White House may decide Hangar's fate | February 17, 2012 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

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News - February 17, 2012

White House may decide Hangar's fate

Future use, viability of airfield is a major question

by Daniel DeBolt

"The highest levels" of the federal government are now deciding whether to accept an offer from Google's founders to restore Moffett Field's iconic Hangar One, NASA Ames administrator Deb Feng said last week.

In light of recent conversations with NASA headquarters, "I am optimistic (that the decision) will be favorable for the whole community," Feng told the Moffett Field Restoration Advisory Board at its meeting. "I couldn't have said that a little while ago."

Feng is the deputy director of NASA Ames Research Center.

After NASA's efforts to fund the hangar's restoration failed in Congress last year, a proposal to save the structure came from top Google executives through H211 LLC, which runs private aircraft out of Moffett's Hangar 211 for Google founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin and board chair Eric Schmidt. In exchange for restoring Hangar One, the executives want a long-term lease allowing them to use Hangar One to park their eight private aircraft, including two jumbo jets.

But to the chagrin of those who have been fighting for years to save the hangar, including Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, there's been no decision from NASA headquarters for four months. It appears that the proposal has pushed the federal government to finally make a decision about the future of Moffett Field. After all, why would NASA sign a long-term lease with H211 to use a hangar on an airfield that soon may be shut down?

NASA officials have complained about the $7 million a year cost of operating the Moffett airfield, while hangar lease payments — such as H211's $1.3 million a year — don't cover the expense for the cash-strapped agency.

Lenny Siegel, Save Hangar One Committee leader and longtime environmental cleanup advocate for Moffett, speculates that there are people at NASA headquarters that want to transfer Moffett's runways to a "non-federal entity" which would get in the way of H211's use of Hangar One. The lightly used airfield could go away entirely and be transferred to the city, for example, for real estate development.

"My expectation is that this will be decided at the White House-level," Siegel said.

If the White House does decide to designate the Moffett runways as surplus, Siegel said he would push for a task force of various stakeholders to figure out the best way to re-use the property. "The community has to be involved in how this property is to be used," Siegel said.

But he recalled such discussions shortly after the Navy left Moffett Field in 1996 and 1997 which pitted him against many Hangar One preservationists — Siegel pushed for a community-supported redevelopment of the airfield, while others wanted it to remain an airfield, possibly run by Santa Clara County's Airport Authority.

Such a process could cause years of delays in restoring the hangar while the uncovered frame is exposed to the elements. And $12 million in scaffolding being used by Navy contractors to remove Hangar One's PCB- and asbestos-laden skin would be long gone before it's needed for a restoration project.

"I oppose (surplussing it) now because it won't allow us to resolve the hangar issue for several years," Siegel said. He added that agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency would need to be involved because of ongoing efforts to clean the toxin trichloroethylene from the airfield's groundwater.


Posted by Roberta Kerr, a resident of Gemello
on Feb 17, 2012 at 6:49 am

All I know is that I'm getting real tired of Hanger One not being resolved by anybody. I wish people and agencys would stick with one plan. It seems that everybody keeps changing their minds on usage of this historic building. Get 'er done. We have a few other concerns.

Posted by Jason Barnes, a resident of another community
on Feb 17, 2012 at 2:05 pm

It is outrageous that Google and no other firm or person is allowed to keep its planes at Moffett field. Has anyone ever seen such an example of a giveaway and such blatant favoritism? Many other firms would love to base their planes at Moffett and, unlike Google, have offered to pay a fair price. The other firms have been refused, and are forced to operate out of congested and often inconvenient, KSJC (San Jose). Moffett should be open to ALL would-be users, or to NONE. This disgraceful situation should end.

As far as hanger 1, what Google would pay is a pittance compared to the benefits it is now getting essentially free, as the only commercial user of a huge airport with military level security.

