Hangar One of Mountain View, California

Oct 13, 2015 2 comments

One of the most recognizable landmarks of California's Silicon Valley is a huge steel-framed airship hangar, known as Hangar One, that stands on the grounds of Moffett Field in Santa Clara County of the southern San Francisco Bay Area. It looks like a giant inverted boat with a long and fat base and inward curving walls that meet at the top to form a parabolic shape 60 meters tall. It is one of the largest unsupported structures in the country.

Hangar One was built in 1933 to house the ‘USS Macon’ which was one of the biggest helium-filled airship ever to be built in America. Naturally, its hangar had to be bigger. To design the massive structure, the United States Navy roped in German air ship and structural engineer Dr. Karl Arnstein who, along with architects and engineers from Cleveland, drew up the plans. The hangar is constructed on a network of steel girders that rests firmly upon a reinforced pad anchored to concrete pilings. This steel skeleton is sheathed with galvanized steel.


Photo credit

Hangar One measures 345 meters long and 94 meters wide. Its clam-shell “orange peel” doors weighed 180 metric tons each and are moved by a 150 horsepower motor.

According to the website of National Parks Services, the hangar's interior is so large that fog sometimes forms near the ceiling. “A person unaccustomed to its vastness is susceptible to optical disorientation,” it says. “Looking across its deck, planes and tractors look like toys.”

The USS Macon, for which Hangar One was built, unfortunately, had a very brief service history. The airship was lost in 1935, less than two years after it entered service. After the loss of USS Macon, the hangar was used to park several smaller non-rigid lighter-than-air crafts. In 1994, the Navy turned Moffett Field along with Hangar One over to NASA. But when NASA discovered toxic chemicals leaching from the hangar’s siding it closed down the site in the early 2000s.

For a while the public, the Navy and NASA debated what to do with the unwieldy structure. Proposals ranged from cleaning up to tearing down the hangar and reusing the land. In 2011, Google proposed to pay for revamping the hangar in exchange for being able to use the floor space to shelter the company executive’s private jets, but NASA rejected the proposal. In 2014, a deal was finalized between Google subsidiary Planetary Ventures and NASA where the former agreed to pay the latter $1.16 billion in rent over 60 years in order to use them as research facilities where they will attempt to develop new technologies in space exploration, robotics and other high-tech fields.


Photo credit: NASA


Photo credit: NASA


Blimp inside Hangar One. Photo credit


Dirigible U.S.S. Macon arrives at Hangar 1, Oct. 5, 1934, from Opalocka, Florida. Photo credit


The USS Macon in Hangar One on October 15, 1933, following a transcontinental flight from Lakehurst, New Jersey. Photo credit


Circa 1934 photo of Hangar 1 with the dirigible U.S.S. Macon. Photo credit


Photo credit


Photo credit: NASA


Hangar 1 at Moffett Field, 1992. Photo credit


Hangar One in 2012. Photo credit


Photo credit


Photo credit


Hangar One in 2008. Photo credit


Hangar One in 2013. Photo credit


Hangar One in 2013. Photo credit


Hangar One in 2012. Photo credit

Sources: Wikipedia / NPS / NASA


  1. According to the staff at the Moffett Museum, work on putting a new skin on Hanger One was put on hold because Hangers Two and Three are deteriorating (the support structures are made from wood) and in worse shape than Hanger One. The situation is in "review". In effect, nothing is being done.

  2. I remember this hanger from when I was a child. My father was stationed at Moffett Field in the mid seventies and we lived in a nearby town called Newman. It was just as impressive a structure then and I remember seeing Goodyear blimps housed in it which took up only a fraction of the space..


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