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

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.

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.

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.”

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.