NASA Ames official Steve Zornetzer told the City Council on Tuesday that its deal with the owners of Google to allow their Boeing 767 to land at Moffett may be the first of several deals like it, which will help pay for airfield operations.
Zornetzer explained that it costs $7 million a year to run the airfield, and that the federal government has recently cut off the airfield's funding. NASA Ames is still $3 million short this year.
"We will act responsibly and aggressively to meet that shortfall," Zornetzer said. "There will be other partnerships."
Zornetzer said those other partnerships will happen only if they meet two criteria. The first is that "top dollar" rates be paid by the user, which he said is the case with Google.
The second is that the user must "enhance" NASA's mission by outfitting the planes with scientific equipment to gather data from Earth's atmosphere during flights. In the case of Google, the executive's planes are taking data "primarily to understand climate change and global warming."
The council had no questions or comments, though one member of the public, John Lin of Showers Drive, raised concerns about the possibility of late night flights, something that has been a problem at the San Jose airport, where Oracle CEO Larry Ellison violated a curfew on flights in his private jet.
The alternative to the private deals, Zornetzer said, is that the federal government would turn over the airstrip to the Federal Aviation Administration, which would likely allow cargo flights in and out of Moffett, something that was fought off by the city in the 1990s.