On March 23, Delta Air Lines first officer Chris Dennis flew an Airbus A321 into the desert for storage. After a frightening visit acknowledging the impact of the crisis on aviation, the pilot left a letter aboard the plane that served as a time capsule. Now, as this aircraft returns to service, it represents the light at the end of the tunnel and the return of air travel across the United States after one of the worst years in airline memory.
Delta pilot leaves letter in Airbus A321
The story began on March 23, 2020. First Officer Chris Dennis arrived in a Minneapolis / St. Paul International Airport (MSP) to prepare for a trip to Victorville, headquarters of the Southern California Logistics Airport (VCV). It was not an ordinary passenger flight, but a flight to park the plane in anticipation of the incredible decline in travel demand.
Upon arriving in Victorville, Dennis noted that he was surprised at the mere sight of the number of Delta planes at the facility. The planes, all parked amid an aviation downturn, represented the shocking decimation of travel to the United States and the dire future ahead for airline workers.
The initial thought for the Airbus A321 that it parked in Victorville was that it would be parked for 14 days, as Minnesota and the country prepared to stay home and learn more about the disease spreading to United States and around the world.
Before leaving, he wrote a letter which he hung on the cockpit tray. The letter said:
“Hey pilots – It’s March 23rdrd and we just arrived from MSP. Very scary to see so many of our fleet here in the desert. If you’re here to pick it up, the light must be at the end of the tunnel. Amazing how quickly this has changed. Have a good flight out of storage! “
The Airbus comes out of storage
On June 1, 2021, 435 days after the plane first parked in California, co-pilot Nick Perez came across the same letter aboard the Airbus A321. The past year has taken its toll not only on the industry, but also on this aircraft.
The aircraft parked in Victorville is ship 3009. According to Delta, this is the last of its Airbus A321s parked at the facility. The jet’s initial notional 14-day stay did not materialize, and the plane faced a very different future.
More than 120 pieces of the plane were used to support other planes during its stay of more than 430 days in Victorville. It is not uncommon for parts from aircraft parked in a long-term warehouse to be loaned out to support other aircraft. Now the aircraft is re-entering the system and the airline team is starting to prepare the aircraft for return to service.
The demand for travel is back, so are planes
Delta is far from being the only airline to return planes to service. This long and intensive process does not happen overnight, but airlines are working as fast as possible to get these planes back in the air and support the industry’s recovery.
Domestic travel is coming back much more strongly than international travel. For these trips, planes like the Airbus A321 are Delta’s preferred jets, and the airline typically uses them on high-demand routes from its hubs.
This time capsule inside an Airbus A321 is a reminder of the fragility of the industry and the continuing nature of the recovery. It will take time for the industry to fully recover, but a sustained recovery continues and airlines see the value of returning all or most of their jets to service.
What do you think of this one-letter time capsule? Let us know in the comments!