Jumbo jet turned into desert night­club re­turns to Burn­ing Man

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Spotlight -

A jumbo jet­liner that got stuck in the desert for nearly a month last year has re­turned for the up­com­ing Burn­ing Man fes­ti­val af­ter or­ga­niz­ers agreed to post a bond.

The Reno Gazette Jour­nal re­ports the Bureau of Land Man­age­ment granted a spe­cial per­mit to the foun­da­tion that con­verted the for­mer Boe­ing 747 cargo plane into a night­club.

Burn­ing Man of­fi­cials re­viewed the Big Imag­i­na­tion Foun­da­tion’s plans be­fore the group trans­ported the air­craft re­cently to fed­eral land in the Black Rock Desert 100 miles north of Reno.

Group lead­ers haven’t dis­closed the per­for­mance bond’s cost. But they say they have a bet­ter plan to get the plane off the playa at the con­clu­sion of the coun­ter­cul­ture fes­ti­val, which con­tin­ues through Sept. 2.

Crit­ics say it se­verely dam­aged the playa last year when it dug holes into the soft al­kali dust and got stuck.

The Big Imag­i­na­tion Foun­da­tion was able to move the plane by late Septem­ber us­ing a 1,000foot-long (304-kilo­me­ter­long) path of 4-inch-thick (10-cen­time­ter-thick) mats laid down in stages.

BLM spokesman Rudy Even­son said the per­mit stip­u­lates that the ve­hi­cle will be taken off the playa via paved road af­ter the event. He said it’s the only art piece at Burn­ing Man that re­quires a sep­a­rate per­mit. The bond will be re­turned to the foun­da­tion if it meets all ex­pec­ta­tions in the per­mit.

Big Imag­i­na­tion Foun­da­tion CEO Ken Feld­man said vol­un­teers moved the plane from its hold­ing site on pri­vate ranch prop­erty to the an­cient lake bed.

The plane has been one of the largest in­stal­la­tions at the an­nual, 80,000per­son event since 2016.

Laura Blay­lock, a Ger­lach res­i­dent and con­ser­va­tion­ist, said she’s fu­ri­ous that the plane is re­turn­ing. She said the BLM’s core mis­sion is to pro­tect the Black Rock­High Rock Na­tional Con­ser­va­tion Area, and al­low­ing the plane to crush desert dunes to and from its stor­age site fails to do that.

“Some­body said, ‘How else would they get it out?’ Not my prob­lem. Get a he­li­copter,” Blay­lock told the news­pa­per.

Even­son said part of the cost of the per­mit will cover the ex­pense of re­plant­ing and then fenc­ing the dune area the plane passed through while be­ing brought onto public land.

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