Inspector General finds improper airplane fuel deal with NASA netted savings for Google executives up to $5.3 million

by John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog

google-planeConsumer Watchdog called on NASA to evict a fleet of planes owned by Google’s billionaire top executives from Ames Research Center after an audit by the agency’s Inspector General found they received an unwarranted discount worth up to $5.3 million on jet fuel purchased from the government.

Two years ago Consumer Watchdog described the deal that allowed H211, a company owned by top Google executives, to base a fleet of aircraft, including a Boeing 767, a Boeing 757 and four Gulfstream V’s, at Ames Research Center’s Moffett Field.

“Specifically, we calculated that since inception of its lease H211 paid approximately $3.3 million to $5.3 million less in fuel costs that it would have paid to buy fuel at market rates compared to the amount it paid DLA-Energy,” wrote NASA Inspector General Paul Martin. “We also found that H211 received a significant discount on fuel for its many non-NASA-related flights to which it was not entitled. While this arrangement did not cause an economic loss to NASA or DLA-Energy, it did result in considerable savings for H211 and engendered a sense of unfairness and a perception of favoritism toward H211 and its owners. Accordingly, we recommend that NASA explore with the company possible options to remedy this situation.”

The Inspector General also said that H211, the company owned by Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and Co-Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, did not pay state or local taxes on the fuel it purchased for its planes.

“These billionaire executives got a sweetheart deal at Moffett Field, basing their aircraft there when others could not, and then got an improper fuel discount. The only fair remedy now is to recoup the money they should have paid and evict them,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project Director.

Read the Inspector General’s report here:

Read Consumer Watchdog’s Report here:

H211 was only entitled to buy fuel from the government when its planes were used for NASA missions.  But most of its flights had nothing to do with NASA. For example between August 2012 and July 2013, H211 flew 229 flights out of Moffett, the Inspector General found. Fifty-nine of these flights were NASA air sample missions (26 percent of total flights) and 170 were private flights with no connection to NASA (74 percent).

“These billionaire Google guys parked their luxury jets at Ames under the guise of doing science, but three-quarters of the flights had nothing to do with NASA.  They were just gallivanting around the globe,” said Simpson. “NASA needs to wipe the slate clean and throw them out.”