For reasons entirely selfish, I was happy to hear EAA cancel AirVenture 2020. Now I don’t have to continue struggling with the decision to get there, how to navigate the place with minimal risk or whether to go at all. For more altruistic reasons, I’m sorry it has come to this. AirVenture is the world’s most important aviation show and punches way above its weight in importance to the people, companies and organizations in this wide-ranging industry.
EAA and Jack Pelton deserve respect for making this difficult decision as early as they did. This will allow companies to reconfigure, retrench and re-plan their marketing efforts for the rest of the year. Attendees can now stand down and stop wondering about if and when. It’s done.
I don’t see how it could have gone any other way. You might recall that the Olympics cancellation announcement was made in late March and the impetus came from the athletes, not the organizers. AirVenture’s equivalent of the athletes would be exhibitors and performers. EAA didn’t say if any had backed out but based on the Sun ‘n Fun experience, we know many were considering it. Think about this: If you’re an aviation company, you’re making a risk assessment for your employees if you expect them to attend and occupy those crowded hangars for a week. Calculating the real risk is elusive at best, impossible at worst. The calculus is to imagine the risk is simply overstated and not worth worrying about for the sake of sales and a little partying. Or that it’s higher than we all imagine.
I asked my own boss, Belvoir editorial VP Tim Cole, what we would have done if the show had gone on. After a thoughtful pause, he said we would have to cover it somehow, but no one would be asked to attend at the risk of personal safety. We would improvise around it, just as every company in the industry will now have to adapt, adjust and retool.
Thinking about it personally, I am now getting more comfortable with the idea of flying commercially. I have masks, gloves, sanitizer and wipes and, I hope, sufficient awareness. But venturing into those exhibitor hangars? Forget it. If the show were even moderately crowded with people from all 50 states and 90 countries, I think it’s not a question of any disease transmission, but how much. And this in exposing an older demographic with widespread incidence of underlying medical conditions that have proved so lethal with this disease. This risk assessment may very well be delusional, because there is no data on which to base or compare the risk between an airliner and a crowded hangar. We all have our demons.
Here in Florida, the economy is set to re-engage this week, in stages. But it’s not at all clear to me what’s much different from when it paused a month ago. We have a little more testing, cases are rising, but tracing and containment isn’t planned. Distancing is still encouraged, but not enforced. With 50 states having what appear to be 50 variations on this theme, I’m ever more convinced the COVID-19 worry will be with us for a while and none of us should be surprised if things are not normal even into next year.
I think everyone is tiring of distancing and compliance fatigue is setting in. The poll we’re currently running asking whether EAA’s decision was the right one exactly mirrors national polling showing about 60 percent favor continuing lockdown policies rather than accelerated relaxation. Like it or not, most of us are willing to do it.
A word here about comments. Like everything else, it seems, the COVID-19 crisis is polarized and perfectly politicized. When we published the initial story, a few readers took this over the top and attacked us, EAA and Jack Pelton. You are free to comment here and criticize respectfully. But I’ll ask you for restraint. And comments that are not will be deleted. I’m sorry it has come to that, but this is a moderated forum and will be moderated.