Larry, Sergey, and Eric have a fighter jet, and you don't. They also have a sweet place to park it: Moffett Field, the airstrip closest to the heart of Silicon Valley. Even Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has to get chauffeured down to San Jose to board his private plane. Remind us, how did the Googlers get such a sweet deal?Last year, Google struck a $144 million deal to lease land from Nasa's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, for future office space. Separately, but not coincidentally, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Eric Schmidt, through a company called H211 LLC, struck a deal with Nasa to lease a hangar at Moffett Field for their growing fleet of private jets. Why on earth, or in space, did the Googlers get parking privileges at Moffett? Nasa and Google came up with a great spin: The jets would be available to fly scientific missions. Larry and Sergey got to geek out, thinking their party plans served a higher purpose — while saving hours commuting to and from SJC or SFO. One small hitch, Miguel Helft reports in Bits: Using the party planes for scientific missions required tinkering with their electronics. And changing anything about the planes required new FAA certifications. This may explain why Larry and Sergey pulled their party plane from a recent Nasa mission. We know it wasn't out for repairs — around the same time, they used it to ferry guests to and from Gavin Newsom's wedding. Hence the Dornier fighter jet, which is deemed an "experimental" plane, and which will now satisfy H211's space-mission duties. But that leaves the Googlers and Nasa in a rather unsatisfying position. When the Googlejets were flying for Nasa, they had a reasonable excuse for parking them at Moffett Field. But the purchase of a special plane to run space missions leaves Larry and Sergey's party-plane fleet used solely for civilian purposes. What are they doing at the field? Why, satisfying a quid pro quo, like they always were. This latest twist on Larry and Sergey's lease just makes it more obvious.
Nasa may be regretting a sweetheart deal it cut with Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. In exchange for a 90-year lease on land at Nasa's Ames Research Center adjacent to Google's headquarters, the space agency made a side agreement with Page and Brin to let them park their fleet of private jets at Nasa's Moffett Field. The only requirement: That the Googlers loan out their planes for space research missions as needed. But it turns out that for Larry and Sergey, partying with politicians is more important than studying space.Larry and Sergey yanked a promised Boeing 757 from their private fleet, operated by a company called "H211 LLC," just weeks before the originally scheduled reentry date of the Jules Verne ATV-1 space freighter, forcing Nasa and the European Space Agency to scramble to find an old DC-8 to be able to observe the freighter's burn up in the Earth's atmosphere as planned. What prompted the Google execs to pull the 757, and jeopardize a mission of the American and European space agencies? Days before the announcement that the 757 was no longer available for the mission, the promised jet was instead used as a limo for San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom's wedding. But it should have been ready for action after the unremarkable flights to and from Montana. In the end, the Googlers did deliver one Gulfstream V party plane to watch the Verne burn. But one hopes it was a spare, not the same one used to chauffeur Larry, Sergey and their wives to the Google Maps satellite launch in September, right around the time of the originally scheduled reentry date. Was that the event which forced the rescheduling of the Verne mission? And if so, should Nasa be relying on billionaires' personal jets, and their whims, to complete complex, dangerous and time-critical missions?
It's good to be the Googlers. Part of Larry Page and Sergey Brin's sweetheart deal to park their fleet of private jets at Nasa's Ames Research Center involves letting the space agency use their Gulfstream V for so-called "scientific experiments." What that really means: Getting a front-row seat for some really bitchin' real-time space porn. A European space freighter, full of trash from the International Space Station, was sent down from orbit to burn up in the atmosphere early this morning over the Pacific Ocean. A Gulfstream owned by H211 LLC, the flight-operating company through which Larry and Sergey own their party planes, participated in observing the event. "It was decided to postpone the reentry by three weeks so that the reentry would happen at nighttime for best viewing conditions," two researchers wrote in an article on Space.com. That raises one key question.Were Larry and Sergey aboard the Gulfstream? If so, someone ought to tell Google shareholders that the companies' cofounders were in close proximity to a flaming fireball. And someone ought to tell American taxpayers that Nasa is now scheduling its missions around the viewing requirements of loopy billionaires. (Illustration by the European Space Agency)
Google helped pay for this weekend's launch of a satellite which will take high-resolution imagery for its Google Earth service, and founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were on hand to watch the rocket lift off at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Serious business, right? Not when you see our spy photos of the billionaires. Brin wore bright orange Crocs and Page wore a red windbreaker. More tellingly, Brin brought Anne Wojcicki, his pregnant wife, and Page brought his wife Lucy. Both women also dressed informally. Wojcicki carried a plastic water bottle — funny, I thought Larry and Sergey had gotten rid of those at the Googleplex. It all looked like a lark for the billionaire couples, rather than a visit to a high-security military installation — paid for by Google's shareholders and U.S. taxpayers. At least Larry and Sergey seem to have flown their on their own dime — the photos show a Gulfstream V, one of the models in the Googlers' fleet of party planes. Admit it, you all wish you were Larry and Sergey, Crocs and all.
