Burning Man Issues RFP Seeking Enhanced Air Carrier Service to Black Rock City

Update 4/8:

In February Burning Man issued a Request for Proposals to gauge air carrier interest in using larger aircraft to fly participants to and from Black Rock City beginning in 2016. We committed to reviewing proposals and making a decision on whether to move forward with this idea by April 4. We received a number of proposals, but the review process has taken a little longer than expected. We expect to make a decision on air carrier service to BRC by April 20 and will have more information for you then. Apologies for the delay.

Since Burning Man is still reviewing proposals for air charter services, we recommend waiting until after April 20 before making flight arrangements.

Burning Man is soliciting proposals from air carrier service providers to determine whether a more efficient service can reduce the cost of flying into Black Rock City and increase the number of participants who do so.

No worries, 2004 (Photo by Jim and Kathy Bliss)
No worries, 2004 (Photo by Jim and Kathy Bliss)

Participants have been flying private aircraft into the event since 1998, and BRC’s airport, 88NV, began operating in 1999. More than 2,200 participants flew into the event in 2015.

Several companies provide air carrier service to the event now. One goal of the Request for Proposal (RFP) process is to explore whether carriers can use larger capacity aircraft (up to 30 passengers) and reduce the per-person cost of flying.

Burning Man is accepting proposals now through February 29, 2016. Our goal is that approved carrier service providers will be selected by March 28, 2016 and contracts awarded by April 25, 2016. We would like to make this award to a very few, or even one, “umbrella” provider. If a single carrier service provider cannot meet the desired qualifications, then they have the option to collaborate on a proposal with others.

If no suggested plans are deemed suitable, BRC will not change the existing charter structure in 2016. BRC recommends Black Rock City participants refrain from purchasing Airplane Charter tickets until BRC grants approval and/or makes final announcement on charter service structure(s) on April 4, 2016.

Interested in filling out the actual RFP? email hawk@burningman.org


Q. Why is Burning Man doing this?
A. Burning Man is taking a comprehensive look at all methods of transportation that bring participants to Black Rock City. Our goal with this RFP is to assess feasibility for improving the efficiency of airport operations, to drive down the cost of flying to the event, make flying a more attractive option for participants, and improve safety by reducing the number of aircraft flying in and out of Black Rock City.

Q. What’s expected of carriers submitting proposals?
A. All aircraft and pilots must fly under an FAA Part 135 certificate, must have at least $5 million in insurance, and must offer flights between Reno and the Black Rock City Municipal Airport (88NV).

Your extra baggage is gonna cost you.
Your extra baggage is gonna cost you.

Q. What are some of the qualifications Burning Man is looking for?
A. The following:

  • The capacity to transport 1,000 passengers per day with no more than 200 landings in an 11.5 hour period daily beginning in 2016 for all providers together.
  • The ability to offer departures from Reno, San Francisco and Los Angeles with room for expansion from other locations if demand occurs.
  • Experience with and proposals for ticket and scheduling systems.

Q. What are some of criteria will be used to evaluate the RFPs?
A. The following:

  • Ratio of number of passengers possible to carry to the event per number of landings to do so.
  • Price per coach passenger, tiers of service, and a number of affordably-priced seats.
  • The ability to offer flights from Reno, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area with a particular focus on capacity from the Bay Area.
  • Strong professional flying record.

Q. Will I still be able to fly my private plane into the event either by myself or with other passengers?
A. Yes.

Q. Can I still get some friends together and charter my own plane?
A. Yes. As long as it’s a one time only charter taxi and not a shuttle service.

Q. What is the incentive for carriers to compete to become an approved Burning Man charter service?
A. Burning Man will work with selected charter services to promote them to the Burner community much the same way it has with the Burner Express bus service. Only carrier service providers awarded this contract will be allowed to shuttle service participants to and from the event.

Q. Will existing charter services be allowed to continue offering flights to Black Rock City if they are not selected as part of the RFP process?
A. Existing charter services are invited to submit proposals as part of this RFP process. If charter services are not selected, they will be encouraged to work with and/or under the charter service company(ies) selected.

About the author: Burning Man Project

Burning Man Project

The official voice of the Burning Man organization, managed by Burning Man Project's Communications Team.

18 Comments on “Burning Man Issues RFP Seeking Enhanced Air Carrier Service to Black Rock City

  • Mayor Blaze says:

    I have mixed feelings about this. We’ve gone from a sleepy little outlier airport to rapid expansion in our wild west gold rush days to an arena for large carriers necessitated by the need for efficiency. None of the mom and pop charters who served us so well in the past are flying 10, or 30 seat planes. Sadly, the days of personalized service in a little playa shuttle, and your pilot in fishnets, appears over.

    The only constant is change.

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  • Robyn Barnes says:

    If you want to improve the event, eliminate the airport all together. The airport is how the PnP people get in. They don’t bring anything to contribute, and they leave their moop behind (that is, unless they hire someone of lower class to take care of things for them).

    No waiting in lines. No dusty entrance or exodus. No trucks full of art. No investment in the event. I have no idea why the organization would coddle such people.

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    • Nomad says:

      Amen, Robyn. Well said.

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      • Paulimon says:

        You are making assumptions and genralizations that may not be true. I am an older Burner (in my 70’s).
        I would consider flying in as a way to avoid the horrendous linee that I’ve endured (enjoyed) over the years. BTW: At every burn since my first…I ALWAYS contribute, share, connect, gift, give, love and leave no MOOP. Flying in doesn’t make me “upper case” or better than anybody. It is just a choice. Peace.

