EAA Cancels Air Academy


While the big show of AirVenture is still officially on, EAA has canceled its series of youth summer camps for 2020. Last week, the association announced that the Air Academy sessions would be canceled and that participants signed up for this year’s events could “reserve a place in the 2021 Air Academy,” EAA said. “While this was an enormously difficult decision and is a disappointment to us all, the health and safety or our campers and a fulfilling camp experience were our priorities for the young people involved.”

The Air Academy is made up of several layers of summer camp, from basic model building and practice building an aircraft wing (for 12- and 13-year-olds), an intermediate level for those 14 and 15 years old, up to an advanced camp for ages 16-18 that includes actual flight experience. All camps take place in and around the EAA headquarters in Oshkosh.

EAA has at least a couple of weeks before having to make a hard decision on whether AirVenture takes place this year, either on the original July 20-26 dates or later in the summer.  

Marc Cook
KITPLANES Editor in Chief Marc Cook has been in aviation journalism for more than 30 years. He is a 4000-hour instrument-rated, multi-engine pilot with experience in nearly 150 types. He’s completed two kit aircraft, an Aero Designs Pulsar XP and a Glasair Sportsman 2+2, and currently flies a 2002 GlaStar.

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  1. Wise decision for the welfare of the Air Academy participants. I hope the same consideration is given to Airventure.

    “Prudence is an attitude that keeps life safe, but does not often make it happy.”
    Samuel Johnson

  2. I hope Airventure goes on as planned. Allowing pilots, vendors, attendee’s, volunteers to make up their own minds as FREE THINKING adults. Time to let people make up their own minds about what to and what not to attend.

    “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” B Franklin

  3. In this situation with Covid-19…”I hope Airventure goes on as planned. Allowing pilots, vendors, attendee’s, volunteers to make up their own minds as FREE THINKING adults. Time to let people make up their own minds about what to and what not to attend”…comment and subsequent Ben Franklin quote transcends the political affecting the potential physical health of me, my family, my neighborhood, my geographical region, and state.

    Louisiana, NY, NJ, IL, FL, etc., became Covid-19 epicenters because many FREE THINKING adults exercised their constitutional rights to assemble, gather, and ignore inconvenient but sorely needed health practices, namely social distancing. Many took a political platform, including using out-of-context founding father’s political quotes to justify poor judgement and behavior that flew in the face of a simple, well known and proven, scientific fact. Others simply did not care.

    Strict social distancing will have to implemented and cooperatively done to buy the necessary time for current therapies and a future vaccines to be developed. Strict social distancing is an inconvenient truth that buys time so as to not overwhelm our hospitals including the ability to provide emergency and routine services outside of Covid-19 infections. None of this was new news then or now. Louisiana took it to another level of irresponsibility by hosting Mardi Gras in the face of the growing, overwhelming health crisis already taking place in NY. Less than a month later, they too are an epicenter of Covid-19 disease. FL’s beaches were filled with Spring Break revelers, taking their infections back to their homes all over the country, with a large concentration in the midwest, upper-midwest, and the northeast coast adding to the already chaotic scene in NY,NJ, and CT. Plus sowed the seeds of infection in areas previously unaffected.

    The problem is, those decisions by those “FREE THINKING adults” affected the health and in some cases, contributed to the death of people who did not participate, nor sanction, or have any choice in those FREE THINKING adults decisions. For me, with a daughter-in-law RN handling these cases face to face, in person, in the front lines with Covid-19 infected patients, as a result, makes it more personal to say the least. Add to this scene, 42% of those infected have no symptoms, meaning without testing to see who is actually infected, any EAA Air Academy or Oshkosh attendee will be in close proximity to a completely unknown quantity of infected, highly contagious participants.

    Considering the age demographics of the average EAA member and Oshkosh attendee, it is abundantly clear to me that Oshkosh AirVenture 2020 could be a future Covid-19 breeding ground with a very disproportionately high Covid-19 fatality rate as a result.

    It’s one thing to assemble in fighting the cause of “taxation without representation”. But use that platform to justify irresponsible behavior under the label of FREE THINKING adults exercising their constitutional rights affecting the freedom, health, and literally life of so many others is, in my mind, pure selfishness.

