SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The U.S. government has picked a Google subsidiary to run and renovate a federal airfield that is frequently used for the personal flights of the Internet company's billionaire executives.
The decision announced Monday clears the way for Google's Planetary Ventures LLC to take over management of the 1,000-acre Moffett Federal Airfield, a former U.S. Navy based 4 miles from Google's Mountain View, Calif., headquarters. The airfield, which was built in the 1930s, has been managed by NASA's Ames Research Center for the past 23 years.
Financial terms of the new arrangement still must be worked out among Google, NASA and the General Services Administration.
As part of the deal, Google Inc. must renovate the airfield's three hangars, including one that is a Silicon Valley landmark because of its massive size and location off a major highway. Google also has agreed to upgrade a golf course located next to the airfield.
"We are delighted to move ahead in the selection process and we look forward to working with both GSA and NASA to preserve the heritage of Moffett Federal Airfield," Google said in a statement Monday.
Government officials hailed Google's selection as a boon for taxpayers. Besides covering the day-to-day expenses for managing the airfield, Google is also paying for expensive repairs unlikely ever to be financed by the government.
Restoring the airfield's most prominent structure, the 200-foot-tall Hangar One, will be particularly expensive. Hangar One's original siding was removed because of contamination from toxic lead and asbestos, raising the risks that the historic edifice might eventually have to be torn down. The cost of covering the now-skeletal hangar is expected to be more than $40 million.
"NASA's partnership with the private sector will allow the agency to restore this treasure for more efficient use," said Dan Tangherlini, administrator of the General Services Administration.
The decision to entrust Moffett's fate to Google comes just two months after NASA's inspector general issued a report that raised questions about whether the company's three most powerful executives had been given a sweetheart deal while flying their personal jets and helicopters from the airfield.