An AvGeek’s Dream: The Delta Flight Museum Monthly Surplus Sale

Are you the kind of person that gets all excited about getting their hands on an original Northwest Airlines flight manual? Perhaps you’d like a service cart that’s been lovingly used in service for a few years but is looking for a quiet place to retire? How about an entire row of original 727 seats? All at rock bottom prices? If any of this sounds interesting to you then you definitely need to check out the monthly surplus sale at the Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta.

The Delta Flight Museum might be located at Atlanta’s airport (Delta’s biggest hub), on the same property as their global headquarters, hold some of their most treasured historical items, and use the same parking lot as their employees, but the museum is technically a separate entity from the Delta Air Lines we know today. Technically a not for profit organization dedicated to preserving the history and culture of Delta, they mainly get their income to maintain the historical aircraft and staff the museum through donations and events like the Surplus Sale.

Every month Delta Air Lines scrounges up a significant chunk of old memorabilia, used service items, and other spare junk that’s been cluttering up the hangars and donates it to the museum. Things that are interesting are preserved in their collection, and everything else is made available for sale to the public as a fundraiser.

These events are held monthly, typically on the second Friday of the month, but exact times and dates will be made known through the museum’s calendar. This month I decided to take a 24 hour trip out to Atlanta specifically to visit the sale and see it for myself.

I’ve been to the Delta Flight Museum before (highly recommended, BTW) and the surplus sale takes place in roughly the same location, just a different building across the parking lot. Basically, just follow the 747 and the DC-9 and you’ll eventually find it. The building is small, but there should be a rather large line of people making it clear which one is the right one.

Talking with the museum staff it sounds like there’s typically a large interest in the event, and that the early mornings are the busiest time. Which makes sense, since a lot of what the surplus sale has to offer are one-of-a-kind or rare items and once they are sold they are gone. The previous month was heavy on service carts, for example, but they had sold out so none were available this time around.

The staff will meter the number of people allowed into the building at one time to make sure that it doesn’t get overly crowded, and as people leave new people will be admitted. Even with the long line I don’t think I waited more than 30 minutes to get in during the busiest time of the day.

Speaking of unique items, this overhead luggage bin from an old American Airlines Boeing 757 (from sometime after Main Cabin Extra had been implemented, so since March 2012) was somewhat out of place in an otherwise Delta heavy surplus sale. But as the museum staff noted, it’s not only Delta that donates things but also other locations and even Delta employees cleaning out their basements.

Once inside there was a treasure trove of items, from the silverware used in first class dining to even the tables and chairs. In the back were a row of seats from old aircraft that were no longer needed, and I watched as more than one of them were shoved into the back of a car.

Oh yeah, that’s the catch — you need to remove everything you purchase from the property yourself by the end of the day. So if you’re thinking big then maybe bring a pickup truck. Or, if you ask nicely, they can set the item aside for you while you organize transportation.

As you enter you are handed a paper receipt and a pencil and asked to note everything you pick up on the paper. At the end there are two tables, one for cash transactions and one for credit cards (minimum $5 purchase). They square the reciept with what’s in your bag, charge you, and you’re off out the door.

To be honest I didn’t get a lot of stuff from the sale. A Delta branded carafe that I thought my wife might like, a binder cover from Northwest Airlines, and some assorted trinkets. But there’s definitely some interesting things on offer, and this is as close as you’ll get to rummaging around in Delta’s attic crawl space looking for gems.

Nick Leghorn

Nick Leghorn is an instrument rated private pilot (ASEL), writer, and general techy nerd living in Austin, Texas.

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