Burning Man operates with a “Gift Economy”. Other than ice and a few beverages for sale at Center Camp nothing is allowed to be sold at the event. All of the bars, restaurants, discos, music, steam baths and everything else is gifted from burner to burner. Including the plane rides that I give. I have been told time and time again that their plane ride over the playa was the highpoint of their burn. Multi year burners have told me it was the most amazing thing they have done at any of their burns. So I try to get out every morning and gift rides as many rides as I can before the desert gets too hot and bumpy and before the typical afternoon winds kick in. A morning flight over the playa is amazing and once we get to altitude I let my passenger open their door so there is nothing between them and the city.
Sareh did a really good job of documenting her flight. They all blend together a bit and now, a few weeks later, I can’t remember which day I gave which flight but I know Sareh’s was the first one in the morning because . . . she has a picture of me pushing Niner-Zero out of my parking/camping spot so I don’t kick up a lot of dust and blow it on the other airplanes and tents in my row. I still have long sleeves on, another sign of early morning on the desert. The temperature is usually in the mid ’50s at sun rise.
After helping my passenger into the right seat, strapping them in and training them on opening and closing the door I do one last walk around inspection. Last year I quickly realized that I wasn’t making it clear to my passenger that the door would be opened in flight and that is the reason for the briefing. The first couple of flights when I told them to open the door they responded, “Now! While we are in the AIR!”. So now I make that perfectly clear. When the door opens their view is amazing and I often hear the most amazing comments through my headset as it opens. So now, I make it perfectly clear that we WILL open the door in the AIR and close it before landing. Although sometimes we just leave it open for landing if things don’t look too dusty.
After departure we climb to the south before turning back to the city and entering the pattern at 5,500 feet. We fly clockwise just outside the trash fence around the event with the city is on the passenger’s side so I have never gotten the exact same view that they get. We circle about halfway around the city and exit at the northern most point.
That region is referred to as the “Far Playa” or the “Deep Playa”. Far from the “residential” areas. There is not much out there but every morning there is always something going that I am sure runs all night. Lots of people gathered around a stage. You can see it here at the bottom of the picture just left of the lift strut. The mountain just visible in the upper left is my destination after leaving the scenic pattern. I fly behind it while descending to the altitude we use for our landing traffic pattern.
That altitude also puts me below the peak of “Razorback”. So we will soon cross the railroad tracks on the left and fly low behind the mountain and come out from behind it on the right. When we are behind the mountain the city is not visible at all and it seems like we are in different world. Then we cross back over the tracks and enter the landing pattern for Black Rock City Airport. The entire ride takes about 20 minutes in the air.
Some days, in the afternoon, I gift a ride to Soldiers Meadows Airport. A small gravel strip about 20 minutes north of Black Rock City. What is the attraction? Hot Springs! Clean warm water, and lots of it! The airport and hot springs are in a higher and less sparse area. There are actually things growing there. I took Kim, one of our airport volunteers with me one day. After landing we pushed Niner-Zero off to the side of the runway and then walked to the nearby ranch and got a ride to the hot springs. They own the springs and charge $10.00 a person to use them and that includes the ride and you can even use the flush toilets at the ranch.After several days using porta-potties this IS a big deal.
The springs are the size of a large swimming pool and about 4-5 feet deep and are surrounded by grasses. The water is bathwater warm. After soaking until it becomes uncomfortable you can climb out onto the deck and into dry air which is refreshingly cool. After laying out on the deck you will be dry in about 5 minutes. Then repeat the process . There are no man made sounds out there, just the wind in the grass and gurgling water. It is amazing and also works wonders on removing playa dust.
So, this is my gift to the other burners. I often think that I enjoy it more than they do! I’ll just post some more pictures of smiling faces.