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Archives Spotlight: Mysteries in the Museum

Sep 06, 2016

The Detonator

Whether it’s about past employees, planes or branding, each artifact housed in the Archives at the Delta Flight Museum reflects an aspect of Delta’s history. In some cases the object represents a notable event in Delta’s past. 

Enter the detonator! 

This detonator preserved in the Delta Archives is a Dupont Blasting Machine No. 50. It is a small brown wooden box with a leather handle, metal wing-nuts and a plunger used to attach copper wire and detonate the charges respectively.

In August of 1979, this detonator was used to break ground for the new Delta Air Cargo Terminal and Flight Kitchen at Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport (today’s Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport). The detonation was done in a series of small charges in Delta’s red, white and blue colors. At the controls were (left to right) Chairman Charley Griswell of the Clayton County Commission, Georgia’s Governor George Busbee, and Delta President David C. Garrett, Jr.   

Delta Cargo and Kitchen groundbreaking, 1979

The Delta Air Cargo Terminal serves as an air cargo processing facility and is essential in transferring cargo to-and-from aircraft. With over 435,000 square feet of space, the air cargo terminal and flight kitchen was the largest facility operated by a single airline in the nation when it opened in 1980: 2,000 tons of steel, 20,000 cubic yards of concrete, and approximately 1.5 miles of conveyers were used to construct the space and cover over 10 acres under one roof. Included in the project was an 112,000 square-foot kitchen capable of preparing 40,000 meals a day for Delta flights from Atlanta. 

Delta Cargo Terminal and Flight Kitchen, 1980

The first shipment to the Delta Air Cargo Terminal was a 500-pound crate of new toys from the airline to the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve program, “Toys for Tots.” Hollis Harris, Delta’s Senior Vice President of Passenger Service at the time, said that “we wanted a first shipment we would long remember…we thought this would be the ideal symbolic first shipment.”

The detonator, by breaking ground on what was the largest air cargo terminal in the nation, symbolizes Delta’s continued commitment to being at the forefront of the industry. And, at least in this case, that dedication started with a bang!

Austin Coleman

Archives Assistant

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