One of the Victoria Flying Club’s newer pilots was able to cross off an experience very few pilots of any experience level can say they have had – delivering pizza to the Burning Man festival by plane.
Brandon Baker achieved the feat while attending the festival, which ran from Aug. 28 to Sept. 5 this year. He was helping build one of the camps in Black Rock City – a temporary city established in the Nevada desert each year for the festival, becoming home to tens of thousands of people before disappearing without a trace until the next year.
“Being an engineer and a creative type, I have always been interested in building stuff, and that city is built from nothing in a week or two, so I was invited to go down and help come up with a solar solution for our camp,” said Baker.
The opportunity for Baker to take to the skies came when he met several other fellow private pilots at the festival, one of which had a plane he was willing to rent out. Fortunately, Baker had decided to take his license paperwork and logbook with him to the festival on the odd chance an opportunity to fly came up.
He rented the plane for 20 hours of flying time and spent much of that flying sightseeing tours of the massive tent and RV city out of the temporary dirt strip airport known as 88NV. On one refuelling trip to the nearby Derby Field Airport, Baker stumbled upon a menu for a pizza place, and the idea for an airborne pizza delivery for his newfound friends was born.
“The pizza company was able to get us 10 pizzas to the airport, even though they don’t usually deliver to the airport, but it was 10 pizzas and it was going to burning man, so they thought it was kind of cool and made an exception for us,” he said. “We stuffed all the pizzas in the back of the plane … and shared them between our camp, The Empress, and our friend’s camp, Reverbia.”
Beyond the surprise pizza – and the opportunity for a much-needed shower at the airport – Baker said simply having the opportunity to fly out of a very unique airport less than a year after he started learning to fly is something that will stick with him for a long time.
He said the unique challenge of flying into a busy airport with fewer air traffic control resources than a typical small airport, and one that has a dirt runway and frequent dust storms, allowed him to learn a great deal about flying. Having the opportunity to practice emergency landing drills in an environment where he could land just about everywhere if something went truly wrong was just the icing on the cake.
“I’m so glad I had this opportunity. It gave me an experience I probably never would have had otherwise, and I met some friends I’ll probably meet up with to fly in other places … hopefully life-long friends have been made in this experience.”