University of Central Florida student Jack Sweeney made headlines in 2022 when he became known for creating bots to track the private jets of Russian oligarchs and other prominent individuals such as Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Donald Trump and Drake. His program uses public data sources including the Federal Aviation Administration, OpenSky Network, and Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast.
He has the perfect background to do all of this, too – his dad is a Technical Operations Controller for American Airlines and as a kid, Jack used to track his flights home when he commuted between Dallas and Florida. And then when Jack started going to college, he majored in information technology (IT). Figuring out how to track famous peoples’ planes must’ve been a piece of cake; he’d been doing it since he was a teenager.
Elon Musk was another one of the people he tracked and, not surprisingly, the billionaire didn’t like it. Citing security concerns, he offered Sweeney $5,000 to stop tracking his private jet. Sweeney responded that he might consider stopping tracking Musk’s private jet in exchange for an internship, US$50,000, or a Tesla. Musk didn’t respond, but eventually deleted the @ElonJet ID on Twitter when the billionaire bought the social media platform in October, 2022.
Meanwhile, initially unrelated to Sweeney’s ability to track famous peoples’ planes, Florida Ron DeSantis recently supported a bill wherein his use of state planes and other information about his official travel would be secret. Republicans love the bill, saying releasing the information about his flights would allow someone to look for “patterns” that could jeopardize the governor’s security. Democrats said it was a way to keep DeSantis’ actions out of public view. Meanwhile, those who advocated for open government called it one of the worst ever proposed exemptions to the state’s much-praised Sunshine Law (enacted in 1995, the Florida Sunshine Law is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to the public records of governmental bodies in the state).
Love it or hate it, DeSantis signed the bill into law on May 11, 2023. It covered his being a passenger on state planes as well as private and chartered flights. It also allowed the names of staff and family members traveling with him to be private. From CNN: “Under the new law, law enforcement agencies would be barred from sharing any records related to the governor’s security and travel, as well as ‘for persons for whom such services are requested by the governor.’ The expansive language could allow the DeSantis administration to keep secret trips arranged by the governor’s office even when he wasn’t involved.”
Although DeSantis’ flight activities won’t be public record, any activity of state-owned jets could still be followed from data via the ADS-B Exchange flight tracker. So Sweeney, the smart kid that he is, is now tracking him that way. He set up an account, called @DeSantisJet, on Twitter.
The DeSantis flight tracking account is also on a 24-hour delay to comply with Twitter’s policy. Here are some of the ID’s earliest tweets.
As others have noted DeSantis also gets rides on political donors planes for personal matters. If we become aware of these flights, it will also be shared here.
— Ron DeSantis's jet (Tracking) (@DeSantisJet) May 22, 2023
228 mile (198 NM) flight from ISM to TLH
~ 159 gallons (600 liters).
~ 1,062 lbs (482 kg) of jet fuel used.
~ $888 cost of fuel.
~ 2 tons of CO2 emissions.
— Ron DeSantis's jet (Tracking) (@DeSantisJet) May 24, 2023
Just as he does with other accounts he follows, the tracker is also on other social media, as well.
— Ron DeSantis's jet (Tracking) (@DeSantisJet) May 20, 2023
Sweeney told Insider he did it because of the rising interest in the governor, who hopes to win the presidential nomination in 2024.
Featured image (cropped): Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia / cc-by-sa-2.0
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