APEX Insight: As international art festival Burning Man lights up the Nevada desert, it not only represents a unique culture, but also delivers its own passenger experience. This year’s festival is flying by, in more ways than one.
From its humble beginnings on San Francisco’s Ocean Beach, Burning Man has become a global destination for artists, dreamers, doers and those who want to spend a week in the desert with a makeshift pop-up community of over 70,000. The playa, where Burning Man takes place, is officially known as Black Rock City, and it (and its airport) only spring into structured existence during the festival, taking place this year from August 28 to September 5.
Airport Left in the Dust
Like a comet or other celestial event, Black Rock City Airport is fleeting, appearing once a year in the middle of nowhere for one week of FAA-approved airstrip accessibility. If you want to fly into Burning Man’s bespoke airport (designated 88NV), you’d better be comfortable communicating via Common Traffic Advisory Frequency and landing on a rather bumpy patch of dirt.
Burner Air flies “burners” (Burning Man participants) to Black Rock City Airport on four- to 12-passenger Cessna and Pilatus airplanes from private airports in Reno, San Francisco and Los Angeles. It’s one of roughly a dozen charter airlines that fly Burning Man attendees to the playa.
A Vehicle for Change
The airplanes flying into Burning Man may be light aircraft, but the Big Imagination Foundation has brought a Boeing 747 to the desert. The salvaged airliner doesn’t fly, except of course in burners’ imaginations. This jet has been reborn as an art and music venue, taking Burning Man attendees on the ride of their lives as it’s towed around the playa.
Passengers of the Big Imagination Foundation’s 747 go through an insecurity checkpoint and drop off their emotional baggage before boarding the aircraft, which has been retrofitted into an audio-visual wonderland. Echoing one of the hottest in-flight entertainment trends, The Big Imagination Foundation is working on a virtual reality experience for its 747, so those who can’t make it to the festival can still experience the transformed jumbo jet in all its glory.