If this were a normal year, I know exactly what I’d be doing on this Sunday afternoon. I’d be in our press trailer in the media ghetto at Oshkosh trying to chase down the guy to hook up the electricity. Every year I promise myself to get it done on Sunday and every year, it happens on Monday afternoon. This I will not miss.
I would also be trying to trim the lines on our outside AVweb poster so it looks less droopy. I never seem to succeed, even though I was in the Sea Scouts. I don’t miss that, either. (Neither the poster nor the Sea Scouts, especially that boat we nearly sunk in the Chesapeake Bay. Maybe that’s why I switched to airplanes.)
I also won’t miss the first person coming into the trailer and complaining about the “traffic being worse than I remember.” That’s because we seem constitutionally incapable of realizing the traffic is always heavy on Monday and if you want to miss it, don’t hit the joint at 9 a.m. Also, I’m happy to skip hearing someone ask “do you think there are [more] [fewer] people?” and me resisting the urge to attach to this probably wrong observation the future of the Western world’s economies. Thankfully, that burden has been lifted.
This is starting to sound like a count-your-blessings sorta blog of the kind I rarely write. But what it really is is a polite effort to not get too maudlin about AirVenture not happening this year. I’m seeing lots of sentimental messages go by on Facebook and Twitter but—and I don’t mean to offend here—I’m not joining the pity party. EAA made the right decision, albeit a difficult one, and the rest of it is just ‘bidness. Instead of an exhausting week that forces us to cram a month of deadlines into three weeks, we have a spare week which I plan to use productively. That’s an admittedly selfish reaction, but it’s just me here on a quiet Sunday afternoon.
My worries are actually more mundane than emotional. I find myself fretting more about the pandemic’s impact on GA businesses—and all businesses—throughout the year than my personal indulgence of riding around AirVenture in a golf cart or worrying too much about people not connecting at their annual avfest. I know many are in desperate straits for social contact centered on airplanes, but many are also sick in hospitals and thousands of families have been tragically touched by COVID-19. We gotta long way to go.
The multitude of businesses that occupy the trade hangars have other marketing options, but they’ll feel the loss of that one week in July. Lots of virtual events going on, but we all know they’re not the same. Oshkosh itself will take a battering beyond that which has already impacted cities of its size throughout the country, especially the hotel and restaurant sectors. (About $170 million annually, according to Wisconsin University.)
And on to 2021. I thought EAA’s decision to start advance ticket sales was a bullish bit of good cheer and shows a welcome, confident outlook. The thing about gloom is, it sets in at the last minute just as effectively as it does months ahead of the fact. So might as well proceed apace and veer off at the last minute if needed. One of our YouTube followers arose in high dudgeon at the notion that it would take a vaccine or other intervention to bring AirVenture back in full throat. Jack Pelton and I discussed that in this interview in May. Two months later, I don’t feel any different.
We’re running a poll today and if I were to guess, about 30 percent of respondents would go to AirVenture this morning if it were running. I’m not sure if I would go, but I might because distancing would be at least somewhat doable in a lightly attended show. I wouldn’t be in the hangars, however. I don’t know if a quiet, sparsely attended show is economically practical, given the scale of the thing. But it would be better than no show at all.
My crystal ball is no better than yours. But my hopeful guess is that therapies and vaccines will emerge by early 2021 to make next year’s AirVenture a go. Depending on how effective those are, the show may struggle for a year or two to get back to 2019 record levels. And it may look and feel a little different, too. But there’s no reason to believe it can’t eventually reprise its former glory.
Just not this year.