Reno, Nev. • 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 last weekend to federal land in the Black Rock Desert 100 miles north of Reno.
Group leaders have not 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 running Aug. 25-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 1,000-foot-long path of 4-inch-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 is 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 on Sunday.
The plane has been one of the largest installations at the annual, 80,000-person event since 2016.
Laura Blaylock, a Gerlach resident and conservationist, said she is furious that the plane is returning. She said the BLM’s core mission is to protect the Black Rock-High 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.