And then I wrote...

by Dick Schilling, Editor Emeritus

... that since I spent more than two of the happiest years of my life stationed at Moffett Field Naval Air Station on the peninsula south of San Francisco, I wondered what would become of that historic facility after it was decommissioned 20 years ago.

Now I know.

Google is renting it for the next 60 years, paying $1.16 billion, and promising $200 million more to fix it up for the company’s needs and to “preserve” it.

Among things being fixed up and saved is the dirigible hangar. I think I have written here before that I was in absolute awe of that huge structure when I first saw it, and even more so the first time I walked into it. The size was hard for me to describe, even though I worked in the administration and communications office of the Navy’s first replacement air group squadron for 25 of the 26 months I was on that base. But the news release which announced Google’s deal said it covered 350,000 square feet.

Math is my weakness, but because of the building’s shape, I think that would make it a little more than a football field wide and a little more than three football fields long. My office was on the ground floor on the runway side. But I also worked with the legal officer who was on the second floor on the same side, and stood many over-night watches in the operations and readiness office on that same level.

We were told the Navy could put two of its dirigibles in the hangar, nose to nose, since the ends of the building rolled back on rails to accommodate the width and height of the fully inflated dirigibles.

Several planes for one fighter squadron and one attack squadron were brought in for maintenance at a time. Also on the hangar side was SWUPAC, Special Weapons Unit Pacific. Some “eyes only” precautions were taken to cut down on casual viewing, since MATS, Military Air Transport Service, planes also took off and landed on the 10,000 foot runways. But from the upper level, we saw some interesting trials.

In addition to the hangar and runways, where planes normally land by flying low over the nearby Bayshore Freeway, startling motorists, and take off over the bay, because of prevailing winds, the news story says Google gets the golf course on base. I played that course the first time it was open for play. It wasn’t much. Newly-planted trees were only a couple feet tall and greens were anything but finished. I assume it has matured nicely.

The story doesn’t say if Google also will have the bachelor officers’ quarters, officers’ club and base admin office. Or the PX and movie theatre and barbershop and laundry/dry cleaning facility and swimming pool and golf pro shop, all of which we used fully.

If all that on-base stuff wasn’t sufficient, it was only 40 miles south of San Francisco, well within reach for weekends or day/night trips for all that beautiful city has to offer.

Any wonder why I was happy there? I’m sure Google will love it, too.