Air Google

Methodology and Plane Ownership

A holding company for Google executives purchased a Boeing 767 in 2005, which was part of Google’s fleet for about a dozen years. CC BY-SA 2.0 by Aero Icarus

The 13 passenger planes included in this analysis were initially identified through a review of online message board and social media posts, as well as an examination of flight records from Moffett Field—a federal airfield where Google executives have privileged access. In many cases, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) registration records do not provide details on Google’s connection to these planes, because they are owned by opaque limited liability companies or bank trustees. However, Google’s apparent use of these aircraft is confirmed by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) radio license records that link the planes’ tail numbers to Google, companies owned by Google executives, or contacts on the registration filings who are employees of these companies.

Three passenger planes appear to be owned directly by Google. Four additional planes have tail numbers that correspond with FCC radio licenses registered to Google executives and investors. One license was initially registered directly to former CEO Eric Schmidt before it was re-registered by BGHN LLC, a commonly used acronym in registration records linked to Google aircraft. Two radio call signs linked to large Boeing planes were registered with the FCC by Blue City Holdings, a holding company for planes owned by Eric Schmidt and Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Another license was registered by a company owned by Google founding board member Kavitark Ram Shriram.

Six more FCC licenses were registered to entities with unknown ownership—such as BGHN LLC, BGHN Holdings LLC, Earth LLC and Globe LLC, and Redwood Pacific Management—but listed employees of Blue City Holdings as points of contact.

Google and its executives own at least two additional planes that are not passenger aircraft. Google registered the radio call sign for a special purpose Diamond DA42 that is generally used for surveying and mapping. A holding company for Schmidt, Page, and Brin called H211 LLC also owned an Alpha Jet that at one point was in the German Air Force and crashed in June 2018. These planes are not included in our flight analysis because they do not transport Google’s executive team and FAA flight records for them are incomplete.

Our analysis also does not include the limited flight data available for four helicopters that Google may have used. Two such helicopters were registered with the FAA under the name BGHN Holdings LLC. Another one has refueled at Moffett Field on at least six occasions and was once spotted on the landing pad of Larry Page’s yacht. The other helicopter has refueled at Moffett Field at least 16 times and was registered with the FAA by a company owned by the president of Blue City Holdings.

To calculate the number of flights made by Google aircraft and the distance travelled, we relied on the Federal Aviation Administration’s Traffic Flow Management System (TFMS), which contains a record for each flight regulated by the FAA and captured by the agency’s en route computers. (Because TFMS logs only include flights monitored by the FAA, the logs omit many flights that both start and end outside of U.S. territory.) Each flight record contains a registration number that identifies the aircraft; the date, time, and airport code of departure; the date, time, and airport code of arrival; and some other information about the type of aircraft and flight.

We requested TFMS logs from the FAA under the Freedom of Information Act, and matched airport codes from the FAA with data from openflights.org to obtain the city, country, and coordinates of each flight’s origin and destination. 

We calculated flight distances by plugging the origin and destination coordinates of each flight into the OpenStreetMaps API using the Python GeoPy library. The API returns the shortest distance between two points; in some cases, actual flight distances may be longer. We obtained rough fuel usage estimates by multiplying the sum of all flight distances for each aircraft by the fuel economy for the relevant aircraft type reported by aircraftcompare.com.

Passenger Aircraft Owned by Google and its Subsidiaries

N10XG – June 10, 2014, to Present

This Gulfstream G5 was registered with the FAA under the name Bank of Utah Trustee on June 10, 2014, and two days later the radio call sign 10XG was registered with the FCC by Google. The plane began making regular flights in and out of San Jose in July 2014, and it continued to do so through December 2019.

N550M May 22, 2012, to November 2013
N904G – November 2013 to Present

After Google agreed to acquire Motorola Mobility in August 2011, it eventually took possession of a Motorola Mobility Gulfstream G5 with the tail number N550M that had been owned through an entity called Motorola Mobility Aviation Holdings N550M LLC. The FCC received an application to transfer ownership of the plane’s radio call sign to Google in October 2011. Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility was finalized on May 22, 2012, and the plane’s registration had a San Jose address by November 2012.

The radio call sign 904G was registered with the FCC by Google in January 2011. The plane did not begin to fly under the tail number N904G until November 2013, when it was registered with the FAA again under the name Motorola Mobility Aviation Holdings N550M LLC. Its registration switched to Bank of Utah Trustee in February 2014. The plane has made regular flights to and from San Jose since Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility, continuing through at least December 2019.

N158M – May 22, 2012, to October 31, 2012

After Google agreed to acquire Motorola Mobility in August 2011, it eventually took possession of a Dassault Falcon 50 with the tail number N158M that had been owned through an entity called Motorola Mobility Aviation Holdings N158M LLC. In October 2011, the FCC received an application to transfer ownership of the plane’s radio call sign to Google, and the plane began flying in and out of San Jose.

Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility was finalized on May 22, 2012. In July 2012, the plane appears to have flown to Google’s annual retreat in Montana.

Flights in and out of San Jose continued through August 2012. In October 2012, ownership of the plane was transferred to US Bank in Portland. In December 2012, US Bank re-registered the plane under the tail number N191CP. In July 2015, it changed the address of the plane from Portland to Marshall, Minnesota.

In July 2018, ownership of the plane was transferred to Peekey Lumbus LLC in Vista, California. The same month, Peekey Lumbus LLC appears to have re-registered the plane under tail number N987CF.

