"If you are here to pick it up then the light must be at the end of the tunnel."

By Cailey Rizzo
June 14, 2021
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After 435 days stuffed into a tray table, a letter from a Delta pilot was discovered as an unintentional time capsule showing just how much the world has changed in the last 15 months.

On March 23, 2020, Delta First Officer Chris Dennis flew an Airbus A321 to a lot where Delta aircraft sit in storage in Victorville, California.

Dennis was flying the plane from Minneapolis-St. Paul to the California desert with uncertainty, according to a Delta press release shared earlier this month. The world was just starting to shut down due to the pandemic and no one knew what the future would hold.

Delta plane
Credit: Courtesy of Delta

At the time, the plane was only scheduled to stay in the desert area for 14 days - a shockingly long amount of time, Dennis thought. As he parked the A321 at Victorville, the pilot drove past seemingly endless rows of Delta aircraft and realized the gravity of the pandemic. Struck by the moment, Dennis wrote a letter to the pilots who would eventually take the plane out of storage and tucked it into the crew tray table.

Letter left in Delta plane
Credit: Courtesy of Delta Air Lines

"Hey pilots - It's March 23rd and we just arrived from MSP," Dennis wrote in his letter. "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!"

Dennis posted about the experience on Facebook, where it was shared more than 4,000 times in more than 35 different countries. But even though he knew the experience was unique, he did not know how long it would be until his letter was unearthed. But the 14 days Dennis originally thought quickly passed. Then another 400. It was a grand total of 435 days until his note was found.

On June 1, Delta First Officer Nick Perez received instructions to "wake up" a plane parked in Victorville. The maintenance team who brought the plane back to working order told him he should check the tray table in the flight deck for a surprise - and Dennis's letter from March 2020 came falling out.

"I kept thinking about my mindset now compared to his when he left this note," Perez said in a statement. "[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."

Dennis's note is still onboard the aircraft, reminding all the Delta crew who work onboard the plane just how much has changed since the early days of the pandemic.

Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, or at caileyrizzo.com.