How Florida college student tracked Elon Musk’s jet

As a freshman studying at University of Central Florida, Jack Sweeney tapped into his love of Tesla, SpaceX and aviation. He knows a thing or two about aircraft systems and how GPS positioning information is a matter of publicly available data. 

He learned that part from his father, who Jack says works in the aviation industry. Combined with his intelligent programming knowledge, at age 18, Jack developed an algorithm that taps into public aircraft data and pulls out what’s needed from this otherwise mundane aircraft information to form a useful way to see when and where some of the most interesting private aircraft are next taking off. 

How Jack Tracks 

Sweeney learned early on that it’s the meaty ADS-B data that’s rich with information, such as an aircraft GPS position, altitude and ground speed that is transmitted to ground stations every second by planes in flight. ADS-B is shorthand for Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast and was originally designed to interface between aircraft avionics and air traffic control systems. 

Jack Sweeney claimed that an anonymous Twitter employee explained to him that his account was “visibility limited/restricted to a severe degree internally” on Dec. 2.
(Getty Images, File)

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What’s already public about Elon Musk’s G650 private jet 

A recent trip from a private airfield in Miami to Oakland, California, near the San Francisco home of Twitter and less than an hour from the Tesla Fremont factory, shows the following to the public on Twitter:

  • 2,574 mile flight from OPF to OAK landed in 5 hours and 18 mins from takeoff in Miami
  • 2,673 gallons weighing 17,915 lbs of fuel used
  • $17,348 cost of fuel
  • 28 tons of CO2 emissions

You can see how much carbon emissions are estimated from each of Musk’s private jet trips. Data being shared on ElonJet feeds also shows amount of fuel burned, cost and duration of the private flight. 

Air-to-ground air traffic systems offer a number of public data points. The most annoying to the billionaire are his jet’s location and next destination. The information makes it nearly impossible for Musk to arrive in one of his business locations without warning. 

A number of popular flight-tracking apps, such as FlightAware and FlightRadar24, readily available in the app store, make use of the same aircraft data for tracking.  

A number of popular flight-tracking apps, such as FlightAware and FlightRadar24, readily available in the app store, make use of the same aircraft data for tracking.  

Taylor Swift, Air Force One, Putin and Russian oligarchs make the list too 

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Russian oligarchs and the communist leader Putin’s jet, which seems to fly exclusively within Russian airspace, are also tracked by Jack.  No doubt, NATO countries’ task forces interested in seizing any one of the multimillion-dollar private aircraft can appreciate seeing where each of them may be landing next.

Aircraft data is public 

A number of popular flight-tracking apps, such as FlightAware and FlightRadar24, readily available in the app store, make use of the same aircraft data for tracking.  

A non-profit called OpenSky Network has been collecting raw unfiltered aircraft data since 2013 and offering it to researchers and academics. They’ve collected over 30 trillion ADS-B, Mode S, TCAS and FLARM messages and claim to have the largest air traffic surveillance datasets in the world. 

Jack Sweeney’s use of ElonJet technology is no different from popular aircraft-tracking apps

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Today, in addition to Sweeney’s automated jet feeds showing info about notable aircraft, the very same data is used in a number of popular flight tracking apps such as FlightRadar24 readily available on the Google Play and Apple App Stores.  Another app OpenADSB tracks Elon’s jet and any other aircraft you want to see simply by entering the registration on the tail also referred to as the “N”-number. 

Musk can’t cancel Jack’s ElonJet tracking – here’s where you can get it 

Jack also posts his private aircraft tracking on Instagram, Facebook, Telegram and Truth. You can see links of all his aircraft-tracking feeds here. Jack doesn’t charge for the clever automatic updates as of yet, and just offers it as a service that provides insight into an area the super-rich and one controlling billionaire would prefer not to be discussed. No social media networks, other than Musk’s Twitter, have indicated any interest in banning or censoring Jack’s various aircraft-tracking projects. 

Many on the left are sounding the alarm about Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover. 

Many on the left are sounding the alarm about Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover. 

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Shooting the messenger 

Why target a smart 20-year-old college kid who idolizes innovators like Musk when all Sweeney wants at the end of the day, as he’s admitted, is an internship alongside Musk? 

If you don’t like that public data is available as a result of the FAA and aviation legacy processes meant to help planes fly, then change it like you did the electric car and space travel. 

Dear Elon, what possibility exists that you will take this opportunity to step out from behind the wizard’s curtain and choose to embrace another smart human being who potentially could help you get to Mars? At the very least, you could both add something meaningful as friends rather than attacking someone not your size. 

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As it is now, I see a big tech billionaire bully who’s looking more like the Wicked Witch of the West going after Toto the dog from “The Wizard of Oz” to wreck Dorothy’s journey. 

We all know how that worked out in the end. 

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