Once again this late summer, desolate Nevada berg Black Rock City finds itself home to thousands of artists, freaks and spectators for the remarkably quirky festival known as Burning Man (Aug. 29 to Sept. 5), which culminates each year with the eponymous torching of a huge human effigy.
There are, it goes without saying, a goodly number of VW micro buses that arrive on site for the spectacle; it might surprise you, however, to know that every year dozens of airplanes fly into Burning Man’s temporary airport, Black Rock City International Airport, located adjacent to the event grounds on the surface of the dry lake bed.
The airport at Black Rock City is an unusual destination, because it exists only during the weeklong event, during which it replaces an “airport” hundreds of square miles in size–the dry lake bed–which is off limits in an approximate 5-mile ring around the temporary airport during Burning Man. The festival, which celebrates what it calls “radical self expression,” seems an odd match for aviation. Not only are the festival grounds filled with extremely alternative forms of art and other more difficult to categorize forms, but the dusty playa can be downright inhospitable to airplanes. Dust storms that can cut visibility to mere feet are all too common, and the surface, depending on how much rain it’s gotten over the past few weeks, can range from spongy and billowing with dust to hard as a rock. That said, the event every year attracts a lot of airplanes. The next closest airport, Winnemucca, is 60 miles away. It is surely because Black Rock City is so far from civilization and so isolated that small airplanes make so much sense for getting to the event.
Tickets for Burning Man have been sold out for a while, but if you have tickets and are planning to attend, be sure to check out the new procedures–and airport location!–on the official site for what is surely the world’s freakiest temporary airfield.