First Hand Account: Emotional Delta Pilot Flies Airbus A321 Into Hibernation

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A Delta Air Lines co-pilot has shared his story of the emotional journey to take an Airbus A321 for storage in Victorville, California. The employee shared haunting images of a sea of Delta planes parked up, and described the situation as ‘apocalyptic’, far worse than 9/11.

Delta Air Lines
A sea of Delta Air Lines planes are already at Victorville. Photo: Getty

Flying planes for hibernation

Like many other airlines, Delta is parking a large portion of its fleet as the aviation industry sags under the weight of the current coronavirus pandemic. Almost a fortnight ago, it was reported that the airline was looking to park some 300 planes and cut all its flight to the EU. However, by the middle of last week, that number had ballooned to 600 aircraft as the carrier battles to combat plunging demand and border closures around the world.

Over the weekend, we reported on how one of the runways at the world’s busiest airport, Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson, was being used as a parking place for Delta. Now, it appears some planes are heading to the desert for storage too, as one co-pilot shared on Facebook this week.

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Co-pilot Chris Dennis was asked to fly an Airbus A321 to Victorville for ‘hibernation’ earlier this week. The sight that greeted him on arrival he described as ‘horrifying’, as a sea of Delta aircraft stretched off into the distance. Here’s his account of the emotional journey to drop off the aircraft.

Delta Air Lines
The pilot described the scene as ‘horrifying’ Photo: Getty

An emotional journey

Delta Air Lines co-pilot Chris Dennis walked us through what it was like to operate a flight to put an aircraft into what airlines are increasingly calling ‘hibernation’. His post on Facebook is enough to send chills down your spine, as the impact of the global grounding of airline fleets really begins to hit home.

In his own words, he found the experience “chilling, apocalyptic, surreal”, pointing out that every one of those aircraft parked at Victorville in California for storage is representative of hundreds of jobs, and more.

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He goes on to compare the experience to the post-9/11 grounding, where aircraft were parked at airports all across North America until it was deemed safe to fly again. He noted that this situation somehow feels “more real, more urgent”.

Back in 2001, the grounding was localized and temporary. Aircraft stayed at their home airports, and were kept ticking over by maintenance engineers, ready to take to the skies as soon as the all-clear was given. With the current crisis, there is no end in sight, and as such the groundings are more dramatic in appearance. Chris said,

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.”

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He concluded his post by saying that the situation was nothing short of “horrifying”, along with a warning for people to follow the government’s advice.

“Please stay inside, social distance, and let this blow over quickly.”

What do you think about Chris’ images and story? Let us know in the comments.

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Rishaban

I just can’t see the planes like this.
My prayers to all the airlines to fly again soon.
#wewillbeatcovid19

JFP

While I feel sorry for the pilot who posted this, I do not feel sorry for Delta. Delta’s failure to support what little is left of the U.S. airliner industry should be cause for no U.S. taxpayer dollars to “save” the company with Government Charity. Ed Bastian should be asking Brussels for help. Not Washington. Charity begins at home.

mohave

Flightaware shows many arrivals at VCV today.. I am surprised it is a tower airport. Crew can rent cars to LAX.

J.G.K

If he flies, i will fly too, if he don’t yet, i will earnestly wait, only for him🈶㊙️🀄💓💞John1:47, Roman8:36-39

Theresa McQueen

My son works at Boeing Seattle
They are currently in shutdown of supposedly for deep cleaning
But they are moving planes around I hope soon they go back the Companysaid 2 wks i.hope the plant wont be grounded like the Max’s

Mike

@JFP

UNBELIEVABLE what a shortsighted remark! First of all you completely (conveniently) forget to mention that Delta took delivery of over 130 Boeing 737-900ERs in recent years. In my opinion not exactly a small order for Boeing.
Also, you completely disregard the fact that Airbus has a production line in Mobile, which is providing jobs for Americans.
AND (a lot of) Airbusses have american engines and other american made components, providing even more jobs for Americans.
AND, since you are so much about american jobs: what about all those american flight attendants, pilots, engineers, catering workers, ground staff etc etc working at Delta? Should they lose their jobs just because Delta didn’t buy enough Boeings in your opinion???
AND to further add to that: should everybody working at Allegiant, Frontier, jetBlue and Spirit all just s**k it up just because their company didn’t buy Boeing planes???
All this grief just because Delta dared to order A330s/A350s….. (and A321s, but so have American and United)

The world is more complex than just a ‘Boeing’ or an ‘Airbus’ label on a plane. You’re such a whiner!

