On March 23rd, Delta Air Lines First Officer Chris Dennis flew an Airbus A321 to the desert for storage. After a chilling visit recognizing the impact of the crisis on aviation, the pilot left a letter onboard the aircraft that served as a time capsule. Now, as that aircraft comes back 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 memory for airlines.
Delta pilot leaves a letter in an Airbus A321
The story began on March 23rd, 2020. First Officer Chris Dennis arrived at an empty Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport (MSP) to prepare for a trip to Victorville, home of the Southern California Logistics Airport (VCV). This was not an ordinary passenger flight but a flight to park the plane in preparation for the incredible downturn in travel demand.
On arrival in Victorville, Dennis noted that he was taken aback by the sheer sight of how many Delta aircraft there were at the facility. The planes, all being parked amid a downturn in aviation, represented the shocking decimation of travel in the United States and the dire future ahead for airline employees.
The initial thinking for the Airbus A321 that he parked at Victorville was that it would be parked for 14 days, as Minnesota and the country prepared to stay at home and get to know more about the disease spreading around the US and the world.
Before departing, he penned a letter that he clipped on the tray table in the flight deck. The letter read:
“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!”
The Airbus comes out of storage
On June 1st, 2021, 435 days after the aircraft was first parked in California, First officer Nick Perez came across the same letter onboard the Airbus A321. The last year took its toll not just on the industry but also on this aircraft.
The plane parked at Victorville is ship 3009. According to Delta, it is the last of its Airbus A321s parked at the facility. The initial 14-day theorized stay for the jet did not materialize, and the aircraft faced a very different future.
Over 120 of the plane’s parts went to support other aircraft during its 430+ day stay in Victorville. It is not uncommon for parts from aircraft parked in long-term storage to be lent out to support other aircraft. Now, the aircraft is working its way back into the system, and the airline’s team is starting to get the aircraft ready to return to service.
Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.
Travel demand is coming back, and so are aircraft
Delta is far from the only airline bringing back aircraft into service. This long, intensive process does not happen overnight, but airlines are working as fast as possible to get these planes back up in the air and support the industry’s recovery.
Domestic travel is coming back much more strongly than international travel. For those trips, aircraft 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 industry’s fragility and the ongoing nature of the recovery. It will take time for the industry to fully recover, but a sustained recovery continues, and airlines see value in bringing back all, or nearly all, of their jets to service.
What do you make of this time capsule of a letter? Let us know in the comments!