Oakland Cloud Dusters
Free Flight from the San Francisco Bay Area and Beyond


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Preserve Moffett Field Hangar One as a World Class Indoor Model Airplane Flying Site

I went to the Navy's public meeting on August 26, 2008, to comment on their proposal to strip the contaminated skin off the Hangar and leave a skeleton.  I was the only person to speak to the use of the Hangar as a site for indoor aeromodeling.  I delivered the message below, with attached emails from Ding Zarate, Lou Young and Fred Terzian, who were out of town.  I received enthusiastic applause, after some tittering.  ;-)   There is still time for comment:

"The Navy is accepting comments during a 45-day comment period starting July 30, 2008 and ending on September 13, 2008. All comments must be postmarked by September 13, 2008. For more information about Hangar 1 and the environmental restoration program at Moffett Field, please contact Mr. Darren Newton, the Navy’s BRAC Environmental Coordinator, at 619-532-0963 or darren.newton@navy.mil."

More important, I think, will be input to our representatives on Capitol Hill.

The AMA national office is working on this.  Wes De Cou, the Western Region Flying Site Coordinator for the Academy of Model Aeronautics, has written a letter to Mr. Darren Newton, the Navy’s BRAC Environmental Coordinator, requesting that the Hangar be preserved for indoor flying.  This letter will give you some ideas of what to say to the Navy and your elected representatives.

There is additional information on the history of the Navy's project in the links from the Save Hangar One Committee
There was a sizable audience, 47 of whom spoke.  The dominant message was the sentimental and nostalgic attachment many people feel for the Hangar.  At first I didn't think these comments were persuasive, nothing lasts forever, the need to hangar dirigibles is past.  But the more I thought about it, the more I came to realize that Hangar One has a meaning and significance to members of this community that is similar to the meaning of the Statue of Liberty.  For Navy and civilian personnel who served there, it represents service to Country.  To others it represents the defense of freedom and our technological heritage.  That is an intangible value that cannot be measured in utilitarian cubic feet or dollars.  When the copper cladding on the Statue of Liberty became corroded, the National Park Service didn't remove the cladding and leave the iron skeleton to corrode in the salt air.

An important consideration is whether the Hangar would have any beneficial use if it is restored.  People mentioned air shows, scout jamborees, making a National Monument and National Park, an airship museum and a Smithsonian Air and Space Museum West.  Another consideration is cost.  The Navy's low estimate project is to tear it down for $27 million.  One gentleman pointed out that the similar Akron Air Dock was restored for about $12 million.

The proposal by Mountain View City Councilman Jac Siegel to form a committee to coordinate the efforts of interested parties is a move in the right direction.  This was reported in the Mountain View Voice.  It is not enough to just physically restore the building.  It is necessary to have a plan for the future beneficial use of the building.

A consortium of interested parties should be formed to identify beneficial uses and resources to preserve, operate and maintain the Hanger.  This would include any modifications necessary to make the building useful for purposes other than its original purpose of housing dirigibles.  It has had many uses for which it is uniquely qualified since dirigibles were no longer housed there.  Many possible uses have been mentioned.  I would add that Boy Scout Jamborees have been held in the Hangar, and Boy Scout Aviation Squadron 152 used to have model aviation and aviation ground school classes in the Hangar.  No one of the interested parties could make it alone, but all working together can preserve the Hangar.  I believe the National Park Service is the logical ultimate owner and administrator of the programs.  The Moffett Field Historical Society has an obvious role within the NPS programs.  The Hangar is also a unique location for a Navy recruitment program.  Some of these uses would require modifications that I can understand the Navy would not feel required to pay for.  Those users would have to understand that they would have to contribute resources for such modifications.  But it is the Navy's responsibility to restore the basic structure of the building to make those uses possible and safe.

The Navy drew this project's specification to narrowly.  The Navy should revise the project goals to include partnering with the community of interested parties to find a way to restore the building and plan a program for its future beneficial use.
I think the Navy saw this as only an obsolete and useless building to dispose of.  The project has focused on the minimal removal of toxics.  The public must convince the Navy that the reallocation of this building is more than that, there are other requirements this project must meet.  The Hangar must be restored to beneficial use.  More project options must be considered that go beyond mere environmental mitigation.  With enough public participation and organizing for a transfer to responsible ownership and use, I think that is possible.  We must be involved in that process to assure the eventual disposition includes the use for indoor aeromodeling.

Gary Hinze

My statement to the Navy:


Preservation of Hangar One as an Indoor Model Airplane Flying Site

August 26, 2008

I am Gary Hinze.  I am a member of the Oakland Cloud Dusters Model Airplane Club (OCD), the National Free Flight Society and the Academy of Model Aeronautics.  I am here to express the interest of aero modelers world wide in preserving Hangar One as an indoor model airplane flying site.

