In the midst of a morning adventure to the Spiral Jetty yesterday, my inReach satellite messenger began to beep. “Delta called” she said. Adventuring back into LTE land, I learned my request to fly the 757 was successful. I was going to be given the chance to fly the mighty 757 again! Huzzah! Further delving into today’s schedule I saw a new airport code for me, MZJ.
Pinal Airpark is home to some interesting operations, both military and civilian, as well as over 250 airplanes waiting for their chance to live again. Some await government certification, some await public demand, and many await a new life, being recycled from their current state into something completely different.
The austere circumstances that were filling me with excitement for the opportunity to command a 757 just one more time met with the harsh reality that this flight might be her last. Not knowing what the future holds for Ship 690 and myself, we decided to make this last fight one we’ll never forget.
Tracing flight paths Matt, Josh, and I had shared just a few days prior we saw the magical hard pan at Ibex, wondering if that surface could handle 154,500 pounds. Overflying the canyons Bryce and Grand, reminiscing of the many many times we’ve both seen the twists and turns into the solid rock that mere water created. Then came Prescott. A place that will always feel like home, and a wing-wave or two to a few good men who rest there for all eternity. The Valley of the Sun, so clear, so vast, lead us into the southern part of the state, where I’ve spent many years perfecting the art of airmanship.
But then I saw the faint glimmers of Pinal, and the hundreds of airplanes that look across the barren desert landscape and see clear blue skies that never end. Ship 690 has had an amazing life, spending all her almost 8,000 days flying Delta passengers across the world. The vacations, weddings, the newborn children and the fallen soldiers, those that serve our nation and those who support them. The millions of souls that she has touched will never be the same.
Within seconds of shutdown, however, the crews began to prepare her for her next journey. Not sure when it will begin, her air data probes were covered, windows sealed, and engines plugged. Her fluids drained, and her circuits shut down. The whirring fans now cease to keep her cool. Today’s 105°F heat will keep her warm for some time, and from now until that glorious day she is thrust into the air with the help of a fellow 757 pilot, I will remember the words of Saint-Exupéry who said “If I search among my memories for those whose taste is lasting, if I write the balance sheet of the moments that truly counted, I surely find those that no fortune could have bought me.” Til Valhalla, good friend.