Mountain View Voice

Opinion - March 8, 2013

Another lifeline for Hangar One

Nine lives may not adequately describe how many times Hangar One has been written off for dead only to come back with another lease on life. When the United States Navy turned Moffett Field over to NASA in 1994, it tried to squirm out of any obligations to clean up the toxic mess around Hangar One, but after a heated fight with the new landlord, officials agreed to remove — but not replace — the toxic siding covering the massive hangar.

And when the siding finally was removed, leaving only the skeleton of the iconic structure that has long been a landmark for Mountain View and the Silicon Valley, it was thought that in times of tight money in Washington, D.C., no one ever would step up to restore Hangar One.

Then H211, the company that oversees Google's small squadron of private planes, offered in late 2011 to do the job in return for a long-term lease on the hangar. But that deal was curiously ignored in Washington, even though it offered the government a no-cost option to get the job done.

Five month later, NASA administrator Charles Bolden shocked the preservationists and other interested parties when he announced on April 6 a plan to turn Hangar One and the Moffett Federal Airfield over to the General Services Administration for disposal in the federal system. Such a fate could have left the hangar and runway in limbo for years, while the GSA looked for an agency to take over the properties.

That was where things stood until about two weeks ago, when Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, the White House, the General Services Administration and NASA shocked everyone by announcing that the GSA will seek bids for the restoration and and lease of Hangar One and for management of Moffett Federal Airfield.

The dramatic change means that the government will issue requests for proposals on behalf of NASA, which now is committed to seeing Hangar One recovered, rather than being left to rust away as many had feared. If plans materialize according to this latest scenario, it could mean that the hangar and airfield will be on solid footing for years to come.

Although at this point it is not clear what companies might be bidding to do the job, H211, the manager of Google's fleet of private planes, told the Voice that the company will take a serious look at the proposal, despite recently making a commitment to move its planes to San Jose's Mineta International Airport. An earlier offer by H211 could have brought more than $40 million restore the hangar's siding. The company also has said it might be open to sharing Hangar One with the budding effort by the Save Hangar One Committee, which hopes to build an air and space museum in the gargantuan building.

This is a plan that we hope the entire Moffett community can support. With the right artifacts, and with Google's support as a tenant, Hangar One can remain the iconic structure that serves as a landmark for Moffett Field and residents of the South Bay. It is a link back to the Navy's dirigibles, including the USS Macon, which crashed into the Pacific ocean off Point Sur during a mission that began at Moffett. The hangar is a historical asset that is priceless in today's market. Any questions about its value to this community should be put to rest with this latest development.

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