Jack Straw

Cool.

Marilyn

Not true that airlines didn’t permanently park jets after 9/11 – I was flying for UAL at the time and they parked ALL of the 727’s almost immediately. Yes, this is far worse, but check the facts on 9/11.

Joe

Most Pilots don’t really know the efforts and the brutal environment of how many people work the ramp to get these planes offloaded,loaded, fueled, serviced, weight n balanced and out on time. Thousands of people who have been here for Delta since the 80s. 7.5 and 9/11 to say the least. Ed has kept everyone on payroll, even those who clearly are not needed at this time. Ramp workers way at the bottom who only work a few hrs a week are not needed for the amount of flights currently and when they start flying as a smaller airline. Delta has always cut low seniority personnel to protect full timers. They reduced everyones hours to cover pay for those not needed. Not fair to those who took a hit multiple times in the past. Now that they are on top the treatment is not the same. Moral is down and eventually those at the bottom will be laid off anyways. So why play the politically correct roll under a spot light? Those on top need not their pay compromised. They expect the same treatment as decades and decades before. Pilots are union and they keep their salaries to chill n stay home. Flight attendants n ramp workers are non union. But maybe after this?

Engr. (K.D.) Glen Glendinning

The notion of an unstoppable killer virus spreading globally is nothing short of apocalyptic.

A pandemic is the worst case scenario, and this is the case currently.

For a broader appreciation, see: https://www.mphonline.org/worst-pandemics-in-history/

It is patently disastrous.

Nobody needs to be thinking like normal.

This demands a complete seismic shift to a new mindset.

There is no time to be feeling sorry for yourself, nor for your cherished choice of profession. Tens of thousand of people are dying all around the world

Better to be thinking how best to be contributing to the solution.

Justus kitandwe

Let us all ride on hope, it’s what is left for us at this time

Charlie Kabeya

Just sorry about what is happening to airlines, crew and everyone due to this pandemic. Jobs are going to be lost businesses closed and employees sent home. Let hope that all this ends up fast as it started.

Ray Powell

My very rough estimates is that it takes 100 people per airplane to keep these airlines flying. So when 6,600 airplanes are in hibernation, that’s 660,000 people not working. They are now worrying about mortgage/rents/lease payments, groceries, clothing, dental, and their families. Even simple things like getting your haircut will be difficult. So this co-pilot is right to be emotional and despondent. Getting people to fly again will be exceptionally hard and tedious and this co-pilot could be out of work for a long time.

Valerie

Well.. I was a flight attendant for Delta during 9/11. It was surreal. I was an International flight attendant..having come from Pan Am initially. We were use to the drama of unexpected surprises..we were the flag carrier of the U.S. When 9/11 occurred, it was very scary.. even to me ..having flown for 44 years. I think Delta depended on us to exude confidence and we all did. It is all together a different scenario now. It’s scary, but in a different way. I definitely think that attitude is a plus. You have to believe that we are going to come out of this…even better. There will be bumps and bruises along the way..but we are a pretty strong nation. If you would have seen, what I saw, in my career.. you would have to agree that Yes…we are special. We are unlike other nations and things will get better..attitude is our strength…I have seen planes in the desert..but under it all..I had positive feelings.

Redcrow46

They should just leave the Mad Dogs there when things resume. DC-9 scheduled U.S. flights are probably over. Man did they have a good run!

steff

good time to do some full on maintenance on every plane now

Puskal

Very sad to see all these things happening so fast…hope things will get normal very soon…God bless us all..

S. Thyng

PS — Most people outside NYC and the MSM know that this is grossly inflated.
What about all the d***k driver fatalities every weekend by the dozenss, or the
ignored u**y opiod overdoses also by dozens weekly ??