    I am sure, when one is suffering in a crowded ICU with a ventilator aiding one’s already labored breathing, there is little comfort from hearing those immortal political words of Benjamin Franklin “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

    • Jim H,

      You then have no idea what H1N1 did to this country and we didn’t lock it down. The Models haven’t been proven out (with SD built in) with deaths and beds, etc. In fact so far much less than H1N1. There was no vaccine for H1N1 for 7 months from when the epidemic started and YET, NOPE, we didn’t shut down the entire country. People go sick, ME!!!! People made decisions based on it and life went on.

      I wholeheartedly disagree with this protectionist mind set, like, you will protect us all from the bad sick people, and that we can’t move forward until there is no virus, or no sick people. Has NEVER HAPPENED in the history of the country and shouldn’t have happened now.

      I hope EAA goes on and, you, have the choice to stay away and since you now have used typical scare tactics anyone who is worried can stay away. I assume you’re not impacted by the economic slow down and shut down, either you’re retired or not effected. Good for you, bad for everyone one else while people preach to us how “we have to do our part” and get arrested for not wearing a mask, or riding a bus, or visiting our family, or whatever. Time to move on and get back to work and flying, and EAA.

  4. I for one hope Airventure is held. Things are slowly improving.The one writer talks about the virus hot spots. I live in New Jersey and it’s definitely getting better. They’re talking about reopening schools in a few weeks. Hopefully it continues to do so. The administration is talking about opening up in a few weeks. I’ve been stuck at home for 4 weeks,the original information was if exposed a person would have symptoms in a week. We’ve been quarantined for a month. The press is obsessed with the body count. If you dig into the stats you’ll find it’s not nearly as bad as predicted. I agree that if you’re concerned about attending don’t go. But barring a resurgence the show should be a go.

  5. “Has NEVER HAPPENED in the history of the country and shouldn’t have happened now.” You are only partially right…it has never happened to this country AND the world because Covid-19 has never happened to this world.

    All of your stats, models, predictions, and subsequent actions to minimize, control, and then deal with the H1N1, swine/bird flu, normal influenza, SARS, MERS, and every other pandemic… those who got these diseases exhibited symptoms making it relatively easy to identify the infected allowing for a targeted approach in dealing with it. This made it much easier to isolate, and then contain. No need to shut down the planet. I am sorry you got sick and had to deal with it first hand. I am sure you did not want to do something to infect others either. I appreciate that.

    For seven months, people like those today, worked hard for some solutions. Governments, medical leadership, pharma largely knew how many were infected and where they were located. I remember those models and predictions were eventually downsized as more real time info became available. In every one of those events, quick identification followed with immediate isolation/quarantined. No need to shut down. No hospitals overflowing with people who can’t breath requiring immediate ICU. People who had it cooperated and there was little mystery on who had what and when. We should be thankful that those outbreaks were LESS than the best understood predictions.

    42% of the people who have Covid-19 today don’t have symptoms, don’t know they have it…but they are three times as contagious than those infected during any of the previous pandemics. Plus, even today, we have very little idea who actually is infected. At this point, of those identified with Covid-19, only 25% have recovered and of those who have had an outcome…meaning you survived or died…79% recovered and 21% are dead. Not good percentages to hold an event with 600,000+ attending, with the largest percentage of those in attendance in the 50+ year old range. I would say that is a Covid-19 target rich environment based on current facts not computer models.

    But hey, we are “flattening the curve” making us willing to scoff at an additional 60,000+ deaths as an acceptable price to pay to do what we want when we want to. All in addition to the 40-60K that normally die of flu complications, the 45K deaths from auto accidents, and the 1.5 million who die each year from properly prescribed drugs. Seems like we are getting pretty jaded by these numbers making losing 2 -3 million plus American people a year from our top 10 diseases a normal occurrence but well within our comfort zone.

    I am 67 years old, lost my aviation job due to Covid-19, own, maintain, and fly my own airplane ( much less now because of finances), and have attended EAA conventions since Rockford only missing a few years while being a troubleshooter ( Green shirt) on the flight deck during flight ops, and AMS ( aircraft mechanic) during my nine years in the US Navy. I have been a spectator and exhibitor at SNF, AOPA events, Oshkosh, AEA, NBAA, Deland, etc. I am an A&P as well. Until Covid-19 shut down the US economy I was working full-time and planned to for at least another five years. You have made a lot of assumptions about me, my lifestyle, my finances, and why I exhibit what you call my “protectionist” world-view.

