What do Area 51, the Skunk Works, and now Hollister Airport have in common?

With a recent report in the San Jose Mercury News, with a photo of a strange-looking airplane on Hollister’s tarmac, the rural airport has joined an elite category of hidden places where highly classified aircraft are allegedly developed. And part of the secretiveness are the conspiracy theories about what is happening and why.

The Skunk Works, which is an alias for Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Program, is responsible for developing such black ops aircraft as the U-2 and SR-71 Blackbird. Area 51, the hotbed of UFO conspiracy advocates, was the test site for both of these Lockheed spy planes, as well as its F-117 Stealth Fighter.

Now, Hollister has entered into this mysterious universe of stealthy development and highly-guarded secrets as the possible incubation site for Zee.Aero and its “flying car,” which could be the worst-kept secret of all time. Or, perhaps, in the fashion of British code breakers of World War II fame, a case of expertly devised misdirection.

Hollister’s Airport Manager Mike Chambless flatly told BenitoLink on Monday that because of airport policy, he can make no comment about the Mercury News‘ report that Google co-founder Larry Page has set up shop there with his privately-funded Zee.Aero. Hollister Mayor Ignacio Velazquez was quoted in the Mercury News print story and short video as saying, “They want their privacy and we respect their privacy. And if they want to keep it wrapped up, that’s fine with us.”

Yet on Oct. 23, he responded in an email to BenitoLink with, “One of the owners of Google owns a company that is developing and testing a flying car at the airport. They just signed a long-term lease and hopefully they will be successful.”

When a supposed flying car is rumored to be in town, there is no shortage of speculation. As happened in the 1970s, when there were repeated sightings of mysterious aircraft flying over the Sierra Nevada range near Lake Tahoe, the government denied their existence right up until the time one of them crashed and the pilot died. Only then was the Stealth Fighter’s cloak of secrecy pulled away.

As with any good conspiracy theory, the one about Larry Page, Zee.Aero and the development of a flying car has fed on itself and continued to grow despite everyone associated with the company adamantly denying such a project exists. Apparently, the tale of Zee.Aero and the flying car was launched by the June 9, 2016 Bloomberg Businessweek aviation article, “Welcome to Larry Page’s Secret Flying-Car Factories,” which described at length not one, but two, Page-owned companies, Zee.Aero and Kitty Hawk, which are apparently competing with one another.

As the story went, Zee.Aero began operations practically next door to Google’s headquarters in Mountain View. Then — in the best of conspiracy scenarios — an unnamed reporter, from an unnamed publication, somehow stumbled across patent filings that showed Zee.Aero was working on a small, all-electric plane that could take off and land vertically. In other words — a flying car.

What at first appeared to be a Google-owned subsidiary turned out, according to the story’s two authors, to belong to Page, who one might compare to the eccentric aviation mogul, Howard Hughes, when it comes to stealth and pouring his personal fortune into an airplane no one thought would fly.

In the world of all things apparently Google-related, in Googling “Larry Page + Zee.Aero,” 253,000 results pop up with page after page of links to stories on websites of well-known newspapers and conspiracy blogs alike, many telling essentially the same story, using the same source, Bloomberg Businessweek.

The San Jose Mercury News, The Daily Mail, in the U.K., and the Monterey County Herald are only the latest to re-package a story that continues to be denied by those who know the truth, and Hollister becomes the latest cog in a wheel of conjecture about a billionaire’s quest to spend $100 million on a car that may or may not fly — or even exist.

John Chadwell worked as a feature, news and investigative reporter for BenitoLink on a freelance basis for seven years, leaving the role in Sept. 2023. Chadwell first entered the U.S. Navy right out of...