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Friday, October 12, 2007

A new private jet for Google's founders

Google is reportedly expanding the fleet of private jets that has privileges to take off from a small, Nasa-operated airfield near the company's headquarters in Mountain View, California.

As part of an agreement with the space agency, the company's top executives can already drive the mere four miles up the road to Moffett Field, which is generally closed to private aircraft, and board any of the three jets that they keep there.

Now Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google's billionaire founders, are adding a fourth aircraft to the fleet which, for $1.3 million a year, they park at the airfield in return for assisting Nasa with its information-gathering activities.

The plane that will join the Boeing 767-200 and two Gulfstream Vs already in Google's hangar is, according to the New York Times, a Boeing 757, which is large by corporate jet standards

Under an agreement between Nasa and H211 LLC, a company controlled by Google's senior executives, the search firm always intended to park four planes at the airfield, but the leasing arrangements of the 757 had not been agreed at the time details of the rest of the fleet emerged.

The new plane is due to begin flights in November, documents seen by the paper suggest.

A spokesman for Google would not comment about the new plane, and H211 LLC, which counts the Google chief executive, Eric Schmidt, among its principals, was not able to be reached.

"Our company's senior-most executives have entered into a notable public-private partnership with the space agency," Matt Furman, a Google spokesman, said. "As a result of that arrangement, NASA scientists now have access to aircraft for experiments they might not otherwise be able to perform."

He added that the fees paid - which were for landing rights and hangar access - helped to "significantly defray" the cost of running Moffett Airfield.

Google, whose offices are a seven-minute drive from the airfield, already has a broad research agreement with Nasa, and in August, the agency's scientists used one of the company's planes to observe a meteor shower.

Local residents expressed opposition to the idea that Nasa open up its runways as a means of helping pay for facilities. "The Google flights represent the possibility that the camel's nose is under the tent," one was quoted as saying when news of the agreement broke last month.

But Anna Eshoo, a Democratic representative whose district includes the airfield, told the New York Times: "You have to live with your neighbours. You are not out in the middle of the desert. You are in the heart of Silicon Valley."

From Another comments:

The fun thing about having lots of money is you can buy as many toys as you want. Over at Google it's a veritable playground.

(Credit: Boeing)A company controlled by Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page and CEO Eric Schmidt, with the strange name of H211 LLC, has an agreement to land four jets at Moffett Field, according to documents released to The New York Times after the paper filed a Freedom of Information Act request. Moffett Field, which is operated by NASA Ames Research Center, is very close to Google's Mountain View, Calif., headquarters.

So, in addition to the two Gulfstream Vs and a Boeing 767, the Google billionaires anticipate landing a Boeing 757 at the airfield starting sometime next month, the documents show.

Google and NASA have a public-private partnership that gives NASA scientists access to the planes and provides fees that help defray the costs of running Moffett, a Google spokesman told the Times. Oh, and the Googlers have bought carbon offsets to mitigate the Boeing 767's negative impact on the environment, he says.

The Google billionaires are paying $1.3 million annually for the Moffett rights.

Some may see the planes as a sign of indulgence. And they have the community up in arms over the increase in flight traffic over the area and other CEOs in the area jealous that they weren't the ones to score a Moffett deal.

Actually, maybe these aren't just toys to the Google guys. Maybe they are a reflection that the company has become so important it needs special privileges, and a way to evacuate large groups of people out of the area quickly.

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