Formed in 2005. Private, corporate, jet airplane operator.
Mountainview, California, USA
November 2005: Google duo's new jet is a Boeing 767-200.
On the road, Sergey Brin and Larry Page have owned environmentally friendly hybrid vehicles such as the Toyota Prius. In the air, they apparently prefer something roomier.
Google Inc's two billionaire founders, both 32 years old, will soon be cruising the skies in a Boeing 767 wide-body airliner. They bought the used plane earlier this year, Mr Page says.
The 767-200, typically an airline workhorse, is an unusual executive jet. It commonly carries about 180 passengers. Delta Air Lines (DAL) operates over one hundred 767s. The Italian Air Force has ordered a modified 767 as an airborne tanker for refueling military jets. The 767-200 is almost 70 percent longer and more than three times as heavy as a conventional executive jet, such as a high-end Gulfstream.
Mr Page says his plane will hold about 50 passengers when its refurbishment is complete. A top Gulfstream business jet typically carries 15 or fewer. He declines to give other details. People in the aviation industry familiar with the planned interior say it will have a sitting area, two staterooms with adjoining lavatories and a shower. Farther aft will be a large sitting-and-dining area. At the rear will be 12 to 16 first-class seats for guests or employees and a large galley.
Tech moguls delight in public one-upmanship and the Google founders' 767 raises the bar. Microsoft Corporation co-founder Paul Allen owns a fleet of airplanes, but his flagships - - two Boeing 757s - - are smaller than Messrs Brin and Page's 767. It also marks a new level of consumption by the Google executives, who have shunned most trappings of the super-rich despite a combined net worth estimated at more than $20 billion.
Mr Page acknowledges that the purchase might seem ostentatious. But "we tend to have an engineering approach, to be fact-based," he says. "We looked at this and we just did the economics and we said, 'you know, it makes a lot of sense.' "
Aviation-industry experts estimate that the airplane, because of its age and history, cost under $15 million, and maybe less. That's roughly one-third the price of a new Gulfstream 550 business jet. In addition, the 767 can carry more passengers and can include sleeping accommodations. The Google co-founders wanted to fit more than 50 people but were limited by federal aviation rules, Mr. Page says. Filled to capacity, it's potentially cheaper to run, per person than a Gulfstream.
Mr Page says he and Mr Brin bought the plane themselves and will use it for personal travel. He says there's no plan for Google to reimburse the duo for its costs. A Google spokesman says the plane has no formal connection with the company.
As for what they plan to do with it, Mr Page wouldn't be specific. He says "part of the equation for this sort of machinery is to be able to take large numbers of people to places such as Africa. I think that can only be good for the world." Messrs Brin and Page played a key role in setting up Google.org, a program for corporate philanthropy and socially minded investments that is funding projects in Africa and elsewhere.
Evidence suggests that the 767 in question flew for over a decade in Qantas Airways (QAN)'s fleet with the airline's red-and-white kangaroo logo on its tail. Boeing delivered it to (QAN) in 1987. The Australian airline took it out of service and stored it in the desert outside Tucson, Arizona, in 2004.
Federal Aviation Administration records show that the (QAN) 767 was bought in March by a limited-liability company registered in Delaware. The contact number for that company listed in FAA records is an extension at Google's Mountain View, California, headquarters.
On a recent day, calls to that number were answered by a voicemail system announcing that "Eric Schmidt is not available. To leave a message, wait for the tone." Mr Schmidt, Google's chief executive, didn't return a message left on the machine. He and Mr Brin, through a spokesman, declined to comment for this article.
According to FAA records, the jet also shares an address, phone number and contact name with another Delaware company. That company owns a Gulfstream V jet that appears to be one Mr Schmidt bought earlier this year. The shared address is a mailbox in a UPS Store not far from Google headquarters.
Mr Page wouldn't say whether or not the Qantas (QAN) plane was the one they bought. The 767 purchase was first brought to public attention by a blog written by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Jeffrey Nolan.
The Google co-founders' 767 is now in San Antonio, people familiar with the matter say, having its interior re-done by Gore Design Completions Ltd, a firm that specializes in outfitting executive jets. Previous clients include the Chinese government and the Detroit Pistons basketball team. Gore, in a May 12 press release, announced a contract to outfit a 767-200 with "a 100 percent VIP interior" for an unnamed US customer.
Rick Penshorn, Gore's vice president of operations, says confidentiality agreements prohibit him from identifying who owns the plane. When it's finished in several months, he says, it will be transformed from a glorified bus into a "good, functional, well-appointed corporate airplane, but not anything over the top."
Mr Penshorn says "really opulent" jet makeovers can cost as much as $45 million. A 767 can be comfortably outfitted for about $25 million, he says. One amenity the Google co-founders have asked for, say people familiar with the matter: in-flight Internet access.
Buying a used 767 instead of a high-end business jet is "very, very smart," says Wendy Bierwirth, president of Wentworth & amp; Affiliates Inc, a used-airplane broker in Potomac, Maryland. "It's a lot more airplane for the money."
She estimates that 13 or 14 767s were in use for VIP travel as recently as 2004 but believes several additional 767s have been outfitted this year. Other 767 owners include Sheldon Adelson, CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp, a casino company. Although the 767 costs more per hour to fly, Ms Bierwirth says, it can be cost-effective if used to shuttle large numbers of people.
Flying a used 767 with a functional but not lavish VIP interior would cost an average of about $13,000 per flight-hour, compared with $7,850 for a Gulfstream V, according to Conklin & amp; deDecker Aviation Information, an Orleans, Massachusetts, research and consulting firm. That includes both variable costs such as fuel and fixed items such as crew salaries, maintenance and depreciation.
If the planes were filled to capacity on a round-trip coast-to-coast flight, however, the 767 looks more attractive. Based on the Conklin & amp; deDecker data, a Gulfstream V would cost roughly $400 per flight hour per passenger to operate, compared with $260 for the duo's plane.
The purchase of a wide-body jet for personal use might seem at odds with the Google founders' support for environmental causes. The company gives employees $5,000 if they buy hybrid gas-electric cars, for example.
Mr Page, in response, notes a recent investment that Mr Brin made on behalf of the co-founders and Mr Schmidt in a $550-million fund to help finance projects that reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. "We've worked very hard to make sure our (net) impact on the environment is positive," Mr Page says.