5 Things to Know about San Jose's Google-Powered Airport Proposal
February 8, 2013
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  • By: Nathan Donato-Weinstein

    We’re all over yesterday’s bombshell news that a developer is proposing a 29-acre, $82-million general aviation facility at Mineta San Jose International Airport, a big chunk of which would house planes connected to Google Inc.

    Here are five extras to know about the deal. And check back next week for more coverage on what the potential deal means to the local economy and business aviation market.

    1. Planes associated with Google (estimates range from eight to 11 aircraft in the fleet) would take up most of the facility, but not all, Aviation Director Bill Sherry told me. Hangars will be big enough to handle everything from small jets up to enormous Boeing 767s (like the one Google has). “It’s going to be our most state-of-the-art facility in our current network,” Maria Sastre, president and COO of Signature Flight Support, told me. Sastre’s company is the potential developer.

    2. The proposed project, which must still be approved by the city council, means competition at the airport for business aviation. Currently, Atlantic Aviation is the only fixed base operator (think of an FBO as a garage and gas station for planes). “Long term, it will probably benefit the general aviation users, too, because another player in the field usually leads to some pricing pressure,” said consultant Brian Foley, president of New Jersey-based Brian Foley Associates. (A call to Atlantic Aviation this morning was not returned by this afternoon.)

    3. Business aviation is still down from the recession, but that doesn’t concern Sastre, whose company is proposing the facility in a partnership with Blue City Holdings San Jose LLC. (That’s the aviation business controlled by Google principals Sergey Brin, Larry Page and Eric Schmidt.) “The drop in business flying was not as severe in key markets, including San Jose,” she said.

    4. This isn’t the first time Google looked into San Jose. Sherry said the company’s aviation department approached the city several years ago about basing planes at SJC. “They were buying the 767 and said, ‘Can we park it at the airport,'” he said. “At that time, I didn’t have the real estate to do it.” Since then, the airport has completed a master plan that identified a underused parking lot area primed for redevelopment.

    5. There are still some unknowns. Including: what this deal means for Moffett Field’s NASA Ames Research Center, where the Google execs currently park their planes. If Google’s aircraft company doesn’t renew its lease there, that means NASA will lose $2 million a year in lease payments, said Lenny Siegel, a preservationist with the Save Hangar One committee. But he said he believed the company may consider actually keeping a presence there.