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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:

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