Delta pilot finds note in cockpit describing previous pilot’s ‘chilling’ aircraft experience

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(NEXSTAR) – A Delta pilot flying out of California recently discovered a note from the plane’s previous captain detailing a “very chilling” experience upon landing at the same airport over a year ago.

First Officer Nick Perez, who has been flying with Delta Air Lines for just under five years, found the handwritten letter on June 1 while preparing to bring one of Delta’s grounded A321 aircraft out of storage at California’s Victorville Airport. The plane had been parked at the facility 435 days before amid plummeting demand for air travel as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As Perez soon learned, the note was purposely left behind by First Officer Chris Dennis, who had tucked it inside a tray table on the flight deck.

Dennis had flown the A321 to Victorville from the Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport (MSP) on March 23, 2020. Upon landing, he felt compelled to document his feelings upon seeing rows and rows of other out-of-service aircraft and envisioning what that may signal for the air travel industry.  

“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,” wrote Dennis. “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!”

Chris Dennis left the note as something of a “time capsule” after seeing a “shocking” number of out-of-service aircraft parked at the Victorville Airport. (Delta Air Lines/Chris Dennis)

As Dennis later told Delta, he didn’t know he was ferrying the plane to Victorville for storage when he left MSP and only became aware of the plane’s fate during his final approach. After landing, he was instructed to bring the aircraft behind a “follow-me vehicle” that would lead the plane to a parking spot alongside a “shocking” amount of other parked planes.

“I thought about how many people’s jobs rely on just one of those airplanes,” Dennis told Delta. “From the reservations agent, to the ticket agent, to the pilot, flight attendants, mechanics, the ramp crew. Then you go a level deeper: the rental car agency, the hotels, the tourism companies.”

On Facebook, Dennis also described the moment as “apocalyptic” and “surreal,” likening it to the grounding of all flights immediately after the attacks on 9/11.

“It is horrifying,” he wrote of the pandemic’s effect on the travel industry. “Please stay inside, social distance, and let this blow over quickly.”

After finding the letter on June 1, Perez said he could imagine how Dennis felt.

“He had to have been thinking he was leaving his job. Back in March, I was 100% certain I was going to lose my job,” he told Delta.

Perez also said there now seems to be a “light” at the end of the tunnel, just as Dennis had hoped.  

“[Back then], we were getting good at landing empty airplanes, now we’re going in the right direction. I’m in good spirits. I’m very optimistic. I feel like how I felt in 2017 again — ready to get going.”

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