AirVenture 2021: Yeah, We’re Gonna Do This


With AirVenture returning to the show circuit after 24 months in hibernation, it seemed impossibly tacky not to write an advance blog about it. I’m so excited, I’m packing an extra box of Depends and transitioning soon to decaf, just to keep things on an even strain.

Actually, I am not excited about the airline trip north, via Chicago and Appleton. Nothing I’ve read or seen makes me think the airline biz is sorted out yet and I think it’s going to be awhile before it is. I’m practicing Zen breathing and forced catalepsy while in the seated position; upright, no recline. It’s only three and half hours. I can stand on my head for that long.

Based on my observations at Sun ‘n Fun, I’m looking forward to being amused at the inevitable stutter starts when a galactic force like AirVenture stops for two years, then lurches into frenzied renewal as though nothing at all has happened. A lot has happened. Let me preload a few questions for you.

“Was this [insert thing] like this two years ago?” No, it probably wasn’t.

“Wasn’t this [insert object] somewhere else in 2019?” No, it has always been here, since about 1998.

“I don’t ever remember it being this muddy in the North 40.” Maybe you’ve never been to the North 40.

“Maybe it’s just me, but are there more porta-potties than ever?” It’s not just you, there probably will be more than ever, plus handy stations to delouse yourself and wash your hands. A lot of them.

“Didn’t the CAP cadets used to march in step?” No, as far as we know, they never did. They tried, but without obscene cadence songs, it never works. They may be six feet apart this year.  

“Say, I don’t remember there being two airshows going on at once.” Right about this. There will be two boxes to spread out the crowds along the flight line.

Being journalists and all, if a little jaded, we can’t resist speculating about what kind of show this will be. My prediction on attendance is that it will be robust, perhaps approaching 2019 levels. We already know there will be slightly fewer exhibitors, but it looks like the biggies will be back in town.

New stuff? Some, but not a bumper year. Garmin doesn’t have its usual megaload of dazzling hardware, but it pre-announced a software add-on for its navigators called Smart Glide, which throws a little AI magic at the engine failure nightmare. Avidyne also pre-announced a new upgrade package for legacy Cirrus airplanes and they’re ready to show it at OSH. Stratos also pre-announced the appearance of its 716X, an experimental version of the under-certification 716. Another avionics company, Adventure Pilot, is teaming with SA Photonics to show off a headset mounted display called PilotVision.

You may have noticed a pattern here: pre-announced. Companies have done this before at AirVenture, but my view is that we never see enough of it. In modern marketing, social media and web drives product buzz and a press conference announcing something is like so … 25 years ago. If you’re having one anyway, it probably means your social and web efforts are lagging or maybe you’re having press conference to report how well your social and web really did.

Pre-announcing an event at AirVenture causes a lot of people to see what’s coming and, if they’re interested, beat a path to the booth for an eyes-on look rather than relying on a bunch of cranky journalists to scribble down what was said, write it, then publish it. The dirty little secret is that if the product or event is pre-announced, we still cover it anyway as a second-day news story so there’s ever more exposure and people who missed the announcement get another chance to see it. (Plus, I’m not a fan of press conferences. Increasingly, they’re starting to remind me of Home Room.)

Has the pandemic changed the way companies are thinking about this and doing business? For Avidyne, the answer is yes. “Yeah we got pretty good at doing the webinar thing during COVID,” says Avidyne’s Tim Harper, “and we have tried to do pre-show briefings with the media for several years. But Dan [Schwinn] wanted to do something special with this Vantage launch and we thought it went off pretty well … the idea of course is to create awareness prior to the show so people will make it a point to come by the booth and see it. We’ll see how that goes.” The company held a webinar on Wednesday to roll out the Vantage. If I were in charge of marketing something, that’s exactly how I’d do it.

I’m really pining for some kind of outlandish surprise, like in 2006 when Cessna did an unannounced fly-by of what they were calling the NexGen airplane. Nothing came of it, but it was quite a sensation. It would, we thought at the time, have been a reiteration of the still-popular 210. So, Joby, if you’re listening, beat-up the field in one of those E-VTOLs, hover at show center and then disappear over the truck factory. That’ll stir up some buzz. While we’re at it, how about a few of those hypersonic tic-tacs? We know they’re out there.

