Collett E. Woolman

Collett E. Woolman
Born October 8, 1889
Died September 11, 1966 (1966-09-12) (aged 76)
Occupation CEO
Known for Founder of Delta Air Lines

Collett Everman Woolman (October 8, 1889 – September 11, 1966) was one of four founders of Delta Air Service, the airline now known as Delta Air Lines.[1][2][3] Delta Air Lines recognizes him as the principal founder.[1]

Personal life

Woolman was born in Bloomington, Indiana, United States but grew up in Urbana, Illinois, where he attended high school.

Between college semesters in 1909, Woolman attended the world's first aviation meet in Rheims, France, where his passion for aviation began.

He graduated from the University of Illinois, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in agriculture. Woolman married Helen H. Fairfield in 1916 with whom he had two daughters. By 1920, they had moved to Monroe in northeastern Louisiana. Woolman was 76 years old when he died in 1966 in Houston, Texas.

Delta Air Lines

Shortly after graduating from college, Woolman became an Agricultural Extension Agent at Louisiana State University. At the time, the Southern United States was battling a cotton-destroying pest, the boll weevil. Woolman assisted Dr. B. R. Coad, a United States Department of Agriculture entomologist, in his fight against the boll weevil. Coad was using calcium arsenate to rid the cotton plants of boll weevils, but the application of the dry powder was difficult to apply to the fields. Woolman, Coad, and their team began using army-loaned aircraft and pilots to conduct dusting experiments from the air. Huff-Daland Aero Corporation, an aircraft manufacturer, took notice of their experiments and decided to form a new division for crop dusting. Woolman was chosen to lead the new division, called Huff Daland Dusters, and eventually became vice president and general manager. In 1925, the headquarters were moved to Monroe, Louisiana, and their fleet grew to 18 aircraft.

The need for crop dusting dramatically decreased when the summer growing season ended. To compensate, Woolman started operations in Mexico where the seasons are reversed. Two years later, in 1927, Woolman expanded to Peru. While in Peru, Woolman began passenger air service, utilizing a unique agreement with Peruvian Airways Corporation. Although the arrangement did not last long, Woolman took the experience back to Louisiana.

Back in Monroe, Huff-Daland Aero Corporation was in financial trouble, and was seeking to sell off the Huff Daland Dusters division as a bailout. Woolman found four other local businessmen, C.H. McHenry, Travis Oliver, M.S. Biedenharn, and D.Y. Smith, who were interested in buying the division. The new company became known as Delta Air Service and Woolman was named vice president and general manager. A year later, in 1930, Woolman was named to the board of directors.

Although Delta Air Service kept a crop dusting division until 1966, focus was eventually placed on expanding airmail and passenger service. Over the next several decades, Woolman led Delta Air Lines and eventually became chief executive officer on November 1, 1965.

Woolman died on September 11, 1966, at 76 years old. Following his death, several memorials have been made in his honor. A reconditioned 1925 Huff Daland Duster was presented to the Smithsonian Institution by employees of Delta. Another memorial sits at the entrance to the Technical Operations Center in Atlanta. In 1992 he was inducted into the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame.[4] In 1994 he was enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame.[5]


  1. ^ a b Little, Ron (February 14, 2011). "Delta Air Lines, Inc (OUR HERITAGE AND LEGACY KEEPS CLIMBING)" (PDF). Delta.
  2. ^ "Founder's vision resonates today". Delta News Hub. Retrieved 2018-07-05.
  3. ^ "Timeline of airline". Delta News Hub. Retrieved 2018-07-05.
  4. ^ "Collett Everman Woolman". Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 2017-06-02. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
  5. ^ "Woolman, Collett "C.E." - Entrepreneur - Enshrined 1994". National Aviation Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on August 24, 2016. Retrieved August 26, 2019.
  • "Delta Leaders - C.E. Woolman". Retrieved 2014-07-23.
  • Field, Katherine M., ed. (1979), From Travel Air To Tristar: The First Fifty Years of Delta Air Lines, Miami, FL: Halsey Publishing Co.

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