From the Hangars

Employee Spotlight: Our Simulator Operators

Feb 14, 2018

The Delta Flight Museum is in a rare position to have a full-motion aircraft simulator available to the general public. Ours is a Boeing 737-200 simulator built by CAE in Montreal, Canada in 1999. It was used by Delta Air Lines to train pilots until 2013, at which time there were no more B737-200s in the fleet. Around this same time, the Museum was undergoing a major renovation and the simulator was brought over to Historic Hangar 2 and set up for public use. 

Sim exterior 1

Sim exterior 2

Now, who’s going to run it? That’s where our simulator operators come in. We have three part-time Simulator Operators on staff at the Delta Flight Museum – Chick Smith, Mike Raftis, and Paul Talbott. 


L-R:  Chick Smith, Mike Raftis, Paul Talbott

Chick Smith started his aviation career out of college in 1966 when he joined the US Air Force. During his 6.5 years on active duty, he flew F-100 fighters during a 1-year combat tour in Vietnam and then instructed in advanced T-38 trainers at Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, GA. Chick joined Delta Air Lines in April 1973 as a pilot flying Boeing 727s and working his way to the up the fleet to the Boeing 767-400, over 30 years later. After retiring from Delta in July 2003, he spent the next 10 years enjoying retirement by traveling and visiting family and friends, and even volunteering at the Museum before joining our staff in 2013.

After graduating high school, Mike Raftis went into the US Air Force to become an airborne radio repairman for 4 years. When he got out of the service, he joined Western Airlines in Los Angeles in April 1967. At Western, he worked in the maintenance records department of the engine overhaul shop while earning his FCC radio telephone license. After 1.5 years, Mike moved to the electrical line service department where he maintained electronic systems on aircraft. In 1981, Mike transferred into the simulator maintenance department and joined the Delta team after the 1987 Delta-Western merger. Two years later, he transferred to Atlanta and became a simulator maintenance supervisor. Mike was in the simulator maintenance department until retiring in April 2005. After retirement, Mike took some time to drive around the US and enjoy his free time. Mike joined the Museum staff in 2013.

Paul Talbott was bit by the aviation bug at age 4 when he had his first airplane ride with his father, who was a pilot in WWII. At 16, Paul went to work at a small, local airport in Wellsville, OH where he traded work for flying lessons. He joined the US Air Force after high school and served 4.5 years as a Russian communications intelligence analyst, where he was stationed in Turkey and Vietnam. After the military, Paul used his GI Bill to attend aircraft maintenance school and joined the Delta Air Lines team in December 1969, working in Detroit as a line maintenance technician. In 1973, he transferred to Atlanta, and began volunteering in the Delta Archives in his spare time. In 1995, he joined the line maintenance training department, and later began teaching aircraft maintenance taxi school, utilizing the full-motion simulators. After retiring from Delta in April 2005, Paul returned to Delta as a contract instructor and worked various other airport contract jobs, until joining the Museum Staff in 2013.

Sim interior

If you’d like to experience the simulator for yourself, one of these three Operators will be there in the cockpit with you leading the way, giving instructions, and letting you take off and land safely (or not).  To book your Simulator Experience, click here.

Tiffany Meng
Director – Operations


Leave a comment
  1. Customer Care | Jan 05, 2022
    f spending 2 hours with Mike in the sim.  He was amazing!  Thanks, Mike!
  2. Greg Mandel | Mar 10, 2018

    I had the pleasure of spending 2 hours with Mike in the sim.  He was amazing!  Thanks, Mike!


  3. Chikflier | Feb 17, 2018
    This Private Pilot and Navy Mom got to fly the sim with Chick Smith and it was a treat!  HooYah!

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