Blimp on the radar: Google subsidiary buys NASA airfield

11 Feb 2014

Hangar One was the home of US Navy blimps since the 1930s. Photo courtesy of NASA

A subsidiary to Google, Planetary Ventures is a real estate company that has agreed to purchase Moffett Federal Airfield in California from NASA along with the landing strip’s iconic Hangar One.

The announcement was made by NASA and confirmed that as part of the agreement, the company will: rehabilitate and maintain the historic integrity of Hangar One and the Shenandoah Plaza Historic District, pay for all maintenance costs and make the airfield a viable asset to support government and controlled public and private flight operations.

Much attention has been paid to Hangar One as it remains one of the most historic hangars in the United States and currently housing Google’s fleet of executive jets.

Originally built in the 1930s to house blimps, the hangar was eventually leased to NASA but the leaching of toxic chemicals from the supporting structure meant that a complete overhaul of the hangar would be needed to make it safe, which Google and Planetary Ventures has undertaken.

Need for more spending cuts

NASA has been trying to find a buyer for the site for a considerable amount of time as it strives to cut more spending as the US government continues to decrease funding for the space agency.

NASA’s administrator, Charles Bolden, sees the agency’s releasing of ownership of the airfield as an important step: “The agreement announced today will benefit the American taxpayer and the community around Moffett. It will allow NASA to focus its resources on core missions, while protecting the federal need to use Moffett Field as a continued, limited-use airfield. This decision today represents a tremendously effective partnership between NASA and our sister agency the GSA, and we’re grateful for their leadership in this endeavor.”

Google hasn’t confirmed exactly what it intends to do with the airfield outside of its agreement with NASA but with its Mountain View headquarters only a few miles away, perhaps we can see new blimp additions to its fleet of executive aircraft appearing in the not-so distant future.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic