2007 was remarkable for the quantity and quality of improvements at the Airport. We had better organization, communications, facilities, staffing, and community involvement.

Aviation safety improvements are always at the top of the wish list. Air traffic increases every year, so we moved the runway and tweaked the flight paths for the “scenic pattern” and the standard landing pattern to increase separation between aircraft. We added ground reference markers to help define the landing pattern, with more threshold markings to identify the runway. A pump and sprayer added to a lawn tractor made a self-propelled line striper for helipad markings and tie-down lines.

Another airside improvement was a shaded platform for the UNICOM radio volunteer. The amount of traffic doesn’t warrant an air traffic controller; instead we provide advisories via UNICOM radio. The UNICOM volunteer provides wind speed, direction, altimeter setting, and reports of known traffic in the scenic or landing pattern. The platform provided a nice view of the tie-down area with the taxiway beyond. Many dedicated volunteers stayed on duty during the dust storms, although at times they had to take refuge below the platform. We’re considering better wind protection options for 2008.

On the landside, a new layout for the Port of Entry placed everything just where it needed to be, and allowed prominent display of four art installations. The Terminal Building got new roof fabric with a porch extension, as well as artwork and lighting. The Greeters have a bell for new arrivals via the main gate, and now the Airport has one for arrivals via Airport Gate 1.

The Waiting Room/Pilot Lounge doubled in size to accommodate the increased number of visitors which also required additional seating in the form of Adirondack Air Chairs and Playatech pews. A new loudspeaker system was used for public service announcements. Pilot mailboxes supplemented the traditional, but chaotic message boards.

The Hangar, as we call it, is a cargo container that is used for storage and workspace. Our needs exceeded the capacity of the Hangar in 2006 and we now have a second container dubbed the Shop, outfitted with shelves and a workbench, and stocked with Airport tools and supplies.

New procedures, revised forms, and kick-ass Interceptors helped us keep track of 151 registered airplanes and boot out some “bad guys” who wanted to sneak in without buying tickets. Arrivals found a convenient walk-up window at the Office staffed by helpful Box Officers to check tickets and complete registration.

An announcement of an airplane on fire caused a brief rush of activity. Fire fighters were on the scene promptly and thoroughly doused a smoking wheel. Ironically, the airplane sported a custom paint job with orange and yellow flames on the fuselage, wings, and wheel pants! The fire was confined to the right landing gear. The solo pilot was not injured and a mechanic flew in after the event to make repairs and fly the plane out.

The now traditional Thursday morning pancake breakfast shifted into a leaner and ‘greener’ mode. The serving line was efficient, with virtually no waiting time, and garbage was reduced by 75%. We’ll do it again in 2008, same place, same time.

The Burning Man aviation community was delighted with an article published in the August 2007 Air & Space Smithsonian magazine. The title is “Magic Airport – Watch the Burning Man revelers pull an airport out of the desert…then make it disappear.”

Submitted by,
Lissa Shoun, aka Tiger Tiger
Airport Manager, Black Rock International