Speaking of buzz, I’m hearing just a little of that concerning COVID-19 risk. A vendor mentioned to me in an email that he’s a little worried about what going on with the Delta variant of this virus. Well, so am I. As they are throughout the U.S., infection rates are trending up in Wisconsin with a surge in hospitalizations over the weekend. But the overall numbers are still quite small. (Here’s EAA’s current COVID guidance.)

Of course, Oshkosh in July is not Wisconsin, it’s the entire world with thousands of people coming in from all over the globe. It could just as easily be that the AirVenture population has a far-above-average vaccination rate as one that’s a fraction of the national average. And there is no way to assess this nor to assess the personal risk in attending. In a circumstance like this, I would normally say accept the risk, just don’t do anything stupid.

But what’s stupid? I have no idea. Is it camping and sharing the showers? Is it hanging around a crowded vendor booth? Standing in line for a brat or at the grocery store? I have and can offer no wisdom. I plan to carry masks but don’t know if I’ll use them. I will avoid large crowds wherever I can and if we encounter each other, don’t be offended if I stand six feet away. Upwind.

So if I see you at the show, it may be at a distance.

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  1. I spent all afternoon there today (Thursday) pre-siting my living arrangement trailer adjacent to the light sport runway. I didn’t see any masks whatever. In town, I saw a couple of people at the WalMart but that was it. Traffic seemed light. Camp Scholler had a lot of trailers but not as many as I remember from the past. There were hoardes of workers and volunteers grooming things and moving things around.

    I expected to see more airplanes but I’d say that it was pretty sparse with four days to go comparing it to past years on this day. At our airport 35 mi west, we’ve had maybe 10 airplanes stop for fuel … mostly Ercoupes headed to Wausau and the very first experimental (an RV) headed in two weeks ago. (EAA wrote about it on FB). In the past, there were more.

    Maybe the biggest issue is heavy smoke haze — apparently from fires out west and in Canada? Visibility sucked. The WX forecast is for some weather to go through here Friday and Saturday and for heat on Monday.

    While most of us were predicting a huge turnout, I’m beginning to wonder? The haze may have kept fliers away, however? I didn’t hear that many airplane landing, in fact.

  2. Normally, I’d relegate my viewpoint to allowing nature to thin the herd, or serious overpopulation, whether thru war, natural disasters or a plague. I have no problem with that generally. It’s nature’s way.

    Yet unintentionally, it appears the vaccine development, availability and supply has given nature a ‘clean’ method of doing just that. Virtually no one who has taken the vaccine is deathly ill or dying from infection. A virtuous, highly selective procedure to balance the herd, without randomly taking the innocent. Unwitting brilliance, if you will, between man and virus.

    Are children under 12 allowed in to all venues at OSH? Children under 12 are not yet eligible to get the shot so can contract the virus or the more contagious Delta variant and/or pass it along. If there are any ‘mask-free’ morons who have not been vaccinated at the show how concerned are they about the kids, and their parents, or their grandparents? Should they even be there? I submit that is one behavior that could be decided as Paul wonders as stupid, let alone irresponsible.

    We’re getting a lot of rain presently in the West, so I hope it can ease the smoke from the ubiquitous fires we are enduring and give the Osh crowd some cleaner air. Be safe there and proudly wear a mask if you wish to.

    • I didn’t want to get too deep into the weeds in the blog, but here are some numbers. The CDC reports some 5400 hospitalizations of vaccinated people and 1063 deaths. These, says the agency, are likely under reports.
      So on a vaccination rate basis, the hospitalizations are at 3.3/100,000 vaccinated and the deaths at 0.6/100,000. Quadruple that to account or under reporting and it’s still pretty low risk compared to no vax.

      For comparison, the longer term death rate in the U.S. is 188/100,000. So there is risk for vaccinated people, but despite the fuzziness of the data, it’s a fraction of going without the vaccination.

  3. I suppose that – like certain proverbial parts of the anatomy – everybody has an opinion about the mask mandates. Virtue-signaling aside, it would be pleasant to have the whole story, and it appears that our own government agencies may be the last place to find it. When I was in medical school many years ago, we learned in Public Health classes that there had never been a successful attempt to contain a contagious respiratory virus because long experience had shown it impossible. Current experience suggests that we are doing no better, although hydroxychloroquine, ivermectin, and vitamin D3 appear to be extremely effective in stopping the cytokine storm – essentially the body’s overreaction to the virus – that account for the vast majority of deaths.

