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From dust to air: Burning Man’s magical, temporary airport

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BLACK ROCK CITY, Nev. — At first, it sounds like a completely crazy idea: Build an airport, in a week, to handle thousands of passengers. Then tear it down a week later and return the desert to pristine condition.

Yes, you read that right. The desert.

Welcome to Burning Man, where almost anything goes and often does. And year after year, what goes on just to the side of the temporary Black Rock City is the equally temporary Black Rock City airport.

“It’s like nothing else. Nothing else,” says the pilot and Burner who goes by the name “Fractal.”

Starting from nothing about two weeks before Burning Man officially begins, a massive crew of volunteers marks out runways, erects control towers and “customs” checkpoints, and does everything else you’d associate with an airport. Neither the FAA nor the TSA has any official role in its operations, although the FAA remains in close communication with the airport’s managers, many of whom are pilots themselves.

Last year, this airport in the middle of the desert handled more than 2,300 passengers during the event, which is otherwise a two-hour drive north of Reno. Many of those arrivals came on small planes, and to increase capacity, this year airport managers are having both 20- and 30-passenger airplanes offer charter service to Reno and points beyond. To accommodate the bigger planes, airport managers had to wet and compact the dirt runways and taxiways to ensure the planes didn’t get stuck. – READ MORE

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