When Kylie Jenner’s very brief private jet flight went viral last week, people were outraged, largely because of the environmental impact of the trip.
Jack Sweeney was unfazed. The 19-year-old whose Twitter account @CelebJets went public with Jenner’s trip has made a name for himself since January by publicly stalking the private jets of billionaires and celebrities. He says the reaction to Jenner 17 minute flight only surprised him because he saw Elon Musk take even shorter flights on his private jet, without nearly as much fuss.
Sweeney says Musk has flown several times from Los Angeles International Airport to Hawthorne Airport, which are about six miles (10 minutes away) apart. That’s much shorter than Jenner’s roughly 40-mile flight from Camarillo, CA to Van Nuys, CA.
“I’m not really [surprised] people react,” Sweeney told CNBC Make It. “There are so many reasons why they must be surprised. The fact that [flights] are even traceable, that it’s a celebrity and that it’s a quick steal.”
Musk did not immediately respond to CNBC Make Its’ request for comment.
Sweeney, a sophomore at the University of Central Florida who also writes software for UberJets, controls 30 Twitter accounts that track the private jets of Russian billionaires, celebrities and oligarchs. His most popular handle, @ElonJet, follows Musk’s movements – and went viral in January after Sweeney declined Musk’s offer to delete the account for $5,000. This handful now has more than 478,000 followers.
The accounts, which began appearing in June 2020, automatically post flight coordinates from code Sweeney wrote to pull data from public websites like ADS-B Exchange which display location, altitude and speed. transmitted by each federally regulated aircraft.
Notably, says Sweeney, the data can sometimes be misleading. Particularly short flights can often be explained by a simple logic: the pilot drops off his passenger at an airport, then parks the plane at another nearby airport.
“I believe [Jenner’s short flight] was to park the plane in Camarillo, while they go down to Van Nuys,” Sweeney tweeted last week. “Same for Kim [Kardashian]. It’s probably cheaper to park the plane in Camarillo.”
Music star Drake, whose whereabouts are also tracked on @CelebJets, supports Sweeney’s theory. In a comment Tuesday to an Instagram post about Drake’s own extra-short flights, the rapper wrote, “They’re just the ones moving planes to the airport where they’re stored for anyone interested in logistics… no one is taking this flight.”
Sweeney’s flight tracking efforts have recently been accused of violating celebrity privacy. But because his code relies on public data, Sweeney remains unsympathetic. He says any motivated person can access the information, and celebrities themselves are usually quick to post pictures of their jets on social media.
“People have private planes, they post all these pictures on them,” Sweeney says. “It’s not a secret.”
For now, Sweeney says his side business remains fairly passive — and not very profitable. He earns a few hundred dollars each month from ad revenue and donations on his website. He says he plans to make the project more profitable, listing ideas such as expanding his website into an all-in-one celebrity theft tracker or finding a way to offer compensation. of carbon for some of the flights it tracks.
Don’t expect any major updates in the coming months: Sweeney says he’s been spending the summer traveling and working, and won’t be expanding his code – mostly adding more jets to his project – until he returns to campus this fall.
“The funny thing is, when I’m back in school, I feel like I’m doing more,” Sweeney says. “There are fewer distractions.”
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