    The vaccines appear to be helpful as well, though – just like real life – they are no panacea, either, and particularly in young adults can lead to some very nasty side-effects. The bad thing about having your heart attacked by inflammatory myocarditis is that you have only one.

    My advice would be to withhold words like “stupid” until one gets one’s own facts straight. Never ones to “let a crisis go to waste,” it might just be possible that that there are other, less altruistic, motives for mandating chin-diapers on a nationwide basis. Just a thought.

    • Beware that suggested treatments need careful use, only effective in certain combinations and timing, with recognition of risk of serious side effects.

      Avoidance of contact if truly at risk is a VGI. What is you health? Buttmouths are at high risk, for example, due lung deterioration and heart (as COVID 19 is somewhat a vascular disease not just a respiratory disease).

      Few gummints communicate risk and prevention well, they have verbal diarrhea of misleading statistics. Media types just regurgitate that. Florida was smart enough to grasp the lesson from Italy of care residences so acted to shield residents. But media slagged the governor (he must be Republican whereas most media people contribute to Democrats). Some care residence chains took early action – they knew that a SARS-like virus emerging in Communist China would be in North America before long.

      • As for vaccines, the concept was proven long ago (Bertorelli might be old enough to have heard of polio). There is risk with vaccine – for example, Guillian Barre Syndrome is worth noting, medium cases can result from some vaccines against the perennial killer INFLUENZA, most people recover. Rare but worth noting.

    • I estimate my reply as 99% accurate 😉

      – Directly from the NIH, “A National Institutes of Health clinical trial evaluating the safety and effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of adults with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has formally concluded that the drug provides NO clinical benefit to HOSPITALIZED patients” (emphasis mine).

      – True, there have been some reports of myocarditis after receiving an mRNA vaccine, primarily in young males. As the VAERS system lacks confirmation, what does the NIH say? “Through follow-up, including medical record reviews, CDC and FDA have confirmed 674 reports of myocarditis or pericarditis.” As of today, 313,221,468 mRNA doses have been administered (add another 13 million J&J doses). So weighing the odds and considering that myocarditis is treatable whereas dying from Covid isn’t, the argument against getting vaccinated is resting on very thin data.

      Lastly, infections = mutations and as long as some folks seem to embrace Covid and resist inoculation, the longer this disease and it’s mutants will be out in public. You know how we used to take a polio and a smallpox vaccine and now we don’t suffer from those diseases…they’re actually related.

      • Error:
        There is evidence that hydroxychloroquine helps:
        – in conjunction with other substances
        – at a certain time in the progress of the disease

        Problem is rabid flappers on both sides to the argument, many of them supposedly doctors.

    • Note that hydroxychloroquine has to be used in combination with other substances and at the right time.

      Pandering politicians like what seem to be panaceas.

      A fundamental challenge is early recognition of existence of, then presence in an area, of a new disease.

      There is evidence that SARS2 was in Italy and some places in North America earlier than realized (found afterward in samples of sewage that had been stored).

      Economic and political factors were missed, such as:
      – Communist Chinese providing weapons and advice to Iran, combined with emigrants and students from Iranian in Canada, that brought SARS2 to North America
      – Chinese workers in Italy, to get the ‘Made in Italy’ cachet on products.

      The path direct from Communist China to Canada and the US should have been obvious, many family connections and students. Some care residences chains in Canada took early action as they forecast the disease _would_ reach North America quickly.

      Another path was probably through SE Asia from where many care aides come, they visit relatives on vacation.

      Florida was sharp enough to see the great risk to care residences, learning from Italian experience. Few other jurisdictions had a clue.

      • Since we’re discussing health, I don’t see where politics need to be involved. If you do not accept the NIH as a reputable arbiter of evidence based conclusions, then I could offer numerous research articles that conclude “no benefit” for this off label use. Want educated folks from outside the US? The Institute of Infection, University of Liverpool concluded, “Hydroxychloroquine does not reduce deaths from COVID-19, and probably does not reduce the number of people needing mechanical ventilation”. They went further and discussed the unwanted side effects and did not recommend further research. If you are a doctor and have other direct observations, that would still not be conclusive as to benefit vs the results of a broader blind study.

