Going Direct: Are Fly-Ins Happening Again?

The return of small flying get-togethers mirrors a larger divide in America about social distancing and how to tackle the virus—a divide that might be fading as we speak.

Ultralight aircraft landing
An ultralight aircraft landing. Photo by Lucas Rizzi/Shutterstock

I was just looking at photographs on FB from a fly-in that happened up in Alaska over the weekend. There are some great pics of big-tire planes doing their STOL thing at Skwentna, and I wish I had been there. It looked like a hoot. And as I flipped through them, I came to a photo that stopped me in my tracks. It was of the people at the fly-in hanging out. I’m not really shocked by it. I just wasn’t expecting to see it.

Where I live, there are masks everywhere. Well, not everywhere, but at least at the places where I go, which is to the grocery store and pharmacy very occasionally. Of the folks in Target yesterday, I counted one person out of maybe a hundred or more who wasn’t wearing a mask. And people weren’t being crazy about it, but they were giving each other plenty of room to move. That’s the way it has been here for the past couple of months now. I’d say we’re used to it, but we’re not. We hate it. But it’s what we’re doing.

At the Skwentna fly-in there were no masks, which got me thinking several things. First, why not? Are those fly-in goers not worried about the coronavirus? Do they feel safe in the sense that they’re geographically more isolated than I am here in a big city in Central Texas? Are they making a statement? I don’t know, and maybe all of the above. It just struck me that here we are, 41 days from when Oshkosh was going to be happening and we won’t be doing it.

I will say that I was really looking forward to it, but for many of the same reasons that we won’t be having it. Because I miss my friends and I miss being around lots of airplanes. The folks up in Alaska aren’t suffering in the same way. Are they taking a risk? Probably not a huge one, but hey, we fly small airplanes, so let’s be serious about risk. That said, I don’t want to get this thing, and I don’t want any more loved ones to get it, either. Thank goodness they’re over it with no apparent long lasting effects, but it was brutal. The fewer the merrier.

At the extreme other end of the country, Florida, our friends in Deland are gearing up for their annual Deland Sport Aviation Showcase, which is set to take place November 12-14. The head of event organizing for Deland, Jana Filip, shared a release today on the subject, and it’s a press release, but there’s a lot of subtext here.

Without missing a beat, she answered questions before they even came up: “This is going to be, first and foremost, a safe event…and when I say ‘safe’ I mean that in terms of a healthy environment, good facilities, carefully planned flying operations and ground ops.” I’ve been to Deland before, and it’s an event, unlike Sun ’n Fun and Oshkosh, where you can social distance effectively, though managing the exhibit spaces might be a challenge. Can it be run safely? I’m guessing that it can be. How safely? It’s really one of those things that you can’t know for sure until you get there. We do know that it won’t be as safe as not going. But with proper precautions it’s not a crazy thing to plan to do.

Again, Filip answered my next question before I’d had a chance to ask it. Will exhibitors be there? I mean, that’s a big part of the fun of fly-ins like Deland. Checking out the new stuff.  “Thankfully,” she wrote, “the industry is responding so very well already to our plans. We have quite a number of important exhibitors already committed to the show, and advance interest is growing nicely.”

Finally she shares something that I think we’re all feeling, saying, “We have very high expectations for this year and for the good we can do for all our friends in the sport aviation industry. Sport Aviation needs a ‘win’ for 2020,” and Deland hopes to be able to be that event.


I hope so, too, though until we get a vaccine and effective treatment, the risk, especially for folks in the typical aviation demographic, will remain.  Which just brings us back around to the fact that flying itself has risk. We make our choices and take our chances. I’ve been flying since I was a kid, and I’ve always been happy with that deal.


Save Your Favorites

Save This Article