Uploaded: Thu, Dec 8, 2011, 10:29 pm
Google execs offer to save Hangar One
NASA HQ has no word on offer after two months
"Why doesn't Google pay for it?" has been the sort of comment often made by those frustrated by the years-long struggle to save landmark Hangar One at Moffett Field. But on Thursday it was announced that the principals of Google are willing to do just that.
Potentially saving taxpayers $32.8 million, the proposal to restore and lease the iconic 200-foot-tall structure was publicly announced Thursday night by Ken Ambrose, director of H211 LLC, which runs a fleet of private jets out of Moffett Field for Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin, and chairman Eric Schmidt.
As its toxic siding is stripped off in a U.S. Navy-led environmental cleanup, Ambrose told a subcommittee of the Moffett Field Restoration Advisory Board that Google's leaders would pay 100 percent of the cost to restore the hangar and the shell in return for a long-term lease to use it for the Google leaders' eight planes, including two jumbo jets and several Gulfstream jets, which have been based at Moffett since 2007.
"It appears to be the only thing going, to save the hangar," said Lenny Siegel, a longtime leader of the effort to save Hangar One, who in the past has questioned the special agreement with H211. "That said, I still believe the federal government should pay for restoration of the hangar."
The White House's Office of Management and Budget has taken the financial onus for Hagar One's restoration off the Navy's hands and put it on Hangar One's current owner, NASA. But President Obama's $32 million request to restore the hangar for NASA now appears to have little support in Congress, where subcommittees in the House and Senate have removed it from the budget. The proposal was sharply criticized in an Inspector General's report that said "mission critical" NASA projects would be delayed to restore a building with no proposed use.
Ambrose called the current governmental dysfunction that endangers the historic hangar "unfortunate drama."
"I feel a real sense of urgency with the bones exposed," Ambrose said of the stripped frame. Whether or not the $12 million dollars worth of scaffolding inside of the hangar could be reused to restore the hangar "could be the difference" between it being financially feasible or not, he said.
Siegel said he has known about the proposal for several months, but decided to ask Ambrose to pitch the proposal to the public because it's not been a slam-dunk. It has been two months since the proposal was made and despite support from NASA Ames Research Center, where Hangar One is located, there has been no response from NASA headquarters in Washington D.C. "They are in radio silence," Ambrose said.
"Things have gotten to the point that NASA headquarters has become uncooperative and the community needs to be heard," Siegel said.
Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, who has consistently pushed for Hangar One's restoration, has sent three letters to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in support of the H211 proposal since late October, and has also heard nothing back. She adds that the offer could save Hagar One from demolition, save tax dollars and mentions that the Mayor of Sunnyvale supports the offer as well.
Ambrose said local NASA officials at Ames Research Center have supported the proposal, which would strengthen a partnership that Google has with NASA. Google division "planetary ventures" is working to organize NASA's archives. "At Ames everyone we've talked to says 'that's a great concept,'" Ambrose said.
In a unique agreement that allows use of the federal airfield for personal flights, the Google exec's planes have been stored in Hangar 211 at Moffett since 2007 under a $1.3 million a year lease agreement that allows use of the aircraft for NASA's scientific work. There have been no noise complaints about the planes, Ambrose said.
Siegel speculated that the proposal could be seen as a threat to some in Washington D.C. who want to see NASA Ames' Moffett airfield, where Hangar One sits, sold or surplussed by the federal government. There may also be some concern from the White House about the appearance of doing a favor for President Obama's supporters at Google. RAB co-chair and former Ames administrator Bill Berry said he was concerned that political "pot shots" would be taken at the proposal.
While supportive and open to the H211 proposal, RAB members expressed concerns at the meeting about whether Hangar One could still be shared with public uses. Preservationists seemed less concerned that Google's leaders were interested in working with the community for an environmentally sensitive restoration, later saying in a letter to NASA that "restoration will meet historic preservation standards" under the H211 plan. Ambrose confirmed that Google's leaders aren't interested in painting a large Google sign on the side.
Inside Hangar One, Ambrose also said Google's proposed use is "not incompatible" with other uses that could share one of the world's largest freestanding structures. Other potential uses include the Moffett Field History Museum and the major air and space museum that preservationists (who are also RAB members) have proposed under the Air and Space West Foundation.
In its letter to NASA headquarters, the RAB subcommittee writes, "We believe that our neighbors, residents of the South Bay Area from all political perspectives, will not hesitate to support the H211 offer enthusiastically."
Posted by QM
a resident of North Whisman
on Dec 13, 2011 at 6:47 pm
Hello? H211 they already have the nose under the tent...
