In March 2020, Delta pilot Chris Dennis left a note in the aircraft he was parking in a Victorville, California, storage lot, thinking it would be discovered after a two week quarantine. But after being discovered 435 days later, the note is now being called a “time capsule.” 

Dennis said he parked the aircraft in a storage lot along dozens of other planes and said each plane represented hundreds of jobs. He described the scene as “Chilling, apocalyptic, surreal,” in a March 2020 Facebook post. Airlines were in the process of parking passenger planes en masse for storage as travel fell to historic lows.

Dennis wanted to commemorate his emotions and the situation in a note for the next pilot to find.

“Hey pilots – It’s March 23rd and we just arrived from MSP,” Dennis wrote in the note. “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!”

At the time, the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic was just beginning. In the year that followed, schools, restaurants, gym and travel were all put on largely on pause. 

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The pilot to find it was First Officer Nick Perez on June 1. He said he was instantly taken back to the memories of how different world was in the pandemic’s early days.

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Last March, Delta Airlines announced flight cuts due to the pandemic and in October the airline reported a $5.4 billion quarterly loss. Due to the state of the airline business, Perez said many pilots and workers assumed they’d lose their job. 

“He had to have been thinking he was leaving his job,” Perez said in a Delta press release. “Back in March, I was 100% certain I was going to lose my job.”​

Now as millions of Americans are receiving the COVID-19 vaccine and restrictions are lifting, Perez reflected on the note and just how much has changed. On Friday, for the first time since the pandemic, Transportation Security Administration screened more than 2 million people, marking a victory for the industry. 

Delta Airlines aircraft are stored at Southern California Logistics Airport, Wednesday, March 25, 2020, in Victorville, Calif. (Photo: Mark J. Terrill, AP)

“I kept thinking about my mindset now compared to his when he left this note,” Perez added. “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.”

Follow Gabriela Miranda on Twitter: @itsgabbymiranda

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