435 days later, Delta pilot’s ‘chilling’ note found marking beginning of ‘apocalyptic, surreal’ pandemic

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What a difference a whole year can make …

On March 23rd, 2020, Delta first officer Chris Dennis parked an Airbus A321 commercial passenger jet airliner at a storage facility in Victorville (VCV), California, for what he hoped at the time would be no more than a 14-day shutdown because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But before exiting the plane, he left a letter for whoever would fly it next.

“Hey pilots – It’s March 23rd and we just arrived from MSP. Very chilling to see so much of our fleet here in the desert. If you are here to pick it up then the light must be at the end of the tunnel. Amazing how fast it changed. Have a safe flight bringing it out of storage!” that letter read.

He also published a Facebook post about how he was feeling, and in it he included a photo of the letter:

A note I left for the crew taking the airplane out of storage when this is over.

Photo taken by Chris Dennis

Posted by Chris Dennis on Monday, March 23, 2020

 

“Today was a day I will remember for the rest of my life,” he wrote on Facebook. “A trip opened up to bring a Delta A321 to Victorville, CA for storage. I had no idea what I would see or the emotions I would feel. Chilling, apocalyptic, surreal… all words that still don’t fit what is happening in the world. Each one of these aircraft represents hundreds of jobs, if not more.”

Now flash-forward by 435 days to June 1st — way, way, way past the 14 days that Dennis had hoped for — when first officer Nick Perez was assigned the enviable job of releasing the plane from storage.

First he had to inspect the plane, and it was while doing such that he found Dennis’s letter, read it and was floored.

But it wasn’t that he’d never seen the letter before. He saw it when it went viral. It’s just that it never really resonated with him until he had it in his own hands.

“It was only after reading the note that he understood the gravity of” all that had happened, according to a news post on Delta’s website.

“He immediately began to think about how Dennis must have been feeling when he wrote the letter. ‘He had to have been thinking he was leaving his job,’ Perez said. ‘Back in March, I was 100% certain I was going to lose my job,'” the post notes.

Indeed, it had been Dennis’s greatest fear. In an interview with Delta, he described how he’d felt as he and his team descended into Victorville last March to stash the plane.

“It wasn’t until we were on final approach headed in for landing when it hit me. The VCV instructions noted to go behind a ‘follow-me vehicle’ that brings you to a parking spot. As we crossed the runway: Delta aircraft. It’s hard to fathom how many aircraft Delta has until you see that many of them parked in one place,” he said.

“When we got in line, it looked like an optical illusion. It just kept going and going. I don’t know how to describe it – it was shocking.”​

Every single one of those planes was slated to be put in storage..

“I thought about how many people’s jobs rely on just one of those airplanes. From the reservations agent, to the ticket agent, to the pilot, flight attendants, mechanics, the ramp crew. Then you go a level deeper: the rental car agency, the hotels, the tourism companies,” Dennis added.

435 days ago, as the COVID-19 pandemic forced thousands of canceled flights and a world of uncertainty, First Officer…

Posted by Delta Air Lines on Thursday, June 10, 2021

It took a long, long, long time, but the days of stress and worry over lost jobs are fast sliding into the past as the airline industry reboots.

However, they’re now being replaced by new worries brought on by the overwhelming surge in air travel.

“U.S. airlines are scrambling to add staff and upgrade technology as they face anger over prolonged call center wait times while tackling a surge in air travel following COVID-19 vaccinations,” Reuters reported last month.

“After a year of being cooped up, travelers are balancing the prospect of sunshine in Florida or fresh mountain air in Montana and Wyoming – among the fastest growing U.S. travel markets – with frustrations during the booking process. By July, U.S. domestic air fares and capacity could approach pre-pandemic levels, according to experts, but overall staffing at the three legacy carriers shrunk by roughly 20% last year.”

Indeed, and customers are noticing:

But hey, at least the airline is on the move again and life is finally slowly but surely returning to normal.

Vivek Saxena

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