Burning Man – the annual festival held in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert – kicked off August 28. Though tens of thousands of people travel there by car, those who can afford it choose to touch down on the playa by private plane or helicopter.
Every year, volunteers build Black Rock City Airport from scratch on a dusty road a week before the festival starts. As USA Today notes, crews section off runways, make customs checkpoints, and direct planes and ‘copters when they arrive. Neither the FAA nor the TSA is officially associated with the BRC airport, but they keep in close contact with airport’s managers.
Not every Burner that uses the airport is ultra-rich, but most of the Burning Man’s wealthiest attendees arrive there. Paris Hilton, for instance, flew into the playa by helicopter with a group of friends mid-way through this year’s festival.
Helicopter companies also offer special charters just for Burning Man. Black Rock Helicopters, for example, is advertising a ride between Reno, Nevada and the Black Rock City Desert on a S76 jet. The Facebook video below, which boasts that the helicopter has room for eight people and 600 pounds of cargo, makes it look pretty luxurious. Girls in the ad even wear fashionable lingerie and native-American-style headdresses, despite numerous other Burners recent pleas against the cultural appropriation.
Though Black Rock Helicopters doesn’t post the price for its service, Burners often pay between $500 to $2,500 for other similar, luxury charters (depending on the plane and distance). Here’s one from Santa Barbara Helicopters, which decorated the craft’s interior with colorful pillows and rugs for Burners.
In recent years, some Burners have spoken out about the exclusive nature of people flying in on jets. Larry Harvey, the festival’s founder, wrote in 2014 that wealthy Burners who throw their own exclusive parties on the playa clash with the fundamental principles of Burning Man: self-reliance and community.
But a fancy ride sure looks good on Instagram.