Dec 16, 2013
    My Picture of the Spirit of Delta is still proudly displayed in my house along with two customer service awards and the first ever Dangerous Goods award presented to me in July of 2003.  I enjoyed my 35 year career with Delta in TOL, MLB, and finishing in MCO.  I thought the idea to buy an airplane for the company was crazy but I am a crazy kind of guy who was proud to donate to the cause. 
  19. Sally Fleming | Dec 16, 2013

    Such a great story. I retired in 2008 after 31 years, still have the picture and ribbon and smile every time I look at it. It was a wonderful time in our company's history and I was honored to be part of it. 

  20. Toni Adcock | Dec 16, 2013
    Seems like yesterday that we were there...laughing and crying!  We were Delta - we didn't think that employees buying an airplane was all that unusual (little did we know!)  I am proud to have been a part of such an awesome event!
  21. Tom Combs | Dec 15, 2013

    I got a call at home about a week before we had the ceremony. It was my general foreman Martin Brown. I was working  in Dept. 380 at the time. He asked if I would paint the letters on the big banner to go in front of the plane. I said I would try and then he sent me to engineer Brad Driggers. He had the  patterns already made for the lettering, the metal  frame made and the cloth ready. It took me and Doyle Gunn, Dept. 383, two days to do the job. Then we attached the banner to the frame and put the gold sash on.

    What a great memory of the ceremony.


    Tom Combs 1976 to 2005

    Leave a comment