News

Council member wowed by ride in Google's fighter jet

City Council members in Google's hometown may be paid only $500 a month by the city, but Mountain View council member John Inks has found another perk to the job -- a thrill ride in a fighter jet owned by the founders of Google.

"It was more than interesting," Inks said of the one-hour Jan. 4 trip. At one point Inks himself flew the jet straight up until it stalled, on purpose. "You just push the stick to get out of it, it's not a big deal," Inks said. "It was easy to in that plane."

Before the flight Inks says he'd only flown a small Cessna, but the French Dornier Alpha Jet is capable pulling enough gravitational force in a turn, 4.5 Gs, that you have to keep your muscles tight to keep blood from rushing to your head, Inks said. "I was pressed into the seat pretty well" as the plane was pitched into Immelman turns and Split S maneuvers. The flight took Inks out over the Pacific Ocean mostly, and around Santa Cruz and Carmel.

The jet is one of eight planes the executives of Google, Larry Page, Sergei Brin and Eric Schmidt, have parked at Moffett Field's Hangar 211. An agreement with NASA Ames Research Center allows NASA to use the planes for scientific research. Inks said some of the thrilling maneuvers are necessary to fulfill an agreement with NASA.

"This plane is used to verify airworthiness of instruments that measure atmospheric emissions, greenhouse gasses and other space science," Inks said in an email. "Special acrobatic maneuvers are required. All this is part of Google's partnership to fulfill requirements of the Space Act."

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"Its an unbelievable operation," Inks said of H211, the corporation that operates the planes for the Google executives.

Inks said the city looked into whether the flight could be construed as a gift and pose a conflict of interest. Inks participates in council decisions that could favor or hurt Google's business, such as whether to support its latest development project.

"FPPC determined the flight was 'informational material,' not a gift," Inks wrote in an email.

Inks learned a few other things of interest, such as the fact that H211 director Ken Ambrose, who took Inks on the flight, commutes to work by helicopter from his farm in the Southern California city of Walnut, and he is qualified to fly 14 different types of planes.

The flight was offered to Inks after a meeting in which Ambrose presented the offer for Google's founders to save Moffett Field's Hangar One, a project that could cost over $45 million. "You're a pilot, would you like to go into the alpha jet?" Inks recalled Ambrose asking. "I said, 'Yeah, are you kidding?'"

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Council member wowed by ride in Google's fighter jet

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Wed, Jan 11, 2012, 1:50 pm

City Council members in Google's hometown may be paid only $500 a month by the city, but Mountain View council member John Inks has found another perk to the job -- a thrill ride in a fighter jet owned by the founders of Google.

"It was more than interesting," Inks said of the one-hour Jan. 4 trip. At one point Inks himself flew the jet straight up until it stalled, on purpose. "You just push the stick to get out of it, it's not a big deal," Inks said. "It was easy to in that plane."

Before the flight Inks says he'd only flown a small Cessna, but the French Dornier Alpha Jet is capable pulling enough gravitational force in a turn, 4.5 Gs, that you have to keep your muscles tight to keep blood from rushing to your head, Inks said. "I was pressed into the seat pretty well" as the plane was pitched into Immelman turns and Split S maneuvers. The flight took Inks out over the Pacific Ocean mostly, and around Santa Cruz and Carmel.

The jet is one of eight planes the executives of Google, Larry Page, Sergei Brin and Eric Schmidt, have parked at Moffett Field's Hangar 211. An agreement with NASA Ames Research Center allows NASA to use the planes for scientific research. Inks said some of the thrilling maneuvers are necessary to fulfill an agreement with NASA.

"This plane is used to verify airworthiness of instruments that measure atmospheric emissions, greenhouse gasses and other space science," Inks said in an email. "Special acrobatic maneuvers are required. All this is part of Google's partnership to fulfill requirements of the Space Act."

"Its an unbelievable operation," Inks said of H211, the corporation that operates the planes for the Google executives.

Inks said the city looked into whether the flight could be construed as a gift and pose a conflict of interest. Inks participates in council decisions that could favor or hurt Google's business, such as whether to support its latest development project.

"FPPC determined the flight was 'informational material,' not a gift," Inks wrote in an email.

Inks learned a few other things of interest, such as the fact that H211 director Ken Ambrose, who took Inks on the flight, commutes to work by helicopter from his farm in the Southern California city of Walnut, and he is qualified to fly 14 different types of planes.

The flight was offered to Inks after a meeting in which Ambrose presented the offer for Google's founders to save Moffett Field's Hangar One, a project that could cost over $45 million. "You're a pilot, would you like to go into the alpha jet?" Inks recalled Ambrose asking. "I said, 'Yeah, are you kidding?'"