Eric Schmidt, Larry Page and Sergey Brin graciously lent their plush Boeing 767, otherwise known as the Google party plane (photographed in Newark last week), to former president Bill Clinton for a media tour of Africa. However, on a runway in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital, en route to Rwanda, the takeoff was aborted and the plane grounded, forcing Clinton to ride on Jon Bon Jovi's old 707 commandeered for the press gaggle in New Jersey. My guess? Clinton just couldn't lay off the injera and tej and the plane blew a gasket. [Industry Standard]
It's the 50th anniversary of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, better known as NASA, and Google's rolled out a commemorative logo. The graphic features the Voyager spacecraft, Mars and moon landing vehicles and the Mercury rocket. Not featured? Any of the aircraft in Larry and Sergey's party-plane fleet, which are parked at NASA's Moffett Field and allowed to take off and land from the publicly owned facility increasingly known for private privilege.
San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom is running for higher office again, so it was time for another wedding. The latest bride is actress Jennifer Siebel. Larry Page and Sergey Brin were happy to lend the Google party plane to ferry guests from the Bay Area, so apparently no hard feelings about that whole San Francisco-wide Wi-Fi thing.
Lefty think tanks Essential Action and the Institute for Policy Studies have a new study out titled “High Flyers: How Private Jet Travel is Straining the System, Warming the Planet and Costing You Money." It implies some not-so-nice things about jet owners and Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin — even if they are left-leaning, Prius-driving friends of Bono. According to the report, private jets negatively impact:
Google finally announced details of its plans to build a new campus on property owned by Nasa at the space agency's Ames Research Center. The ongoing partnership with Nasa was first announced three years ago. The initial terms of the forty-year lease peg rent at $3.66 million a year, with adjustments to the rate based on property-value assessments and up to five 10-year extensions to the contract. Construction isn't due to begin until 2013, with Nasa approving any designs. Proposed amenities beyond office space on the 44-acre plot will include dining, day care and recreation facilities. Not to mention that the Googlejet, the party plane jointly owned by cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin and CEO Eric Schmidt, will be that much more conveniently parked at the Moffett Field spot that the troika already rents for $1.3 million. Their rental isn't part of the deal, but isn't it convenient that they can negotiate with the same helpful government officials to fill their needs for both work and play?
The Google founders' Gulfstream V party plane — quick plane-spotting tip: the Gulfstream V has six windows; the IV only has five — took off on a scientific mission to study the Quadrantid meteor shower Thursday. Larry, Sergey and Eric, you may remember, got permission to park their jets at NASA's Moffett Field for the bargain basement price of $1.3 million plus allowing NASA to use the planes for "science missions." This is the first one we know about. Wait, just how many jets do they have?
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia is purchasing a custom Airbus A380. The biggest passenger plane in the world — 6,000 sq. ft. — will cost more than $400 million once it is outfitted with all the accoutrements necessary to fly one of the richest men in the world. The prince already owns a custom Boeing 747, previously the biggest private plane in the world, and has a fortune worth around $20 billion. Don't count out Google cofounders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, though. The Google boys are worth around $20 billion each and also have an affinity for custom jets.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt has apparently sold a Gulfstream V jet recently listed for sale on Aviationbusinessindex.com. Could Schmidt at last be shrinking the grotesquely conspicuous fleet he owns with Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin? Hardly. Sources in the private-jet industry tell Valleywag that he's buying another Gulfstream V to replace that one. And, more incredibly, he's said to be have his eye on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, possibly through the auspices of the International Lease Finance Corp. ILFC has ordered 74 hard-to-get Dreamliners for delivery starting in 2010. If Schmidt, Page, and Brin get their hands on one, they'll be flying the 787 long before some of the largest airlines in the world.
Recently, Google CEO Eric Schmidt was spotted purchasing "Mine's Bigger," the book about the yacht obsessions of Kleiner Perkins founder Tom Perkins. Sure, Perkins's firm invested in the search behemoth. But why would Schmidt purchase a book detailing the methods Perkins used to ensure that he had the most spectacular yacht in the world? He hardly needs lessons on oneupmanship. After all, Schmidt already owns a stake in the Google founders' party plane, believed to be the world's largest private jet. And he's likely helping Larry and Sergey add to their fleet. One can only marvel at how deep Schmidt's inferiority complex must run, if he feels he needs to take tips from Perkins. After the jump, the full nerdspotting episode: