How a 19-Year-Old Aviation Enthusiast Tracked Elon Musk’s Private Jet

Elon Musk offered the 19-year-old $5,000 to shut down the flight tracker.

Elon Musk apparently blocked the teenager who tracked his private jets after learning how to block the tracker. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A 19-year-old college student from Florida recently caused Elon Musk a major headache after he made a Twitter bot to track the comings and goings of the billionaire’s private jet and, after Musk found out, refused a buyout offer to shut the program down.

Jack Sweeney, a University of Central Florida freshman, created the plane-tracking bot @ElonJet in June 2020 and has since then acquired more than 275,000 followers on Twitter. On November 30, Musk direct messaged Sweeney, “Can you take this down? It is a security risk.” The conversation was first reported by the tech news site Protocol last week.

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After asking him for details about how the bot worked, Musk eventually offered Sweeney $5,000 to take it down and said, “I don’t love the idea of being shot by a nutcase.”

Sweeney counter-offered at $50,000, telling the Tesla CEO that the money would be “great support in college and would possibly allow me to get a car maybe even a Model 3.” Musk said he would consider the offer, but later decided that it didn’t “feel right” to pay to shut down the account, according to Protocol.

In an interview with NBC News on Monday, Sweeney said Musk stopped responding to his messages after that and blocked him sometime after January 23.

Tracking a private jet requires having the plane’s tail registration number, which starts with “N” if the aircraft is registered in the U.S. There are free private jet tracking websites such as Stratos Private Flight Tracker. However, Musk’s flight information is “blocked at the owners request,” according to Stratos website.

The flight tracking bot Sweeney built uses public ADS-B data, which can track private jets equipped with ADS-B. Sweeney also runs private jet trackers for Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Donald Trump.

According to @ElonJet, the Tesla CEO’s primarily plane, a 2015 Gulfstream G650ER, last took off Brownsville, Texas on Tuesday.

Sweeney said he told Musk about an aviation tracking blocking program, which he believed Musk used last week. “He might have thought that would have worked and he could just, like, ignore me,” he told NBC.

How a 19-Year-Old Aviation Enthusiast Tracked Elon Musk’s Private Jet