Thu, May 17, 2012
Internet Giant Bases Its Aircraft At Moffett Airfield
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) (pictured) wants to find out if Google is getting a sweetheart deal on its lease of an airfield operated by NASA. The senator inquired about “troubling allegations” regarding the small fleet of aircraft owned by Google that are based at Moffett Airfield in California, a former Naval Air Station now operated by NASA.
The Hill reports that Google pays $3.7 million annually for the use of 42 acres at Moffett Field to house its fleet of jets and helicopters, including a 767 owned by its founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin under a holding company. NASA’s policy is to allow private aircraft use government-owned facilities if they are used for scientific missions. However, an investigation by NBC San Diego revealed that the six aircraft have flown only 52 of these scientific missions since 2007, out of approximately 1,039 total flights. Conveniently, NASA regulations don’t specify how many flights must be of a scientific nature to satisfy the rule.
Senator Grassley wants to know who negotiated the lease, and if the $3.7 million figure represents a fair market rate for the lease. He is also questioning whether or not the Google aircraft owners have been buying discounted jet fuel from the airfield “well below the market rate due to its tax treatment.”
Other questions the senator is asking concern how many planes at the field are owned by Google, what kind of planes they are, what arrangements are in place for fueling the aircraft, and all contracts and other documents that define the arrangement. He has asked to see flight plans and passenger manifests for all of the Google-owned planes at the airfield. Grassley expects a response from NASA by May 25.
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