Early on Friday, May 1st, EAA made the announcement that it was canceling the 2020 edition of the Oshkosh AirVenture Fly-In, which had been scheduled to run from July 20-26.
EAA CEO and chairman of the board Jack Pelton described that making the call this early—the event doesn’t kick off for more than two-and-a-half months—was all about the logistics. “The current status in Wisconsin,” Pelton said in a press release announcing the cancellation, “is that it is still under a stay at home order until May 26, which completely eliminates our ability to start grounds preparation May 1.” He also noted that even if EAA staff had been able to begin grounds preparation, there is no guarantee at this point that mass gatherings would be allowed by July 20th. “The reopening of the state,” he wrote, “also has no specific dates, creating uncertainty about mass gatherings in July.”
The gathering was to be the 68th EAA fly-in, and the 51st in Oshkosh. The EAA will roll over admission tickets already purchased for the 2020 event into the 2021 fly-in. EAA will be contacting ticket holders directly with communications outlining their options.
In explaining the decision that EAA reached, Pelton compared his decision-making duties with those of the pilot in command of an aircraft: “Those of us involved in aviation know very well the importance of information gathering and planning prior to any flight, and I looked at AirVenture in much the same way before reaching this decision,” he said.
He also addressed potential criticism that the organization should have gone ahead with the show planning despite the obstacles, “While no one can see every eventuality, as we looked as the scenarios for holding the event in 2020, it was dependent on a number of important factors where there are currently no definitive answers. That is not the way to commit to an event that welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors to Oshkosh from more than 90 countries.”
Health and safety concerns might have sealed the deal. In the release Pelton wrote, Ultimately, preserving the health and safety of all who would attend – and all the varying guidelines between states and countries from where our participants arrive – along with the massive commitments needed now for an event to meet EAA’s high standards, made cancellation the only option for this year.”