Air Charter Consolidated Under Single Primary Vendor

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Right before Christmas last year, BMOrg put out the call for larger aircraft that could fly in up to 30 passengers at a time. At the start of April they updated us that a decision would be coming “after 4/20”. What could be so complicated about seeing if anyone had a bigger plane? 

It seems that, as usual, there was more shenanigans afoot than just that. I just received this email from Playa Air Express, who have been faithfully looking after Burner private aviation requirements for the better part of a decade. 

Hello Burner Friends,
After a long wait, we wanted to update all of you who have been with us for the past 6 years on our Burning Man Flight Services for 2016.
About 6 months ago the folks that run the Burning Man Airport at Black Rock City in concert with BM Org, approached all of the long time charter operators like Playa Air Express, and asked that we submit an RFP to accomplish several goals for 2016 and beyond; increased capacity; lower fares; more routes; decrease air traffic in and out of BRC, and reduce vehicle traffic on the Playa.
We performed our due diligence and submitted our proposal, and we were advised that we would have a decision by mid-April 2016.
The Org took quite a bit more time to review all of the proposals than expected, and they finally rendered their decision yesterday that they would be utilizing one primary air charter service provider for the event. 
Unfortunately Playa Air Express was not selected as the primary air charter service provider. In addition, there is an option of sub-contracting with the primary air charter service provider, however based upon our understanding of all of the new changes,rules,and regulations, with a significant overhead increase in BM fees being placed upon sub-contracted charter operators, we have determined that it is simply cost prohibitive for us to participate in this year’s event.
There is an advertisement listed here in the link below from the Reno Gazette Journal as an announcement of some of the changes:
We thank you for all of your support after all these years, and hope to see you on the Playa soon in more of the capacity of enjoying the event itself.
FYI, our parent company Pacific Coast Flight Solutions is still enthusiastically operational for any of you private air charter needs besides Burning Man. We still maintain our clients for both domestic and international destinations.
Also stay tuned for some other exciting developments potentially for next year’s Burning Man in 2017

I bet they are stoked that BMOrg made them jump through hoops and prepare all kinds of documentation, only to leave their business in the dark for 3 more months while making “decisions”. The decision that there would be one monopoly vendor is exactly the same as the decision they made with propane, so it doesn’t really come as a surprise. Still, it is always a shame to see those who have given much loyalty to our community dicked around and then arbitrarily shunted out the door (a.k.a. “welcome to participate if you pay much higher fees”). 

If it makes Burning Man better, then I’m all for it. Perhaps someone would like to speculate about how vendor monopolies make Burning Man better. 

Apparently, the company that got the gig are long-time Burners too. And they are massively expanding their operations, thanks to this lucrative new for-profit commercial arrangement with Burning Man. From the Reno Gazette Journal:

While Burning Man organizers were set to decide in early April which company or companies would be contracted, the organization ran into logistical delays. Ultimately, Burning Man chose Advantage because it is Burner-owned-and-operated and “has a long history of working with and for Burners.” The company has provided charter flights to BRC since 2005 and flew over 1,500 event participants in 2015.

Lang was the first pilot to fly a charter flight to Burning Man in 2005, and has been a 10 principles-loyal Burner ever since, he said.

“I was so surprised at what I first saw, then I came back four days later and stayed,” Lang said, noting that he and his staff have logged more than 20,000 volunteer hours at the event since.

Neither Burning Man nor Advantage is releasing the contract amount, though Lang elaborated that his company will be coordinating with the bulk of the 16 charter companies that flew Burners into the event last year. No one charter flight company has the resources to conduct all charter flights to Burning Man, Lang said, though he and his staff will be coordinating all of the flights.

The airport — a dusty landing strip, a watch tower and a bunch of orange cones — will change little, save a new charter aircraft parking hanger. Advantage will add about 50 paid staff to the operations, however, assisting the 200 volunteers who have run the airport in years past.

Officials with the Reno-Tahoe International Airport, which makes more than $10 million off of the annual stampede of Burners, are thrilled since many of the charters use the commercial airport as their home base.

Last year, more than 17,000 flew in and out of the airport, and an undocumented number flew from Reno to the playa. While there is no count of how many flights took off to the Burn, 111,737 gallons of jet fuel were sold to charter and private operators during the 2015 event, compared to 67,317 gallons during the same week in 2014.

“It’s real interesting. It’s a mixture of business people in three-piece suits and Burners. And sometimes the Burners get off the plane and they’re wearing a three-piece suit a week later,” said airport spokesman Brian Kulpin. “The playa attracts all kinds.”

BMOrg’s goal is to massively ramp up the airport, with nearly triple the number of passengers per day:

About 1,000 Burners per day will be flying into the event via the air shuttle service, according to Advantage managing director Bryan Lang. In the next few years, however, the goal is to have about 2,500 people fly in per day

The company stated that they would help fly-in spectators to Leave No Trace by charging $1000/lb for trash removal. Just kidding! There is no solution provided for trash, it is someone else’s problem. For most private passengers, Self Reliance will be one of the included items in their Commodification Camp’s amenities package. Gifting will be included for you too, as we saw with Popsicle Camp. And that handy Green Bike program takes care of your on-Playa transportation needs, all you have to bring is a lock

How long until we have a regular private aircraft service to Fly Ranch? How long until BMOrg themselves create a VIP section for high-rollers? 

