Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Surplus Gov't Property? A Moffett Update

Historic Hangar One at former NAS Moffett, now in NASA hands.

Poor old historic airship Hangar One at Sunnyvale, California's Moffett Field. It is being passed around from government agency to government agency like an annoying foster child. First the Navy began to undress the hanger--toxic something-or-others in the skin--and now NASA, the present landlord of the old Navy base, wants the field declared "surplus government property" and handed over those fine Las Vegas party animals at the GSA.

I can understand why NASA doesn't want to deal with all the maintenance on this 1000-acre site. Unfortunately, NASA's decision, right at this time, could foul up negotiations going on between our local congresswoman and Google's founders--who have volunteered to pay $30M (or so) to reskin Hangar One, if they can store a couple of their private jets inside. (Google jets? But of course!)

What better symbiosis than one of the hottest high tech companies in the world finding a home for its planes in the place it all began? First the airships came to the newly created Moffett Field in 1931, then, after World War II, NACA (later NASA) and Ames Research Center arrived there, sparking much of the high tech that followed in the region that came to be known as Silicon Valley. 

I didn't realize it until my engineer father died, because he never talked about himself very much: but he and my mother moved here after the War because he took a job at NACA/Ames. I found him in a 1948 group photo at Moffett in one of his files:

Capt. William Ashley Chapman is in the upper photo, looking young and not wearing a tie. Life was good on the San Francisco Peninsula in those sunny days.

They probably got sick of those uniforms in World War II--so there aren't many ties on these engineers.

As the engineers moved to the Santa Clara Valley to work for Ames, war veterans came here to attend college on the GI Bill at Stanford University, Santa Clara University, Cal, and San Jose State. From those engineers, and their children and grandchildren, came the revolution that has changed the world. 

One thousand acres of low density in this region is a wonderful thing--and I've heard rumors that some military service or another would like to take back Moffett. Since the DOD is one of the few federal departments that has money these days, that would make a lot of sense. 

As Colonel Steve Butow, commander of the 129th Rescue Wing of the California Air National Guard, whose home is at Moffett, wrote today:  "The creation of Moffett in the orchards of Santa Clara Valley ushered in a culture of innovation and exploration that still leads the nation ..." His unit just signed a fifty years lease with NASA and they don't want to be forced out.

But if the DOD doesn't want the old base: why not let Google buy the entire 1000 acres? At least they wouldn't build condos there. As we've already seen, Google executives Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt "get it" and have quickly spotted the benefits of preserving the stunning landmark on the base, Hangar One.

If Google owned the whole place, it could lease space in Hangar One and flight time on the runway, back to the US government! Those three Google founders are probably worth more---cash-wise--than the US government is anyway. And they certainly have a lot smarter people working there.

At least, they do now that my engineer father has gone to his rest.

Count seven over from the top, left, and three down and the guy with the Dumbo ears is my dad.

Add to 
Google Reader or Homepage
Subscribe to Robin Chapman News

No comments: