The airline industry was one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, as global and domestic travel came to a screeching halt last spring. When the pandemic was officially declared in March of 2020, no one knew what to expect or how long the timeline of lockdowns and life changes would last.
Two weeks after the declaration, Delta pilot Chris Dennis flew one of the airline’s planes to Victorville, CA for storage. He shared photos on Facebook that day of empty planes neatly lined up, saying it was a day he would remember for the rest of his life.
“Chilling, apocalyptic, surreal…all words that still don’t fit what is happening in the world,” he wrote. “Each one of these aircraft represents hundreds of jobs, if not more.”
“For those airline folks who were around for 9/11, this feels even more real, more urgent. During 9/11 aircraft were stuck at airports around the country and the enemy was known. Now, they are all concentrated in huge lots and mothballed waiting for this battle to turn around against an enemy we can’t see or fight.
While we all are under 14 day quarantine and are sick of looking at our ceilings and walls, this is what is happening to the airline industry and other industries out there. It is horrifying. Please stay inside, social distance, and let this blow over quickly.”
As we all know, it turned out to be much more than a 14-day quarantine.
The final photo Dennis shared was a note he wrote and left in the tray table of the cockpit on March 23, 2020.
The note read:
“It’s March 23rd and we just arrived from MSP [Minneapolis-St. Paul]. 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!”
According to The Washington Post, the plane Dennis left the note in was used for parts for other aircraft while it was parked in Victorville, a common occurrence for planes in storage.
More than a year later, it was time for the aircraft to be “woken up” and prepped for passengers once again—and that’s when Dennis’s note was found.
Delta shared the note on Facebook and explained how Dennis had left it on the parked plane. Then they wrote about how it was found:
“Fast forward more than a year later to First Officer Nick P. landing at VCV and starting on his checklist to wake up ship 3009. One thing he didn’t expect to find was Chris’ letter, tucked away on a tray table in the flight deck.
Those 57 words, which captured so much of the uncertainty and emotion we all felt in March 2020, underscored the gravity of the trip, and how optimistic he now feels about the direction we’re heading in. Ship 3009 is now prepared to take the skies once again.
While the world certainly has changed over the past year, one thing is for certain: we won’t be taking that open runway for granted anytime soon.”
Thank you, First Officer Dennis, for the reminder of how far we’ve come since March of 2020 and how grateful we are to see the light at the end of the tunnel.