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From the Hangars

A sort of homecoming...Ship 717, N4887C, returns to Atlanta

Dec 06, 2019

7-16-19 Getting towed

    Ship 717 towed in Coolidge, Arizona before its first takeoff in over a decade.

Christmas came early to the Delta Flight Museum when an original Delta Air Lines DC-7B made one last flight from the desert of Arizona to Atlanta on November 16 & 17, 2019. The journey officially began in the early part of 2019 when DFM and International Air Response (IAR) agreed on terms to transfer ownership of Ship 717, N4887C, to the museum's collection. The agreement stipulated that the propeller aircraft would be able to fly the journey from its location in Coolidge, Arizona to Atlanta.

The aircraft was first delivered to Delta Air Lines in 1957 and had a long career flying, but that part of the story will be told later. This post highlights the journey home.

Before February 2019, it had been more than a decade since Ship 717 was in the air. All systems needed to be checked and possibly repaired in order to ensure a safe flight to Atlanta. Safety for the crew that would fly was the foremost concern as engine and system tests were repeatedly undertaken. Leaks in the fuel pump system were a constant challenge and with no fuel trucks located at the Coolidge air field, filling and emptying the system was a laborious experience. Plugs were replaced in all the engines and careful engine tests were analyzed to make sure each of the engines could sustain full power. 

After months of working through each of the four engines and many tests and retests a first attempt to fly Ship 717 was made on July 16, 2019. After successful engine runs and takeoff an oil pressure issue forced the flight crew to land at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. The aircraft would remain at this location for the next four months.

In October, after diagnosis, repairs and testing at Mesa, IAR and the Delta Flight Museum agreed that the next needed step would be to rent a replacement engine for the #3 engine because it persisted to cause problems. An agreement was made with Erickson Aero Tanker (operator of several DC-7/7B firebombers) out of Oregon to lease an engine for the flight from Mesa to Atlanta. 

Once the rental engine arrived, several Delta TechOps mechanics joined the IAR team to replace engine #3. After another successful takeoff on November 7, engine #4 failed, but rather than spending too much time on diagnosis, a second rental engine was sent from Oregon.

With two leased engines, Ship 717, finally began its last flight on November 16, 2019. The flight plan included a fuel stop in Midland, Texas. A flat tire occurred during landing in Midland and the fuel stop became an overnight as a replacement tire was driven from Mesa. With a new main gear tire and ready to go, Ship 717 began its journey again the next day and arrived in Atlanta around 5:20pm on November 17. 

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Ship 717 on the ramp at Delta North, November 18, 2019

With daylight fading, the aircraft made one loop around the airport before landing on the north runway. Ship 717 taxied to Delta Techops' north hangars, where it will undergo some minor cosmetic repairs before a final painting and installation in front of historic hangars at the Delta Flight Museum. We are hopeful this will happen in February, but will keep everyone posted as the journey continues.

Stay tuned to our social media and this space for updates and more information on Ship 717.

Tim Frilingos

Exhibits Manager

Video of Ship 717's final flights:

8 comments

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  1. Bruce Haviland DL 1972-1977 | Mar 14, 2020
    Thank you Delta and the Flight Museum for doing so much to preserve the history of commercial aviation. The DC-7 is an incredible addition. Can't wait to see her done. There is one 880 at Mohave that would sure look great as a Gold Crown 880 at the Museum. Just a thought. 727 would fit in well also!  Thx again. 
  2. JACK DYER | Mar 10, 2020
    I HIRED ON AFTER RETURNING FROM VIET NAM IN 68.  GOT MY BUMPER STICKER, "FLY DELTA'S BIG JETS" AND WENT FOR MY INTERVIEW IN ATL ON A DC-7.  SO MUCH  FOR 'BIG JETS'!  LOVED THIS OLD BIRD.  I BET I EVEN FUELED IT WHILE STATIONED IN ORD.  CONGRATS ON A BEAUTIFUL JOB AND TAKING CARE OF SUCH A BEAUTIFUL BIRD.  FANTASTIC!!!!!!!!!!
  3. Bob Gulbrandsen | Mar 10, 2020
    I can remember servicing this aircraft at ORD, at the time I did fueling and oiling as a Delta employee. You could always tell Delta's ramp from the oil stains in four obvious spots in each  gates used by the DC-7. Folks on the ramp always sported DC-7 shirts spattered with oil.  Good old dependable bird though.    
  4. Harry Ballance, Jr. | Mar 10, 2020
    I began my 35 year pilot career with Delta as a Flight Engineer on the DC-6 and DC-7 in 1964. I was fortunate enough to have flown as Copilot on the DC-7 in 1967-68. When you were flying a DC-7, you knew you were flying a real airliner.
  5. Ron Stowe | Dec 27, 2019

    I was in the March of 1966 Delta pilot class.  We spend 3 months at the Delta classrooms on Virginia Avenue learning all about the DC-6 and DC-7 in order to obtain our flight engineer certificate.  This was the starting position for all Delta pilots in the sixties. I am so delighted the museum has obtained this historic airplane.  Now, can you get you hands on an L-1011? This was one of Delta's most iconic airplanes!

     

  6. Todd Duhnke | Dec 15, 2019

    I am so thankful that Delta has preserved this very historic aircraft.  I truly respect companies like Delta, Phillips 66 and Union Pacific Railroad who embrace their glorious histories for all to see and enjoy.  Things like this do make a difference to me in terms of who's products and services I will use going forward.

    Please keep telling us more about this DC-7's restoration.

    Now,...I do know of a rather forlorn Convair 880 sitting at Mojave that also needs a good home!

    Thank you again for saving this icon from the golden age of flight.

  7. John Rizzo jr. | Dec 12, 2019


     

     

    Would you have the log book from back in the mid-1980's?

    I flew this a/c then to dakar Senegal and back.Then i lost my

    logbook I know it was tanker 33.Just like to know

     

    Thank you

  8. John Marsh | Dec 12, 2019
    I've been a DC-7 fan since I was five years old! My first plastic model was a Delta Golden Crown DC-7B. Can't wait to come see this wonderful aircraft when it goes on display at the museum. 

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