Indoor model airplanes are light and delicate.  They must be flown inside a building, protected from wind and turbulence.  For example, the highest level of indoor aeromodeling is the F1D class.  Limited to 55 cm wingspan, about 22 inches, weighing no less than 1.2 grams, a dollar bill weighs one gram, having a rubber strip motor weighing no more than 0.6 gram, using 1/64" square spars of 4 pound per cubic foot balsa wood, covered with plastic film that looks like a soap bubble, with 2,200 turns on the motor and a propeller revolution rate of once per second, these planes are capable of 37 minute flights.  To achieve such performance requires a high column of very still air.  They are so delicate that the wake from someone walking by quickly can destroy them.

Until about 1997 we flew indoor model airplanes in Hanger One at Moffett Field. One OCD member told me that he had been flying in the Hangar for sixty years. I have been told that national and international records have been set in the Hangar.  We were prohibited from flying there when toxic chemicals such as asbestos, lead and PCBs were found in the building.  When the Navy left Moffett Field, it proposed to demolish the Hangar.  Public comment changed that plan to removing the contaminated cladding and leaving the structural skeleton.  It is better than demolition, but we couldn't fly inside it, the wind would go right through the open structure.  Hangar One has the potential to again be an indoor flying site of national and international importance.  I ask that the Navy restore the building to a condition that will permit continued use as a world class site for indoor aeromodeling.

I submit copies of emails from OCD members who are unable to attend tonight’s meeting, explaining the importance of aeromodeling in encouraging young people to take an interest in aeronautical careers.  Encouraging such interests is important to our future national security and economic success.

Thank you,

Gary Hinze
San Jose, CA


Email statement from Ding Zarate:

It would be like heaven for many indoor flyers to be able to use the wide space of the Hangar One enclosure.  I would even sign anything to keep me from filing any legal complaints against any toxic effects on myself.  This place is a modeler's dream.

Email statement from Lou Young:

Very good. You can trumpet our local and national successes and the value of the hobby (kids in university studying engineering) and tell them that many kids become discouraged when their high-performance planes can't show what the true performance would be because they hit the low ceiling in the gyms available to us. Fine tuning for world-class performance is an exacting process. Another attraction for Hangar 1 is to invite the FAI to hold world championship indoor events in Mountain View - this would bring more hotel and restaurant business to the area. Many of the productive and innovative scientists that designed our aircraft,  performed cutting edge aircraft research, and founded the US space program were model plane builders. All 9 whose names are on the Mercury spacecraft patents are model builders.

Email statement from Fred Terzian:

To say the least, I am well aware of how historically important it is to save the hangar from destruction, or leaving it in an "open frame" state. Besides the obvious history of its usage, the hangar, and Moffett Field in general, was a "hotbed" of aeromodeling competition, going all the way back to before World War II.

Carl Rambo, a founding member of the Oakland Cloud Dusters in 1937, provided me with movie film reels taken when the hangar still looked "brand new", all in black and white photography. Although there is no sound, I recall seeing the Spark Ignition powerplants pulling up the models of that era in circular climbs flying to the east side of Hangar One. The hangar is almost always in view and provides a dramatic backdrop to these early contests.

I also know that this was a "hotbed" of indoor activity, especially during the Fifties and early Sixties. Many of our NFFS "Hall of Fame" Club members competed there and set indoor records that stood for years. Joe Bilgri, Joe Foster, Carl Rambo, Bob Meuser, John Lenderman, Erv Rodemsky, Manny Andrade, and many others come to mind. Joe Foster was a keen competitor and established records in hand launch glider as well as microfilm classes of the day. Joe Bilgri was not only in the winners circles for years, but also wrote many indoor and outdoor construction articles in Flying Models, Model Airplane News and Air Trails.

I provided a videotape copy of those early movie films to the Moffett Field Historical Society back in the early Nineties (I am a Life Member of that organization). Carol was the museum director at that time and I gave her much background and articles of the aeromodeling scene during those Navy "heydays".

I would wish that many of the large high tech companies in the valley could provide the funding to re-skin this incredible building.

As a youth always enthralled with aviation items in general during the Fifties, I recall many times when we went down from Oakland along the east shore highway (Nimitz?) towards the south end of the Bay to head to our cabin in La Honda. At that time, I was always excited to see the Navy blimps parked or flying above Moffett Field, or some of the beautiful F4U Corsairs and early Navy Fighter jets. We lived in Oakland for nine years before I returned to Central America (El Salvador) in 1958.

It is certainly hoped that with a lot of positive support from the community, and special interest groups to make this a "multi-purpose" use building, but leaving it in as much of it in its original state for what it was originally intended for (housing the large Macon/Akron type airships).
I hope that you can include my thoughts in your presentation this evening. I will do what I can to bring this important decision to others who in some small way might be able to help with its preservation and possible use for aeromodeling usage as well.
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