Posted by Phil Hawkins, a resident of Rex Manor
on Feb 17, 2012 at 2:15 pm

I have lived around here me entire life and grew up looking at Hanger One. This structure is a part of Bay Area history and should remain that way. That hanger was built to the early 30's. as home for the USS Macon. Moffett Field should remain an airfield, with those 9200 and 8100 ft long runways that could be of definite use to increasing air traffic in the bay area. If Google wants to use Hanger One, more power to them. If it is up to this administration, with their distaste for anything related to the military, the whole thing would become low rent housing sitting on ground soaked with aviation jet fuel and solvents (big bucks to clean that up.... leave it like is is). I really hope that Hanger One and Moffett field (as an airfield) is saved and preserved. Who knows, we may need those runways for later use...

Posted by Eric Trehus, a resident of another community
on Feb 17, 2012 at 6:58 pm

Moffet should become a public airport, and be given to Santa Clara County's Airport Authority with the condition it cannot be closed for 50 years. Palo Alto, San Jose, and Reid Hillview airports are congested. SJC is not exactly GA friendly.

I don't see the point of restoring hanger one. Who has a blimp?
I would like to see a congressional investigation of the individual(s) that have the authority and signed the contract to lease space at Moffet to H211 LLC.

Posted by Phil Hawkins, a resident of Rex Manor
on Feb 17, 2012 at 11:29 pm

Eric, You ask, Who has a "Blimp"? .... how about airship ventures and the ZeppelinNT semi-rigid airship that they own... with more to come. As to your other comments, I am in complete agreement, the airport should remain open and converted to commercial as well as general aviation use, PAO, SJC and RHV are becoming overcrowded and experiencing a continual increase in numbers of landings/month. BTW, over the years, Hanger One has done a lot more then just house a "Blimp".

Posted by Eric Trehus, a resident of another community
on Feb 18, 2012 at 9:32 am

w.r.t. Hanger one, I wouldn't want to see tax payer dollars paying to restore it unless there is a public/government need, nor would I want to see any organization pay to have it restored and receive special benefit or consideration other then perhaps a tax deduction if it were considered a charitable contribution by the IRS.

Posted by Bruce Miller, a resident of another community
on Feb 18, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Hangar one is a landmark and an icon, and deserves to be saved.  But more importantly Moffett Field needs to be saved as an airfield, and hopefully as a General Aviation facility.  Let's face it, the pressures of residential development, careless community planning and the lack of consideration of compatible land use have allowed encroachement on both Palo Alto and Ried Hillview airports to the point of those facilities being the "bad guys" in their neighborhoods.  And until that day when aircraft silently levitate with no emissions of any kind, this is not going to change.  The general public accepts commercial airports because they understand their benefit to them.  The value of G/A airports, particularly "pocket airports", is little understood by the public.   Community forces WILL continue to imperil KPAO and KRHV airports.  Moffett represents what could be the most viable G/A airport in the south bay, that, while not as convenient to some as  KPAO and KRHV airports, would certainly be more convenient than none at all.  Proper planning could make the airfield an economic and transportation asset, fiscally sustainable, and compatible with it's community.

Posted by Phil Hawkins, a resident of Rex Manor
on Feb 18, 2012 at 7:53 pm

I completely agree with Bruce's comments. As a a pilot based out of PAO, the public pressures against the airport are enormous there, and yes EPA considers KPAO a "Bad Guy" and has for several years. Hanger One IS an historic landmark, and could serve may purposes, including use in case of a cataclysmic disaster as a shelter.

Posted by Mitch, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 19, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Google has so many $, it is sad that they won't just step up and offer to pay for the restoration of the hanger in exchange for a guarantee that the hanger will be preserved and protected. If they wrote 'GOOGLE" on the top of the hanger, you could see it clearly from planes flying into the SF bay area as well as a nice pic from GOOGLE Earth !!!
The airfield should be saved and used not just as a public general use AP for private planes but could also be a good AP for FedEx and other cargo carriers to alleviate some of the congestion at other Bay Area APs. It may also create more jobs and development for Mt.View.

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