Comments

DCS
Old Mountain View
on Jan 11, 2012 at 2:20 pm
DCS, Old Mountain View
on Jan 11, 2012 at 2:20 pm
3 people like this

That sounds like an awesome perk! Cool picture too.


Susan
Castro City
on Jan 11, 2012 at 3:19 pm
Susan, Castro City
on Jan 11, 2012 at 3:19 pm
3 people like this

Congrats John! That kind of a flight is one to remember forever. The stall is fun too!


Sabrina
The Crossings
on Jan 11, 2012 at 3:38 pm
Sabrina, The Crossings
on Jan 11, 2012 at 3:38 pm
3 people like this

Well, it's a pretty bribe.


MV Mama
Old Mountain View
on Jan 11, 2012 at 3:42 pm
MV Mama, Old Mountain View
on Jan 11, 2012 at 3:42 pm
3 people like this

Seriously, my eyes rolled so far into the back on my head upon reading this. This jet is for the executives at Google? Maybe in case they need to escape the Google campus in a hurry? Give me a break. When is the city going to stop bending over for Google?


Resident
Old Mountain View
on Jan 11, 2012 at 3:59 pm
Resident, Old Mountain View
on Jan 11, 2012 at 3:59 pm
3 people like this

Great story!

I don't understand how this isn't a gift of value. If our elected MV officials don't make enough money, the city of MV should pay them more. They should not be able to accept gifts from companies that deal with the city.

At the very least, Inks should recuse himself regarding any discussions or votes that are related to Google. At worst, Inks cannot be impartial. At best, there's an appearance of impropriety.

How many other MV council members have received "gifts" that were considered gifts? Who gave these "gifts"? What were these "gifts"?

I think the public deserves to know!


Dr. Collateral
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Jan 11, 2012 at 4:00 pm
Dr. Collateral, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Jan 11, 2012 at 4:00 pm
3 people like this

Remember, that jet is for scientific purposes. No, really.

Web Link

And if you believe that, I've got this bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell to you. For you, half off!


Pilot
Monta Loma
on Jan 11, 2012 at 4:23 pm
Pilot, Monta Loma
on Jan 11, 2012 at 4:23 pm
3 people like this

Note that "the engine stalled" is almost certainly erroneous. More likely, there was an aerodynamic stall of the wing. Pilots often talk about stalling and it never refers to the engine, always to the wing.

Web Link


Steve
Shoreline West
on Jan 11, 2012 at 5:15 pm
Steve, Shoreline West
on Jan 11, 2012 at 5:15 pm
3 people like this

"You're a pilot, would you like to go into the alpha jet?" Inks recalled Ambrose asking. "I said, 'Yeah, are you kidding?'"

That doesn't sound like "informational material".

Hope you had fun, John. That little trip'll cost you about $3500

Web Link


Steve
Shoreline West
on Jan 11, 2012 at 5:24 pm
Steve, Shoreline West
on Jan 11, 2012 at 5:24 pm
3 people like this

Seems like "transportation" is considered a gift.

"Example: An official is given an informational tour of a new facility in order to see how it functions. The tour itself is "informational material." Therefore, it does not constitute a gift to the official.

However, food, beverage, and transportation to and from the site would be considered gifts to the official. "

Also - Moffet Field is reachable by commercial transportation

"... except insofar as such transportation is not commercially
obtainable"


Petty!
Monta Loma
on Jan 11, 2012 at 5:53 pm
Petty!, Monta Loma
on Jan 11, 2012 at 5:53 pm
3 people like this

Until the VOICE started allowing these blogs, I never knew how petty our Mountain View residents were.

Since none of you will actually take on the job of City Council - where they get tons of grief, very little money, and honestly, even less power (it is Mtn View), I think you all should just allow a bit of fun where they are offered it and
STOP BEING SO PETTY !!!


Mauricio
another community
on Jan 11, 2012 at 5:56 pm
Mauricio, another community
on Jan 11, 2012 at 5:56 pm
3 people like this

I don't blame the councilman for taking this trip, I mean, c'on anyone would do it!
- Yes, he might lean towards Google, but they're the single largest contributor to the City! Imagine what Mt. View would look like w/o them around?
Last, Mt. View residents have the power to vote anyone in or out of office, vote!


mary
Shoreline West
on Jan 11, 2012 at 5:58 pm
mary, Shoreline West
on Jan 11, 2012 at 5:58 pm
3 people like this

Being a council member is a 2nd job to those elected and most of them work for very high profile companies - they are not broke - they do not need a raise from the City and they need to do their jobs - work for the citizens of Mountain View.