    I want Oshkosh to happen, just like I wanted to stay employed in aviation. My job had me attending virtually every major aviation event in the US during 2020. I looked forward to these events just like thousands of other aviation devotees. But Covid-19 has stopped all of this, shut down the world for a time because no one knows whose got the disease, very few have immunity, a high percentage of those we know that has had Covid-19 have died, and without pro-active intervention ( social distancing, testing, and isolation of those infected), it has proven to spread like wild fire. The present laws, mandates, recommendations, lock downs, etc…whatever you want to call these instructions… have been put in place because leadership and the medical community has long known that most people WILL NOT DO WHAT IS NECESSARY on their own volition.

    The sooner folks comply, the sooner this country gets back onto it’s economic feet…and I get to go back to work, planning on attending all the aviation events I normally attend. The sooner folks comply, the sooner I get a paycheck and get to burn fuel, use parts, and keep current doing what I really enjoy. I believe folks who find that doing what is necessary too much a pain in the a#! are the ones prolonging my unemployment, putting my family unnecessarily in harms way, consider 60K dead an unpleasant nightly box score, and prolonging or preventing any reasonable hope of defeating this pandemic. I want less dead, faster economic recovery, better long term assurance of living, and seeing aviation thrive again.

    I am sure you do too. And I want to be happy, elated, that this early compliance leads to a body count waaaay below the best estimates. I will not be a sore winner complaining less died than predicted. My “protectionist” world has proven stats. Your world-view also has demonstrative stats. Mine is the only one that has and will “flatten the curve”. Yours has proven to ignite Covid-19 epicenters all over the globe, all over various places in the US.

    • I emailed the folks I always stay with at Oshkosh yesterday apologizing and telling them I had decided not to come this year even if Airventure is not canceled. Unless there is a miracle vaccine (unlikely) by July, I could not risk getting sick so far from home (particularly since I am in an age group that has a high mortality rate) and I wanted to give them plenty of time to find someone to replace the income they would lose from me. They emailed back to say I they were just about to let everyone who had planned to stay with them know that they could not have people in their home in the present situation and were not going to be hosting Airventure attendees this year. Even if Airventure is not canceled, I suspect it will be a very different experience. Perhaps my view of the situation is colored by having a wife who is a surgeon at a major medical center which now has over half its beds occupied by COVID-19 patients. She cannot operate on non-emergency patients because the hospital is turning ORs into intensive care rooms to take advantage of the ventilators in them. This crisis in not like swine flu, H1N1 or any other medical crisis I have experienced in the 30 years married to a medical professional. I am very sad about missing Oshkosh this year, but for me, it is much too scary a time to think about mingling with tens/hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world in close quarters.

  6. Jim, well stated and thought out. All of us wish AirVenture will be held, but we need to look at the facts of the community spread of Covid-19. We pilots are a disciplined lot with checklists, crew management, aeronautical decision making, and situational awareness. Take the emotion and frustration out for a moment, and that is hard to do, but look at the facts and you’ll have your answer. We as a society unfortunately that seems to change by crisis not by choice. Until we have accurate testing on a wide scale to know how much of our communities are in infected or not, and we have an effective vaccine, we’ll be fighting this pandemic blind.

    I am a director of a school district aviation program in a conservative Florida county. I have seen what impacts Covid-19 has had on our community and the school program. Kids staying at home and attempting to learn on-line continues to be a challenge, and incredibly stressful for the parents. They didn’t ask for this, but have to deal with it anyway. This crisis is a marathon, not a sprint to a way to end it.

    I share the last paragraph to highlight what I have seen. Many in our community still rail against what they call “media hype”, and it is “really no different than the flu”, and “lets get back to normal”. These are the folks out and about without taking any precautions, no face mask of covering, or gloves if they have them. These are the folks who let their kids run all over the place touch everything in the grocery store, or “I’m too young to be infected”, and “I’ll make up my own mind on what I can do”.

    Until we exercise community “Situational Awareness” and “Appropriate Decision Making” on a more consistent basis, we won’t be done with Covid-19 for quite some time.