Thank you Mr. DeBolt
Google execs' fighter jet is no toy, NASA says
by Daniel DeBolt
Mountain View Voice Staff
The fighter jet brought quietly to Moffett Field a few months ago isn't a toy for Google executives, say NASA officials, but in fact will help the agency collect atmospheric data and fight wildfires.
But some observers remain skeptical, noting that the jet, while luucrative for NASA Ames, has yet to collect any data.
The European-built Dornier Alpha Jet, a sleek two-seater capable of 600 miles per hour, is one of five planes belonging to H211 LLC, a company owned by Google executives Sergey Brin, Larry Page and Eric Schmidt. Besides the Alpha Jet, H211's fleet includes two jumbo jets stationed at Moffett and two Gulfstream Vs stationed at San Jose Airport.
Officials say the Alpha Jet, however, can do what the other planes cannot: fulfill the terms of a lease with NASA Ames, signed in August 2007, that allows H211's private planes to land at Moffett Federal Airfield. In exchange, the company pays NASA more than $1.3 million a year and lets the agency outfit its planes with scientific instruments.
NASA officials admitted Monday that so far no special scientific instruments have been fitted to any H211 planes, after hundreds of flights and more than year of allowing them to fly out of Moffett. The only equipment used on them thus far is handheld cameras, said Steve Zornetzer, deputy director of NASA Ames, in an e-mail.
The cameras were used to take footage of the Aurigid meteor shower on Aug. 31, 2007 for the SETI Institute. That was the last scientific mission for H211.
As for the money, it already helped NASA Ames close a $7 million deficit for Moffett runway operations last year, Zornetzer said. The Alpha Jet brings even more revenue for NASA Ames, he said, although he wouldn't give specifics.
Zornetzer added that failing to pay for runway operations could threaten Ames' control of the runway -- a bad development for local residents given the Federal Aviation Administration's eagerness to allow cargo flights there.
But Lenny Siegel, director of the Center for Public Environmental Oversight, a group involved with Moffett's restoration, thought the arrangement could be setting a bad precedent.
"If anyone can use the airfield to help Ames overcome its deficit, who knows what will end up there," he said.
City Hall officials were less vigorous in their criticism. Council member Jac Siegel said the issue is between Ames and Google. Council member Laura Macias expressed concern, saying the arrangement is "not something that I can feel really good about."
When dealing with local businesses, she said, "It's always a balance. I think in this case it's a little bit too cozy."
The existance of H211's Alpha Jet was revealed publicly for the first time in a Voice story last week. Zornetzer said the jet was purchased in December 2007 after it was realized that H211's other planes couldn't be modified, due to FAA regulations, to hold the scientific equipment required under the lease agreement. For technical reasons, the FAA restrictions don't apply to the Alpha Jet.
The fact that four of the five H211 planes won't serve much of a purpose to NASA's mission won't keep them out of Moffett, Zornetzer said. According to the original lease agreement, the planes were supposed to be fitted with the scientific instruments by August of this year.
Zornetzer said the Alpha Jet is now undergoing a major revamp -- resulting in a quieter engine and a payload of instruments built and paid for by NASA -- before it begins flights out of Moffett this spring. It has been in Seattle off and on to receive the modifications, he said.
"This particular Alpha Jet is being converted from military to civilian use," he said. "Its turbo-fan engine will be stage III compliant; it will not be noisy when done."
Atmospheric data from the Alpha Jet's payload will be collected by the earth science division at NASA Ames led by Stephen Hipskind. The plane can fly in and out of Moffett as the Google executives see fit. Zornetzer noted that H211 made up only 1 percent of the 19,000 flights in and out of Moffett last year.
The Alpha Jet's NASA payload will also include equipment to collect data on wildfires: high resolution cameras, hyper-spectral analysis instruments and an infrared detector. NASA has an unmanned aircraft called the Ikhana that collects similar data.
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Posted by permission?us?, a resident of the North Whisman neighborhood, on Oct 23, 2008 at 4:30 pm
Don't be silly-Google can do ANYthing they want.....
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Posted by Rez, a resident of the The Crossings neighborhood, on Oct 23, 2008 at 6:13 pm
What Google wants, Google gets....
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Posted by gaetan, a resident of another community, on Oct 24, 2008 at 11:22 am
The AlphaJet was NOT a "Fighter" but a advanced trainer aricraft, and the jet of the famoust "Patrouille de France" (French Flight Demonstration Squadron)
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Posted by JimF, a resident of another community, on Oct 24, 2008 at 11:29 am
Are there any people on earth that create more pollution than Google's founders?
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