On March 23, 2020, a Delta First Officer named Chris Dennis had the unenviable task of ferrying an Airbus A321 to Victorville, California, for storage.  It was the same task that many pilots had performed across the entire world, the aftermath of which I saw during my They Will Fly Again project.

an aerial view of a runwayDelta jets parked at Kansas City International Airport

As the A321 was guided to its storage place by a Follow Me car, the gravity of the moment began to hit Dennis, who posted the following to Facebook afterward.

a screenshot of a social media post

Image courtesy of Delta Airlines

Dennis didn’t seeing all of these jets from a helicopter like I did.  He saw them up close and personal.

a group of airplanes on a runway

Image courtesy of Delta Airlines

Wanting to keep spirits up, and maybe just to crystalize his own thoughts, Dennis penned a note for whoever flew the plane next and placed it in the tray table.

a paper with writing on it

Image courtesy of Delta Airlines

Hey pilots –

It’s March 23 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!

I remember seeing Dennis’s Facebook post last year, but I saw the note for the first time when perusing Reddit (it turns out that Delta did a story about the note recently as well) the other day.

This jet is now flying again.

I don’t think First Officer Dennis knew how long it would be before another pilot would come for his note.  It was not 14 days like we all hoped.  It was not 100 days.  It was not a year.  435 days later, First Officer Nick Perez came to Victorville’s Southern California Logistics Airport to ferry a Delta A321 back to MSP on June 1, 2021.

As Perez was preparing for the mission, TechOps mechanic Tom Trenda reviewed the steps taken to prepare the jet for flight once again.  He mentioned something quixotic: Perez should check the tray table in the flight deck.

As Perez prepared to bring Delta’s last stored A321 back into service, he found Dennis’s note.

a man leaning out of a plane window

Delta First Officer Nick Perez, courtesy of Delta Airlines

Perez realized the gravity of what he was doing.  “I kept thinking about my mindset now compared to his when he left this note,” Perez remembers. “[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.”

This Delta jet is finally flying again.

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