flying in to BM : LUSENET : Burning Man : One Thread

Any pilots who flew into BM, can I ask some questions about next year? I'd like to fly in if it wasn't a hassle. Ron

-- Ron O'Connor (, September 06, 2004


I flew in this year, and the hassle factor was minimal.

Short answers:

1) Visit the Black Rock International Airport web page at

2) Join the Burning Man aviator's list; there's a link on the web page.

Long answers: In no particular order, here are my thoughts and experiences.

The playa dust is vicious and corrosive. Bring cowl inlet plugs and blue painter's masking tape and seal up the plane as best you can to keep the dust out. Consider removing the carpet before you go. Next time, I'll cover all the seats with something. When you get home, wash the plane as thoroughly as you can. Rinsing is not good enough -- you can't rinse the dust off or vacuum it out of the upholstery -- you must completely wash the plane. Remove the carpet and wash it with soap and water. I'll probably have the engine compartment steam-cleaned as well.

The runway itself is just a chunk of playa that's been leveled out and pronounced fit to land on. Join the aviator's list and don't land there until the airport manager, Tiger Tiger, pronounces it fit to land on.

Don't let this happen to you: (NTSB report LAX92LA376)

Soft-field landing technique is nice, but not vital as the runway is quite good. Soft-field taxi technique *was* vital this year due to the crappy condition of the tiedown area.

Because of safety issues (three plane crashes in two years -- all V-tail Bonanzas), airport rules are now quite strict. You *must* read "information X-ray" (available at the web site) before arriving, and you *must* attend a safety briefing before you take off again.

Rules are enforced quite vigorously:

$40 airport fee (still doesn't cover the cost of building the airport, so donations are encouraged.)

Have your ticket in hand when you arrive, or enough CASH to buy one at the gate. This is important: DO NOT step outside the gate again without obtaining a wrist band or you won't be able to come back inside without buying another ticket.

OK, that's enough negativity. Now for the good part:

Flying to BM was a BLAST. I will absolutely do it again. Nothing beats setting your alarm for 6 am in Silicon Valley, and walking on the Playa at 10 am.

I spent more time practicing soft field technique before the event than I actually spent flying there and landing. And it hardly mattered because the runway was as good as most paved runways. (Thanks, Tiger Tiger!)

Burning Man is a "gift economy", and one of the best gifts you can give is to take people up for a sight-seeing ride around the event. I spent an entire morning doing that, and next year I plan to spend every morning doing it. At least one talent show had an airplane ride as first prize.

The airport itself is its own little community. Many pilots camp out there. I'll bet there are pilots who never actually go to the main event itself. There was a pancake breakfast on Friday morning, and there's a permanent bar (The Pheonix Lounge) as well.

Bottom line: Go for it. Just don't forget to wash your plane when you get back.

-- Ed Falk (, September 28, 2004.

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