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Polishing the Golden Crown: The Painting of Ship 717

Jan 14, 2021

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Delta TechOps paint crew responsible for Ship 717's good looks

If you have been following our recent social media posts, you know that we were finally able to pull Delta Douglas DC-7B, Ship 717, over to the museum. The aircraft looks great and we wanted to show a little bit about how we got to this point. As always we relied heavily on the talent and expertise of Delta Technical Operations. You can learn more about Ship 717 on our website.

This is what Ship 717 looked like coming from the desert:

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The previous owners had approximated the original Delta paint job, but we knew we were going to need to start from scratch to get the historic look we wanted.

Once the aircraft arrived in Atlanta, Delta TechOps teams began to work on minor body repair so that the aluminum skin would be ready for stripping and painting. Paint stripping began and we got to take a rare peak at what this aircraft looked like prior to ever being painted in the late 1950s. It's stark appearance held very little evidence of the luxury that it was celebrated for during its flying days with Delta.

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 While we have a lot of images of Delta's DC-7/7B fleet and Ship 717 arrived with a few markings, Delta's technicians in the paint shop wanted an original source as they developed a plan for proceeding. The Boeing Archives obliged with a paint schematic that included measurements and paint colors that they attempted to match.

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  Original Douglas paint schemes for Delta's DC-7B. Courtesy of The Boeing Company.

The technicians mentioned that they used more paint stripper than they thought they would need to get Ship 717 down to rivets. Perhaps that last layer they removed, closest to the aluminum of the fuselage, was remnants of the original paint, that had long been painted over - probably multiple times. 

Ship 717 also flew in with badly tinted window glass. The windows were removed and were refurbished to a clear finish.

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Stripped down, the painting commenced in September of 2020. Soon Ship 717 began to regain its former Golden Crown shine. 

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   Saved for last a member of the paint team removes the U.S. flag stencil.

The move from Hartsfield-Jackson to the Delta Flight Museum in the early morning of Saturday, January 9, 2021, was cold and dark, but it couldn't help to warm everyone's heart that for this first time in over fifty years a Delta Douglas DC-7 was in front of the historic Delta hangars. Ship 717 will be able to educate our visitors about the evolution of aviation during the middle of the 20th century and inspire all who are able to catch a glimpse of that Golden Crown.

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Ship 717 at dusk in front of Hangar 1, photo courtesy of Brian Gore

Painting Notes: "Delta Air Lines" over the rear door The Douglas plans we obtained from Boeing showed airlines as one word over the rear door, instead of the way Delta has historically presented it. We have some photo evidence indicating that the one word remained for a little while, before it was corrected to "Air Lines". Soon we will make a similar correction.

Engine Cowlings The cowlings are missing the Delta name and stripes. We will be adding these as well.

Underbelly Previous owners had painted much of the underside of the rear of the aircraft. It was determined that removing this paint layer to the skin would make it hard to ever get a good polish, so a gray paint similar to paint that is found in other areas of the aircraft was used to protect this surface. The underside at the front of the aircraft was able to be stripped safely and we are looking into getting that polished as well.

Time-lapse of Ship 717's painting:

16 comments

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  1. Jack Underwood | Jul 30, 2021
    The restoration is not complete without the ship number "717" on the nose wheel cowling an and top of the horizontal stabilizer.  I tried to leave pictures, but guess this is not supported on these comments.
  2. Jim Neumann | May 19, 2021

    As a young mechanic in 1965 (ORD ) I spent almost all of my working hours working on the Recips. The senior guys got the jets. That proved to me to be my lucky break!! Not only did I have an opportunity to work on this rapidly fading important piece of history, but, i also (and most importantly) learned how to use my hands and head in harmony. I am very grateful !!!

    They were really FUN to work on.

        
  3. Carol Mutz Burk | May 18, 2021
    I served many meals and drinks on her out of ORD in 1964-65
  4. Bob Gulbrandsen | May 18, 2021
    I can remember walking this aircrafts wings as a Delta Fuel Service Agent in ORD Chicago. Memories of taxing the DC-7s  to the hangar and seeing the engines glowing re hot in the night sky, is something a person will not easily forget.  She just represented Power even as the jets where becoming popular. Sweet old bird ! 
  5. Ed Brewer | May 17, 2021
    I refueled may of the days back in 1960. Pumped many gallons of115 octane gas and 120 weight oil in those mighty engines.
  6. John Murphy | May 16, 2021
    Great job. I unloaded a lot of air mail from bin 4 on the 7's in '64 .
  7. Capt.Ken Bogle | May 05, 2021

    WOW!I just looked in my log book.Flew ship#717 from April 1966 to August 1966 out of Chicago.Then from Sept. to Dec.1966 out of Dallas.Some flight engineer,but mostly co-pilot.What a beautiful era.The jet-age was rapidly approaching and the beautiful reciprocating engine era was ending.Can't wait to see 717 in person.

     

  8. Mike Storms | Apr 20, 2021
    YES! Can't wait to see it in person when the Museum opens back up!
  9. Kevin K | Mar 08, 2021
    Can’t wait to see this one up close!
  10. Donald L Dudley | Feb 22, 2021
    Beautiful example of the ultimate piston powered airliner.  The paint scheme shows off the classic lines of the DC-7.  Perhaps you should consider this airplane portrayed on apparel of some sort.  
  11. Michael Steiger | Feb 03, 2021

    fantastic....absolutly fantastic...   My father flew as flight engineer, Copilot and captain on this plane and loved the tour made possible by the Atlanta Chief pilot.     The hearitage of our airline is important to those who helped the airline grow. I am happy our airline recognizes its unique history.

     

    Michael

  12. Susan Kraham | Jan 16, 2021

    I flew the DC-7 out of MIA in 1966-1967, when we were still called stewardesses.  Always enjoyed that airplane.

    Great paint job, guys!

  13. Jim Hoak | Jan 16, 2021
    They did a great job! I worked on that airplane as a mechanic in the early 1960's. Brings back memories!
  14. Gary Harper | Jan 15, 2021

    Absolutely fabulous job and a labor of love.  My favorite livery on my favorite aircraft then and

    now!

     

    Looking forward to reliving old times visiting the Delta Museum.

  15. Charles Bautz | Jan 15, 2021
    I think we need a Gemini Jets 1/400 version of this aircraft.
  16. Adrian Murphy Masingill | Jan 15, 2021
    Thank you so much for posting this information and pictures.  My Dad actually worked in the old hangar when the DC-7 was put into service.  He built a replica from wood and his picture with it standing next to the actual plane was in the Delta Digest.  I have many great memories of Delta growing up and continue to be a huge Delta fan to this day.

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