Call Sign Registrations Listing Google Executives and Investors

N785QS – November 21, 2007, to Present

The FCC license for this call sign was first registered by Eric Schmidt in October 2007. This Gulfstream G5 began making regular flights in and out of San Jose on November 21, 2007, the same day that the registration for this Gulfstream G5 switched from Gulfstream Aerospace Corp to Bank of Utah Trustee. The FCC radio license registration switched to BGHN LLC in September 2017. The plane’s flights to and from Moffett have continued through at least December 2019.

N1757 – July 9, 2007, to July 11, 2014

The Boeing 757 was registered to Bank of Utah Trustee on August 9, 2007, and one month later its radio call sign was registered with the FCC by Blue City Holdings. It began making flights to and from Moffett in December 2007. The plane last flew out of Moffett in December 2013 and it has not used the tail number N1757 since July 10, 2014. The next day, the plane was re-registered in Bermuda under the tail number VQ-BTF.

N2767 – June 16, 2005, to May 10, 2018

Blue City Holdings purchased this former Qantas Airways Boeing 767 in early 2005, and registered it under this tail number on June 16, 2005. The company registered its radio call sign with the FCC in February 2006, and the plane began flying in March 2006. On May 9, 2018, the plane made its final flight from Moffett Field and the next day its registration changed to Aircraft Guaranty Corp Trustee. In June 2018, the plane changed ownership to Weststar, a Malaysian company. The plane is currently registered in Guernsey, as of February 2020, under the tail number 2-TSSA.

N510QS – September 23, 2011, to Present

This radio call sign was registered in July 2011 by Sherpalo LLC, a company owned by Kavitark Ram Shriram, a founding board member of Google and one of its earliest investors. This Gulfstream G5 began flying to and from Moffett on September 23, 2011, the same day that the plane was registered with the FAA by Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. Less than one month later, its registration switched to Wells Fargo Bank Northwest NA Trustee. The jet’s registration changed again to TVPX Aircraft Solutions Inc Trustee in October 2017, but flights to and from Moffett have continued through at least December 2019.

Call Sign Registration Listing Blue City Holdings Employees

N42GX – March 4, 2005, to November 14, 2007

This Gulfstream G5 was registered to BGHN Holdings LLC Trustee under this tail number on March 4, 2005. It began making flights in and out of San Jose under this tail number in April 2005, and less than two months later its call sign was registered with the FCC by BGHN Holdings LLC. The registration included a Palo Alto address and listed Blue City Holdings Gulfstream pilot Raymond Jarboe as a contact. It made its last flight using the call sign in October 2007, and on November 14, 2007, the plane’s registration switched to Hewlett Packard Co.

N651WE – January 15, 2016, to Present

The radio call sign for this plane was registered with the FCC in May 2015 by BGHN LLC. The registration included a Moffett Field address and listed Blue City Holdings Gulfstream maintenance manager Lawrence Sharma as a contact. The Gulfstream G6 began flying in and out of Moffett Field on January 15, 2016, the same day that it was registered with the FAA. After spending one week registered under the name Gulfstream Aerospace Corp, the name of the owner was changed to Bank of Utah Trustee. The plane has continued to fly in and out of Moffett through at least December 2019.

N5JR – November 10, 2005, to February 2006
N846QM – February 2006 to January 11, 2018

This Gulfstream G5 appears to have been registered with the FAA under the name Globe Trust & Earth Trust on November 10, 2005, and the plane began making regular flights through the Bay Area around the same time. In December 2005, Earth LLC and Globe LLC first applied for the 5JR radio call sign. The two companies submitted an additional application for the call sign in February 2006. Both filings listed an address at the San Jose airport and listed Blue City Holdings Gulfstream pilot Raymond Jarboe as a contact.

The plane was registered under the name Wachovia Financial Services (later Wells Fargo Bank Northwest NA Trustee) in the fall of 2005. In February 2006, the plane changed its tail number from N5JR to N846QM. The FCC license for the 846QM call sign was registered to Earth LLC and Globe LLC in December 2005, and then renewed in March 2016 listing a Moffett Field address and Blue City Holdings Gulfstream maintenance manager Lawrence Sharma as a contact. The plane’s registration changed to Bank of Utah Trustee on January 11, 2018, and then changed again to Hawaii-based Koloa Aviation LLC in May 2018. Flights to and from Moffett continued through February 22, 2018, which is around the time that the plane appears to have been sold.

N813QS – December 1, 2007, to Present

The FCC license for this Gulfstream G5’s call sign was first registered to Earth LLC & Globe LLC in November 2007. The registration listed a Redwood City, California, address as well as the name Ken Ambrose, who is the president of Blue City Holdings. On December 1, 2007, the plane’s FAA registration switched from Gulfstream Aerospace Corp to Wells Fargo Bank Northwest NA Trustee. The registration changed again to Bank of Utah Trustee in December 2017, but the plane’s flights to and from Moffett continued through at least December 2019.

N998PB – January 23, 2015, to Present

This Gulfstream G6 was registered with the FAA by Wells Fargo Bank Northwest NA Trustee on January 23, 2015, and began making regular flights out of Moffett Field in April 2015. In February 2016, its call sign was registered with the FCC by Earth LLC/Globe LLC. The FCC registration listed a Moffett Field address along with the name Doric Haberman, who is Blue City Holding’s Gulfstream G650 manager. In December 2017 the plane’s registration switched to Bank of Utah Trustee, though the plane continued to fly in and out of Moffett through at least December 2019.

N222GV – June 22, 2018, to Present

On June 22, 2018, the tail number for this Gulfstream G5 was registered with the FAA under the name TVPX Aircraft Solutions Inc Trustee. The same month, the radio call sign 222GV was registered with the FCC to a company called Redwood Pacific Management that listed a Moffett Field address. The contact listed for the company is Russell Fisher, who is Blue City Holdings’ director of maintenance. The plane has continued to fly in and out of Moffett through at least December 2019.