First Officer Chris Dennis’ brief, hand-written letter left on the flight deck of an A321 parked within the California desert originally of the pandemic was found by a fellow pilot — greater than a 12 months later.
“Examine the tray desk.” First Officer Nick Perez dropped the tray desk within the flight deck of ship 3009, the final A321 nonetheless parked for storage in Victorville, California. There, he discovered a letter from a fellow First Officer, Chris Dennis, the final pilot to fly this plane earlier than COVID compelled 1000’s of cancelled flights, uncertainty, a world pandemic. As passenger masses and departures decreased drastically on the onset of the pandemic, 435 days in the past, Dennis had parked ship 3009 within the California desert. Feeling the surreality of the second, he penned a notice for the pilot that will get to do the return to service flight. As he learn the letter, Perez was transported again to emotions from 15 months in the past, a chilling reminder of how various things have been, and the way totally different we really feel at present. “In case you are right here to select it up then the sunshine have to be on the finish of the tunnel,” the letter learn. SLEEPING IN THE DESERT On March 23, 2020 the world was solely starting to enter the pandemic tunnel. First Officer Chris Dennis picked up a visit to VCV. At first look, he did not acknowledge the airport code and appeared it up: Victorville. He knew of the desert airport. The importance of this flight began to sink in. When he arrived at an empty MSP airport that Monday, he realized this explicit journey could be uncommon. The airport was empty, quiet. A single Pink Coat greeted him. “We pushed again with the bottom crew; the terminal was empty. It felt desolate,” he stated. They took off to Victorville as Minnesota locals heard talks of a two-week lockdown. “It wasn’t till we have been on ultimate strategy headed in for touchdown when it hit me,” Dennis later recalled. “The VCV directions famous to go behind a ‘follow-me car’ that brings you to a parking spot. As we crossed the runway: Delta plane. It is onerous to fathom what number of plane Delta has till you see that lots of them parked in a single place.” “Once we bought in line, it appeared like an optical phantasm. It simply saved going and going,” Dennis stated. “I do not know tips on how to describe it – it was surprising.” “I thought of how many individuals’s jobs depend on simply a type of airplanes,” Dennis stated. “From the Reservations agent, to the ticket agent, to the pilot, flight attendants, mechanics, the ramp crew. Then you definately go a degree deeper: the rental automobile company, the inns, the tourism corporations.” Dennis parked 3009 for what he thought could be a 14-day keep at VCV. Even then, 14 days was a surprising period of time to him. Recognizing the impression of that second, Dennis penned a letter to function a “time capsule” and tucked it away within the tray desk for the crew that will take the plane out of storage. The letter reads: “Hey pilots – It is March twenty third and we simply arrived from MSP. Very chilling to see a lot of our fleet right here within the desert. In case you are right here to select it up then the sunshine have to be on the finish of the tunnel. Superb how briskly it modified. Have a secure flight bringing it out of storage!” Feeling overwhelmed, Dennis shared images of his journey and his letter to Fb. As individuals tried to return to phrases with what was occurring the world over and to our trade, the put up went viral, shared by over 4,000 individuals throughout greater than 35 nations. 14 days handed, and 3009 stayed parked. 100 days. 300 days. Photographs of parked plane taken by First Officer Chris Dennis in March 2020. His images are actually preserved within the Delta Museum. WAKING UP 3009 Now, 435 days later, after a 90-day go away, reflecting on the immeasurable 12 months that drastically stands out amongst his 25 years of piloting, Dennis lastly sees that mild on the finish of the tunnel he referenced in his letter. First Officer Nick Perez, who’s inching on 5 years with the airline, reads the identical letter over a 12 months after it was written with a mindset influenced by the pandemic, however extra optimistic. On June 1, 2021, he landed at VCV and began planning his mission to get up 3009. Earlier than taking off, Perez and the crew went via pages and pages of pre-flight verification. Whereas parked, ship 3009 lent elements to different plane, a normal apply for long-term storage. However this mortgage was extra excessive than common. In actual fact, over 120 of 3009’s elements went to different plane throughout its unprecedented 436 days keep at VCV. Tom Trenda, a TechOps mechanic based mostly in MSP, and his crew spent weeks getting ready this plane, and lots of others, to fly once more as Delta’s masses and schedules picked up. Perez spent a while chatting with Trenda earlier than departing, recognizing the importance of what the upkeep groups achieved for what was, initially for Perez, simply a normal ferry flight to MSP. “These groups achieve this a lot work as issues crumble round us,” he stated. That has change into significantly evident prior to now few months, as upkeep crews throughout Delta work to get up the airline and head into restoration. As Perez ready to depart, Trenda talked about that he ought to verify the tray desk within the flight deck – that he’d discover one thing inside. When Perez flipped down the tray desk, Dennis’ notice fell out – 57 phrases encapsulating the uncertainty and emotion all of us felt in March 2020. Perez acknowledged that notice. He’d seen it go viral final 12 months. Ship 3009, awaiting takeoff. 3009 was the primary A321 to park and the final to depart VCV. It was solely after studying the notice that he understood the gravity of the journey. He instantly started to consider how Dennis will need to have been feeling when he wrote the letter. “He needed to have been considering he was leaving his job,” Perez stated. “Again in March, I used to be 100% sure I used to be going to lose my job.” Perez’s pre-flight process does not embody the identical worries. “I saved fascinated by my mindset now in comparison with his when he left this notice,” Perez remembers. “[Back then], we have been getting good at touchdown empty airplanes, now we’re entering into the correct path. I am in good spirits. I am very optimistic. I really feel like how I felt in 2017 once more – able to get going.” “As they get into that airplane, they will see the alternative view than I noticed,” Dennis recalled. “There’s going to be an open runway in entrance of them.” As we speak, Perez sees the open runway that Dennis hoped for. On June 1, 2021, the A321 got here out of storage at VCV and ready to take the skies as soon as once more. To Dennis, its re-entry means restoration. Whereas 3009 has been parked lots longer than Dennis’ authentic prediction of 14 days – 435 days later, ship 3009 is now out of the desert. His tray desk notice is now with the flight crew, able to be added to a different time capsule, as an emblem of the 15 months Delta spent navigating the pandemic, towards the sunshine all of us knew was on the finish of the tunnel.
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