Inside the curious world of the Delta Surplus Sale

Where to find a great deal on an airplane propeller

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Delta Surplus Sale Atlanta

Photograph by Caroline Eubanks

It’s a rainy Friday afternoon near Hapeville. But that’s not keeping around 20 aviation geeks from lining up under umbrellas outside Delta Air Lines headquarters: Today is the Surplus Sale, where enthusiasts can pick through cast-off airline memorabilia. Outside, the scene is fairly quiet—save for the roar of planes taking off and landing at Hartsfield-Jackson. This is a slower day, one of the volunteers tells me as I enter a gray cement building sitting in the shadow of a 747 parked a few dozen yards away.

“Our sales draw in hundreds of people each month,” says Tiffany M. Meng, director of operations for the Delta Flight Museum. Doors open at 9 a.m., with the truly committed queueing up around 7:30: Some of the items are highly sought after and everything is first come, first served.

After its 1995 founding, the museum started holding sales a few times a year in its circa-1940s hangars. “We’ve sold a lot of unique items over the years, including a pressurized DC-9 door, an aircraft lavatory, aircraft crew rest bunk beds, and even overhead bins,” Meng says. The sale is a fundraiser helping to cover operating expenses and exhibits for the nonprofit museum, whose attractions include old aircraft, Olympics mementos, and a flight simulator.

Delta Flight AucDelta Surplus Sale Atlantation Atlanta
A scarf commemorating Delta’s 50th anniversary

Photograph by Caroline Eubanks

Delta Surplus Sale Atlanta
In need of airline seats? Or oven racks?

Photograph by Caroline Eubanks

Following a 2014 renovation, the event moved to an adjacent maintenance building and now takes place the second Friday of every month. Inside is a maze of neatly organized shelves, with clothing kept together and labeled boxes filled with amenity kits and keychains. More valuable pieces, including signed sports memorabilia, are behind a glass counter. Winding my way through the aisles, I chat with two Delta folk and a family of four, on spring break from Mississippi.

At last month’s sale, I picked up a 1970s flight attendant vest and a poster announcing the 747’s retirement. On offer this time: airplane seats, propellers, beverage carts, jackets, 50th-anniversary Delta scarves from 1979, and even a model of the airport’s last expansion. There are also pieces from airlines affiliated with Delta like Pan Am, Republic, and Northwest.

Delta Surplus Sale Atlanta
My haul from the sale

Photograph by Caroline Eubanks

The museum lists upcoming sales on its website and hosts an annual airline collectibles show on the first Saturday of October that brings in more than 50 vendors and collectors from around the country.

This article appears in our August 2023 issue.

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