What was supposed to be only 14 days turned into 435.
On March 23, 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic canceled flights and states were stranded, First Officer Chris Dennis parked a Delta Air Lines plane in Victorville, Calif., In deserted terrain.
Before leaving the cockpit, Dennis wrote a note to the next pilot of the plane and put it on the tray table. That note was not reviewed for 435 days, when First Officer Nick Perez found it earlier this month, according to Delta.
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“Hey pilots, it’s March 23 and just arrived from MSP,” Dennis wrote in his 2020 memo. “Very scary to see so many of our fleet here in the wilderness. “
“If you’re here to pick it up, the light has to be at the end of the tunnel,” he added. “Amazing how quickly he has changed. Have a good flight out of storage! “
Dennis told Delta the gravity of the situation hit him when the plane landed.
“As we crossed the runway: Delta planes. It’s hard to imagine how many planes Delta owns until you see that a lot of them are parked in one place, ”Dennis said.
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“When we stood in line, it looked like an optical illusion. It just kept on going, ”he added. “I don’t know how to describe it – it was shocking. “
At the time, Dennis believed the plane would only be stored there for 14 days. Yet even during that time, the impact on the airline industry was not lost on him.
“I thought about how many jobs people have that depend on just one of these planes,” Dennis said. “From the booking agent to the ticket agent, to the pilot, to the flight attendants, to the mechanics, to the flight crew. Then you go further: the car rental agency, hotels, tourism companies. “
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The same day he wrote the note and left the plane in the parking lot, Dennis posted on Facebook about the plane drop off, claiming it was a “freezing, apocalyptic and surreal” day.
“While we are all in 14 day quarantine and fed up with looking at our ceilings and walls, this is what is happening to the airline industry and other industries,” Dennis wrote, in part, on Facebook. ” It’s horrible. Please stay indoors, social distanced, and let this stop quickly. “
Dennis had no idea it would take much longer than 14 days for the plane he had dropped off to return to service.
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According to Delta, Dennis’ No.3009 was the last A321 parked in the Victorville parking lot when Perez arrived on June 1 to prepare him to return to service.
While in storage, the 3009 had loaned more than 120 parts to other planes, so mechanics had spent weeks getting it and other planes ready to return to the sky.
When Perez arrived, he and the rest of the team bringing the plane back into service had to go through preflight pages.
While they were getting the plane ready, Perez spoke with mechanic Tom Trenda, who worked on the 3009.
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Trenda told Perez to check the tray table in the flight deck.
This is where Perez found Dennis’ note that was over a year old. Perez acknowledged this, seeing it go viral last year, according to Delta.
Perez told Delta that was when he realized how serious the situation was, especially for Dennis, when he wrote the letter.
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“He must have thought he was quitting his job,” Perez said. “In March, I was 100% sure I was going to lose my job. “
“I kept thinking about my state of mind now versus his when he left that note,” Perez added. ” [Back then], we were getting good at landing empty planes, now we’re headed in the right direction. I am in a good mood. I am very optimistic. I feel again what I felt in 2017 – ready to go. “
Dennis also said he feels optimistic about the future.
“As they get on that plane, they’re going to see the opposite view to what I saw,” Dennis said. “There’s going to be an open track ahead of them. “