Eight-jet Google execs fear $33m Hangar One refurb NASA snub

Google's top three execs have offered NASA $33m to refurbish NASA's historic Hangar One, though parking provisos for an eight-strong fleet of private jets suggests both self-interest and altruism are in play. Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt made the offer via their H211 airplane operations company, run independently from Google, back in September Mercury News reports, but NASA is yet to greenlight the scheme. "We understand the interest and historic nature of the facility" NASA spokesperson Bob Jacobs conceded in a statement, suggesting though that "we have to weigh that against the reality of constrained resources and use."

If H211's scheme goes ahead, the outer panels of Hangar One – which have been partially removed, after it was discovered they contained lead paint, asbestos and PCB – would be replaced and some of the internal structure refurbished. NASA would remain the owner of the building, and be at liberty to rent out the areas not used by the H211 scheme. As for Google's execs, they'd be allowed to use a up to two-thirds of the hangar floor space to park up to eight private jets currently shared by the trio.

NASA's reluctance to approve the deal – which became necessary after the House of Representatives axed $32m from the organization's budget that had been earmarked to re-skin the structure – has led to frustrations among H211 as well as the US government subcommittee looking into the possibilities of restoration. The remaining concern for the committee had been the possibility of Google branding being installed, something H211 has said is not intended.

H211 insists that Hangar One would still be left with huge amounts of unused space, both refurbished as part of the donation, and left in a relatively raw state for future development. NASA says the proposal "has not yet been completely vetted" and that it is "giving all options thoughtful consideration as we prepare our funding proposal for the Fiscal Year 2013 budget." However in the meantime, the hangar remains partially open to the elements, and faces higher reconstruction costs as existing work would have to be re-performed.

Hangar One was built in the 1930s, and remains one of the largest free-standing structures in the world today. With a footprint covering eight acres and a height of 198 feet, the building – intended to house military airships – is in fact so tall that cloud-like fog has been known to form in its upper levels. More details here.