33 comments on “Air Charter Consolidated Under Single Primary Vendor

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  8. The Burning Man airport runway is 1 mile long. Hualapai Playa could accommodate a more than 10,000 foot runway. But everyone knows helicopter is the way to go to the Fly Ranch retreat center and retirement home. They could reactivate the Gerlach airport, then you could just Uber to the ranch!

    • “They could reactivate the Gerlach airport…”

      Never happen. A municipal airport would serve the local common good year-round or as needed, and would not be under the Borg control and operate at their caprice. Besides, the glitterati would prefer a short golf cart ride to the drive from the Gerlach airport – and it would not relieve traffic.

  9. They’re really bending over backwards to accommodate the insane desire to increase the population cap. Seems like that’s the primary directive. They can’t just accept that a lot of people will be unhappy every year when they don’t get tickets. Some people can’t abide other disliking them. Luckily I’m not one of those types of people. Anyhoo, as always, the event itself will be amazing, it’s just the backstage shenanigans that are frustrating.

    • “…insane desire to increase the population cap.Seems like that’s the primary directive.”
      > Agreed, that is apparent.

      “They can’t just accept that a lot of people will be unhappy every year when they don’t get tickets. Some people can’t abide other disliking them.”
      > Whatever evidence do you have of that? On the contrary, if they wanted “people” (i.e., burners) to like them, they would be more transparent with the financials. But more importantly, they would involve them in their decisions, if only to get positive vibes.

      No, your theory doe not make a good model to predict their actions. The NPD model works much better. They just have greed for money and narcissistic supplies. More population = more tickets = more money and more people to control. They don’t want burners to like them, they want more admirers and people to suck up to them.

  10. In 1998 I emailed the airport asking if there were scheduled flights into BM. I had a shit-ton of money from the internet thing that was happening. Kinda hoping to snort lines off the stewardesses’ nipples in flight, chasing them with shots of Jack…

    Some angry bitch replied to me about how BM will never have scheduled flights and tried to rip me a new asshole. Somehow I knew she was wrong (in the long-run), and also short and fat with several piercing into her cllitorous and liked to walk around the playa with her big black boots and sagging breasts exposed ready to give the evil eye to anyone who might look at her.

    This is to you, cupcake: Fuck you!

    HA hah haahah hahahah ha hah ha hah ahhaahahahhh hahha hahha!

    Sign me up for the first flight – fist class.

  11. “How long until we have a regular private aircraft service to Fly Ranch? How long until BMOrg themselves create a VIP section for high-rollers?”

    I’m sorry, but didn’t you mean to say:

    “How long until BMOrg themselves create a VIP section for high-rollers? How long until we have a regular private aircraft service to Fly Ranch!”

  12. TL:DR
    16 air shuttle services entered the contract competition thunderdome and one emerged: Advantage Air (10 years experience on playa) won. Runner up Playa Air Express (6 years experience) did not. They think it is important for us to know that they can’t make enough profit off being a subcontractor to Advantage.

    All the 16 vendors knew the deal going in.

    Thanks for your years of service!

    The entire purpose of expanding air service is to decrease traffic on 447 so the population cap can be lifted in 2017. The heavy lifting in the new air contract is being done by 30 seat Dash 8 flying buses at a lower ticket price than 6-8 seaters. The glitterati does not take the bus.

    • “The glitterati” are not part of my Burning Man, never were, never will be. Enjoy your Burnt Man experience with the lifted population cap. Last time I went only about 30,000 were there and so little to see and do – if there were 70,000+ clearly I would have a lot more fun.

  13. “How long until we have a regular private aircraft service to Fly Ranch?” 2020

    “How long until BMOrg themselves create a VIP section for high-rollers?” I had the impression this was a done deal when the sherpas outted the board for the exclusive plug-n-play camps.

    Squeezing out the “non-burner” air charters comes as no surprise as organizations based upon a ‘cult’ structure are all about monopolistic power and control, ask any former Scientologist, or Peoples Temple survivor.

    Burnersxxx, I know you are an avid reader, so here is one for your list:
    Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships by Janja Lalich and Madeleine Tobias (Bay Tree Publishing). Excerpts from the book:
    “Charismatic authority… is the emotional bond between a leader and his followers. It lends legitimacy to the leader and grants authority to his actions while at the same time justifying and reinforcing followers’ responses to the leader. Transcendent belief system… is the overarching ideology that binds adherents to the group and keeps them behaving according to the group’s rules and norms. Systems of control… is the network of acknowledged or visible regulatory mechanisms that guide the operation of the group. Systems of influence… to create institutionalized group norms and an established code of conduct by which members are expected to live. This is accomplished by various methods of peer and leadership pressure, and through social-psychological influence and modeling. The desired effect is conformity and the self-renunciation that is required not only to be part of the group but also to achieve the professed goal.”

    Abductive reasoning: If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, but doesn’t want to be called a duck, form a non-profit corporation. 😉

  14. If this is possible, then it’s possible to have 10 hookers blow cocaine up my ass. But not all at the same time. Very interesting. What type of aircraft are they talking about?

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