Burning Man Airport Closed, Dozens Of Aircraft Likely Stranded (Updated)


At least 50 (and probably a few more) aircraft appear to be stranded at Black Rock City Airport (88NV), the pop-up desert strip that serves the massive Burning Man event in Nevada. The airport, two 6,000-foot strips on the playa a few miles from the main event, was closed at 3:27 p.m. local time Friday when a major rainfall turned it and the festival into a sea of mud. About 73,000 people have been told to shelter in place as more rain is expected. An email to the event’s press inquiry address was not immediately returned.

There are typically dozens of private aircraft at the facility, which boasts a temporary ATC facility staffed by professional controllers who donate their time. The airport is also served by a charter operation called Burner Express that shuttles in attendees. According to raw data from FlightAware, about 880 aircraft arrived at NV88 between Aug. 25 and the closure and there were about 830 departures. The airport opened a few days before that data was compiled so it’s likely there are some tied down aircraft that arrived before Aug. 25.

Meanwhile, it could be days before the planes or anything else can move from the site. The playa, about 100 miles from Reno, is inches deep in mud and to avoid it becoming rutted the organizers have ordered attendees to avoid even pushing bicycles around. Officials said the earliest the roads might be passable was Monday but more rain fell Sunday and a post on the event site said more showers and thunderstorms were possible. It’s not clear how much longer the runways would need to dry before they can be safely used.

An earlier version of this story gave the incorrect FAA designation for the airport.

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  1. It can take quite a while for the surface to harden back up, and of course whatever ruts or other disturbances that were made in the mud will become surface “features” at least until the next significant rain. A mess, for sure.