It’s not hard to read a lot into a symbol – especially when it’s a self-declared symbol like “The Spirit of Delta”, a Boeing 767 that was paid for through a voluntary fund drive begun by employees. Back in 1982, three Delta flight attendants began the campaign to persuade others at the nation’s number-three airline to sign up for payroll deductions to finance the purchase, which was about $30 million in then-dollars.
Much has changed since then: Delta is desperately bankrupt, riven by internal strife, its employee contributions are now involuntary, and the carrier is retiring all of its older 767s. ‘Spirit’ is making a farewell tour of Delta cities, and after 3 March goes into a hangar at Delta’s Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson airport hub.
That is perhaps a happier fate than the airline’s other vintage 767s, many of which will be converted to carry cargo in the overnight package-express trade, some of which have gone to Hawaiian Airlines, and some of which are headed, along with the type of spirit that Delta people showed nearly a quarter-century ago, for the runway of memory.