The Airport operated successfully with no accidents and a significant increase in traffic. The number of sanctioned air charters increased from six in 2012 to 11 in 2013. We anticipated a rise in air charter traffic and created a contract with the LLC that required the charters, among other things, to represent to the LLC that they had all of the required permits and certificates from the BLM and FAA, and had sufficient insurance. The contract also required that they make available to their passengers a new Burning Man acculturation video that had been initially requested by Airport management. We also significantly modified the BLM Closure Order and the Burning Man Operating Plan in order to better control the legitimate use of the Airport.
Air traffic in 2013 increased about 10% over that of 2012, with about one flight every 1.8 minutes on our busiest day, which was the Thursday of the event. Even more important, the number of Burners arriving via the Airport increased in 2013 by about a third over that of 2012. This put a heavy load on the “Customs” division of the Airport, but was expected and managed. On Thursday of the event, the Airport Box Office had to open two windows at one point in order to manage the crowd. Overall, we estimate that the number of Burners entering via the Airport in 2013 was more than the equivalent of 25 busloads.
The Airport had its first official art installation in 2013 and also ran an entertainment stage. The stage hosted acts in the afternoons of the departure weekends as part of our crowd management strategy when so many Burners are waiting for their departing flights. The acculturation video was also important in reminding these flying Burners of the Ten Principles, especially Leave No Trace. The Airport has neither vending machines nor trash baskets.
Because of the smoke from the Yosemite fires in 2013, several Burner pilots reported significant problems, including layovers at other airports and even having to turn back before reaching the Black Rock desert due to reduced visibility. Medical flights were also impacted because the helicopters could not fly on instruments. The Airport runway had to be closed to normal traffic several times to allow fixed-wing medivac flights to land and take-off. The runway was also illuminated with searchlights on Tuesday night in order to allow a fixed-wing medivac to land but the flight was subsequently canceled.
Airport management worked very closely with both the FAA and BLM in 2013. We spent a large amount of time working with BLM compliance and law enforcement offices. The relationship in the cooperation was extremely good, but required extensive management time. Because of the greater number of Burners entering, we had a greater number of ticketing issues in 2013, the great majority of which were resolved with the help of Box Office and Gate and Perimeter. However, some required BLM law enforcement. Three people were cited and evicted from the event, one in handcuffs. Because of a more strict enforcement of the regulations requiring a BLM Special Recreational Permit (SRP), many pilots had to be interrogated and some were issued citations. We plan to have additional senior staff at the Airport in 2014 to handle the majority of these cases. We will also review the interpretation of the relevant regulations with the BLM prior to 2014.
The Airport Nightwatch was fully staffed all-night and fully trained for 2013. Our next step is to get Nightwatch and senior Airport management trained by Gate and Perimeter.
Like other departments, the Airport used Shiftboard in 2013. There were serious configuration problems for our purposes but we appreciate the advance in volunteer scheduling and look
forward to using it in 2014.
We plan to implement technological solutions for the Customs division to help manage the increased number of Burners anticipated to be arriving at the Airport in 2014. This year, the number of air charters was limited by a cap on the number of SRPs issued by the BLM. This cap will be removed in 2014 and the BLM will even issue SRPs during the event, so we expect additional air charter companies to be using the Airport. We understand the existing air charters plan to increase their number of flights. All divisions of the Airport are preparing for a substantial increase in flights and Burner arrivals in 2014.