NASA, Google ink deal for Hangar One, Moffett airfields


NASA announced today that officials signed a lease with Google's Planetary Ventures LLC to manage Moffett Federal Airfield and rehabilitate the landmark Hangar One.

The agreement comes more than three years after Google's top executives offered to restore the massive hangar built in the early 1930s. Planetary Ventures was awarded the lease in February, after offering to restore Hangar One in exchange for a long-term lease of the space in 2011.

The airfield property includes Hangars One, Two and Three, an airfield flight operations building, two runways and a private golf course of about 1,000 acres of land.

NASA officials framed the deal as a way to save money and rid the space agency of surplus property, although the land will remain in federal hands. The lease is estimated to save NASA approximately $6.3 million annually in maintenance and operation costs, and provide $1.16 billion in rent over the initial 60-year lease term, according to NASA spokeswoman Karen Nothon.

"We want to invest taxpayer resources in scientific discovery, technology development and space exploration -- not in maintaining infrastructure we no longer need," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in a statement released Monday.

According to the lease signed Monday, Nov. 10, Planetary Ventures plans to invest more than $200 million in improvements to the property and commits to restoring Hangar One, rehabilitating Hangars Two and Three and creating an educational facility where the public can explore the site's legacy and the role of technology in the history of Silicon Valley.

"We look forward to rolling up our sleeves to restore the remarkable landmark Hangar One, which for years has been considered one of the most endangered historic sites in the United States," said David Radcliffe, Google's vice president of real estate and workplace services, in a statement.

Lenny Siegel, a member of the Save Hangar One Committee who is on the board of a group aiming to build an air and space museum in Hangar One, said the lease is great news.

"We finally have assurance that Hangar One will be re-skinned, Moffett Field's facilities will be put to scientific use, and there will be a community-oriented educational center at Moffett Field," he told the Voice via email.

"There will be challenges, however," said Siegel, who was just elected to the Mountain View City Council. "I call upon Google, NASA, and adjacent communities to establish a Community Advisory Commission, similar to the one that worked successfully in 1997, to develop proposals for addressing the transportation and housing challenges associated with the reuse of Moffett Field."

Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, a longtime supporter of efforts to save Hangar One, called the agreement "a major win."

"This significant and long-awaited victory ... honors Moffett Field and Hangar One as part of U.S. Naval history, while looking to the future by promoting research into space, aviation and other emerging technologies," Eshoo said in a statement.

The signed deal appears to mark the end of a long battle to preserve the historic 200-foot-tall home of the U.S.S. Macon. In 2003, the Navy had sought to tear down the landmark structure because of toxic lead, asbestos and PCBs in its frame paint and siding. Stripped of its siding, Hangar One now sits as a bare skeletal frame in need of an expensive restoration job expected to cost more than $40 million.

"We are fortunate to have had significant input from surrounding communities on setting a future path for Moffett Field," said Ames director S. Peter Worden. "With the involvement of the citizens of Mountain View and Sunnyvale, we are confident the results will benefit all parties."

Not everyone is enthusiastic about the deal. Consumer Watchdog posted criticism of the lease on its website, saying it wrongly rewards Google executives for what it calls "longstanding abuses" at Ames Research Center.

John M. Simpson, director of Consumer Watchdog's Privacy Project, pointed out that last December a NASA audit found that H211's corporate jet fleet, owned by Google chairman Eric Schmidt and co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, received an unwarranted discount of up to $5.3 million for its jet fuel purchases from the government.

"This is like giving the keys to your car to the guy who has been siphoning gas from your tank," said Simpson. "It is unfairly rewarding unethical and wrongful behavior. These Google guys seem to think they can do whatever they want and get away with it -- and, sadly, it looks like that is true."

While no "intentional misconduct" was found, the inspector general's report said that H211 paid only $2 million for jet fuel in 2012 that would have cost $3 million to $3.6 million if purchased at market rate at the San Jose Mineta International airport.

The report attributes the improper discount to a "misunderstanding" by fuel provider DLA-Energy, which operated under the assumption that the planes were being used for NASA research and could purchase it at a reduced rate for government contractors. But according to the report, only 26 percent of the 229 flights between August 2012 to July 2013 were for NASA missions. The other 170 were private flights.

Planetary Ventures won't get the keys to Moffett Federal Airfield just yet. NASA officials said it will assume operation of the site following the finalization of a joint plan with NASA, the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the California Regional Water Quality Control Board.

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1 person likes this
Posted by Marion Krause
a resident of Southgate
on Nov 11, 2014 at 10:40 am

Please, please, please don't 're-skin' the hanger or, if Google does re-skin it, please make it a clear skin. It is a work of art just the way it is.

Like this comment
Posted by Cele
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 11, 2014 at 10:46 am

I am so happy. Thank you Google and NASA. I have the very fondest memories of riding with my Mom to meet my Dad who was a test pilot at Moffett in 1948. It was the most exciting day when we would get to walk into the hangar to meet him.

2 people like this
Posted by Matta
a resident of University South
on Nov 11, 2014 at 10:57 am

Lenny Siegal deserves the major credit for his persistence and vigilanceT over many years

1 person likes this
Posted by David
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 11, 2014 at 11:00 am

Yes it is a work of art as is, but the metal will deteriorate if not covered with "skin".

Like this comment
Posted by Gethin
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 11, 2014 at 12:55 pm

Gethin is a registered user.


Like this comment
Posted by Rich
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 11, 2014 at 7:25 pm

Before moving hundreds or thousands of employees to their new offices sitting on top of a decades old EPA super fund site Web Link polluted with plenty of things Web Link , but mostly Trichloroethylene from the early days of the Silicon Valley chip manufacturing, are they planning to clean it up? NASA does not want to clean it up.

Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 12, 2014 at 9:21 am

The Moffett Field Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) meets 20 November at the Mountain View Senior Center on Escuela at 7:00 - 9:00 PM. This is a government directed group that is cleaning up the base and includes the EPA, Navy, NASA and local city participants. Lenny Siegel is a member who has been championing Hanger 1 and is a newly elected Mountain View City Counsel member. I am sure that this particular meeting will be very interesting since it is the next step as to how everyone proceeds and a celebration as to what has been accomplished. Many people have been working this issue so all are to be commended.

1 person likes this
Posted by Long Timer….
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 13, 2014 at 5:16 am

I hope this is not a flash of the shinny objects and deception to the taxpayers. After all the lease is less than $19.4 million a year, chump change for Google who will no doubt sub-lease what they can.

Some Facts.
Hanger One is one of the world's largest freestanding structures, covering 8 acres!
Length is 1,133 feet (345 m) long and 308 feet (94 m) wide.

The Eiffel Tower is also one of the world's largest freestanding structures, 7,300 tones iron in the structure.
Height 1,063 feet.

Both are examples of extraordinary engineering.

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