After 5 years of planning, 3 years of building, and with the help of hundreds of volunteers, the Big Imagination 747 is making its long-awaited debut at Burning Man.
The initial announcement about the project happened in 2015, appearing as a question: Have you ever seen one of these on playa? The video pans down to reveal a 747 fuselage, with a bold promise: YOU WILL. Due to extensive legal issues (some still in process to this day), the project was delayed. The Big Imagination camp hosted a fun, interactive experience instead.
The plane was acquired by Big Imagination Foundation in March of 2016. Over the next two years, through countless hours of labor and love, pieces of the plane were delivered to Black Rock City- in 2016, the front quarter section, and in 2017, the entire top half.
2016, front quarter
The plane has received a mixed reception. In 2016, when the front quarter was placed on the Esplanade main street, the citygoers were underwhelmed. After everyone had been promised a plane, they were left feeling disappointed with just one piece. When the top half appeared in 2017, the crew was inundated with the same questions from visitors.
“Where is the rest of it?”
“Is this the same plane as last year?”
“Why didn’t you just fly it here?”
2017, top half
It was initially announced as an art car, which implies a “mutated vehicle.” Many burners complain that the plane is “not mutated enough” to be art. Many burners complain that it’s towed by an airport tug, so it’s not really a car. The legitimacy of this project has been up for debate so long that sometimes it almost competes with the original concept of the project: a roving 747 in the heart of the Nevada desert, home to one of the sweetest transformational experiences on playa.
Passengers first enter through the Insecurity Checkpoint, where they are greeted by camp members in flight attendant outfits. Beverages are served from vintage drink carts. Once inside, they fill out their Boarding Pass which asks: where would you go or what would you do if nothing was holding you back? Then they are invited to the Emotional Baggage Check, where they are encouraged to fill out a tag with everything they want to leave behind. At the end of the week, all the baggage tags are taken to the Temple and burned.
The loving message and amazing team members on this project have attracted a strong core team of builders. The crew is almost entirely made up of familiar faces from the last few burns. And finally- after years of literal blood, sweat, and tears- the plane is being reassembled for its debut at Burning Man 2018.
The bottom half has to be transported in one piece, for structural integrity. The wings have been removed and are shipped on a separate truck. The interstate caravan moves at night, this time, to avoid causing traffic.
Happy 4th of July, from Yours Truly
The top two pieces are re-attached, the belt line is secured by thousands of bolts. The sun-roof is cut out of the top section. The build crew sets up a base just outside Gerlach in mid-June, and works until the plane is transported to Black Rock City in mid-August.
When the plane arrives at Burning Man, the landing gear is lowered and the wings are reattached with a crane. Eventually, the lights will be installed and the experience will be built out.
Oh yeah- and it will move.
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I have been documenting this project for three years, from the first month they got their hands on a fuselage in Mojave, CA. I have continued to follow them through their learning and growing process, through the negotiations with BLM and Burning Man Org. This year I spent almost 2 months in the desert capturing their journey.
We continue to release short videos to update the public on our progress, but we intend to make a longer, more comprehensive feature down the line.
Bonus shot from our wedding!
Credit: Director / Editor