[/caption]A company owned by Google’s founders has just bought a 1982 light attack Dornier Alpha Jet. H211 LLC owns several aircraft that are frequently used by Google Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin and in an “unusual” agreement signed last year, H211 managed to get the rights to operate from an airstrip ten minutes away from Google HQ near the south end of San Francisco Bay, California. This isn’t any ordinary airstrip, it is Moffett Field, owned by the NASA Ames Research Center…
Not just anyone can land their private jet at Moffett Field. Located right next to Silicon Valley, it has had a lot of interest from the hi-tech billionaires to get permission to fly in and out of there. But there’s a problem, Moffett Field isn’t an ordinary airstrip, it is owned by NASA. NASA is a government department and with that comes certain rules. Unless the aircraft has a direct relationship with the NASA research being carried out, or a military flight, you’ll have to find somewhere else to land. So whether you’re Bill Gates or Queen Elizabeth — unless you need to land in an emergency — you cannot use the airstrip, unless you’re carrying out NASA business.
But, in an agreement that was described as a “win-win” situation for NASA, on July 31st, 2007 Ken Ambrose, Vice President of H211, signed a lease contract to park four aircraft at Moffett Field. These passenger aircraft included a Boeing 757, Boeing 767 and two Gulfstream Vs, regularly used by Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin to conduct business for H211 and Google (although both companies are separate entities). So how did they do this?
In exchange for use of the NASA site, H211 agreed that NASA could use its aircraft for scientific research (thereby helping NASA out with certain experiments in the fields of atmospheric chemistry, ozone depletion and wildfire monitoring), plus the cool sum of $1.3 million/year in rent.
But there was a problem, in order for NASA to use the fleet of four aircraft, it has to modify them. Each modification would require new certifications from the Federal Aviation Administration as the aircraft are passenger planes. This has been the main stumbling block, possibly causing Page and Brin to lose their aircraft parking spot.
So, H211 has bought a military aircraft to get around the FAA problem and still deliver on its promise for NASA to use its aircraft. The 26 year-old German-built light attack Dornier Alpha Jet can be modified by NASA, so it is currently being made ready for civilian use in Seattle before experiments can be carried out.
“The Alpha Jet they are bringing on board is considered an experimental aircraft, so we don’t have the same issues as with a passenger plane,” said Steve Zornetzer, associate director of the NASA Ames Research Center.
The Google executives flights account for less than 1% of the annual air traffic at Moffett Field. 88 flights out of approximately 19,000 of the last year’s flights were for Google business.
Or alternatively, Google is planning a (very) hostile takeover of Microsoft…
Sources: NY Times, SF Chronicle