Ten days ago, Plane & Pilot first asked EAA how it was addressing its planning for AirVenture Oshkosh, the biggest airshow in the world, in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Back then, many of us were just starting to wrap our heads around the idea that large events like OSH, which is set to get under way on July 20, could be at risk.
But EAA, headed by President and CEO Jack Pelton, was already looking ahead, and said that planning would continue and that the organization would keep on assessing the intelligence as news emerged.
Things have changed while EAA’s course remains the same. Now under a “stay at home” order from the state of Wisconsin, the organization is largely preparing for the big event, while running its regular activities as well, with employees working from home. Yesterday EAA issued a press release detailing its preparations—and how its circumstances were different from other large July gatherings, including the Olympic Games in Tokyo, which have been postponed for a year. EAA named a probable date, early May, when it would have to make a call.
In an open letter, Pelton addressed the cancellations and postponements, pointing out the differences between them and AirVenture, “We are also closely following and assessing many of the larger closures of world events. In the case of the Olympics, the world’s athletes have already lost crucial training time because of restrictions imposed in response to the viral outbreak. It also is a completely international event. This meant the organizers were forced to make their ‘go/no go/go later’ decision early on. The same holds true with the Democratic National Convention being held in Milwaukee, as they too look at every contingency, including allowing time for preparations to host the proceedings online if need be.”
Sharing some details that those outside of EAA are rarely privy to, Pelton went on to explain why EAA can afford to wait a little longer. “While AirVenture 2020 planning began in earnest at the end of AirVenture 2019, the real onsite preparation work for our annual convention doesn’t happen until May. That is when many of our dedicated volunteer work parties arrive in force and start the serious work to prepare the convention grounds. We have already identified those tasks that could be deferred until June, while still enabling us to have a safe and successful event in late July.”
Additionally, the EAA leader outlined what possible deviations the organization could take if it does need to change directions. “We are continually preparing and in planning mode,” Pelton wrote, “which includes a variety of ‘what-if’ scenarios. The choices are stay the course, delay, or cancel. Of course, the ability to delay would be dependent on volunteer support and exhibitor commitment and probably could not be later than late August.”
Pelton said it might be a couple of weeks before the next update as his team goes about the business of getting ready for AirVenture while the leadership team keeps abreast of news by “assessing the daily influx of CDC data and daily health guidance recommendations from local, state, and federal government.”