The Black Rock International team builds, runs, and removes with no trace a temporary air and seaport for over 100 aircraft, skydivers, ultralights and land yachts and is located on the outskirts of Black Rock City. The seaport division of Black Rock International provides access to the open playa for land yachts. Port of Entry Village is a community of theme camps comprised of pilots, sailors, friends, and volunteers who support various aviation and nautical activities of Black Rock International.
Black Rock International tasks are organized into three areas; land, air, and customs. The Land group is responsible for planning, logistics, and facilities such as shade, office, and runway. The Air group handles all aviation matters such as Unicom radio advisories and pilot briefings. Customs provide gate control, box office services, information and greeting to those arriving in Black Rock City via air.
Black Rock International, aka, the Airport had an outstanding year with almost perfect weather conditions for the entire week of the event. Only one minor dust storm grounded planes for two hours mid-week. The final count was: 123 registered aircraft (including one jet), one hot air balloon, several ultralight aircraft, dozens of skydivers, and hundreds of happy passengers. A highlight was eight planes flying formation in the outline of ‘The Man’ above Black Rock City.
On the ground, new arrivals were inspected and searched, processed, stamped, and welcomed in a new Terminal Building. A small and dedicated crew of volunteers designed and built the structure that serves as a check-in area for Customs, base station for the Unicom radio, and the Airport Gate manned by Border Patrol. The Terminal was dismantled and put into storage for next year. Improvements for next year will include art, decorations, better roof and night lighting.
Airport ‘Customs Officials’ are volunteers responsible for checking in planes, providing tickets, greeting new arrivals, controlling the gate, answering questions, and much more. The airport has long needed a dedicated manager to oversee Customs but it’s a huge job for one person. Shortly before the event, we created a committee called the Ministry of Customs. There are five ministers responsible for planning and preparation during the off-season. During the event they take turns working shifts as ‘Prime Minister’ supervising on-duty Shift Leaders, Interceptors, Gate Guards, and Customs Officials.
This year, a significant advance in air safety at the event was heralded by the creation of a Unicom manual. This 21-page document tells pilots everything they need to know to give efficient and accurate advisories to inbound aircraft. All pilots know how to request advisories, but it’s a new experience to be on the ground monitoring traffic and responding to calls for landing information. The new manual covers everything from ‘do you announce the wind direction or wind speed first?’ to ‘what if the volunteer for the next shift doesn’t show up?’
The camper trailer which serves as the Airport office received a major face lift this year. The tatty old camper that was acquired in 2004, and was the recipient of hundreds of hours of structural rehabilitation, was still a sad-looking thing. This year Reno volunteers sealed the roof, added insulation, finished the interior walls, painted it inside and out, and the result is a gorgeous little office! With the addition of an air conditioner, it made a suitable environment for the box office computer.
Deconstruction of the Airport took longer than planned, as usual. During the long, sometimes tedious and frustrating days, the crew brainstormed ways of streamlining the process for next year. An additional hangar (what other departments may call cargo containers) will be used to store the Airport Terminal Building, shade structure and furnishings, while the first hangar will be converted into a workshop with organized storage for tools and equipment. The workshop will benefit the Airport crew in all stages of construction and deconstruction.
Lissa Shoun, aka Tiger Tiger
Airport Manager, Black Rock International