        We have gone far afield from Paul’s missive and I will stay away from conspiracy land baiting. I would prefer to vent about the Cub I just sold a couple of weeks ago. Which reminds me of something never heard in aviation, “I sure am glad I sold that Cub” 🙁

  4. What amazes me are reader’s consistent refrains about government bureaucracy contributing to negative outcomes without context, and forgetting that all large bureaucracies produce negative outcomes. Remember Enron? Or the current mega corporations that witting and unwittingly produce antisocial outcomes (while making tons of money)? Koch Industries, anyone? Or Facebook?

    • Oh, a leftist.

      Evidence is your claim the Koch brothers act against social outcomes, which both reveals your politics – the Kochs being conservatives – and your ideology (‘social’ is only used by persons of Marxist belief foundations, conservatives don’t use it often in political debate, Objectivists treat people as individuals not cogs in a collective).

  5. Bring beach flipflops for showers.

    Tried to get Arlington WA show to improve showers, but no response. As a furriner couldn’t risk being accused of working in the US without authorization. (Yes, money might help if one thought they knew how to use it.) Wear beach shoes regardless.

    (Speaking of Arlington WA EAA, several weeks ago there was fundamental confusion over if and when there would be an event this year. Complete with a listing by a ticket agency that EAA NW said they do not use any more. I guess there might be a drive-by even of some kind in late August.)

  6. What the?? To continue: I was 100% on board with the ORIGINAL justification for all this, which was to blunt the rapid spread so hospitals were not overwhelmed. That lasted only until the overwhelmed hospital excuse was no longer viable, then it became “Crush COVID”, a suitably amorphous justification expandable to cover any desired action.

    Now we’re in the “yes, you had to get vaccinated so you and those around you will be safe but actually we have decided now it doesn’t really matter that you did so put your mask back on and stay out of public places”. I think millions of us good citizens have just about reached our limits on the whole thing; I know for sure I don’t want to spend my few remaining years putting up with the whims of out of control bureaucrats and spineless politicians.

    • Not exactly John W. For example, I am vaccinated but my two, too young to be vaccinated granddaughters are not vaccinated. So two weeks prior to their visiting our place for a few days we began the old routine of wearing masks while in public indoors and in general just being careful. No $100 hamburgers for me for instance while preparing for their visit. This is not for our sake, rather it is to prevent ourselves from becoming carriers particularly of the D variant in order to protect our granddaughters. If we knew that 100% of all eligible people around us were vaccinated as we did for smallpox and polio way back when, this would not be an issue.

      • Young people are not much affected by the SARS2 virus, and persons who get only mildly ill do not shed much virus.

        The question is their health – a simple example is asthma which harms lungs to some degree. Heart is a question, as COVID-19 is to some degree a vascular disease not just respiratory like the perennial killer INFLUENZA.

        BTW, INFLUENZA is typically tough on children, get ready for that season beginning in September.

    • Most bureaucrats and politicians botched dealing with SARS2.

      The panic about hospitals came from blindly following experience in Italy and Japan where everyone was shoved into hospital. And medical people here have not heard of ‘field hospitals’, military and Communist Chinese had to show them how.

      And most medical authorities here did not shield the truly vulnerable – persons on care residences. In contrast Florida was sharp enough to learn from Italian experience, acted assertively, did not need much lockdown. And some large care chains in Canada knew that a new virus emerging in Communist China would be in North America soon.

  7. Sounds like another air show. Not sure what I ‘need’ to see there.
    I also thought about flying up there commercially. It is more than a days drive from Georgia. I don’t drive more than a day unless I really have to be somewhere. Flying into OSH is more of a risk than I want in my life.

  8. It’s amazing how many people rail against the health experts, “guvment people” and decline participating in getting Covid protection but were all aboard the ADS-B fiasco. Ohh, it was all about saving lives via decreasing mid airs. So today I watched the conga line arriving over various check points like good little soldiers following the guvment mandate. No complaining there! Hell, I was ordered to join the battle in Vietnam and served my tour without all the complaining I hear today associated with the virus.

  9. Yesterday – Saturday – there were SO many airplanes in the conga line airborne and inbound, they shut it down for a time. Hoards of airplanes showed up at Y50 to wait. SO … things are looking “up.”