By Jack J. Pelton, EAA CEO and Chairman of the Board
March 26, 2020 – My fellow EAAers, I’m writing this to address the status of AirVenture Oshkosh 2020. Today we are still planning on having the event beginning July 20, 2020. In that context, I wanted to let people know how we’re approaching the planning process for AirVenture, and to help people understand the timetable as we sort through the ever-changing world events.
Certainly, the world has changed dramatically in recent weeks with the global COVID-19 pandemic, beginning internationally and now at extremely concerning levels within the United States. Most of you reading this are impacted by state-by-state orders to stay home and follow specific CDC guidelines on social distancing, hygiene, and other precautions to slow the spread of the virus. The circumstances have changed rapidly here as well, with Wisconsin enacting a stay-at-home mandate until April 24. We are supportive of those restrictions, and at EAA we have closed our headquarters, with all staff working from home and adhering to the most stringent standards possible. But thankfully, due to the technology infrastructure investments we have made, a majority of our employees continue to focus on their daily tasks, which include production of your monthly magazine, digital offerings, and of course AirVenture planning.
On a daily basis over the past several weeks, I have had countless calls, emails, and teleconferences with EAA members, volunteers, AirVenture exhibitors, sponsors, aviation manufacturers, our board of directors, and EAA employees. This is in addition to assessing the daily influx of CDC data and daily health guidance recommendations from local, state, and federal government.
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.
As we look at AirVenture, with our own similarly complex but also radically different set of circumstances, we have the rare luxury of making our decisions just a little bit later. 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.
Currently our timetable for our next major decision point is not until May. In the meantime, we are continually preparing and in planning mode, 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. Again, it is important to consider all options, but it is also possible that even as I gather and digest incoming relevant information, I may not have any significant updates over the next couple of weeks. We will understand a lot more when we get to the end of April. That is the time most stay-at-home mandates could expire.
I want to ensure you that as our AirVenture planning continues, I will keep you posted. I want to thank everyone for their patience as we weather the “storm before the calm.” Frustrating as it is, we’re in a holding pattern right now. The best thing we can do is keep a watchful eye on the conditions and make the best decisions as factual information comes in, to ensure the health and safety of everyone attending our event. As aviators, we know that this, like all storms, will pass, and whatever transpires over the next couple of months, EAAers will see it through with the mutual support and fellowship that have been the cornerstone of our organization for the past 67 years.