  7. I am not sure EAA will be able to do much if the state of WI bans mass events/gatherings. Unfortunately, as much as I want the “show to go on,” it will largely depend on what restrictions are in place.

    Also, don’t forget all the vendors, volunteers (this one is the real key), etc. If they start to back out, where does that leave EAA?

    No matter your personal view on COVID-19 and what EAA should do, I suspect the largest influences on EAA’s decision will external forces.

  8. S.B.: Rights come with responsibilities. As Jim H & others pointed out, staying at home is being responsible.

  9. Business leadership and political leadership is under enormous stress and responsibility with this Covid-19 pandemic. But so is the average citizen.

    AirVenture attendance far outstrips the local area hotel and motel resources/room availability. Many long term attendees, exhibitor and spectator alike, have had long term housing arrangements with local Oshkosh, Fondulac, Appleton homeowners. As Mr.D has shared, most will not take the chance of having EAA participants staying in their homes. A wise decision. Most homes large enough to be rented out for AirVenture are owned by folks with kids and relatively large families. That makes renting your home to out of town/state/country folks a real danger to your family upon return. Secondly, where would those willing to rent their homes go when AirVenture starts? Wisconsin residents would not want to go to Illinois or Michigan. Go west to a closed national park? Even rest areas are closed. Lastly, as an attendee, do you really want to stay in a home of unknown infection opportunity? Sleep tight while you cover yourself in someone else’s sheets, after showering in someone else’s shower, after walking all day with mask and gloves on, after having EAA volunteers taking your temps before entering after leaving, and standing six feet away from everyone. Kind of makes trying on the latest ANR headset , or touching that stick/yoke of the latest flight sim, discussing the latest pilot iPad app, or working in the latest workshop with an EAA volunteer instructor, or buying an AirVenture 2020 T-shirt a real adventure. I wonder how many of the normal 5,000+ volunteers want to see, talk, or be around a bunch of masked/gloved gray hairs, while in close proximity taking temps?

    If EAA does host AirVenture 2020, are they ready for the litigation/liability avalanche of lawyers/lawsuits, massive poor, politically motivated local/national/global press, opinions, and analyse/armchair quarter-backing, followed by the outrage of Oshkosh citizens who have their town medically turned upside down by “rich, country club, general aviation pilots/aircraft owners”?

    I am sure Jack and friends have already considered all these scenarios and more. EAA would turn from a family friendly, Oshkosh supported, long term, highly regarded aviation organization grown with hard work, dedication, volunteerism, and common sense, into oblivion. And if EAA fails from the fallout of an ill-timed event in the face of a global pandemic, it will be a very large nail in the aviation coffin.

    A lot at stake for Oshkosh locals, attendees, the EAA itself, and aviation as a whole. Today, no one is immune from the ramifications of their Covid-19 decisions.

    • Jim H., you are the voice of reason. Too many unknowns, EAA is the heart of GA, people are the heart of the nation. Airventure can wait.

  10. As much as I have EAA tattooed on my butt, I have to agree with Jim. None of us are yet aware of the true hit this is putting on the economy. While some will be able to attend, and still buy groceries, we are clearly moving in the direction of a correction to our economy only a select few can recall. Add to that the vexations of risk from impossible social distancing mandates. Karen and I first attended Oshkosh in 1977. Personal hygiene was a challenge then, and has been an issue each year since. There are many factors coming together to suggest maybe EAA needs to bite the bullet, and not provide an attractive nuisance. Our founder taught us EAA is all about the people, and the airplanes just serve as the conduit to unite us. That axiom has to be implemented in these unprecedented, and confusing times.

  11. Folks, everyone is welcome to comment here. But this a not a newsgroup nor Facebook. It is a moderated forum. We’ve been wielding the delete key and will continue to do so for those who don’t abide by our reasonable standards.

    Reasonable standards include short responses–please–on topic and respectful, civil language.

  12. I remember teaching a high school drafting class the morning of 9/11. We had the TV on watching the news and I remember telling the class “the world as you know has changed forever”. It is the same with Covid-19, so events with large attendance such as AirVenture should be postponed until there is a vaccine and or widespread testing to see how many have been or not been infected. With the current lack of a national plan, to expect things will be back to a safe normal by July is too much to expect. Time to pull the plug and get on with alternative plans.