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

    Dec 06, 2019

    7-16-19 Getting towed

        Ship 717 towed in Coolidge, Arizone 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:

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