Google founders' private air terminal cleared for takeoff

Mark Berniker, CNBC Silicon Valley Bureau Chief
An artist's rendering of Google's private terminal at Mineta San Jose International Airport
Source: Signature SJC

It's not uncommon for Silicon Valley tech executives to use private jets, but Google's top brass are climbing to a whole new altitude.

Google founders Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt have won approval to build a private terminal at Mineta San Jose International Airport, and CNBC has learned that construction on the $82 million facility will start in February. It is expected to be completed by the end of 2015.

Signature Flight Support, a Florida-based company that manages corporate aircraft, will develop and operate the 29-acre terminal in partnership with Blue City Holdings, which handles the personal aircraft of Google's principals.

Signature, which operates in 115 airports, said Google's terminal is its biggest project so far. The jet center will have a 270,000-square-foot hangar—a major amount of space for a private entity within a commercial airport.

The deal, for a 50-year lease, is between Blue City, Signature and the airport. The airport and the city of San Jose are expected to garner close to $3 million in fees and taxes annually, which over the lease term could generate more than $150 million.

(Read more: Has Google unseated Apple as the king of innovation?)

Not everyone is happy about the terminal, though.

Atlantic Aviation, which failed in its bid for the development, filed a legal action against San Jose in May. It alleges that the city did not comply with California environmental rules in approving the Blue City-Signature facility.

Private jet center for Google
Private jet center for Google

Page, Brin and Schmidt are paying for the terminal (with their own—not Google's—money), and other members of the Silicon Valley business community are expected to lease space there for their own private aircraft operations.

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The Google founders have operated their fleet at Moffett Field in Mountain View, Calif., through a lease agreement with NASA. That agreement expires in July, and It remains unclear where the three will keep their planes between then and when the San Jose terminal is ready.

Silicon Valley tech companies have a big demand for private jet services, according to Stephen Dennis, chairman of Aviation Resource Group, a Denver-based consulting firm. He added that the planned terminal looks as if it could accommodate close to 60 jets.

—Mark Berniker, CNBC Silicon Valley Bureau Chief