James
Whisman Station
on Jan 11, 2012 at 6:23 pm
James, Whisman Station
on Jan 11, 2012 at 6:23 pm
3 people like this

I want a ride too. I think they should randomly select a MV resident every month for a joyride. :)


MSW
North Whisman
on Jan 11, 2012 at 8:20 pm
MSW, North Whisman
on Jan 11, 2012 at 8:20 pm
3 people like this

Why don't some of you "mean spirited MV residents" run for council? Really, anyone in a similar situation would gladly accept the invitation for the flight and learn something informational about the hangar operation........are you just jealous that he got an opportunity that you will never get?


Steve
Sylvan Park
on Jan 11, 2012 at 8:43 pm
Steve, Sylvan Park
on Jan 11, 2012 at 8:43 pm
3 people like this

That sounds very cool.
I'm jealous.
And all you people whining about it, good grief. Get a life.


Dianne
Monta Loma
on Jan 12, 2012 at 9:02 pm
Dianne, Monta Loma
on Jan 12, 2012 at 9:02 pm
3 people like this

I remember hearing the jets during the time the googlers were flying. Why do they get to have priviledges that the ordinary people do not - when it impacts all of us? These same googlers believe that ordinary people should drive less and buy expensive hybrids when they get to play with jets that burn enormous amounts of fuel?


Bruno
Old Mountain View
on Jan 13, 2012 at 12:15 pm
Bruno, Old Mountain View
on Jan 13, 2012 at 12:15 pm
3 people like this

"Imagine what Mt. View would look like w/o them around?"

Ok...hey, I remember! Just like it is now, but with less smug. Thanks for helping me take a trip down memory lane.


Steve
Shoreline West
on Jan 13, 2012 at 12:38 pm
Steve, Shoreline West
on Jan 13, 2012 at 12:38 pm
3 people like this

> And all you people whining about it, good grief. Get a life.
> Why don't some of you "mean spirited MV residents" run for council?
> STOP BEING SO PETTY !!!
> I don't blame the councilman for taking this trip
> And all you people whining about it, good grief. Get a life.

So it's okay for elected officials to accept $3500 jet rides? How about playoff football tickets? How about cash?

There's a reason that the FPPC does not allow transportation as "material information".


Steve
Shoreline West
on Jan 13, 2012 at 12:40 pm
Steve, Shoreline West
on Jan 13, 2012 at 12:40 pm
3 people like this

"FPPC determined the flight was 'informational material,' not a gift," Inks wrote in an email.

My five year-old does that. "Mom said it was ok for me to have twelve cookies".




Observer
Old Mountain View
on Jan 13, 2012 at 12:44 pm
Observer, Old Mountain View
on Jan 13, 2012 at 12:44 pm
3 people like this

Classic palm greasing of a public official. They all have a price. You just have to know what it is.


Political Insider
Old Mountain View
on Jan 15, 2012 at 7:57 am
Political Insider, Old Mountain View
on Jan 15, 2012 at 7:57 am
3 people like this

Here's some more gas to add to the fire for mean spirited MV residents. I hear the council members eat for free at Google. Some of them make excuses to visit Google and then just have to stop by for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Also they get free dinner at council meetings. They extort local companies to provide food.

I feel better already. ;-)




John Inks
The Crossings
on Jan 15, 2012 at 12:48 pm
John Inks, The Crossings
on Jan 15, 2012 at 12:48 pm
3 people like this

I agree with those of you that question both official approval and more importantly, any perceived quid pro quo influence regarding Google business with the city.

I supported the Charleston site ground lease and am aware of Google's considerable presence in Mountain View, assistance to schools and science, technology and math outreach. I can claim that I'm impartial, but there's no way I can be completely objective. I'm more reportable to you than the FPPC in that regard. I'm very interested in hearing from any of you further on this matter.

We have an agenda item Tuesday regarding an encroachment permit for Google to build bridges over Stevens Creek to their future Bay View development on Moffett. I have prepared well for this very unique project (concept only, nothing approved). I have numerous questions for staff and Google and think it's important that I participate. However, I am also genuinely interested in hearing you out regarding the permit and/or my participation on the item.

Regards,

John
[email protected]
650.941.4167


Rich
Old Mountain View
on Jan 16, 2012 at 9:29 am
Rich, Old Mountain View
on Jan 16, 2012 at 9:29 am
3 people like this

Thanks, John for the invitiation to contact you with concerns. We should continue to discuss transparency and ethical actions from our elected leaders.