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      • Paulimon says:

        You are making assumptions and genralizations that may not be true. I am an older Burner (in my 70’s).
        I would consider flying in as a way to avoid the horrendous lines that I’ve endured (enjoyed) over the years. BTW: At every burn since my first…I ALWAYS contribute, share, connect, gift, give, love and leave no MOOP. Flying in doesn’t make me “upper class” or better than anybody. It is just a choice. Peace.

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    • Woodeye says:

      Full throated yelp of agreement here that the airport should be closed to all except for emergency medical and DPW infrastructure use. Want to REALLY address the myriad problems of Festival Concierge Services (FCS) and their ilk? Eliminate air travel to Black Rock City.

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    • Allyn says:

      I don’t agree that the airport should be closed. Burners who fly their own planes to the Playa are not different from those who ride in in trailers, SUVs, autos, and motorbikes. The BRC airport is an integral and essential part of Burning Man. The pilots, their family members and friends have their own BRC camp, just like all the other Burning Man Camps, except that it’s near the airport. The pilots provide emergency services, such as airlifting Burners in need of medical help to hospitals and health care facilities on an emergency basis. They provide transportation for burners who are not able to drive a motor vehicle to the Playa, and in doing so, they reduce the magnitude of the Gerlach traffic jam after the gates open each year. They enable experienced skydivers to fly above Burning Rock City, and they provide amazing aerial views of BRC each year. We need our burner pilots, their friends, families, and camp as much as we need any other burners who make Burning Man the exceptionally amazing experience that it has grown to be.

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    • KevintheRed says:

      Hey now!

      I’m an avid skydiver and burner and I love the fact that we get to share our passion for the sky with all of our friends in Black Rock City. The airport is as wonderfully weird as the rest of town, and you should go visit it sometime!

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  • Aviation Nerd says:

    The truth is that Burning Man has grown to such an extent that by getting some of the cars off the road, and some of the small planes out of the sky, traffic congestion and safety will be enhanced. Currently, air charters fly in with up to 12 passengers. Taking that maximum passenger count up to 30 is an excellent idea. This is further validated by the fact that economies of scale will result in more affordable flights than currently exist.

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  • JV says:

    I get that the more people who fly in, the less people on the overwhelmed roads. But damn, this post just leaves a bad taste in my mouth, because it reeks of catering to people of means who will drop in and be carted off to their camps with no real experience of “getting there.” Basically, making it even easier for them. I’ve got nothing against wealthy people, I hope to be one myself someday, but I do not like any effort towards catering to them.

    The small plane pilots and aviation enthusiasts, the people who built the BRC airport, figured it out on their own. Let the C-Camp people do the same.

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  • Some Seeing Eye says:

    An RFP is a good approach. You may find there are not many 30 seat aircraft out there. Those aircraft require 2 pilots and a cabin attendant. Many of that class of aircraft have gone out of production.

    Personally I hope the event can find operators, lower the cost, increase transport by bus and air charter; decreasing cars.

    A 30 seat flight experience is not ostentatious luxury, and I hope the small charters who created the opportunity to fly in commercially can adapt and be part of whatever results.

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  • Nomad says:

    I wonder if this is not another revenue stream that the Borg wants to capture. As JV pointed out, the BRC airport was created by small plane pilots and aviation enthusiasts. It is another step in replacing burner creativity and initiative with a top-down corporate model.

    One wonders what the burners might come up with as a solution. I guess we will never know.

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  • OB says:

    I think we need to levy a $5/ticket surcharge so we can invest in the future of BM and expand the capacity of Highway 447 from two lanes to four. Make sure it bypasses south of Gerlach so traffic flow isn’t impeded and have two interchanges to better facilitate the exodus.

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  • Rick says:

    Is a move to commercial air with larger capacity airframes going to cause the BRC Airport to receive an FAA rating that will require crash-fire rescue capabilities over the small amount now provided by the ESD contractor? Such as big crash trucks (with credentialed crews) that will be very expensive to lease for a few weeks out of the year.

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  • Perry Pleyte says:

    If we REALLY want to bring Bman back to “what it used to be”, lets go back to not letting anyone in after Wednesday, eliminating any commercial slogans (i.e. ?Ryder, U-Haul etc.) from vehicles and get back to “there are no spectators, only participants”.

    It’s disappointing to see what it is becoming!

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  • Sananthropis says:

    “Laws” are only inspired when folks do something that someone else doesn’t like and they want them to stop. Use wisely. It takes great maturity and discipline to say that if a way is different and not deemed good for that person than they accept that concept as personal revelation and move on and not deny everyone what is not good for a single person, in a moment in time. Children say only my way because they see only themselves. Adults are those that have learned to say, each much find their own way and I can not control anyone else’s journey but can only work to control mine. We can only work to make things safer and make as many opportunities for personal growth available to those others. I think of the thought experiment using Schrödinger’s cat: Is the cat alive or dead; is your way good or bad? You can’t actually interject that one way is better than another; you have to let each person work their proofs, communicate their findings, and wait for the box to open. (As a fun experiment, I like to put “religion” in that box. One day a big, blue Lord Vishnu could rip open the sky or not. Discuss.)

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