I disagree with those who claim that discussion about your flight is just sour grapes and jealousy. Like many, I can afford my own flight (if it were available) and as an ordinary citizen I pay for all forms of my travel/entertainment (concerts, meals, and flights.) Like most oridnary Mountain View residents, I don't have insider access to special events....which is fine since offering this special flight to all residents wouldn't be practical.

So my question to John Inks....since there's a perception that you might not be impartial in dealing with Google and Google having many items before the City Council, do you regret taking this free flight from Google? Are you willing to recuse yourself from discussing or voting on Google issues?

Thanks for participating in the forum!


June
another community
on Jan 16, 2012 at 2:53 pm
June, another community
on Jan 16, 2012 at 2:53 pm
3 people like this

So, if we are saying that John is considered tainted by accepting a 'free ride' by Google, does that mean that we should recuse ourselves from voting in regular elections on things that affect Google if we have a free g-mail account &/or use their free city-wide wi-fi network to access the internet?!? Aren't many of us getting something for nothing from Google (do you know how much Comcast charges for internet access!)?
At least John is forward-thinking enough to study up on the issues that will come before the council, instead of just listening to what's presented before the council & making less-informed decisions. And,if nothing else, I'd say this dust-up will probably make him more prone to being very impartial, since he'll probably need to explain every decision he now makes on Google issues to at least one of you!


The Point
Blossom Valley
on Jan 16, 2012 at 3:09 pm
The Point, Blossom Valley
on Jan 16, 2012 at 3:09 pm
3 people like this

As an elected public official, Mr. Inks has a different threshhold than us on these matters. He's (presumably) taken the conflict of interests course required of public officials, and should've had better judgment. A $3,500 airplane ride isn't something available to the rest of us for free, and I have a hard time digesting that it was truly necessary for research. He should've erred on the side of caution and declined (or offered to pay for) this perk. Considering the uproar when Councilmembers get a few free Shoreline tickets, I'm surprised so many feel this is OK. It's really not...whether by law or by public perception.

I don't want to see him have to recuse himself. Maybe an apology and an offer to pay a portion (can't expect him to now fork over $3,500) of what the ride would normally cost. It's possible the FPPC manuals might describe corrective actions.


@ Bruno
Cuesta Park
on Jan 17, 2012 at 2:38 pm
@ Bruno, Cuesta Park
on Jan 17, 2012 at 2:38 pm
3 people like this

Bruno,

Not QUITE like it is now. Take a good look at our schools. Google has been generous to our School District and our School Foundation.

Your trip down memory lane does not include EVERYTHING in Mountain View. Just because YOU have not personally benefited, does not mean that Google is not benefiting our city.


MV Mama
Old Mountain View
on Jan 17, 2012 at 3:45 pm
MV Mama, Old Mountain View
on Jan 17, 2012 at 3:45 pm
3 people like this

Yes, Google donates to the schools. So did SGI, Sun, Intuit, Adobe, and whoever else was the "it" company in town at the time.

And yes, Bruno, I do remember the less smug. And less private jets! I'd bet anything that those riding on the jets don't live in Mountain View.


Steve
Shoreline West
on Jan 19, 2012 at 7:04 am
Steve, Shoreline West
on Jan 19, 2012 at 7:04 am
3 people like this

@Bruno

Just because a company contributes to the city doesn't mean the rules can be broken. It sounds like you and other think it's ok.


Ned
Old Mountain View
on Jan 19, 2012 at 6:16 pm
Ned, Old Mountain View
on Jan 19, 2012 at 6:16 pm
3 people like this

This fighter jet is just a toy disguised as an elaborate tax deduction with the help of NASA.

And if Inks ever votes in favor of anything that benefits Google it will be suspect from now on.


Bruno
Old Mountain View
on Jan 20, 2012 at 3:22 pm
Bruno, Old Mountain View
on Jan 20, 2012 at 3:22 pm
3 people like this

I'm not looking to benefit from Google. I understand how they operate and I don't care to use their services. It's my personal choice.

MV Mama, You are absolutely correct. They do not live in Mountain View, and for that we should actually be thankful. Ask our neighbors in Palo Alto how they feel about Larry Page's 3 year secret construction project that has leveled an entire block in a residential neighborhood and is still under way to this day. As you can probably guess, they aren't too crazy about it.

Any professional will tell you that accepting gifts from clients, companies or organizations that you do business with directly is unethical. There's not much to debate here honestly. I'm sure Mr. Inks considered this before he decided to take the ride, but it didn't deter him when it probably should have.


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